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Study Reveals Many Great Lakes State Parks Impacted By Record-High Water Levels

Every summer millions of people visit parks and protected areas along the shorelines of the Great Lakes to camp, hike, swim and explore nature’s beauty.

While COVID-19 has impacted staffing, operations and budgets at the parks, tourists this year also may notice changes if recent record-high water levels persist on Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Superior.

UToledo graduate student Eric Kostecky posed for a photo on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.

A new study by a graduate student at The University of Toledo zeroes in on how coastal flooding and erosion in 2019 damaged park facilities and roads and interrupted visitor experiences, as well as examines the financial cost of the high water levels.

The research presented at the 2020 Great Lakes Virtual Conference, which is hosted by the International Association of Great Lakes Research, was completed by Eric Kostecky, a graduate student earning his master’s degree in geography, as part of a course in environmental planning he took last fall while completing his undergraduate degree in geography and planning.

“A humbling statistic is that 75% of the parks indicated that continued higher lake levels in 2020 and beyond would further impact park operations and infrastructure,” Kostecky said. “Future management actions would be to improve parking lots and roads and to move hiking trails, campgrounds and public access locations.”

This photo at Golden Hill State Park in Barker, N.Y., was taken by Dr. Patrick Lawrence.

To gather information, Kostecky surveyed 50 parks along the Great Lakes, both federal and state parks in the United States and provincial parks in Canada. Twenty-nine responded.

“Even though Great Lakes parks and protected areas have experienced impacts from shoreline erosion and flooding during previous high water-level events in 1972-73 and 1985-86, this study is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue those impacts,” said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning and Kostecky’s faculty advisor.

The study shows 50% of the responding parks were impacted by both shoreline erosion and flooding, with the most common type of damage being to boat launches and building structures that were flooded, and roads near dunes washed away by waves.

Total cost of damage for 55% of the parks was $50,000 or less.

As a result of the damage, parks implemented a variety of changes for public safety last year: sections of the park were closed, select park operations were canceled, and some visitor education programs were suspended.

Great Lakes water levels peaked in July 2019, with increases varying between 14 and 31 inches above their long-term averages; Lake Superior was at 14 inches above its average, while Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario were at 31 inches above average, Lawrence said.

“The water levels in the Great Lakes fluctuate, but they don’t fluctuate rapidly, so it’s hard to say if we’re still in the upswing or on the downswing,” Kostecky said. “We won’t know if we’re continuing to rise or if waters have started to recede for the next couple of years.”

The Great Lakes shoreline stretches 10,000 miles around eight U.S. states and Canada.

“Many parks and protected areas in the Great Lakes have struggled with the economic costs and interruptions of their operations, including services and programs for their visitors, and are concerned that as this period of high water levels continues this summer, they will face ongoing challenges in delivering the levels of public access and services to their visitors so eager to explore the parks and enjoy the nature and environment provided by these special spaces,” Lawrence said.

UToledo Reaffirms Support for International Students

The University of Toledo has devoted significant resources over the past months to plan for and promote a safe return to campus for fall semester. We appreciate these are difficult, uncertain times, and we have done our best to provide clarity and assurances for all of our students.

Unfortunately, the guidance issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding international students has created additional uncertainty for our international students.

UToledo is fully committed to providing on-campus instruction for our students this fall, alongside remote and online instruction modalities. This flexible approach to learning fulfills the new requirements for our international students.

While our Rocket Restart plans are subject to change based on the pandemic’s spread and the guidance from local, state and federal public health experts, as well as our own health and safety experts, we understand the importance of an uninterrupted educational experience. UToledo is currently making plans to ensure that no student would be impacted mid-semester by these new federal guidelines.

A diverse student body is a core value of UToledo. Every year, we welcome hundreds of international students from around the world into our Rocket family. Any policy that makes it more difficult for bright young minds to complete their education at UToledo is concerning. As always, we continue to monitor the potential impact of immigration laws, policies and practices on our campus community and pledge to offer our international students our full support now and always.

If students have questions or would like to speak with someone, they may contact the Center for International Studies and Programs at 419.530.5268 or email cisp@utoledo.edu.

UToledo’s Response to Restart Ohio Higher Education Plan

The University of Toledo has been working closely with Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Health Department, the Lucas County Health Department and the Inter-University Council of Ohio’s public universities to navigate this pandemic.

“We are grateful for the outstanding leadership, collaboration and support of Governor DeWine and other state officials as we have rapidly responded to this health crisis,” said Dr. Gregory Postel, interim president of The University of Toledo. “The guidance in the Restart Ohio Education Plan released today provides affirmation of our work to date on the Rocket Restart plan.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic financial impact on all of higher education, and UToledo is no exception. Significant measures at great cost have been taken to promote the health and safety of the entire campus community. The additional funding made available to Ohio’s public higher education institutions through the CARES Act will assist with the enormous financial challenge associated with these changes.

There is no perfect response plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the guidance offered in today’s plan, in concert with the Rocket Restart efforts, UToledo will continue to address the challenges associated with the uncertainty of the coronavirus.

“The only certainty in this environment is our commitment to offering a world-class education for our students,” Postel said. “We appreciate that Governor DeWine shares this commitment to our students.”

Rockets Start GoFundMe Page to Assist Family of Player; Scholarship Fund to be Established

A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the family of University of Toledo defensive lineman Jahneil Douglas, who was shot and killed Tuesday night in Toledo. The fund will help pay for funeral costs, as well as assist Douglas’ children.

The page was started by former teammate Mitchell Guadagni, the Rockets’ starting quarterback the past two seasons.

“We all loved Jahneil and we loved his family,” Guadagni said. “[Former Rocket teammate] Nate Childress and I were talking about Jahneil and decided we wanted to do something to help his family and his beautiful children. Jahneil will always be a Rocket, and he will always be in our hearts.”

Toledo Head Football Coach Jason Candle said he is proud of the way the players have come together to help their teammate’s family.

“Yesterday was a terrible day for the Rocket football family,” Candle said. “We are still reeling from the loss of JD. Coming together as a family is important during these trying times, and I am happy to see our Rockets step up like this. JD’s impact will be forever felt on Toledo football.”

UToledo Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien added that a scholarship fund in Douglas’ name will be forthcoming.

“This has been such a tragic loss for Jahneil’s family and for our football program,” O’Brien said. “Jahneil was a fine young man and a great Rocket, so we felt it was only fitting to create some kind of lasting legacy to honor his memory.”

Access the GoFundMe page for Douglas’ family.

UToledo Researchers Tracking Algal Bloom on Maumee River, Lake Erie

Algae scientists and student researchers aboard The University of Toledo research vessel are taking measurements and collecting water samples on the Maumee River in Toledo after a harmful algal bloom popped up downtown.

“This week has become a five-alarm fire for our research,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and ecology professor, said. “We are working to figure out what may have caused this sudden river bloom.”

Algae scientists and student researchers aboard The University of Toledo research vessel took measurements and collected water samples on the Maumee River in Toledo. The crew was dispatched July 8 after a harmful algal bloom appeared downtown.

Bridgeman has monitored, tracked and studied algae in the Great Lakes for nearly two decades. He created a new method to measure how much harmful algae there is in the lake during the course of a summer and has compared the bloom from one year to another since 2002.

“The bloom appears to be growing in the river, not blown in from Lake Erie,” said Zach Swan, UToledo graduate student working on a master’s degree in ecology. “The recent high temperatures we’ve had have contributed to the growth of this bloom, and we could see it continue to grow if these conditions continue.”

Bridgeman said it’s likely a combination of factors.

UToledo students collected a water sample on the Maumee River.

“Dry conditions have resulted in very low river flow and, in addition, high lake water levels cause the river to slow down even further,” Bridgeman said. “Essentially, the lower stretch of the Maumee River has become a large pond. Anytime nutrient-rich water sits still and becomes warm, there’s an enhanced risk of a bloom. Although the bloom is visible at the surface, we’re especially interested in the conditions near the river bottom, where chemical changes can take place that can accelerate a bloom.”

The crews focused their efforts Wednesday on areas downtown by Promenade Park, the National Museum of the Great Lakes and near the Port of Toledo.

The UToledo team tracks and combats growing algal blooms in Lake Erie every year during algal bloom season to sound the early warning for water treatment plant operators as they work to provide safe public drinking water.

“Whenever cyanobacteria is visible in the water as a surface layer or scum, toxin levels in that layer are likely to exceed the recommendations for recreational contact,” Bridgeman said. “Pets and small children who may be at risk of ingesting water especially should be kept away from areas with visible surface scums of cyanobacteria.”

The Lake Erie Center is UToledo’s freshwater research and science education campus focused on finding solutions to water quality issues that face the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants.

Third Campus Conversation After George Floyd’s Death to Focus on Response of Black Men

The University of Toledo’s third campus conversation after the death of George Floyd will feature insight from a panel of African-American men.

The Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Town Hall series will continue Thursday, July 9, at 5:30 p.m. with “Black Men Respond to the Killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and Racism” hosted jointly by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Brothers on the Rise.

The free, public event can be accessed on WebEx using the access code 160 804 1384. The meeting password is knYq2a8mta7. Join by phone at 415.655.0002.

“Black men have been impacted by racism and violence for generations,” David Young, UToledo director of Toledo Excel and special projects, and moderator of the discussion, said. “We hope to have a frank and honest discussion with a panel of Black men from a variety of backgrounds, each lending their unique viewpoints. At the same time, it is our hope to begin exploring some solutions.”

Participants also will include:

• Demond Pryor, director of UToledo Recreational Services;

• Dr. Jean Paul Amegee, UToledo assistant professor of emergency medicine and University alumnus;

• Kush Baxter, UToledo student;

• James Townsend, clinical counselor at the UToledo Counseling Center; and

• Justin Ingram, UToledo assistant men’s basketball coach.

UToledo is a community that celebrates and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. As an institution, we remain committed to building an inclusive environment free of racism, sexism, bigotry and other negative influences.

Postel Begins Role as Interim President

The University of Toledo is under new leadership with Interim President Gregory Postel.

Postel began his appointment as the University’s interim president on July 6 following the departure of Dr. Sharon L. Gaber, who accepted the position of chancellor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. He had served as a special advisor to the Board of Trustees since June 17.

Gregory Postel

Postel

Postel is the former interim president and executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Louisville (UofL). Prior to joining UToledo, he served as the senior client partner representing healthcare services and higher education at Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm.

Postel has more than 25 years of leadership experience with university operations, academic medical centers and clinical research, as well as university governance, teaching and research.

“I am truly appreciative of and humbled by the vote of confidence from the Board of Trustees,” Postel said. “I am thoroughly impressed by the mission of The University of Toledo and the outstanding work that has been performed by the campus community under the leadership of President Gaber. This is a very strong foundation on which to build. I’m eager to get started and to work together to make The University of Toledo an even better place.”

In addition to an accomplished career as an academic interventional neuroradiologist, Postel served 18 years as chair of the Department of Radiology at the UofL School of Medicine and held the positions of vice dean for clinical affairs and chair of the board at University Medical Center in Louisville. He was the founding board chair and later CEO of University of Louisville Physicians. Postel served as interim president of UofL in 2017-18 and also spent four years as its executive vice president for health affairs.

During his time in leadership at UofL, Postel oversaw the design and implementation of two academic affiliations, including an eight-year, $33 million per year pediatric affiliation with Norton Healthcare and a $23 million per year adult affiliation agreement with KentuckyOne Health. He also led the planning and construction of the $80 million Pediatrics Medical Office Building; management transition and subsequent board leadership of University of Louisville Hospital; complete restructuring and implementation of the health sciences center budget and creation of two consecutive balanced budgets in the context of flat tuition and with no program closures; and reorganization of the athletics department.

A graduate of the College of Wooster and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Postel completed a residency in radiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and a fellowship in neuroradiology at the Mayo Clinic Foundation.

The University plans to launch a national search for its 18th president in the coming months.

UToledo Medical Students Create Program to Assist Healthcare Community During Pandemic

For Sara Shafqat, peace of mind is everything.

The second-year resident in internal medicine at ProMedica Toledo Hospital has been treating coronavirus patients since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. For Shafqat and many in the health professions, this has meant longer hours and the fear of bringing the virus home; her husband also works tirelessly as an attending physician at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and they have two young sons.

Fortunately, a group of proactive students at The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences are supporting healthcare workers and others in the community through the recently created UTCOMCares program, which provides volunteer assistance with child care, groceries, pet sitting and other basic needs.

Christian Carwell and Joshua Posadny pet sitting

Christian Carwell, left, and her husband, Joshua Posadny, assisted UTMC anesthesiology resident Kevin Lee by pet sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the UTCOMCares program.

“It’s been a very stressful time, both physically and mentally. Especially since the boys were home schooling and our regular babysitter wasn’t available,” said Shafqat. “I never imagined the students’ help would have been so valuable. They were energetic, my sons had a wonderful time with them, and they really started looking forward to their time together.”

UTCOMCares was born from a natural urge of anyone entering the medical field: the desire to help. In March, UToledo medical students were dismissed from their clinical rotations as part of campus-wide precautions against the spread of COVID-19. That left a group of them with a combination of time, opportunity and sense of urgency.

“It’s hard to hear that the best thing for everyone is to step away,” said Christian Carwell, a fourth-year medical student specializing in emergency medicine. “We all come to medical school for different reasons, but we love Toledo and wanted to help in any way possible.”

UTCOMCares, together with the UToledo Geriatrics Club, is piloting a program with residents at The Laurels of Toledo, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The students send handwritten notes and create art projects for those who may be struggling with loneliness or depression after social distancing guidelines have prevented them from visiting with family.

“The residents’ biggest need is to be with their families. They miss them so much,” said Page Rostetter, recreation services director at The Laurels. “We are providing opportunities to FaceTime, Zoom and do window visits, but it’s not the same. The students have provided a great connection, and it gives residents something to look forward to during the day.”

Angie Jacob, a fourth-year medical student specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, helped spearhead UTCOMCares.

“This is certainly a confusing stage of our medical careers and is filled with many mixed emotions. We felt helpless,” said Jacob. “We began this journey in the hopes of helping those in need, so we are choosing to attend to the ‘little’ things so our colleagues, teachers and mentors can focus on the greater good.”

Kevin Lee, a resident in anesthesiology at UTMC, worked in the COVID intensive care unit for several weeks.

“Witnessing the severity of the virus was difficult to cope with,” said Lee. “I just got a new puppy, so the students helped out with pet sitting. I’m truly grateful and appreciative of them being able to take care of Zoey when I was not able to during the pandemic.”

“When you are treating patients, you have to be totally focused on what you’re doing. It’s devastating to have to worry about what’s happening at home, too,” said Shafqat. “Feeling that peace of mind was a great help. We’re so proud of what the students are doing.”

UTCOMCares continues its outreach and assistance in the Toledo community. If you are a student in the health sciences and wish to volunteer, complete the online form. Healthcare workers in need of assistance also can complete the request form.

President Emeritus Who Helped Lead Merger With MUO Passes

Dr. Daniel M. Johnson, who became president of The University of Toledo in 2001 and helped lead the 2006 merger with the Medical University of Ohio (MUO), died July 1.

Johnson, who was known for his work promoting a student-centered culture and fostering community engagement during his tenure as the University’s 15th president, served in higher education leadership positions for more than 40 years throughout his career. He developed collaborations and partnerships among public universities, government entities, industrial corporations and international organizations.

Dan Johnson at Podium

Johnson

He was instrumental in the UToledo and MUO merger that set the University apart as one of just 27 comprehensive public universities in the country with its breadth and depth of academic programs.

In his final State of the University Address on Jan. 19, 2006, Johnson described UToledo in a “state of readiness” to begin shaping the future of the new University of Toledo.

“UT is poised and is now ready to take a giant step that will put it in a new league of universities. Our university — the University to which we all have linked our professional lives — is ready to embrace a future that will include a nationally recognized medical school, a world-class health campus and a distinguished university hospital,” he said. “The University of Toledo is ready for the new opportunities and responsibilities that will come with our merger with MUO. It is a new beginning for two major universities with deep roots in our community and region. The time for the merger has come.”

During his tenure up to the merger, Johnson led the campus through refining its mission, developing and implementing a strategic plan, completing a master plan for campus, and initiating a $100 million capital campaign. He spearheaded presidential initiatives to advance UToledo’s mission as a metropolitan university, including a Commission on Diversity, Council on Outreach and Engagement, and Commission on the River.

“President Johnson was instrumental in shaping the UToledo we know today and for setting this University on our current path of positive momentum that has benefited countless students, graduates and members of our greater community,” said Al Baker, chair of the UToledo Board of Trustees, who also previously served as a member of the MUO Board of Trustees during the merger process. He was the first trustee to complete his service after the 2006 merger when his term ended in 2007. “On behalf of the trustees and our entire University community, we thank Dr. Johnson for his service and express our sincere condolences to his loved ones.”

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed on March 31, 2006, House Bill 478 signing the merger legislation into law with UToledo President Dan Johnson and MUO President Lloyd Jacobs.

Following his term as president, Johnson was named president emeritus and distinguished professor of public policy and economic development.

In 2008, he was invited to serve as provost and chief operating officer of Zayed University in United Arab Emirates. He returned to UToledo in 2011 as director of global initiatives and worked to establish partnerships in Lebanon, South Africa, China, India and other nations until 2013.

Prior to coming to Toledo, Johnson was provost of the University of Alaska Anchorage. His career also included administrative positions at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas; Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond; Sangamon State University in Springfield, Ill.; and Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., as well as additional faculty positions at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan., and Christian College in Columbia, Mo.

He is the author of numerous books, chapters, study reports and papers, including “Leading Economic Development: A Toolbox for Public Officials and Civic Leaders” published by University of Toledo Press in 2015.

In his final letter to the campus community upon becoming president emeritus, Johnson described UToledo as “poised for greatness” and wrote that it was time to aim higher to produce more graduates and more research funding and be a powerful force for economic development.

“At historic times like this we are often tempted to look back to see how far we have come, to reminisce about the good things that have happened, and to congratulate ourselves on our progress,” Johnson wrote. “I would urge us not to yield to this temptation but rather spend our limited and valuable time looking ahead, setting high goals and charting a strategic course that will enable us to achieve these goals and our larger mission.”

Johnson is survived by his wife, Elaine Johnson, and two sons, Darin and Brent Johnson. Funeral arrangements are to be handled by Walker Funeral Home.

UToledo Establishes George Floyd Memorial Scholarship

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota that sparked protests across the country calling for racial justice and police reform, The University of Toledo created the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship to support students with a demonstrated passion for social justice who have financial need.

“Following the worldwide outcry against police brutality and racism targeting African Americans in the United States, coupled with the ongoing protests of beautifully diverse people, this fund is one of many ways our University is taking action to strengthen our continued commitment to unfettered opportunity for success and upward mobility for students of color,” Dr. Willie McKether, UToledo vice president for diversity and inclusion, and vice provost, said. “Diversity is a core value of our University. Preference for this scholarship will be given to students of underrepresented minority populations.”

The University of Toledo Foundation is collecting private donations to fund the new scholarship. Once the minimum endowment goal of $25,000 is met, students can begin applying for the scholarship through the Financial Aid Office.

The plan is to begin awarding a $1,000 scholarship to one student each year and grow the endowment to be able to offer half a dozen $1,000 scholarships in honor of George Floyd every year.

To be eligible for the scholarship, a student has to have demonstrated financial need, a GPA of at least 2.5, and involvement in initiatives to promote diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice.

Make a donation and learn more on the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund campaign website.