SAULT STE. MARIE, MI — The Canadian government has given nearly $4 million to researchers studying the behavior and impacts of oil spilled in the Great Lakes.
Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., announced the receipt of $3.87 million from Canada this week, which will fund collaborative research with Algoma University across the international border in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
The universities are lead partners in the new International Consortium on Oil Research for Our Waters of the North (ICOR-OWN), which operates out of LSSU’s expanding Center for Freshwater Research and Education campus along the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie.
The research center houses the U.S. Coast Guard’s new Great Lakes Oil Spill Center of Expertise, which opened in 2022 and is focused on oil spill preparedness and response.
The money comes from a $30.3 million Canadian federal Oceans Protections Plan.
Researchers are investigating the behavior and dispersal of heavy diluted bitumen, or dilbit, oil in freshwater, the impact of bioremediation in cold climates and coastal wetlands, and the use of drones and long-rang underwater autonomous vehicles in spill detection and monitoring.
Partners in the research include The University of Windsor, University of Michigan, Memorial University, USGS, NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the private firm Limnotech.
Researchers are aided by the LSSU freshwater center’s “unique location at an international border and the nexus of the upper Great Lakes,” said center director Ashley Moerke.
The research site is located between the Saint Marys Falls Hydropower Plant and a $31 million deep-water port under development to provide dockage for freighters and cruise ships.
The LSSU freshwater research center was open in Sault Ste. Marie for less than a year when researchers aided the Coast Guard in its 2022 response to a 5,300 gallon oil spill in the St. Marys River from a steel mill on the Canadian side.
Moerke said the new research consortium’s goal is to “build scientific capacity and training, ensuring that the best available science is used to understand, minimize, and respond to oil spills in cold, freshwater environments.”
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