Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
Oceans are the world’s largest ecosystem. They are home to nearly a million known species and contain vast untapped potential for scientific discovery all while providing support for economic, social and environmental needs across the globe (marine fisheries provide 57 million jobs globally and are the primary source of protein to over 50% of the population in several countries). Current efforts to protect key marine environments and small-scale fisheries, and to invest in ocean science are not yet meeting the urgent need to safeguard this vast, yet fragile, resource.
Sustainable Development Goal #14 explores how we, as a society and as individuals, can help chart a sustainable recovery path that will safeguard the livelihoods of those who live below water for decades to come. As the land of 10,000 Lakes and home to the mouth of the famous Mississippi River, Minnesota provides a unique location to explore freshwater ecosystems and the value they provide to our state, country and world. Specifically, at the University of Minnesota, our researchers are involved in exploring the great lakes and helping support the fishing industry across the Midwest, they looking closely at the affect and movement of aquatic invasive species to help limit their impact, and they are helping the public understand the value of our freshwater ecosystems and what they can do to help protect life below water (at sea and closer to home).
RESEARCH AND EXPERTISE
OUTREACH AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Public Events Supporting Freshwater Ecosystems
Starry stonewort is an aggressive and highly destructive invasive algae that was first found in Minnesota in 2015 and has since spread to 18 lakes. Starry Trek started in 2017 and is an annual, one-day volunteer event is focused on searching for starry stonewort (and other AIS) in the most vulnerable lakes. An outgrowth of the AIS Detectors program, citizen volunteers, students, and local government staff receive training in starry stonewort survey methods, then fan out across their area, checking public water access for starry stonewort. In 2023, no new starry stonewart discoveries were made, but 10 new invasive mystery snail reports were made thanks to Starry Trek.
The 2022 Great Lakes Aquaculture Days Workshop is a two-day event hosted by Minnesota Sea Grants Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative. In 2022, the event was themed around fish health and features discussions, Q&A sessions, and hands-on activities.
Lake lovers and resource managers attend the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center’s (MAISRC) Annual AIS Research and Management Showcase. In 2023, attendees were invited to learn about the latest in management and control of aquatic invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil, starry stonewort, and zebra mussels.
The Current is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states sponsor this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Throughout 2023, they hosted a monthly webinar series which often focused on water themes.
Programs Supporting Freshwater Ecosystems (Monitoring, Maintaining, Stewardship)
The Coastal Hazards of Superior (CHAOS) is a Community of Practice (CoP) focusing on the Minnesota and Wisconsin coasts of western Lake Superior. CHAOS is a platform for engaging local community leaders, managers, researchers, and communicators concerned about coastal hazards and their impacts. The platform connects interested parties to the resources, tools, and case studies they need to facilitate informed adaptation planning and management decisions. Click on "What have we done lately" to see their latest projects in 2023 at the link below.
Minnesota Sea Grant is working to determine if small-scale removal of invasive, hybrid cattails can improve abundance and diversity of plants and fish on Minnesota lakeshores. The study will provide ecological data cattail management strategies and inform resource managers about the benefits and costs of localized cattail removal. Click on "What have we done lately" to see their latest projects in 2023 at the link below.
NRRI's Lake Stream and Wetland Ecology Program consists of multiple labs developing science-based tools, materials and technologies to assess and protect Minnesota's water resources, and restore them if degraded. Check out the Media coverage at the bottom of the page for the latest updates.
Developing Tools to Help Support Freshwater Ecosystems
Millions of dollars are spent annually on AIS activities, but with such a broad waterway system, a decision-making tool was needed to help prioritize time, people and funds across the state. Enter the MAISRC who, in collaboration with several key partners across the state, developed an online dashboard—AIS Explorer—that both forecasts the introduction risk of aquatic invasive species to individual waterbodies and provides decision-making support for optimizing watercraft inspection efficacy. The AIS Explorer supports stakeholder engagement and smart use of data for rapid detection and response to biosecurity threats in a practical and cost-effective way. Data is regularly updated based on DNR's infested water list.
The Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program (CWMP) is a collaborative effort of several research institutes, including NRRI in Duluth. The CWMP is focused on monitoring the Great Lakes coastal wetland biota, habitat, and water quality to provide information on coastal wetland conditions. As part of their work, the team developed a decision support tool that lets users interact with a variety of information relevant to coastal wetland conservation and management.
The Watershed Game is an interactive tool that helps community leaders understand the connections between land use, clean water and their community. Participants learn how a variety of land uses impact water and natural resources and learn how their choices can prevent adverse impacts. It has been used in over 20 states and a version exists for both classrooms and community leaders. Want to learn how to play?--trainings are ongoing.
Researchers at UMD’s NRRI have developed a web application that enables decision-makers to prioritize areas for maximizing water quality improvements, in the form of nitrogen or phosphorus removal, and/or habitat and for restoring or protecting high functioning sustainable wetlands. The Restorable Wetland Prioritization Tool utilizes readily available GIS data at the 30 meter pixel resolution and consists of five primary decision layers.
At the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP), UMN researchers and their partners are working to transform how plastics are made, unmade, and remade. CSP participants aim to design, prepare, and implement polymers derived from renewable resources for a wide range of advanced applications, and to promote future economic development, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability in the emergent area of biobased products.
Developed by the NRRI's Freshwater Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Lab, The Great Lakes Risk Map utility characterizes the potential degree of human impacts on coastal ecosystems from the surrounding landscape, based on biotically-determined thresholds.
UMN Programs Supporting the Fishing Industry
The Sea Grant Great Lakes FreshFishFinder.org website strives to connect great lake fishers, processors, and consumers so that all can identify where to sell and buy local fresh food fish, bait, and stocking fish in an easy-to-use, online, accessible format. Click on "What have we done lately" to see their latest projects in 2023 at the link below.
Fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota, but the aquaculture field in Minnesota is small. The Minnesota Sea Grant program is developing sustainable, environmentally sound, and innovative technologies for all sectors of the seafood industry, including fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing and consumer safety. The Aquaculture Market Study is a three-year, $250,000 project exploring the potential for a sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota. Click on "What have we done lately" to see their latest projects at the link below.
The University of Minnesota Sea Grant (MNSG) program and partners are investigating new strategies for producing Golden Shiner fish for Minnesota’s bait industry. Click on "What have we done lately" to see their progress in 2023.
Minnesota Sea Grant's Egg-to-Market Yellow Perch project is developing producer-scale methods for raising Yellow Perch fish from egg to market size in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).
Sea Grant is a leader in developing sustainable, environmentally sound, and innovative technologies for all sectors of the seafood industry including fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing and consumer safety. In recent years, do to increased need, they have developed Aquaculture 101 which has a curated selection of aquaculture resources and why Minnesota Sea Grant is involved in aquaculture.
Collaborating with Local Government and Tribal Communities to Support Freshwater Ecosystems
The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative (GLAC) is a three-year federally funded project that seeks to create a region-wide group to foster relevant, science-based initiatives that support aquaculture industries in the Great Lakes region that are environmentally responsible, competitive, and sustainable. The Minnesota Sea Grant Program are key collaborators on this effort.
Launched in 2018, the collaborative–First We Must Consider Manoomin/Psin–is envisioned as a true collaboration among Native and non-Native researchers, resource managers, community members, and Indigenous knowledge keepers.
The North Central Region Water Network's Algal Bloom Action Team has responded to the call for more information on algal blooms by developing a series of bulletins, webinars, FAQs and by hosting an annual research symposium.
The Minnesota Stormwater Research and Technology Transfer Program is advancing science, technology, and management of stormwater in Minnesota by investing in and facilitating research to prevent, minimize, and mitigate the impacts of runoff from the built environment. The program operates in tandem with the Minnesota Stormwater Research Council ensuring diverse and comprehensive input on information needs and priorities.
The University of Minnesota's Climate Adaptation Partnership has a new project that focuses are using climate and water information to help inform and enhance community resilience. The project is focused on developing information about interactions between Minnesota’s changing climate and groundwater recharge, evapotranspiration, runoff, and crop water demand.
Researchers at the Swenson College of Science and Engineering and UMD Large Lakes Observatory are focusing on the waves on Lake Superior and beyond to better understand how wave conditions are changing, and how coastal communities can better prepare for a future in which we may see more frequent events producing larger waves.
EDUCATION AND STUDENTS
UMN POLICIES AND ADMINISTRATION
UMN Watershed Management Policies
As part of its Environmental Protection policy, the University of Minnesota has a policy focused on wetland conservation. Specifically, this policy lays out specific steps and approvals needed to assure that aquatic resources are protected when soil is disturbed during a University of Minnesota project.
UMD’s Wetland Inventory was completed by Barr Engineering as part of its broader UMD Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. Its purpose is to inform Administration and Staff of wetland locations on UMD properties and how adjustments on campus have the potential to affect wetlands near campus and further down the watersheds.
To reduce the quantity and improve the quality of storm water flowing off campus, UMD has developed a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program (SWPPP). The SWPPP is approved by the Minnesota pollution Control Agency, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.
The UMN maintains Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits for the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. These permits require the University to implement Best Management Practices as detailed in the campus-specific Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program in addressing storm water runoff from these campuses, with the goal of reducing pollutants to the maximum extent practicable.
UMN Policies Water Sensitive Waste Disposal
The University of Minnesota’s Environmental Protection Governing Policy specifically requires are students, faculty and staff across the system to protect the environment by: 1) Planning activities to minimize the amount of waste produced and resources used, 2) Conserving aquatic resources, 3) Reusing and recycling materials whenever possible, by using existing campus programs, 4) Using established programs for proper disposal of hazardous materials, 5) Protecting soil, surface water, and groundwater from contamination, and 6) Reporting chemical spills immediately.
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has had a recycling program in place since 1984. Currently, its waste recovery services include a recycling program—that diverts 40 percent of the University’s municipal solid waste, organics recycling, debris management, the Reuse Center, infectious waste management, and a hazardous materials program.
In compliance with the systemwide policy, UMD’s Environmental Health and Safety Office has extensive guidelines regarding the disposal of hazardous waste on its campus. Their work includes managing a chemical waste registry database, a hazardous waste inspection log and provides mandatory training on managing and disposal of hazardous waste for any employee who works in a laboratory setting or who ships, sorts, or generates hazardous waste.
Influencing Freshwater Ecosystem Policy on the State, Regional or National Level
University of Minnesota experts were among several participants that provided information and insights for the Clean Water Council FY 24-25 Clean Water Fund and Policy Recommendations Report.
As one of 54 federally funded national water institutes, UMN Water Resources Center has a number of projects that address policy implications related to the social, cultural and physical characteristics of Minnesota’s streams, lakes, reservoirs and watersheds.
In the land of over 10,000 lakes, water is a vital resource for residents and tribes, thus making water scholarship a substantial endeavor across the UMN System. The Water Council, founded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, serves to bring together resources from across the University of Minnesota System to address the pressing concern of access to clean water for the 21st Century.
The UMN Center for Sustainable Building Research helped develop Minnesota's B3 Sustainable Building Guidelines, which is followed across the UMN system for new construction and major renovations. The B3 guidelines include building water effiency and Site Water Quality and Efficiency.