Water Under The Microscope
“We work with a broad spectrum of comprehensive environmental research,” said Ron Ward, director. “All of our research is not directly having to do with water, but also how outside elements have an indirect effect on our local water sources.”
The institute has three areas of research responsibility: the water in Lake Michigan, elements that directly affect that water, and educating students on environmental and research issues.
Other areas of concern include ground water, lakes and inland streams, as well as land use, protection of wells as a source of community drinking water, sediments and remediation of contaminated soils. It will also analyze water quality in local streams and how to protect life in water.
Through this research the institute also looks to preserve, protect and improve natural resources.
Currently the institute has many ongoing projects, including the analysis of PCB congeners in fish and sediment of local lakes and rivers. It also is doing work with the degradation of pesticides in turf grass environments, enhanced photochemical degradation of herbicides as a method of remediation, nutrient budgets and the influence of non-point sources of pollution on local streams and rivers. Finally, the institute is looking at herbicide residues in groundwater and heavy metal contamination in sediments.
“Through our research we would also like to educate the community and bring people together. The research we do here has an indirect effect on everyone in the community. Therefore we would like to link researchers with community members, so that everyone can become involved,” said Ward.
Another focus for the institute is education. Four research vessels, with researchers ranging from all backgrounds, take students on science cruises throughout the summer months. The cruises are designed to instruct students on how to conduct research while visiting eight to 10 ports around Lake Michigan.
“We like to involve students along the way and encourage all levels of education to get involved in the program. The science cruises are designed for hands-on science,” said Ward. “They are open for anyone of any age, from school age to much older. We want to get even the non-science person interested in science.”
Although the Annis Water Research Institute works to educate, it is not funded solely through Grand Valley State University. Ward said the institute receives a base from the university but also receives funds from other areas such as federal agencies, area foundations and contract work from private corporations and state/federal agency contracts.
The original facility, which began operating in 1986, will soon be abandoned for a new facility in Muskegon. The new facility began construction June 15, 2000, and will open this June.
“The building is progressing fine, and while we have some staff already in there, we will move entirely in June,” noted Ward. “The new building will give us improved facilities, opportunities to partner with other research groups and businesses in the area, and a waterfront location which is key to a water research facility.”