Collaborative Process

As the most biologically productive and with the second largest combined North American population (11.4 million) on its shores, Lake Erie is a vital Untitled-1ecological and economic resource. Unfortunately, hypoxia and harmful algal looms HABs) have recently reemerged as a water quality problem,threatening the vitality of this critical resource. Outbreaks of Hypoxia and HABs are influenced by high anthropogenic nutrient loading from sedimentation, urbanization, and agricultural runoff in the watershed, precipitation patterns in the watershed, regional climate, and lake physical processes. In addition, climatic changes will engender a range of complicating effects including alterations in  rainfall and runoff patterns, warming water temperatures, and alterations of lake level and lake water chemistry. This is especially true in the lake’s western basin, which is particularly sensitive to climate drivers.Because these impacts will likely fall outside the range of experience that coastal managershave used to inform past decision-making, the development of models that integrate land, lake and climate systems and the deployment of those models in user-driven scenarios are critical to inform and evaluate adaptation response options Models have been developed for Lake Erie and its watershed through: a)the NOAA-funded Ecological Forecasting (ECOFOR) project examining controls and consequences of central basin hypoxia and b) an NSF-funded Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) project that combines climate, watershed, lake, and social science modeling of the causes and consequences of Lake Erie HABs. However,a gap exists between model development and deployment to inform decision making for coastal management adaptation needs, and in particular, for habitat and coastal watershed managers and for Great Lakes policy advisors. The gap exists because model developers do not always know what information managers need for their decision making nor do they necessarily understand managers’ decision making contexts. Similarly, managers and policy advisors do not always know what climate information or models are available, how to access this information,or how to use this information to inform and evaluate adaptation options.

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Hence, this project aims to foster an inclusive, collaborative approach by involving stakeholders more directly in the process of model development and in helping to direct what future scenarios are modeled. To achieve this aim, we designed a series of workshops to foster interaction, two-way learning, and to gather group-level input and feedback. Two workshops in August 2014 and June 2015 were hence organized in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR),the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve(OWCNERR), at a site near Cleveland, OH, and in AnnArbor, MI.