Sept. 26, 2013
Maybe it was a family trip to a cottage on Crystal Lake or a canoe ride down the Au Sable. Or maybe it was fishing the Detroit River off of Belle Isle or a class trip to Kensington Park. Or perhaps it was seeing the falls of Tahquamenon, having your feet go numb standing in Superior, feeling the spray of the Shepler’s Ferry, or maybe it was just the soothing sounds of the Red Cedar while you crammed for finals.
If you’ve spent any time at all in Michigan, at some point you’ve enjoyed one of the best things about this state—water. Michigan is home to more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 300 rivers. And then there are the big daddies of them all—the Great Lakes. (If you went to school in Michigan, I’ll be you remember HOMES as a study tool).
Just look at a map of the United States and you can see Michigan jump off the page because of the lakes that surround us, giving us that easily recognizable mitten shape that allows us to use our hand as a directional device to point out where we live or vacation.
Water is so much of who we are in Michigan. It is so much of who I am.
I learned to tie my shoes at Houghton Lake. I mastered how to row a boat, catch a fish and waterski on the Tittabawassee River. I hung out with my friends at Silver Lake as a teen. I honeymooned on Mackinac Island and on the shores of Lake Superior. My husband lost his wedding ring in the waves of Lake Michigan…and his replacement in Cavanaugh Lake. I’ve seen sunsets at Oval Beach and I spend lunchtime walks alongside the Red Cedar. And two weeks of every summer of my childhood since I was 10 years was spent at Tawas Point State Park with shores for both Tawas Bay and Lake Huron.
I’m headed back to Tawas this weekend and I can’t wait. My dad joins some of our extended family and still spends two weeks there each summer. It’s the home to some of my favorite memories and I can’t wait to stick my feet in the water, wander the shoreline and feel the sand in my toes.
Because our water is so important to us, researchers at MSU are using their expertise, knowledge and skills to make sure it stays clean, safe and productive.
Researchers like Xiabo Tan, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and one of the driving forces behind “Grace,” a robotic fish that swims lakes and streams gathering data such as water temperature and quality. Um, how cool is a robot fish? Make sure to read his Faculty Voice about Grace’s recent trip to Wintergreen Lake.
MSU has projects aimed at curbing invasive plants in our waters, and scientists have spent years researching ways to stop the destructive sea lampreys. Joan Rose, the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at MSU, was appointed to the Great Lakes Advisory Board to support implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
And MSU expertise and research in water stretches way beyond the shores of Michigan. Through the Global Water Initiative, MSU will add 16 new scientists to its team of more than 100 faculty members who will conduct water research.
Those researchers are also getting students interested and involved in water research. Younsuk Dong is a biosystems engineering graduate student who began doing research with Steve Safferman, associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, as an undergraduate at MSU. Read his Student View to learn more about his work.
This weekend, as I watch the sunset on the bay or let the waves crash over my feet, I’ll take a pause to be grateful for MSU researchers who have dedicated their lives protecting this most precious natural resource.
Photo of the Radiology Building Healing Gardens by Derrick L. Turner