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President’s Message: A Water-Research Powerhouse

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Winter 2017

The picturesque Red Cedar River, which flows through the Michigan State University campus, is a tributary in the vast Great Lakes watershed. The largest fresh water reserve in the world, the Great Lakes define the state of Michigan with its nearly 3,300 miles of shoreline, plus some 11,000 inland lakes.

So it’s fitting MSU is a leader in water research that makes an impact on communities across Michigan and around the globe. Along with our colleagues at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, we’ve recently invested $300 million in water research over five years.

But, as I reminded fellow attendees at the Global Conference on Inland Fisheries in Rome last year, research must be accompanied by an understanding of the cultural and social context of our vital water resources. Consider Flint, which today remains challenged to provide clean drinking water not because of lack of technology, but for economic, political, and social reasons.

Ensuring access to clean and safe water supplies while maintaining healthy, sustainable aquatic ecosystems is a critical and complex challenge that MSU is well positioned to tackle. The work of top researchers across dozens of disciplines is informed by our broad, global perspective and strengthened by deep roots in communities from East Lansing to East Africa.

That approach infuses the work of MSU researcher Joan Rose, the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize. The Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair of Water Research was honored for her work on waterborne microbial threats, her scientific translation to policy makers, and her global leadership in the field.

MSU recently hired a number of new faculty members to conduct research in the areas of water technology, policy, health, and environmental and societal impacts. In addition, we established the MSU Water Science Network to link multiple efforts across the university to advance innovative science that addresses the most important global water problems. We’re doing this by building strong collaborations among faculty members, facilitating joint research grants, and promoting MSU as a center of excellence in water.

Now we’re inviting campus and community members to participate in an initiative that highlights critical water issues and the significant and diverse water-related work in which MSU Spartans are engaged. Through creative programming, activities, and dialogue, the Water Moves MSU project will help foster innovation and collaboration in new ways that afford everyone a deeper dive into the scientific, artistic, cultural, and health perspectives of the world’s most precious resource.?