When Buffalo State’s Great Lakes Center celebrated its 50th anniversary, Congressman Brian Higgins, ’85, was on hand. “Fifty years ago, you were at the forefront of doing research on our greatest asset, our water,” Higgins told the Great Lakes Center’s faculty and staff. More than 120 people were in attendance as President Katherine Conway-Turner recapped the center’s history from its founding in 1966, when much of its efforts were focused on industrial pollution, to today’s efforts.
In addition to Higgins, a number of elected officials spoke. Besides extending congratulations, they presented the case for continuing efforts to preserve the quality of Western New York water. The speakers included Rebecca Gandour, director of development for the City of Buffalo, representing Mayor Byron Brown, ’83; New York State Senator Marc Panepinto; New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan; and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant. In closing, Provost Melanie Perreault said, “The important work conducted through the Great Lakes Center affirms Buffalo State’s role as an anchor institution for our community.”
Alexander Karatayev, professor and director of the center since 2007, described several current projects. With senior research scientist Lyubov Burlakova, Karatayev researches freshwater ecosystems, focusing especially on benthic communities and mussels. “Our strategy has been to collaborate with other institutions to obtain funding for research that benefits from the expertise of our scientists,” he said.
Funded by $9.2 million in grants, current projects include Great Lakes long-term monitoring; investigating lake sturgeon in the Lower Niagara River; emerald shiner habitat in the Upper Niagara River; early detection of invasive fish in the Great Lakes; and conservation of native freshwater mussels in Great Lakes coastal zones.
The center also administers the Western New York Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, or PRISM. In addition, the 12 full-time employees of the station and its 10 Buffalo State affiliate researchers pursue independent research projects. In 2013, the center introduced two new master’s programs in Great Lakes ecosystem science; students are actively engaged in hands-on research and publication.
Research, both funded and unfunded, was evidenced by posters displayed throughout the Burchfield Penney Art Center, where the event was held on April 15. Near the entrance to the Burchfield Penney, the two largest research vessels operated by the Great Lakes Center were on view: the 27-foot John J. Friedhoff and a 28-foot Privateer.
Besides beverages and hors d’oeuvres, guests were treated to entertainment presented by students from the Music Department’s woodwind chamber music program.
Mark Severson, dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, emceed the event. “It was gratifying to take a moment from our hectic schedules to look at the contributions Buffalo State has made to understanding and improving the Great Lakes watershed, especially here in Western New York,” he said. “I am very proud of the contribution we have made to scientific knowledge. I am even more proud of the opportunities we have extended to our students, who are active participants in acquiring that knowledge.”
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