Photo courtesy of NASA

  from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences press release January 13, 2012

The Maumee River watershed, the largest watershed in the Great Lakes region, stretches across northwestern Ohio into southern Michigan and as far west as Fort Wayne, Indiana.

It drains into the western basin of Lake Erie, where harmful algal blooms are common during the summer months.  Phosphorus runoff from agriculture and other industry is the focus of efforts to reduce the algal blooms.

A new research project at Ohio State will  examine the connections between people across the entire watershed and the health of Lake Erie.  The project will integrate biological, physical and social sciences to present a complete picture of what drives decision-making processes and environmental conditions in the Maumee River watershed.

People and how and why they make decisions are the focus of the four-year, $1,500,000 study funded by the National Science Foundation.  Researchers will combine decision-making models with hydrological modeling and future climate change scenarios to evaluate the impact of human actions in the watershed on water quality in Lake Erie.

Researchers from six different departments at Ohio State and Case Western Reserve universities are working together to determine (1) how the application of agricultural fertilizers impact water quality in Lake Erie, (2) how public perception of the health of the lake may influence those practices, and (3) how these relationships are likely to change under climate change scenarios,

“By knowing what guides people’s behavior in these different settings within the watershed, we can start to make necessary changes,” says Jay Martin, scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and associate professor Ecological Engineering in Ohio State’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

The researchers will incorporate focus groups, surveys, interviews and models of how water flows within the watershed to develop models of what factors influence people’s policy attitudes and land management decisions.

Both urban and agricultural populations from various economic groups will have input during the research phases.  Results from the focus groups and surveys will be incorporated into land use models.

Lastly, researchers will use climate scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine how changes in human behavior offset or contribute to changing environmental conditions.

Over the course of the four-year project, the public can check developments by visiting the Ohio Sea Grant’s website at 


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