Wisconsin Sea Grant Researcher Speaks About Chequamegon Bay Climate Change Projects at UMD

Randy Lehr

Credit: Marie Zhuikov, Wisconsin Sea Grant

February 15, 2106

By Marie Zhuikov

Wisconsin Sea Grant Researcher and Northland College Professor, Randy Lehr, was in Duluth on Feb. 2, speaking about his climate change research in the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior and a new integrated assessment project he’s starting for the same area.

Lehr spoke at the invitation of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Anthropocene Research Center along with Peter Annin, with whom he co-leads the new Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation.

Lehr said that the Ashland, Wis., area is the focus of hard rains for some reason -- “Harder than most other places studied in the region.” He said the area can expect warmer, wetter weather in the future. With his Wisconsin Sea Grant funding, Lehr and his team are studying the impacts of these hard rains and warming temperatures on the bay and what tools city and natural resource managers can use to address and adapt to these impacts.

The related two-year integrated assessment he is just beginning, also with Sea Grant’s help, blends social and natural sciences. With this “Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Adaptation Planning in the Chequamegon Bay Region of Lake Superior,” Lehr and his colleagues will survey what the most valuable resources are in the area to people and will prioritize them in terms of their natural/social/ecological importance and how likely they are to be impacted by climate change.

“People love their lakes,” Lehr said. “Even if they move away from Wisconsin, surveys have found they are still willing to support local lake associations in their efforts to care for lakes.”

Community leaders and elected officials will be engaged in conversations as part of the process led by Northland College faculty. Decision tools will be developed to help communities decide what actions to take. Local cities (Ashland, Bayfield, Washburn), towns, tribes, the National Park Service and the Forest Service will be involved.

This type of integration is a first for Wisconsin Sea Grant, and may lead to similar assessments elsewhere in the state. The project will kick off with a meeting where all technical and subject-matter experts interact with community leaders, elected officials and their designated staff members.

The Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation that Lehr co-leads is co-located on the Northland College campus in Ashland, Wis., and in Cable, Wis., at the former summer home of the Burke family, Forest Lodge. Its operation is funded by an endowment by the Burke family and the focus is on aquatic research, communication and leadership on freshwater issues throughout the Great Lakes. The center and its 900 acres are being operated in partnership with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

For more information, please contact Randy Lehr at rlehr@northland.edu.