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IES awarded $500,000 US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant

Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability was awarded a $500,000 US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to implement an innovative coastal wetland restoration, invasive plant management, and renewable bio-energy production project: Furthering capacity to maintain high quality coastal wetlands in Northern Michigan.

Cheb_OB4This project builds on over 10-years of Loyola research exploring the ecological impacts of invasive cattails on Great Lakes coastal wetlands, testing experimental restoration practices, and evaluating the potential for utilizing invasive wetland plants for biomass energy and is part of the IES Invasives-to-Energy program. The project region, northern Lower and the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, harbors the greatest concentration of ecologically high quality coastal wetlands in the US Great Lakes, but these critical ecosystems are increasingly threatened by the invasive plants Typha (invasive cattails), Phalaris arundinacea (reed-canary grass), and Phragmites australis (common reed). Nancy Tuchman (Founding Director of IES and Professor of Biology), Shane Lishawa (Research Associate IES), and collaborators have determined that mechanically harvesting these invaders promotes native marsh biodiversity recovery and harvested biomass is a viable material for renewable energy production.

Project goals include:

  • restoring over 300 acres of invaded coastal wetlands
  • converting ~800 tons of invasive plant biomass into carbon-neutral energy
  • offsetting current and future restoration costs through the sale of biomass pellets
  • remotely identifying populations of invasive plants &
  • building capacity to sustain long-term invasive plant management in Northern Michigan.

Tuchman and Lishawa will lead this highly collaborative project, which includes partners from Oregon State University (Dennis Albert), DePaul University (Beth Lawrence), Lake Superior State University (Gregory Zimmerman), and the University of Michigan Biological Station (Knute Nadelhoffer).Cheb_YB2