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New director appointed to lead UT Lake Erie Center

The University of Toledo named a new leader for the Lake Erie Center, a freshwater research and science education campus focused on finding solutions for water quality issues that face the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants.

Dr. Tom Bridgeman, algae researcher and UT professor of ecology, will serve as director effective May 14. A welcome reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Lake Erie Center.

Bridgeman

“It is an honor to be appointed the director of a center that has done so much toward improving our ecological understanding of western Lake Erie and its watershed, not just in an academic sense, but in ways that translate into policies for protecting the lake, its fisheries and our drinking water supplies,” Bridgeman said.

“Dr. Bridgeman is one of the leading researchers studying harmful algae blooms, and his insights and leadership as the new director will be important in continuing to move the Lake Erie Center forward, and in solidifying its key contributions toward solving the problems threatening Lake Erie and the Great Lakes in general,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy; and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. 

Bridgeman plans to continue to build relationships with state and national funding agencies to grow the Lake Erie Center’s research programs, which consist of faculty, staff and student researchers, and connect water treatment plant operators, legislative policymakers and the public with UT water quality expertise.

Bridgeman also plans to make the Lake Erie Center the hub of the UT Water Task Force, which is composed of faculty and researchers in diverse fields spanning the University and serves as a resource for government officials and the public looking for expertise on investigating the causes and effects of algal blooms, the health of Lake Erie, and the health of the communities depending on its water. The task force includes experts in economics, engineering, environmental sciences, business, pharmacy, law, chemistry and biochemistry, geography and planning, and medical microbiology and immunology.

“I would like to help this diverse group find a cohesive voice to communicate their research to the public under the banner of the Lake Erie Center,” Bridgeman said.

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With more than $14 million in active grants underway, researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

“I’m excited about pursuing some new ideas that will increase our research and education collaborations across UT and with other universities in the region so that the Lake Erie Center becomes the core facility for anyone who wants to conduct research involving Lake Erie,” Bridgeman said. “For anyone who loves water and loves Lake Erie, I would like them to feel that the Lake Erie Center is their center. It’s a place where they can be involved, send their kids to summer science camp, or meet and organize for improving the lake. For area students, I want them to know that UT offers unparalleled opportunities for them to learn about the environment, studying our Great Lake and its tributaries.”

Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor and chair of the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, has been serving as interim director of the Lake Erie Center.

“I want to thank Dr. Fisher for his dedication and willingness to serve in this capacity for the past 18 months,” Bjorkman said.