Joel Hoffman ~ Great Lakes Connector

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Repurposing Data

The St. Louis River is part of the Port of Duluth, and over decades of use has become highly polluted. The St. Louis River Alliance is a citizen-led organization representing many stakeholders: biologists, concerned citizens, commercial shipping, recreational fishermen - all of whom share the goal of cleaning up the river.

"This is a wonderful way to take that burgeoning body of research and apply it to an on-the-ground environmental problem."
The citizens got together and submitted a plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is how Dr. Joel Hoffman got involved. He has been involved for 5 years, and sits on the habitat work group, helping to identify the parameters necessary to be able to say that the river has been restored. He is one of a group of scientists and experts working on ecological design, including options for types of restoration to bring to community stakeholders.

His work with the group spans generating ideas to full fledged feasibility studies. "It's complicated and eye-opening," says Joel. "There are hazardous materials in the sediments and they need to be remediated." The work group is developing ecological designs plus working on characterizing bottom types and how to restore them.

An added bonus for this work for Joel is it offers a home for some of his data. Having just completed a very large benthic invertebrate survey looking for exotic species, he has a wealth of taxonomic data that can be used to very precisely measure the quality of sediments. "It was just sitting in a database," says Joel. "We are now able to re-purpose that data and marry it with this project, using the data to provide biological targets for restoration." Joel now knows which fish are using which habitat, based on the method he developed. This allows him to use data to help gauge the relative exposure of fish to certain areas of the river, to better understand how they might be impacted by different kinds of sediment.

John Lingren
John Lingren, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Joel's research is used by this group to further understand the ecosystem they are working in