UVM gets $6.7 million grant to fund Lake Champlain research

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(Host) A new research initiative that’s focused on Lake Champlain and its tributaries has been awarded a $6.7 million grant.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, researchers hope to find new ways of unlocking the complex environmental systems that affect the lake.

(Sneyd) Reams of scientific data have been accumulated over the years about pollution that flows into Lake Champlain.

Judith van Houten directs an experimental research program at the University of Vermont. She believes there probably are some nuggets in previous research that, if linked together, might unlock some scientific mysteries.

So she applied for National Science Foundation funding that would pay for sophisticated new computer models that could crunch all that data, and search for trends.

She says scientists and engineers will use the fields of computational modeling and artificial intelligence to find out what’s going on in the Lake and the rivers and streams that feed it.

(van Houten) Because the watershed is a complex system, we expect the unexpected. That is, we expect properties to emerge, rules about the watershed to emerge, that we can’t predict right now. So I can’t give you the outcomes. But we will find things that won’t be uncovered by any other methodologies.

(Sneyd) Van Houten and her team of engineers, computer scientists and biologists believe their work will help to inform the state about where to spend its money to control pollution or how to develop regulations.

The grant will also be used to coordinate research into streams feeding the lake. That will be conducted by students and faculties from high schools and from Middlebury and Saint Michael’s Colleges

University of Vermont President Dan Fogel says the money will also help to promote economic development.

(Fogel) Among the programs that the grant will support are the connections and bringing private sector firms to the campus to use the facilities that are part of our technology infrastructure at the University of Vermont.

(Sneyd) Senator Patrick Leahy helped to steer the money to UVM. He says the research will enrich and strengthen the region, which he says has depended on the Lake Champlain watershed for centuries.

(Leahy) Our heritage, our economy, our identity especially in this area is so tied to Lake Champlain.

(Sneyd) The grant is for the next three years. But scientists at UVM say the analysis tools that will be developed will last for a lot longer – and may be useful in studying other complex systems.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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