Barch CFRE Exterior

Lake Superior State University Establishes College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education

Capitalizing on its singular location in the heart of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior State University announces the creation of the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education.

LSSU’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to establish the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education. Its interrelated goals include increasing enrollment, retention, and graduation at Lake State; training the next generation of conservationist leaders and teachers; delivering high-impact practices for students, such as research, internships, and volunteerism; partnering with public and private natural resource agencies on environmental causes vital to the area; expanding revenue streams for the blue economy that flows across the Great Lakes; and bettering the Great Lakes region.

Dr. Ashley Moerke, executive director of the Richard and Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education (Barch CFRE) at LSSU, has been named founding dean of the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education.

“LSSU’s new College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education will not only help the institution equip graduates with the knowledge and skills to craft a life of meaningful employment but also enhance the quality of life of the Great Lakes region and beyond,” said Lake State Board of Trustees Chair Timothy L. Lukenda. “The Great Lakes supply almost 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater plus drinking water for more than 30 million people. LSSU’s backyard is nestled among three of them, thus providing vital occasions for ecofriendly research, innovation, real-world experiences—and this new college.”

The College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education will be comprised of Barch CFRE, the School of Natural Resources, and the School of Education. Students can enroll in the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education starting in the fall 2023 semester. Efforts are underway to staff the new college and new academic programs are under consideration.

The College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education becomes LSSU’s sixth college. Lake State’s Board of Trustees previously restructured academic programs into five colleges (and various schools within them) in December 2017: the College of Criminal Justice and Emergency Responders, the College of Health and Behavior, the College of Innovation and Solutions, the College of Science and the Environment, and the College of Education and Liberal Arts.

“We’re excited to springboard our cutting-edge, transformative-driven Barch CFRE as the foundation for the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education to further the excellence in teaching, learning, and service that are hallmarks of a Lake State education,” said LSSU Interim President Dr. Lynn G. Gillette. “We opened the spectacular $18 million Barch CFRE in December 2021, and it immediately was considered in the vanguard of its kind. Also late in 2021, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan selected LSSU as the hub for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Great Lakes Center of Expertise on the study and mitigation of oil spills in freshwater environments, and last summer, we celebrated the grand opening of the Great Lakes Center of Expertise at Barch CFRE, as just one of several alliances at our site. For decades, LSSU has reared and released tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon annually at the CFRE Fish Hatchery. In fact, since LSSU’s founding in 1946, the institution has embraced any number of going-green endeavors. So it makes perfect sense for the university to take the ultimate step and launch a College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education—because the campus, region, state, and country benefit in overlapping ways.”

LSSU Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kimberly Muller said, “The Great Lakes form a key part of Michigan’s identity, abound with ecological riches, and are an indispensable economic engine. LSSU’s College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education will augment academic programs, generate more experiential learning opportunities for students, give students additional conduits to pursue research projects with faculty, inspire students to enroll, allow faculty to buttress their already-significant contributions to the field, respond to workforce needs, and redouble LSSU’s sustainability. An essential component of the new college, Barch CFRE, has earned a reputation for preservation, experiential learning, research funding, and workshops and overviews for K-12 education and the public. More than 6,500 people have visited its Great Lakes Discovery Center since the opening less than two years ago. With the College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education, Barch CFRE can develop its own academic programs in higher education settings.”

College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education Founding Dean Dr. Moerke said, “I am honored to be part of this exciting initiative that recognizes LSSU’s unique location at the nexus of three Great Lakes and that will build upon our natural, cultural, and social resources for our students to become the next local and global leaders in natural resources, conservation, and education.”

Dr. Moerke, a freshwater ecologist focusing on the Great Lakes basin and a professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, earned biology degrees from University of Minnesota Duluth (B.S.) and University of Notre Dame (M.S. and Ph.D.). She was a scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before joining LSSU’s faculty in 2004. Dr. Moerke was president of the Society for Freshwater Science in 2021-22 and is a member of the State of Michigan Water Quality Advisory Committee and an at-large advisor to the Lake Superior Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

She added, “The College of the Great Lakes Ecology and Education will leverage our place—the Great Lakes—and our state-of-the-art facilities, research, and educational assets at Barch CFRE to provide unparalleled hands-on opportunities for students pursuing careers in natural resources, conservation, and education.”