Lake Superior State University, US and Canadian Partners Celebrate Major Milestone in advancing oil spill research and response to Great Lakes Protection

Contact: Dr. Ashley Moerke, Ph.D., Dean, College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education, Executive Director, Center for Freshwater Research and Education, Lake Superior State University, , 906-635-2153


Cross-Border Collaboration Advances Oil Spill Research and Response: (right-left) U.S. Coast Guard Captain Justin Peters, Canadian Coast Guard Deputy Superintendent Amanda Greer, LCDR Kit Pace, U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Oil Spill Center of Expertise (GLCOE), LSSU’s Interim President Dr.Lynn Gillette, Yani Messi, Director General, Natural Resources Canada;, Dr. Ken Lee, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, Algoma University President and Vice-Chancellor, Asima C. Vezina, Boumy Sayavong, Director, MPRI Natural Resources Canada


(Sault Ste. Marie, MI)  –  Lake Superior State University (LSSU) and its collaborative partners are commemorating a significant achievement in their shared mission to protect the Great Lakes. The recent formation of the International Consortium of Oil Research – Our Waters of the North (ICOR-OWN) between US and Canadian partners, along with the commissioning of the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Center of Expertise, hosted at LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE), serves as a testament to the power of cross-border collaboration. This event underscores both national and international partnerships’ critical role in preserving and protecting freshwater resources.


Strengthening Partnerships for Research and Innovation


Earlier this year, LSSU secured a $3.87 million grant from the Government of Canada, supporting the International Consortium on Oil Research for Our Waters of the North (ICOR-OWN). This collaboration unites 12 organizations and 24 scientists from both the United States and Canada, with LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE) and Algoma University as lead partners. The funding, part of Canada’s Multi-Partner Research Initiative (MPRI) under the Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), aims to advance scientific knowledge and develop innovative oil spill response technologies. Additionally, LSSU was awarded funding from the US Coast Guard to leverage MPRI efforts and build research and response capacity along the shores of the St. Marys River. The collective funds are supporting enhanced infrastructure at LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education, including a new annex building that will house an experimental wave tank and an outdoor experimental mesocosm facility, both used for oil spill research. 


Key Research Projects Under ICOR-OWN


  1. Research on Oil Fate in Freshwater Ecosystems: In partnership with the US Geological Survey, Memorial University, and the US Coast Guard, this project focuses on understanding the behavior and transport of oil, particularly diluted bitumen, in freshwater ecosystems.


  1. Oil Spill Detection and Monitoring Technologies: Collaborating with Algoma University, University of Windsor, NOAA, Limnotech, and the University of Michigan, this project aims to develop advanced technologies for detecting and monitoring oil spills in freshwater and ice environments, including innovative drone and autonomous underwater vehicle systems.


  1. Ecological Effects of Oil Spills in Cold-Climate Ecosystems: In partnership with Algoma University and the University of Windsor, this research examines the ecological impacts of oil spills and bioremediation strategies in the cold-climate coastal wetlands of the Laurentian Great Lakes.


Celebrating Cross-Border Collaboration


The official commissioning of the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Center of Expertise (GLCOE) held at LSSU’s CFRE on May 10th marked a historic commitment by the US Coast Guard to Great Lakes stewardship. The GLCOE, unique within the Coast Guard, is a non-operational body with a legislative mandate to advance freshwater and icy water oil spill response capabilities through innovative research, equipment acquisition, and local responder training. The commissioning of the GLCOE also highlighted the importance of international partnerships to address environmental issues on shared US-Canadian waters. Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, participating virtually, alongside LSSU’s Interim President Dr. Lynn Gillette and U.S. Coast Guard Captain Justin Peters, underscored the mission of preserving and protecting freshwater resources. Dr. Ken Lee, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research,  also was presented with the inaugural Senator Gary Peters Award for Innovation in Great Lakes Research in recognition of his leadership and innovation in oil spill science.


Leadership Perspectives


LSSU Interim President Lynn Gillette expressed excitement about the international collaboration, stating, “We are thrilled to be partners on these initiatives alongside our US and Canadian partners, including the US Coast Guard and Algoma University. This collaboration highlights LSSU’s growing leadership in freshwater science and creates numerous opportunities for our students to engage in real-world research that directly contributes to Great Lakes conservation.”


Dr. Ashley Moerke, Dean of the College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education at LSSU and LSSU lead of the International Collaboration on Oil Research emphasized the significance of the partnership, noting, “ICOR-OWN leverages our unique location at the nexus of the upper Great Lakes and the expertise of our US and international partners to build scientific capacity and ensure the best available science guides our response to oil spills in cold, freshwater environments.”


The Importance of Partnerships


Collaborative efforts such as ICOR-OWN and the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Center of Expertise play a crucial role in addressing complex environmental challenges. By uniting diverse perspectives, resources, and expertise, these partnerships enable comprehensive research, innovative solutions, and effective responses to environmental threats. In today’s interconnected world, where environmental issues transcend national boundaries, partnerships foster a collective approach to conservation. They amplify the impact of individual efforts and promote the shared goal of protecting our planet’s precious ecosystems.


Lake Superior State University exemplifies this dedication to environmental conservation, scientific progress, and cooperative endeavors aimed at safeguarding critical water ecosystems for future generations. The commissioning of the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Center of Expertise at LSSU’s CFRE represents a significant investment in oil spill research, further strengthening these vital cross-border partnerships. As collaborative efforts between U.S. and Canadian institutions continue to evolve, the Great Lakes will benefit from enhanced protection and innovative solutions to environmental challenges.


To learn more about these collaborative efforts, please visit