Annin, Lehr address crowd of 100

A highlight of the Northland College Fall Festival weekend of events took place Friday at the Alvord theater as some 100 people attended the opening of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, a center devoted to freshwater science, environmental literacy, communication and research.

The reception and lecture marked the start of the Northland College Fall Fest and preceded the Harvest Trail dinner.

“This is a launch that will change the world and will change this region,” said President Mike Miller who welcomed the crowd in the Alvord Theatre at Northland College.

The Burke Center is funded by a $10 million endowment from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The work of the Burke Center will be conducted on campus and at Forest Lodge in Cable, the former home of the Burke family, Forest Lodge in Cable, Miller explained.

Miller said Northland College is an ideal match for a center devoted to freshwater issues for its location, size and mission. “We’ve devoted ourselves to an environmental education for the last forty years.”

Miller introduced the Center’s co-directors: Professor of Environmental Science and Management Randy Lehr and Director of Environmental Communication Peter Annin. Lehr and Annin each presented lively and fast-paced presentations on the core of their work.

“Anytime you can get an audience excited to hear about water and science on a Friday night is a great thing,” Lehr said.

Lehr talked about his research in Chequamegon Bay and how it relates to the nation and to the world. “Chequamegon Bay is much more complicated than we originally thought but also much more interesting.”

Chequamegon Bay is also one of the most susceptible places in the world for climate change, Lehr said.

Annin, who is the author of the 2009 book, “Great Lakes Water Wars,” on the signing of the Great Lakes Compact, said that the world has entered the century of water.

“Large lakes are vulnerable,” he said, providing the Aral Sea in central Asia as an example. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world but due to large irrigation diversion projects in the 1960s, it is now a desert, he said.

The audience had the opportunity to ask questions about underground water and water quality.

Miller prompted a student to ask the last question of the evening.

Student trustee Liz White asked about how students could become involved in the Burke Center.

Lehr responded that the Burke Center would be providing expanded research positions for students and increased programming and educational opportunities for everyone on campus.

This was not a typical lecture, but the start of a relationship,” Miller concluded.

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