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New hub for freshwater research opens in Sault Ste Marie

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Lake Superior State University
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The Great Lakes Discovery Center is housed in the Center for Freshwater Research and Education.

The new research facility sits on the banks of the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste Marie. The Richard and Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education opened Friday.

Inside, state-of-the art laboratories will study Great Lakes fisheries, invasive species and emerging contaminants — like PFAS and freshwater oil spills. The facility is an extension of Lake Superior State University. Donors contributed 14 million dollars for it’s construction. The building will also house the Great Lakes Discovery Center.

“In the Soo, we are surrounded by three Great Lakes, but there is no place within a couple hours to learn about the Great Lakes,” said Ashley Moerke, a freshwater ecologist and the center’s director. “That just seemed crazy to me.”

Interactive exhibits – like a sturgeon touch tank – will tell stories of the lakes’ contamination and ongoing recovery. The center will also run field trips for K-12 students from around the state.

“We have an amazing resource in our backyard,” Moerke said. “The place we are in is vital to educating people, but also furthering our scientific understanding of that resource.”