The University Record, September 17, 2001

Johengen named director of CILER

By Lesley Harding

New meaning to ‘down under.’ Tom Johengen, director of CILER, slips into the water ballast tank of a cargo ship in Port Weller, Ontario. Johengen is leading a research project on the water ballasting practices of commercial freightliners in the Great Lakes.
Thomas Johengen, assistant research scientist at the College of Engineering, is the newly appointed director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER). Established in 1989, CILER is a joint endeavor of the U-M, Michigan State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

CILER, whose administrative offices are located on campus, is the only one of nine joint/cooperative institutes formed through NOAA with direct responsibility for fresh-water research and it promotes collaborative research between GLERL scientists from throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

In his new position, Johengen will oversee CILER’s scientific direction and budget, and help develop new cooperative research programs. CILER was established to facilitate and increase the effectiveness of NOAA research in the Great Lakes region and to provide a mechanism for research collaborations with the academic world.

“These collaborations can provide unique opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to participate in research programs with scientists at the NOAA Great Lakes lab in Ann Arbor,” says Johengen. “These research programs are often beyond the scope of those occurring within individual departments at the University.”

CILER is responsible for gathering a variety of data from the Great Lakes used to keep the waters clean, safe and environmentally sound. Research programs within CILER include everything from how the lakes interact with the atmosphere, to how critical materials are cycled within the ecosystem, to the remote sensing of temperature and reflectance.

Johengen believes that the two main areas that will now receive increased attention by CILER include invasive species and global climate change.

CILER recently received a $1.12 million grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund to assess the risk of further introductions of invasive species into the Great Lakes as a result of transoceanic shipping activities. Johengen says the current research will expand on previous research programs at CILER that focused on the ecological impact of invaders that were already established, most notably the zebra mussel.

Tom Johengen, director of CILER and David Reid, senior physical scientist from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, review commercial shipping activity in the Great Lakes.
“With this new research project we’re trying to control future invasions and aid in the development of sound management policies,” says Johengen. Invasive species, like the zebra mussel, can be very detrimental to the Great Lakes. Species that are not native to the waters often can destroy habitats and other native organisms.

Johengen also believes there will be an increased focus on global climate change. Scientists will analyze and predict how changes in regional climates and temperatures may affect lake levels, amounts and timing of ice, and biological productivity.

“CILER’s role is to help understand how all of the physical, chemical and biological processes interact within the ecosystem so that we can promote the wise use and management of this wonderful resource,” says Johengen, “although we have no say in enforcement or regulation of specific policies.”

Johengen received his Ph.D. in oceanic science from U-M in 1991 and has worked as a research scientist through CILER ever since; he became interim director in September 2000.

“Having spent most of my professional career at CILER has made the transition to director much easier; however, there are still many facets and challenges in the job that will require a great deal of effort.”