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TPO's Tiffany House Visits GLERL and Comes Away Wowed

Mentoring Visit to GLERL Offers a Wealth of Learning Opportunities

TPO's Tiffany House Visits GLERL and Comes Away Wowed

Ann Arbor, MI has a sort of urban suburban mix feel to it. With its trendy thrift shops, galleries, new age bookstores, and an abundance of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks, Ann Arbor could definitely be a good place to call home. Home to the sprawling University of Michigan, known for its research programs, Ann Arbor has a lot to offer. 

This week, I had the opportunity to shadow my mentor through the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Mentoring Program and deliver a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) briefing at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). GLERL is one of seven Federal research laboratories in the OAR line office of NOAA. Understanding natural hazards such as severe waves, storm surges, and ice; harmful algal blooms; the threat and impact of aquatic invasive species; and changes in lake water levels are just some of the cool research GLERL provides to the nation. 

I took a stroll through a dozen labs and met over 100 employees from three NOAA line offices. I saw several buoys stowed away for the fall due the expectation of ice cover. Buoys are used for real-time marine observations such as wind speed, wind direction, and water temperatures. I clicked through the monitors of the real-time Meteorological Observation Network consisting of meteorological stations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Meteorological observations are used to improve short term weather forecast, generally within the next few hours, and forecasts of waves, water levels, and water temperature. Fishers, boaters, and surfers find this useful in making plans for when and where to venture out on the water. A research technician from the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research gave me a personal demonstration on analyzing the number, size and weight of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels and talked about the impacts they have had on Diporeia. Diporeia is a shrimp-like organism, rich in calories and a good source of energy for fish. Concentrations of Diporeia in all the Great Lakes have dropped dramatically. The decline of the Diporeia is related to the expansion of the zebra mussels. This is a problem because Diporeia is high in nutrients and few fish can eat zebra mussels efficiently.

After exploring the lab and learning about the high quality research done at GLERL, I presented to the Director and Deputy Director, research scientists, marine instrumentation lab, and other GLERL employees on the NOAA SBIR program. I gave an overview of the legislation and authority, processes, current research topics, future success story development, and up and coming projects. The staff at GLERL were interested in knowing what role they play in the SBIR program and hearing about how they could participate in helping small businesses grow. They also, wanted to know more about what research the current NOAA SBIR phase II companies were developing.

My mentor, Sandra Salyers, GLERL Administrative Officer, manages a team of six federal employees. I got a glimpse of what it takes to walk in her shoes. From overseeing government property for the entire lab to handling Human Resource actions, Sandra does it all.

Overall, this visit was definitely a win. I would summarize the city of Ann Arbor in two words “urban oasis.” It was fun to learn about the advanced tools and technology GLERL uses and shares with the world, listening to leaders in science talk about their research with so much passion, and I was proud to share with them the great things the NOAA SBIR does for small businesses. 


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