The University’s Water Center — a unit of the Graham Sustainability Institute — has received a nearly $4 million dollar federal grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) and Gary Peters (D–Mich.) announced Tuesday.

The $3,978,545 million grant, which will help fund estuary conservation, is the second installment of a five year, $20 million contract from NOAA.

Through the contract, the Water Center co-manages NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System, which provides grants aimed at improving preservation techniques for estuaries. Estuaries are the bodies of water and the surrounding habitats where freshwater rivers feed into the ocean or large lakes.

In a press release, Stabenow emphasized the importance of a Michigan university receiving the funding, given the state’s proximity to the Great Lakes.

“Our lakes and waterways are part of who we are and our way of life,” Stabenow wrote in a press release. “This investment will help University of Michigan researchers and scientists find new ways to keep our waters clean and protect our wildlife and natural resources for generations to come.”

The overall goal of the program is to improve stewardship of 28 coastal estuaries in the research reserve system through water quality monitoring and ongoing conservation research.

In particular, NOAA has directed researchers to examine the impacts of habitat depredation, diminished water quality and climate change on estuaries. When the University initially received the contract last year, University President Mark Schlissel said in a press release that the grant award illustrated the University’s impact in this realm.

“This cooperative agreement will enable the University of Michigan Water Center to widen its focus and tackle critical issues facing coastal communities across the country, including water-quality degradation, habitat loss and the adverse impacts of climate change,” Schlissel said. “This research program represents a great example of the important work done by Michigan faculty and students who apply their expertise to problems of significance to society.”

Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University and Schlissel’s special counsel on sustainability, said in an e-mail interview that both small and large grants support research on habitat restoration, water quality protection and climate change adaption.

The NOAA grants are awarded through a competitive process. Grantees are charged with creating a coalition of experts, community members and organizations to address the needs of estuaries. 

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