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Can Using Predictive Models Lead to Sound Decisions about the Great Lakes?

With Sea Grant funds, ESF researchers synthesize results from four case studies

SYRACUSE, NY - Environmental leaders and policy makers who help shape the future of the Great Lakes can learn how to use computer models to make sound decisions.

"The Use of Models in Great Lakes Decision Making, An Interdisciplinary Synthesis," a publication by researchers at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and the University of Michigan, examines how computer simulation models were used in four case studies in the Great Lakes. The four cases were chosen because they represent the increasing demands being placed on both environmental managers and computer modelers. They covered high interest topics as diverse as fish stocking and lake levels.

"Computer models have been used for a long time, but no one asked how to do the modeling to best promote good decision making," said Dr. Jack Manno of ESF. "The issue is whether the models really answer the right questions."

Manno said the researchers looked at how models were used and which ones worked well in addressing the issue at hand and communicating the model's meaning to stakeholders. He said the publication suggests a process that can be used when facing a policy issue that has environmental aspects.

The research project, "The Development and Use of Predictive Models in Great Lakes Decision-Making: An Interdisciplinary Synthesis" was funded with a one-year, $65,330 grant from New York Sea Grant.

Manno researched and wrote the publication with Dr. Richard Smardon, also an ESF faculty member, and graduate students Emily T. Cloyd and Susana Del Granado. They were joined by Dr. Joseph DePinto of Limno-Tech Inc. and the University of Michigan. Del Granado is a Sea Grant Scholar. The publication will be presented at the annual meeting of the International Association for Great Lakes Research in May at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of the 96-page publication should contact New York Sea Grant at 631.632.9124 or susan.hamill.1@stonybrook.edu. A PDF of the report can be downloaded at the Pack Institute site at: http://www.esf.edu/es/pack/.