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Researchers investigate human-natural feedbacks in freshwater systems


A lake filled with green algae A harmful phytoplankton bloom in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, one of the Virginia Tech project team’s study sites. Blooms such as these, which occur throughout most of the summer in Lake Mendota, severely degrade water quality.

Feb. 15, 2016 – A multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Assistant Professor Kelly Cobourn will examine the linkages between humans and freshwater quality using a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant. The goal is to investigate human-natural feedbacks in freshwater systems by examining the linkages between land-use decision-making, water quality, and collective action taken by the public to protect water quality. 

“We know that humans affect the environment, but you can’t really understand any complex system without also studying how the environment affects human behavior,” Cobourn said. “This linkage from the environment back to humans is a key piece of the puzzle that allows us to better understand changes in many diverse types of human-natural systems.” The framework found by the research will act as a guide for citizen-driven lake associations to advocate for laws and regulations that will allow for the environment surrounding lakes to be protected and ultimately the benefits gained by humans to be preserved.

Read the full press release.

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