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North Collins native to receive prestigious award

Professor Thomas H. Johengen has recently been selected to receive the prestigious 2013 Research Faculty Achievement Award of the University of Michigan in recognition of his significant scholarly contributions to his field of Limnology (fresh water environments). The award will be presented Oct. 10 at the annual Faculty Awards Ceremony, at which includes a reception and dinner at the Assembly Hall of Rackham Graduate School.

Johengen is Associate Professor of Great Lakes Research at the University of Michigan. In connection with the award, he will receive a $1,500 honorarium for use in his biochemistry and aquatic biochemistry work on the ecology of the Great Lakes.

His studies involve the big picture on the health of the Great Lakes with regard to invasive species and their impact on the quality of food species and the ability to maintain fisheries. The current problem under study involves effects of algae blooms, the toxic effect of which turns water blue-green. “The scum is toxic and causes problems to fish and wildlife that consumes large quantities of water. We need to better understand that impact,” he said.

Many people can recall the problems with lake health back in the 50s and 60s caused by phosphates in detergents and other ingredients in cleaning products. Those problems have been corrected and the lakes cleaned up, but problems are back again.

The invasion of the zebra mussels and a related species the deeper water quadramussel has been stopped by strict regulations on the release of ballast water on ocean-going freighters on the Great Lakes.

When asked about the invasion of Asian carp invasion in the Mississippi and Ohio River system, he said that they have gotten to within 2-3 miles of the great lakes system. “Electric cables have been buried on river bottoms to deter their advance any further. The current makes fish uncomfortable and makes them want to find a better spot, it doesn’t kill fish,” he stated. “But it’s costing millions of dollars to keep the potentially 6-foot fish out of the Great Lakes,” he said.

“Our studies now involve preventing most new introductions of invasive species into the Great Lakes which contain about 20 percent of the world’s fresh water,” Professor Johengen concluded.

He is a graduate of North Collins High School.


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