TRAVERSE CITY -- Environmental experts at Michigan Sea Grant want to know what Great Lakes issues deserve their attention in coming years.

The research and education-oriented agency funds Great Lakes studies, and wants public input through an online survey as it plans for the next several years.

Some burgeoning concerns in the Great Lakes include the effects of climate change, coastal hazards such as rip currents, and wetlands and coastal habitat losses, said Elizabeth LaPorte, a spokeswoman with Michigan Sea Grant.

The agency wants to know if Michigan citizens remain concerned about those and any other topics, she said. The survey is available at www.miseagrant.umich.edu/survey and is designed to gauge past project success and determine what issues to tackle next.

"It's going to really refine our current strategic plan," said Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant's extension educator in Traverse City. "We felt this was the most efficient, effective way to gather input."

Periodic public input for planning is mandated by the U.S. Congress and required by the agency's federal funding guidelines, he said.

Some local projects in recent months and years include lake level studies, near-shore stewardship programs, invasive species research, fishery prey base analysis and theories to enhance Lake Michigan's lake trout population, Breederland said.

Amanda Holmes is the Fishtown Preservation Society director in Leland, where Michigan Sea Grant helped with their working waterfront project and provided grant money for educational offerings at the historic fishing community.

Holmes wants the agency to focus on water quality, watershed and species protection, and especially Type E botulism's appearance on local shorelines a few summers ago, a recurring phenomenon that killed thousands of fish and birds.

Michigan Sea Grant is among a network of 30 university-based programs in coastal states across the country, and is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

Sea Grant's existing projects range from small harbor water quality improvements, whitefish marketing, invasive species prevention efforts, native species protection and shoreline restorations.

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