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September 12, 2013

Great Lakes Week

Great_lakes

It’s Great Lakes Week, and Shedd Aquarium is involved!

The Great Lakes region is our home – from Lake Superior’s wild, rocky coasts to Chicago’s urban sandy shores, we live, work and play in the Great Lakes basin. For many, the connections to the lakes are obvious. We fish, swim and boat in the thousands of lakes and rivers. We hike, camp and explore in the numerous parks and preserves around the basin.

We also connect to the lakes in less obvious ways. The Great Lakes region is home to shipping, agricultural and tourism industries that, if it were its own nation, would rank as the fourth-largest economy in the world. The health of the Great Lakes is essential to our personal and regional economic well-being!

In celebration of our connections to the Great Lakes, Shedd’s Great Lakes and sustainability team is joining hundreds of conservation professionals, decision makers and stakeholders from around the basin for Great Lakes Week 2013 in Milwaukee.. This is the largest gathering of the year in which participants address the biggest issues facing the lakes and share creative solutions. It’s also a great opportunity for people to share what they love about the Great Lakes and to get involved.

This year, participants will tackle topics ranging from aquatic invasive species, like Asian carp, and algal blooms to declining lake levels and water diversions from the lakes. This may sound like scientific jargon, but really, these are issues that affect everyone.

For example, lower lake levels could leave Great Lakes shipping and navigation industries high and dry in future years. Massive freighters, some of which are three football fields long and can carry up to 70,000 tons of cargo, need a minimum water depth to avoid grounding in shipping channels. Even a loss of a few inches can be a big problem. This is only one example among many.

In addition to the deeper issues, Great Lakes Week offers citizens a chance to get involved in conservation and stewardship. Participants discuss ways for Great Lakes communities to commit to cleaner and healthier Great Lakes waters. From beach sweeps to sustainable consumer choices, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future for the Great Lakes. Attendees will also have a first chance to respond to the newest version of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement – the binational agreement between the United States and Canada, which now emphasizes ecological health in addition to water quality.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter all week to get a first look at what people are saying about hot-topic issues, like climate change, toxic sediments and the health of local fishes and wildlife. And share your opinions and stories with us!

Reid Bogert, Great Lakes and sustainability team

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