Biennial ‘State of the Strait Conference’ Tackles Restoration Targets

John Hartig
November 14, 2013
Biennial ‘State of the Strait Conference’ Tackles Restoration Targets

The purpose of each year’s State of the Strait Conference is to bring people together that are concerned about the Detroit River and western Lake Erie watershed.

Those who attend discuss current efforts to strengthen the linkage between science and policy, and share knowledge and lessons to help better manage this shared bioregion where nearly 7 million people live. 

On Oct. 28, this biennial tradition between the United States and Canada continued with the State of the Strait Conference held at the University of Windsor in Ontario. The U.S and Canada alternate hosting the conference every two years.

The theme of the 2013 conference was “Setting Ecological Endpoints and Restoration Targets.” More than 200 people attended, including students from both sides of the border, scientists, researchers, managers, and concerned citizens.

The participants learned about the progress and adequacy of establishing quantitative ecosystem targets and about how such targets need to be scientifically-defensible, supported by stakeholder groups, and realistic. 

Participants heard talks on topics ranging from phosphorus loadings and algal blooms to invertebrates, lake sturgeon, wetlands, common terns, contaminated sediment, and green infrastructure. 

Key issues discussed included defining a “desired future state,” ensuring ecological relevance, building consensus on quantitative targets, and ensuring minimum, necessary, sufficient, and feasible long-term monitoring.

State of the Strait Conference logo. Courtesy of John Hartig.

The 2013 Conference was dedicated to Dr. David Dolan, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Throughout his career, Dave worked for the International Joint Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. 

One of his greatest contributions was estimation of phosphorus loadings to better understand and manage the Great Lakes. Dave also was the catalyst for the first State of the Strait Conference in 1998, titled “Rehabilitating and Conserving Detroit River Habitats.” 

In tribute to Dave’s contribution to the Great Lakes and State of the Strait conferences, this 2013 conference and its final report are dedicated to his memory.

For more information about the State of the Strait conference, visit  The final conference report is to be completed by mid-2014.

John Hartig

John Hartig recently completed an appointment as a Fulbright Scholar at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario, where he performed interdisciplinary research on AOCs.  He is the Great Lakes Science-Policy director of the International Association for Great Lakes Research.