In September 2004, nine professors from Ohio State University and several scientists from other colleges and universities and the private sector received a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study and model biocomplexity in Lake Erie. The official title of the project, "Interactions Among Human, Biological, and Physical Processes within Large Lake Ecosystems," provides a clue to the meaning of biocomplexity.
In this project, we are attempting to use Lake Erie to model the interactions and interrelationships between physical processes (waves, currents, water levels, pollution, etc.), biological processes (growth, feeding, reproduction, and survival of fish, plants, algae, etc.), and human or societal actions (the demand for boating, fishing, swimming, shoreline property, etc.). Not only are we attempting to develop a model or models that accurately describe these complex interactions for Lake Erie, but we are also attempting to simplify the model as much as possible so that it can be transferred and used on any large lake.
The interactions we want to model are extremely complex and change over time and space, e.g. the interactions in Sandusky Bay are not the same as the interactions in the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie, nor are the relationships we observe in July typical of the relationships we observe in January. These interactions become even more complex when we realize that cause and effect can move in many directions, e.g. improved water quality can cause increases in fish populations, that can increase boating and fishing pressure, that can reduce water quality, that can harm fish populations, etc. We will try to follow the results of this study closely, for if the investigators are successful, it could greatly improve our ability to manage Lake Erie.