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Amid Great Lakes Pollution, Diverse Fish Population is a 'Bright Spot'

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

Over the years, pollution has been seen as a big threat to fish in the Great Lakes. Now, a data scientist says that might not always be the case.

University of Minnesota research associate Katya Kovalenko examined data from lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron. And she plotted it on a map highlighting all the places hurt by human activity --- with problems like poor water quality, nitrogen and other pollutants.

They were shaded in red along the coasts, and included areas like Radio Tower Bay in Lake Superior and the Charles Pond Wetland in Lake Michigan.

But, some of those places also had many types of fish.

At a recent presentation hosted by Buffalo State College's Great Lakes Center, Kovalenko called them “bright spots."

"What I show is, that there are many different species of fish, despite it being one of the most stressed," she said. "How can that be? Maybe there's local factors? Maybe there's buffer zones? Maybe local community improvement efforts that made it better?"

She wants to look more closely at those places to identify key issues. 

"We will have to go back and check those areas, because you need to get a lot more data to see what those are," she said. "But, it's definitely good news. It means that there is some resilience that can be worked with to make it better."

Kovalenko also hopes to examine data from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario at a later date.

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream Cleveland, and WXXI Rochester.