Funding available to support social and economic research on PFAS in the Great Lakes region

May 17th, 2023 by

collage of PFAS sources like waterproof makeup, drinking water, fire extinguishing foam, and food packaging

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a suite of hundreds-to-thousands of manufactured “forever chemicals” that are persistent in nature and toxic to many organisms. Additional chemical precursors, metabolites, or degradates to PFAS and related substances exist in nature and have potential to be toxic to many organisms. While much remains to be learned about the fate and transport of PFAS and related compounds in the environment, people and communities are currently being impacted by the ubiquitous nature of PFAS and related compounds—for example, in drinking water, food, packaging, personal care products, and building materials.

With support from the National Sea Grant Office, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program (IISG) has $400,000 to invest in promising research projects relevant to social and economic impacts of PFAS exposure, mitigation, and remediation in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain regions. For purposes of this competition, “PFAS” refers to any component of the suite of per- and polyfluoralkyl substances and related compounds, including precursors. Work is to be conducted between October 1, 2023 and March 31, 2025. Work can be conducted anywhere in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain regions so long as it supports the priorities identified in this document. Priorities were identified via a series of scoping activities (3 workshops, 1 survey) in early 2023.

A full report of the scoping effort, which includes additional details on key demographic groups and research needs for the regions, can be found at the project webpage. The full request for proposals including submission guidance is available, but a synopsis is also provided below.

Projects should propose to answer a clear research question or set of related questions, should focus on one or more groups that live, work, and/or recreate in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain regions, and should demonstrate fit with one or more of the following research priorities. The priorities are not listed in any particular order.

Understanding exposure to PFAS

  • Improved understanding of how different groups or communities may be differentially exposed to PFAS, e.g., higher consumption of fish on a regular basis; use of well or other waterways that are not regularly monitored or not currently monitored
  • How exposure and consumption to PFAS translates within the context of traditional knowledge

Communicating risks and actions for PFAS

  • How to best communicate uncertainty surrounding the scientific knowledge of PFAS and its effects, while also ensuring members of the public, or specific communities (e.g., those at higher risk of PFAS exposure, those more susceptible to effects of PFAS) take appropriate action to keep themselves safe
  • How to effectively communicate taking action(s) that are most successful at reducing or preventing PFAS exposure

Economic impacts of PFAS

  • What are the economic impacts of PFAS contamination on communities, considering matrices such as drinking water, fish consumption, solid waste application
  • Cost-benefit analyses of the most effective and efficient treatment methodologies for PFAS

Policies and regulations for PFAS

  • How to implement effective policies and regulations around PFAS including at local, regional, and international levels
  • Examination of the potential impacts of total vs. partial bans of PFAS

Prospective PIs must submit a letter of intent at least 4 weeks before the full proposal submission date. Letters of intent should be emailed to by July 3, 2023.

Applicants who provided a letter of intent on time should submit all proposal materials via by 11:59 p.m. Central time on July 31, 2023. Applications should be submitted to the “Regional PFAS Research Competition.”

Questions about this opportunity should be directed to BOTH Amanpreet Kohli ( and Carolyn Foley (

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a partnership between NOAA, University of Illinois Extension, and Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources, bringing science together with communities for solutions that work. Sea Grant is a network of 34 science, education and outreach programs located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Lake Champlain, Puerto Rico and Guam.


Contact: Carolyn FoleySarah Zack

Sea Grant takes AIM at AIS

June 20th, 2016 by

Not all non-native plants and animals turn out to be invasive in a new environment. How can we predict whether a species poses a threat to local waters? If we could predict that, how can we make the best use of that information?

IISG and University of Notre Dame researchers set out to answer the first question by analyzing which traits help a species thrive in a new environment. They brought this data to an Indiana working group looking to proactively prevent the introduction of invasive plant species through water garden and aquarium retailing. The group of researchers, resource managers, retailers, and hobbyists created a risk assessment tool and their work led to 28 aquatic plants being banned in the state.

As a result of this work, Notre Dame’s David Lodge, and Reuben Keller, now with Loyola University Chicago, were funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to create risk assessment tools for all taxa in the Great Lakes, including crayfish, fish, mollusks, plants, and turtles. These tools can help decision makers establish consistent and comprehensive regulations focused on species that pose the biggest threat.

Meanwhile, IISG’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) team has been pulling out all the stops to distribute information that can help prevent the spread of AIS in trade—in other words, species that are bought and sold for water gardens, aquariums, and to a lesser extent, classrooms. Leading the effort as part of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, and informed by social science research from North Carolina State University, the specialists are targeting all levels of this AIS pathway—from retailers to hobbyists—and sharing information across the region through a variety of media.

The suite of tools contains publications for retailers and their customers that include lists of non-invaders as well as known or potential invaders. “Many of these resources are informed directly from the risk assessment findings,” said Pat Charlebois, AIS outreach coordinator.

Great Lakes Sea Grant programs and the Sea Grant Law Center are contributing their expertise. For example, Wisconsin Sea Grant created a training video for water garden retailers, and Ohio Sea Grant hosted a webinar for aquarium hobbyists. In addition to writing news articles, other programs helped craft non-technical versions of relevant state regulations to give retailers easy access to the information.

All of this work is raising awareness and potentially changing behavior. “Most of the retailers that have received materials about the risk of AIS have reported that they will distribute publications and talk with their customers about invasive species, and a majority will avoid selling them,” said Greg Hitzroth, IISG AIS outreach specialist.

You can find these resources and many more on the new website Aquatic Invaders in the Marketplace (AIM) or AIM are aquatic plants and animals available for sale that can negatively impact ecosystems, economies, or public health. These organisms are commonly found in the live food, aquarium, pet, biological supply, live bait, water garden, and aquaculture industries.

This comprehensive resource provides a wealth of information for resource managers, retailers, hobbyists, aquatic farmers, and more on how to prevent the spread of AIS that can happen with plants and animals that come to new environments through the marketplace. The website includes links to regulations, lists of contacts and invasive species, and species prediction tools for the Great Lakes and beyond.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension.

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