AWRI Program Receives $65,000 Water Initiative Research Grant

Grand Valley State University’s Bopi Biddanda and Ryan Thum recently received the Water Initiative Research Grant Award worth approximately $56,000, which they will be using in conjunction with Doctors Peggy and Nathaniel Ostrom from Michigan State University on two different projects.

Bopi Biddanda is an associate professor, and Ryan Thum, an assistant professor. Both men hold doctoral degrees in environmental biology and are on staff at The Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute. Started in 1985 and located in Muskegon, AWRI is a multidisciplinary research organization within Grand Valley’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, consisting of three program areas that are offered to both undergraduate and graduate students. According to their webpage,, the organization “strives to enhance and preserve freshwater resources by integrating research, education, and outreach.”

The projects that will be funded by the grant will also involve two GVSU undergraduate students Anthony Weinke and Syndell Parks. Parks will be working with Thum and Jay Lennon, also from MSU. They will focus their research on Eurasian watermilfoil, which is an invasive species of plant in the Muskegon Lake ecosystem. The Eurasian watermilfoil was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1940’s, likely through aquarium trade. It can be harmful to the lake’s ecosystem as it grows very aggressively, ‘taking over’ the lake, and is resistant to the herbicides used to combat it. Thum’s group intends to study unique gene mutations they have identified in the plant to see if they are the cause of the herbicide resistance.

“We’ll be able to learn more about this problem with the combined resources of the two universities,” Thum said. “I’m excited to see this partnership take off.”
Weinke will be working with Biddanda, studying the inner workings of the lake’s ecosystem. Using data from Grand Valley’s Muskegon Lake Observation Buoy, they will be able to determine, without delay, what effect storms have on the lake. During the summer, they will also study the release of greenhouse gases by the lake, focusing on nitrous oxide.

“It’s very exciting to get to collaborate with our colleagues from Michigan State,” Biddanda said. “We’re looking forward to learning more about the lake and exploring joint educational programs between Grand Valley and MSU.” The grant period will be used not only to complete the projects, but to explore the potential for these joint ventures between the two universities, which could lead to new academic offerings for students from both schools.

For more information about AWRI and the Water Initiative Research Grant, visit or call 616-331-3749.