Overview of ERIE Research

ERIE’s interdisciplinary research program integrates science, engineering, and culturally and policy-oriented scholarship to advance the theory and practice of restoration in freshwater watershed ecosystems of Western New York (WNY) and the lower Great Lakes. Our approach responds to the present state of practice, which is characterized by the existence of a large and growing array of restoration techniques assembled by practitioners, the efficacy of which, in most cases, has not been evaluated systematically using scientific approaches. The present ad hoc approach places severe limits on our ability to predict system responses to intervention(s) and to make informed decisions regarding selection among restoration techniques to achieve particular goals for a particular setting.

Research questions addressed by ERIE scholar teams are framed by issues or needs identified in planned or ongoing restoration initiatives led by our external professional partners, which include national laboratories and coordinating agencies, as well as an extensive network of WNY practitioners. Ongoing WNY projects encompass a considerable variety of landscapes from natural (unlogged/undeveloped forests, stream headwaters, and wetlands), low-level disturbed (suburban, rural, agricultural, urban parkland), and highly disturbed (brownfield sites, degraded urban rivers).

ERIE scholars collectively embrace the central tenant of adaptive management, expressed as a commitment to an experimentalist examination of the impacts of restoration projects on multiple scales of time and space, in a local context. Thus, it is necessary to develop measures that define the health, integrity, and sustainability of an ecosystem, reconstruct past history, incorporate future intentional human interventions, and predict ecosystem responses to those interventions. The inherently interdisciplinary character of these tasks is reflected in ERIE’s research program, which emphasizes interdisciplinary problem solving within all projects

Recognizing the difficulty of categorizing interdisciplinary research, we use two complementary organizing constructs: the integrative theme and the integrative application. Each project fits into ERIE’s interdisciplinary framework through one or more of the general themes of ecosystem assessment, modeling, and management.