State-of-the-art laboratories for campus constituents to conduct freshwater research, hands-on exhibits for community members to learn ways to protect natural resources, and wall-to-wall windows for uninterrupted views of the St. Marys River as the backyard-backdrop highlight Lake Superior State University’s new $14.2 million Richard and Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education (Barch CFRE).
LSSU will host a grand opening of the 18,000 square-foot, two-story site for campus colleagues, community partners, and the general public on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, from 11 AM to 2 PM. Barch CFRE is located at 100 Salmon Run Way, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, adjacent to the CFRE fish hatchery in the Cloverland Electric Cooperative Hydroelectric Plant.
Grand opening tour stops include a cutting-edge mesocosm laboratory, an experimental system in which to perform a broad range of scientific investigation spanning aquaculture to contaminants to invasive species. There also is a Great Lakes Discovery Center, free and open to the public, with real-world interactive displays on the ecology of the Great Lakes, and a Discovery Lab that will host K-12 and undergraduate classes in the near future, including a Career and Technical Education program in natural resources for high schoolers. The complex additionally contains office space for key external partners, such as Michigan Sea Grant, an initiative of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the mandate to enhance sustainable use of the Great Lakes; and the upcoming U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes that will focus on oil spills in freshwater environments.
“The Richard and Theresa Barch Center for Freshwater Research and Education expands our footprint deeper into the Soo and extends our trailblazing environmentalism. Barch CFRE immediately has become the crown jewel of our campus buildings and an important hub for the region,” said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. “Because Lake State is surrounded by three Great Lakes and the five comprise the largest freshwater system in the world, we’ve made their stewardship a priority for faculty and an opportunity for students since our beginnings in 1946. Due to the generosity of lead donors Richard and Theresa Barch, Lake State now has a top-notch repository that equips our graduates with the knowledge and skills to craft a life of meaningful employment while augmenting the quality of life of the Great Lakes region, per our mission. Put simply, Barch CFRE is innovative and transformative, reflecting ecological sustainability, student learning, operational excellence, and community alliance, which are pillars of our strategic plan.”
Mike McCarthy, executive director of the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District and a 2012 LSSU alumnus, said, “The St. Marys River and Sault Ste. Marie are the perfect location for this new state-of-the-art facility as it acts as the center point for three of the five Great Lakes. LSSU is the ideal institution to provide this opportunity as LSSU is recognized as one of the highest quality natural resources education facilities in North America. Providing opportunities for freshwater research and education in the Great Lakes watershed is unique in every way, including the undergraduate research opportunities, which are almost unheard of across higher education. Furthermore, the opportunities that this facility will bring in terms of partnership with local organizations like CLMCD and its ability to provide a greater conservation impact through those partnerships have unlimited potential to make LSSU a world leader in freshwater research and education.”
Patrick Westerlund, lead architect on the project from the Detroit-based integrated design firm SmithGroup, added, “We have been honored to work with CFRE Director Dr. Ashley Moerke and her team beginning 12 years ago when this project was first conceived. Now as it has come to completion, we at SmithGroup are thrilled to see that their mission, to further both research and education related to the Great Lakes, continues to expand in a new world-class research facility. The design reinforces this mission by defining an education-focused ‘bar’ along the riverfront and a research-focused ‘bar’ along the south side of the building. The two wings of the building are open on the interior and provide an avenue for strong collaboration among students, faculty, and researchers while also engaging the community on the importance of the Great Lakes. We are proud of the entire team that worked together to deliver such an iconic building to the greater Sault Ste. Marie community.”
Construction began in October 2019; the general contractor was Spence Brothers, out of Traverse City, MI. Barch CFRE is the 29th building on campus (excluding the CFRE fish hatchery in the Cloverland Electric Cooperative Hydroelectric Plant) and the seventh academic structure. The most previous significant improvement to the physical campus occurred with the three-year $13.5 million renovation of Considine Hall, home of the Lukenda School of Business and formerly called South Hall, in 2017.
“Barch CFRE was conceived to connect our community, visitors, students, educators, and scientists to the Great Lakes. It leverages and expands the long-standing positive identity and influence CFRE has to conduct urgent research, train the next generation of scientists and educators, create freshwater stewards, and collaborate with like-minded academic, nonprofit, and governmental entities invested in conserving natural resources,” said CFRE Director Moerke. “We are pursuing our mission all the while generating financial stability for our endeavors and running an energy-efficient operation. Barch CFRE is an investment in Great Lakes science, education, and community for campus and the upper Great Lakes region.”