A Strategic Research Initiative. What is SRI?


eci_templateND-ECI Overview Video


climate_adaptationClimate Change Adaptation

dead_zoneLand Use & Water Quality

invasive_speciesInvasive Species


Dr. David Lodge speaks at the 2013 Shamrock Series Event in Dallas

University of Notre Dame professor David Lodge discusses invasive species on a special segment of CBS Sunday Morning

Dr. Jessica Hellmann on NBC's Changing Planet series discusses adaptation of butterflies.


The Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) is tackling the interrelated problems of invasive species, land use, and climate change, focusing on their synergistic impacts on water resources. The goal of ND-ECI is to provide solutions that minimize the trade-offs between human welfare and environmental health where trade-offs are unavoidable, and to discover win-win solutions where they are possible.



"When Nature Bites Back: Solving the Budget-Busting Invasive Species Epidemic"

Dr. David Lodge speaks at the 2013 Shamrock Series Event in Dallas.


Did climate change kill this Hoosier butterfly?

March 12, 2015 • Author: Ryan Sabalow, Indy Star • Categories: Transportation Networks, Climate Change, and the Spread of Invasive Species


A 1-inch butterfly in a strip of oak forest along Indiana's Lake Michigan shore might be a global-warming harbinger of sorts.

The federally endangered Karner blue butterfly has been struggling to survive in its southern-most habitat, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Now, researchers who study the butterfly believe a fatal blow may have been delivered thanks to a single year of drought.

Climate change is a politically charged topic among policymakers, particularly in Indiana, where skepticism is more common. Still, climate researchers and wildlife biologists say there is little doubt that man-made climate change will affect threatened habitats. The fate of the Karner blue — now believed to be extinct in the dunes — may be a cautionary example.

Climate change, researchers contend, is creating more frequent extreme weather conditions, such as droughts and intense storms. These events, they say, are changing the habitats that endangered plant and animal species need to survive. The concern is that already-imperiled organisms, such as the Karner blue, might not be able to adapt or move to habitats that meet their unique needs.

The fragile Karner blue populations on the dunes might well have been among the first to suffer such a fate, says Jessica Hellmann, a University of Notre Dame researcher heading the school's Climate Change Adaptation Program.

But, she says, the Karner blues most certainly won't be the last.

"A decade from now, there will be many, many, many more of these anecdotes of local populations going extinct," Hellmann said. "And we won't have the luxury of saying, 'We're working out what we're going to do.' "

Notre Dame on front lines in war against Asian carp: eDNA is forensic detective work involving fish genetics

March 08, 2015 • Author: Tom Henry, The Blade • Categories: Asian Carp and eDNA


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Twenty years ago, Asian carp imported by Southern fish farms began their high-profile journey along the mighty Mississippi River toward southern Lake Michigan in Chicago, their most probable entry point into the Great Lakes.

Now, some of the most important research to help fend them off is being generated inside the University of Notre Dame’s Galvin Life Sciences Center, barely more than a Hail Mary pass from the school’s iconic football stadium.

The relatively nondescript academic hall is home to Notre Dame’s department of biological sciences — but also some of the Great Lakes region’s top science nerds, who have used laboratories there since 2009 to invent and improve upon a cutting-edge research technique that is quickly becoming one of the most powerful tools for detecting microscopic bits and pieces of fish, plants, aquatic insects, and other organisms in our waterways.

Called eDNA, for environmental DNA, the process developed six years ago was as much of a watershed moment in the ongoing battle against fugitive fish as the great Mississippi River floods of 1995 that made water levels so high that Asian carp escaped from Southern fish hatcheries that had imported them to eat pond scum.

Think of it as forensic detective work involving fish genetics.

Asian carp pose one of the worst threats ever to the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion recreational and commercial fishing industries, the backbone of thousands of jobs and a lake-based tourism industry worth about $12 billion a year in Ohio alone.

A game changer

Scientists have long characterized and assessed what’s on land, mostly from what they find in animal feces.

But until eDNA was developed, that wasn’t being done at the microscopic level in the water column. Such material is typically fish scales, cells, feces, or mucus found in the top 2 inches of the water column.

Under the direction of David Lodge, director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative, researchers in 2009 developed eDNA for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency requested it to help hunt for any Asian carp evidence near Chicago — apparently not realizing at the time how eDNA was going to become a game-changer.

When the corps got an unexpected result — Asian carp DNA beyond Chicago-area electrical barriers the government operates to keep invasive fish out of Lake Michigan — Mr. Lodge was ordered to defend the process in court.

The eDNA method of detecting genetic material was ruled scientifically accurate, despite the corps’ challenge. It was peer-reviewed and published in Conservation Letters, the flagship academic journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, and was vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In subsequent years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists — using Notre Dame’s eDNA technique — have found Asian carp eDNA in many more Chicago-area water samples, as well as many drawn from western Lake Erie and other parts of the Great Lakes region — including the Maumee River in downtown Toledo.

Research showing cover crops work

March 04, 2015 • Author: Dave Russell, Brownfield Ag News • Categories: Land Use and Water Quality


The University of Notre Dame is conducting research looking at using cover crops to prevent nutrient loss.

Jennifer Tank, Professor of Biology at Notre Dame says the research project being conducted in a 3,000 acre watershed in Kosciusko County Indiana is showing significant reductions.

“30 percent decline in nitrate, 50 percent decline in dissolved reactive phosphorus,” Tank said. “I mean those are numbers you can really hold on to.”

The number of acres using cover crops has grown from 300 acres to 1,610, or 67 percent of the watershed after the first year.

To show that cover crops can work in more places, Professor Tank says they’ll be expanding their research into Jasper County Indiana.