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.


Environmental journalist, Peter Annin to speak at SHOUT series

April 20, 2015 • Author: Holland Sentinel • Categories: Land Use and Water Quality

Read the original article in the Holland Sentinel

SHOUT for South Haven announces the creation of the South Haven Speakers Series, which over the coming months, will be dedicated to informing citizens and stimulating thought regarding significant issues of the day by bringing to the community experts not otherwise available to South Haven.

Preventing Invasive Species in Streams and Rivers with eDNA

April 10, 2015 • Author: Jennifer Tank, University of Notre Dame • Categories: Asian Carp and eDNA , ND-LEEF, and Transportation Networks, Climate Change, and the Spread of Invasive Species

Each year, aquatic invasive species cost the United States economy billions of dollars. It is imperative to quickly identify new invasions and respond accordingly. In 2034, the threat from invasive species will be greater than today due to increasing domestic and international trade. This will be a significant concern since the arrival and establishment of invasive species can compromise ecosystem structure and function.


Detecting the presence of a few individual organisms that make up an invasion front, which are often small and cryptic, can be very difficult, especially in flowing waters like streams and rivers. In 2034, natural resource managers will be able to use field-ready detection techniques, allowing them to track the presence of the first few organisms beginning an invasion in real-time and quickly eradicate them. Rather than relying on visual identification, as we do now, in 2034 we will use a new set of tools and methods to isolate and identify trace amounts of DNA that are constantly shed by aquatic organisms into their environment. We call this “environmental DNA” (eDNA), and real-time detection techniques are on the near horizon. 

The detection of eDNA in aquatic systems, especially streams and rivers, is relatively new and questions remain about the simultaneous transport and environmental degradation of eDNA in flowing waters. Currently, a positive “hit” in a water sample, suggesting the presence of eDNA in a river, could indicate the incidence of a target invasive species nearby; alternatively, flowing water could have carried this eDNA from a considerable distance upstream. Thus, water sampling for invasive eDNA in flowing waters is not very reliable at this time.

Farmers reduce pollution after ditching old way of handling runoff

March 30, 2015 • Author: Rona Kobell, Bay Journal • Categories: Land Use and Water Quality

Two-stage ditch design and cover crops absorb a lot of excess nutrients before they can enter waterways.


A decade ago, Mike Long looked out over his 3,000-acre farm in the northern reaches of Indiana and didn’t like what he saw.

The Shatto ditch, a canal-like drainage ditch that carries water away from the area’s farms, sometimes ran turbid, depositing thick, brown water into the Tippecanoe River.

That turbidity, Long knew, came from eroding soils that were loaded with commercial fertilizers. He and his neighbors applied nitrogen and phosphorus to bare fields, hoping to enhance ground that was losing its mineral content. Rains washed the nutrients and the sediments into the ditch because there were no cover crops or grass waterways to soak it up.

The Tippecanoe then deposited the slug of phosphorus– and nitrate-rich effluent into the Wabash River, which has already lost many of its freshwater mussel species to increasing farm pollution. From the Wabash, the pollution mixed with runoff from the rest of Indiana’s flat fields and traveled to the Ohio River. It then went to the Mississippi river system, and finally to the Gulf of Mexico, where it contributed to summer dead zones because of oxygen-depleted waters.

The pollution bothered him, Long said, but so did the fact that he had little control over the water. A deluge of rain caused flooding, which could ruin his crops. His soils were mineral-deficient. Weeds grew quickly, and he frequently needed to spray atrazine, a toxic weedkiller, to clear the underbrush.

“If we keep farming the old way, I doubt our grandchildren’s children will be doing it,” Long said. “We may be forced to do things through regulation, but I want to be in a position where, when it comes, we are already doing them.”

Today, Mike Long Family Farms is a changed landscape. His entire farm is no-till, meaning he doesn’t turn over the soil and can keep the banks stable. He plants cover crops on his fields to hold fertilizer during the winter so it does not enter the waterways. He rarely sprays for pests and weeds. He switched from conventional fertilizer to chicken manure, though he says he needs less of any kind of soil amendments now.

But perhaps the biggest change is to the Shatto itself, which went from a conventional agricultural drainage ditch to something called a two-stage ditch.

A regular ditch is trapezoidal in cross section. Water comes over the side and falls to the bottom, where it flows along to the stream. A two-stage ditch is more like a split-level staircase in cross section. The water flows down the sides gradually and collects in a bench on each side of the deeper trench. The bench is filled with vegetation that slows the flow of water and allows nutrients in the runoff to enrich plant life instead of polluting rivers.

The two-stage ditch creates a natural floodplain and returns channelized streams to their historic contours. In the process, the ditch’s benches trap sediment, blunt storm surges and collect much of the nitrate, suspended solids and phosphorus before they get into waterways.

“It’s more of a wetland approach, a self-cleaning, self-adjusting system,” said Kent Wamsley, Upper Wabash Project Director for the Nature Conservancy. “They even had a 200-year storm here and had no scouring. It stabilized the bank.”

Ditches allow farmers to work the land, helping to drain fields and stabilize banks. But they are also major conduits of phosphorus and nitrogen into tributaries. That’s especially true on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which has become one of the most poultry-intensive regions in the country. Many farmers there apply chicken manure directly to fields already saturated with phosphorus. The nutrients that the crops can’t use either run off the land or seep through subsurface pathways into groundwater. Either way, the nutrients end up in the waterways, where they promote algae blooms that block light and harm living resources.