The Mid-Continent Ecology Division is one of nine Divisions within EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory. Five of the Divisions address human health effects and the remaining four, including our Division, are focused on the ecological effects of toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, nutrients, habitat alterations, and global climate change. Within this context, this Division is responsible for providing leadership in ecotoxicology and freshwater ecology by advancing scientifically-sound approaches for monitoring trends in ecological condition within the Great Lakes and Rivers, identifying impaired watersheds and diagnosing causes of degradation, and establishing risk-based assessments to support restoration and remediation decisions.
The Division maintains research facilities in Duluth, Minnesota and Grosse Ile, Michigan.
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The Mid-Continent Ecology Division began in 1964 as the National Water Quality Laboratory under the U.S. Public Health Service and was soon transferred to the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration of the Department of the Interior. A 1970 reauthorization of the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration created the Environmental Protection Agency, of which the laboratory in Duluth became a part. In 1975, the laboratory and its station in Grosse Ile, MI, became part of EPA's Office of Research and Development and were re-named the Environmental Research Laboratory - Duluth. Finally, in 1995 the Laboratory was incorporated within the newly created National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory as the Mid-Continent Ecology Division. Since the early days of its inception, the Division has been a leader in freshwater ecology and ecotoxicology. The Division is making great strides in advancing indicators and designs for monitoring ecosystem condition and diagnosing causes of impairment in large freshwater systems and watersheds. Development of mass-balance models for the Great Lakes, including the initial eutrophication models that were used to guide the restoration of Lake Erie, continue to be the foundation for developing forecasting models across the country. The Division continues to be a leader in developing chemical criteria and establishing risk assessment techniques to identify and evaluate adverse effects of toxic chemicals, either alone or in combination with other stressors. Products from research conducted over the history of the Division have contributed in significant ways to public and industry policies and practices to protect the nation's aquatic ecosystems.
For more information on the history of EPA visit EPA's history page.
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The mission of the Mid-Continent Ecology Division is to formulate and implement research programs to investigate effects of environmental pollutants and other anthropogenic stressors on the sustainability of ecosystems. The Division provides leadership in predictive ecotoxicology and ecosystem analysis to improve the scientific underpinnings of EPA risk assessments and regulatory policy decisions, with a Division focus on freshwater ecotoxicology and ecology.