'Lake Invaders' documentary premieres at Grand Valley

The third largest freshwater lake on the planet has been invaded by more than 180 exotic species over the last century. A new documentary film produced by Grand Valley State University faculty and students explores the threat to the ecosystem and some innovative solutions.

The premiere screening of "Lake Invaders: The Fight for Lake Huron," will be Friday, November 6, at 7 p.m. in Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center, 401 W. Fulton, Pew Grand Rapids Campus. A question and answer session with filmmakers and biologists will follow the screening. Sponsored by the School of Communications, the event is free and open to the public.

Produced by associate professor John Schmit, the film has been in the making for more than two years. Primary filming took place during spring 2008, as part of a new Nature Documentary Production course.

"We packed all our gear into a van, headed over to Lake Huron, and had a great experience filming on boats, in biology labs, and tackle shops," said Schmit. "The students worked hard in some challenging conditions - especially a cold, choppy day out on the lake."

Specialists from Grand Valley's Annis Water Resources Institute, in Muskegon, consulted on the project and spoke with the class early in the course. The idea for the film's focus came from film and video student Laura Johnson, who had just graduated from Grand Valley. Her father, Jim Johnson, is a research biologist and manager of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Alpena Fishery Research Station.

"At last count, there were 187 invasive species, with a new one just about every year," said Jim Johnson. "I felt this was a story that needed to be shared with the people of Michigan, of the Great Lakes region and with all who cherish these amazing freshwater resources."

Grand Valley partnered with the research station to develop the film. Johnson welcomed Schmit and his students aboard the "Chinook" a DNR research vessel first launched in 1947, when it encountered the threatening sea lamprey. They caused the destruction of native lake trout and whitefish populations, among other species. Since then the research station has encountered alewives, zebra mussels, round gobies and many other invasive species brought in with the ballast water of salt-water shipping vessels. They have studied their effects on Lake Huron's ecosystem, and on the people of coastal communities that depend on Lake Huron for their economic well being.

Having worked on Lake Huron for more than 20 years, Johnson connected the film crew with dozens of people whose lives are closely linked to the lake, including an international group of biologists known as the Lake Huron Technical Committee, who share fishery and resource management responsibilities for Lake Huron.

"Hopefully, an informed citizenry will use the information from the film to help influence the government and regulatory agencies' current debate on ballast water management," said Johnson. "We are also hoping to secure funding to generate teaching tools and lesson plans for teachers, based on short segments of the film."

For more information, contact John Schmit at (616) 331-8510, or visit www.lakeinvaders.com.