The Great Lakes Rivermouth Collaboratory is a task of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center (USGS-GLSC) “Great Lakes Rivermouth Ecosystems” initiative, in collaboration with the Great Lakes Commission. The overall rivermouth science initiative is focused on synthesizing knowledge and improving understandings about the ecological functions of complex freshwater estuaries of the Great Lakes. The initial purpose of the rivermouth collaboratory is to engage the Great Lakes coastal ecology community in consolidating and sharing knowledge about freshwater rivermouth ecosystems and their underlying processes. This synthesis would provide a critical, missing linkage among the science disciplines historically focused on Great Lakes watershed, coastal, nearshore, and deepwater environments. It would likewise strengthen the foundation for ongoing research and management of these often heavily used and impacted ecosystems.
A “collaboratory” is a recent term describing a working environment where regionally-dispersed scientists and resource managers can commit to development and implementation of a common science-based partnership. Participants make use of computing and communication technologies to access shared instruments and data, as well as to communicate with others (Wikipedia 2010). A collaboratory, as defined by William Wulf in 1989, is a “center without walls, in which the nation’s researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location, interacting with colleagues, accessing instrumentation, sharing data and computational resources, and accessing information in digital libraries”. This environment encourages: 1) vigorous, critical discussions of science approaches; 2) broad sharing of ideas, knowledge and tools; 3) inter-disciplinary, and inter-agency working partnerships; and 4) an ongoing, iterative, adaptive science process at a regional scale.