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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Dan Egan and “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes”

Now that we have made the exciting announcement for the 2018/2019 Go Big Read book selection, let’s dive a little deeper. What’s the book about? Who is Dan Egan?

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes chronicles the recent changes to the Great Lakes and the new species invading them in the past several years. Some of the species, who may have started out in one of the Great Lakes, have now spread to all of them.

What does this mean for the Great Lakes?

According to a New York Times article reflecting on Egan’s book, although these invading species clean out the lake, they are also “sucking up 90 percent of the lake’s phytoplankton,” and that does not mean the lakes are benefiting from this change. As Egan puts it, “It’s the sign of a lake having the life sucked out of it.”

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes has been chosen for the 2018/2019 Go Big Read year.

In recent years, various invading species have made these lakes their home, largely thanks to shipping vessels dumping these foreign species directly into these Great Lakes. Some of these include: spiny water fleas, fishhook water fleas, bloody red shrimp, and most extreme, the zebra and quagga mussels, which have spread more rapidly than any other invasive species. Egan refers to the spreading of these mussels “like cancer cells in a bloodstream.”

Egan pairs these problems with potential solutions for the future. Achieving tangible solutions to this problem in the Great Lakes requires action from the E.P.A and other legislators, Egan suggests, which right now, might be difficult.

So, who is Dan Egan?

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes author Dan Egan.

Egan is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his investigative reporting on the Great Lakes. He is also a senior water policy fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Hitting close to home, Egan has spent his life studying how the Great Lakes around Wisconsin and other Midwestern states have been changing and potential solutions for this issue.

For more information on Egan and his book, check out the publisher’s website: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office