Seminar: Keeping the Great Lakes of North America great

David Ullrich will give an overview of the formation of the Laurentian Great Lakes over 10,000 years ago as the glaciers receded, the settlement of the region by indigenous peoples, and then the exploration and settlements of the region by Western Europeans.  With tremendous agricultural development, forestry, and industrial growth, the area’s population and economy expanded dramatically through the last half of the 1800’s and first half of the 1900’s.  The Great Lakes were always a central part of that growth, with its availability for transportation, commercial fishing, drinking water supply, and tourism.  The Great Lakes environment suffered as a result of this industrial development.  ‘Dead’ lakes and rivers on fire lead to major efforts at federal, state, provincial, local, tribal, and private level to ‘slow the bleeding’ and begin the restoration.  A complex set of treaties, agreements, laws, regulations, and much more has guided the efforts of many over the past 50 years, leading to major improvements in the condition of the resource.  Constant vigilance is needed to protect the Great Lakes for future generations.

  • Wednesday 14 March, 11am
  • Room 262, Steele building



David Ullrich is an Advisor to the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Cities Initiative where he served as Executive Director from 2003 to 2017.  His responsibilities include providing advice to over 130 U.S. and Canadian mayors from across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin to advance the protection and restoration of the resource.  The Initiative leads many efforts to accelerate the work to become a more sustainable region by integrating the environmental, economic, and social activities to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of its people. Prior to working with the Cities Initiative, Mr Ullrich served for thirty years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes regional office in Chicago, working on environmental issues in the six states of the upper Midwest.  He worked in many capacities over the years, including Acting Regional Administrator, Deputy Regional Administrator, Waste Management Division Director, Deputy Regional Counsel, Air Enforcement Chief, and Water Enforcement Attorney.  He was a founding member and chair of the Midwest Natural Resources Group.  He currently serves as Chair of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board for the International Joint Commission, Chair of the Great Lakes Advisory Board, and in 2006 and 2012 was appointed by the President to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission where he serves as Vice Chair.  In 1986, he completed a six month executive exchange assignment with the German Interior Ministry.  U.S. EPA recognized Mr Ullrich for a number of his accomplishments during his public service career.  Mr Ullrich graduated from Dartmouth College in 1970 with a degree in English and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1973, with an emphasis in environmental law.  He is a runner and outdoor sportsman.  He was married for 39 years to the late Polly Ullrich, an art critic, curator, teacher, and ceramic artist, and their son Eric is a 2012 graduate of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a major in environmental science and sustainability and currently brewmaster at Lake Effect Brewing in Chicago.