Behrend researchers shortlisted for Great Lakes Leadership Awards


Two researchers from Penn State Behrend have been shortlisted for the 2021 Great Lakes Leadership Award, which recognizes work to raise awareness of critical issues in the Great Lakes ecosystem. Each will receive $ 10,000 in funding to advance their research.

The awards are sponsored by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a nonprofit organization that has invested $ 91 million in projects pioneering new technologies, practices and fundraising strategies that restore and support the health of the Great Lakes. This year, two of the fund’s six prizes are awarded to Behrend researchers:

Allegra Cangelosi, Principal Investigator at Penn State Behrend, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Great Lakes Leadership Award. She studies ballast water and the transfer of aquatic invasive species.

Allegra Cangelosi, a senior researcher at Behrend, was selected for her work advancing ballast water treatment on transoceanic ships, an environmental protection measure that has dramatically reduced the transfer of invasive species to the Great Lakes.

Cangelosi has partnered with researchers at Wayne State University and the University of Wisconsin-Superior to develop best practices for monitoring ballast water in transport ships. It also uses eDNA – “environmental” DNA – to develop rapid tests that identify the presence of target organisms in a body of water.

“Its real superpower is to bring together disparate teams around a common goal,” said David Rankin, executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund. “She took 15 different interests and created a team that together took an idea and turned it into something sitting on the deck of a ship.”

Cangelosi previously worked as a principal investigator for the Great Waters Research Collaborative and as president of the Northeast-Midwest Institute, which promotes economic vitality, environmental quality and regional equity in 18 states.

Sherri “Sam” Mason, director of sustainability at Penn State Behrend, was selected for her study of microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie. His work contributed to the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to ban plastic microbeads in facial creams and shampoos – a policy change that led to new production guarantees at L’Oréal and Unilever, among other companies.

Mason has contributed to the Joint Expert Group on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection, which advises the United Nations on scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. She has been quoted in Consumer Reports, Time magazine and BBC News.

“Her research into detecting the presence of plastic in beer, drinking water and salt was groundbreaking,” Rankin said, “but she is a pioneer in sharing this information with a wider audience and encouraging people to to act.”

Prior to joining Behrend, Mason taught at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

“These awards recognize the contributions of two exceptional individuals whose pioneering research over many years in two critical areas has had a significant impact on the protection of the entire Great Lakes Basin,” said Ivor Knight, Associate Dean to research and graduate studies at Behrend. “They are true trailblazers, and we are fortunate to have them each at Penn State Behrend.”

To learn more about the Great Lakes Leadership Awards and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, visit

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