BURLINGTON, Vt. – A science program at the University of Vermont has won a $20 million federal grant, the largest grant in the school’s history, to help study the health of the Lake Champlain basin and look at the effects of climate change on it, officials said Friday.

The five-year National Science Foundation grant will be used to take into account the many factors that affect the Lake Champlain Basin, streams and rivers of its watershed and land use, said UVM biology professor Judith Van Houten, director of Vermont EPSCoR — UVM’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

“Ultimately, many factors contribute to algal blooms or fish die-offs, and also to positive changes in the basin as we adapt to a changing climate,” she said. The project will create 16 full-time jobs and a half dozen college scholarships.

Following the spring flooding that left lakeside communities under water and the remnants of Hurricane Irene that wreaked havoc in Vermont, the project gives researchers an opportunity to study and respond to climate change in the Lake Champlain basin to protect homes and towns while restoring the health of the lake, said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

“There are people that want to deny science. But you can’t deny reality. And what we’re seeing is reality. And we’ve been humbled to learn that climate can and will have a dramatic effect on every aspect on our life in Vermont,” he said.