March 2013

Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes

Michigan Sea Grant is leading the outreach and education component of a five-year project focusing on climate change and water quality. Researchers are using the western basin of Lake Erie and the Maumee River watershed as a case study that may be applicable to other areas in the Great Lakes, such as Saginaw Bay and Green Bay.

“This project is a great opportunity for Michigan Sea Grant to engage with some of the top scientists about climate, water quality and land use in the Great Lakes,” said Jim Diana, director of Michigan Sea Grant.

There are four main parts to the project that address weather and climate, land use and water quality. Michigan Sea Grant (MSG) and others, based at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), are leading three of the four components of this project. SNRE professors Michael Moore, Marina Lemos, Dan Brown and Don Scavia (Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute) are gathering data to develop a better understanding of water management approaches, as well as addressing how invasive zebra and quagga mussels affect water quality. The University of Michigan College of Engineering, Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences program (AOSS) is leading the weather and climate component.

“Our job is to translate the science for the general public,” said Elizabeth LaPorte, MSG director of communication and education services and leading the outreach portion of the project. “This is a complex project with many different components, but that is also the exciting part — communicating the collaborative nature of the project and why it matters.”

A new article profiling the climate-modeling work of one of the project partners calls attention to the multi-disciplinary nature of the project and the important role of students. David Wright, a doctoral student in the AOSS program teamed up with Dr. Derek Posselt, assistant professor, and Dr. Allison Steiner, associate professor, also of AOSS, to produce the findings and the paper about lake-effect snow.

The study looks at how climate change can impact weather systems. Wright specifically examined the influence of ice cover and water temperature on lake-effect snow. He used a high-resolution weather forecast model to answer the question: How would lake-effect snow be changed if there is complete ice cover on the Great Lakes, no lake ice cover or warmer lake temperatures? Wright and other students are working with researchers to develop a framework for integrating human, biological, geographic and chemical controls on water quality, ecology and climate.

What’s to Come?

MSG is working with the U-M Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach (CEDO) to promote science-based learning about climate and water quality. CEDO is organizing a six-week, inquiry-based study at the New Tech High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Teachers and students will participate in both classroom and experiential learning, including a cruise sponsored by MSG.

Researchers will continue gathering and analyzing data about the increasing intensity of spring storms and their timing relative to agricultural practices, such as fertilizer application. This connection between heavy and more frequent storms, agricultural practices, population, land use and water quality may be a key factor to the increased amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie.

In the next issue of Upwellings, we’ll feature news about an article currently in press that addresses the impact of frequent and severe storms and increased amount of phosphorus on plants, fish, humans and the economy in western Lake Erie. The article was written by many of the researchers involved in the Climate Impacts On Great Lakes Water Quality project.

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Follow-up to Low Lake Levels

The Department of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Quality and Office of the Great Lakes have created an online Dredging Community Toolkit to assist in addressing navigation issues related to low Great Lakes water levels. Key components of the toolkit:

  • Background on dredging
  • Information on state-funded emergency dredging sites and methods used for selecting them
  • Actions the state is taking to expedite projects and permitting
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Important contact information


Great Lakes Water Safety Conference

The Great Lakes Water Safety conference is scheduled for Friday, April 12. The conference is geared toward beach and water-safety first responders, beach managers, emergency services managers, parks and recreation representatives, local and regional officials, police and fire rescue teams and others who work with public safety.

When: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., April 12
Wisconsin Hall, 610 S. Wisconsin, Gaylord, Mich.
Registration Fee:
$10 due by Friday, April 5.

See: Registration and Agenda


Water Levels – Ottawa County Edition

Learn more about Lake Michigan’s record low lake levels and ask questions during this free event.

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., April 8
Where: Ottawa County Fillmore Complex, 12220 Fillmore St., West Olive, Mich.
Specialists will be on hand to discuss issues and answer questions regarding the record-low lake levels.

Space is limited. RSVP via or (616) 395-2688.


Fisheries Workshops

Michigan Sea Grant Extension, in partnership with fisheries agencies and stakeholder organizations, host public information workshops each year. The workshops — scheduled for April — will focus on current research and information related to Great Lakes fisheries.

These workshops are open to the public, and provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals and other interested stakeholders.

See: Workshop Schedule



The Robin – Springtime Harbinger?

When people see an American robin this time of year, many think it is a sign of spring, but robins can be found year round in Michigan.

Robins in Michigan all year? Just like humans, some American robins spend their summers in Michigan, and then migrate to warmer states like Florida in the winter. However, not all of them do.

See: Robins in Springtime


Citizen Science: Make a Difference

People all across Michigan are helping build knowledge and understanding of Michigan’s bountiful natural resources by contributing their time. Michigan Sea Grant works with organizations that offer opportunities for interested people to get involved in citizen science.

One such group, the Friends of the Rouge (FOTR), have two volunteer monitoring programs — a Frog and Toad Survey and a Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring Program (better known as the Bug Hunts and Stonefly Searches). Become part of the movement!

See: Citizen Science


Keeping it Clean

The Michigan Clean Marina Program works with marinas to adopt environmentally sound and economically feasible practices to reduce the impact of boating on the environment. The program recently unveiled a boater-centric education effort.

During the recent Detroit Boat Show, several educational topics were displayed and explained to boaters, including preventing spread of invasive species, lake level changes and the boating industry, litter on the water and shore, recycling boat shrink-wrap and methods for reducing environmental impact.

See: Clean Boating