November 2014

Upwellings December 2014 612x373

Stakeholder Engagement Key To Successful Michigan Sea Grant Federal Site Review

Michigan Sea Grant welcomed a site review team as part of a regularly scheduled program evaluation on October 28-29. Once every 4 years, a site review team visits each of the 33 Sea Grant programs in the nation. The site review team consists of five people — a National Sea Grant program manager and a panel of four people with good knowledge of Sea Grant programs. The review team assesses our program based on three characteristics:

  • Program management and organization
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Collaborative network activities

During the first day, Michigan Sea Grant staff members presented information on a variety of projects and collaborative efforts. Stakeholders and partners spoke about their experiences with Michigan Sea Grant and the value the program has contributed. Stakeholder comments followed a similar theme: we couldn’t do our work as well without Michigan Sea Grant.

“The site review team especially appreciated the strength and breadth of our work with stakeholders and the strong relationships with other state and federal agencies, as well,” said Jim Diana, Michigan Sea Grant Director. “One evaluator made a point of indicating that our program has nimbleness, flexibility and a great capacity for facilitating work — and that is an excellent combination.”

On the second day, Michigan Sea Grant leadership provided an overview of administration, research, communications, extension and education program areas. After the presentations, the site review team convened privately to discuss their findings, then subsequently met with leadership from the two universities and MSG to deliver a verbal report.

All programs must rate highly in the three categories in order to meet National Sea Grant’s Federal Standards of Excellence. The review team produces a report following the site visit that describes findings, including key accomplishments, best practices and recommendations for improvement.

Historic Sea Grant 45th Annv-13
45 Years of Great Lakes Outreach, Education and Research

The Michigan Sea Grant Program was established in 1969 – which makes 2014 our 45th anniversary. To close out the first day of the program site review, Michigan Sea Grant staff and stakeholders set sail on the Detroit River for a dinner cruise and historical trivia to celebrate a legacy of Great Lakes work.

A Quick History

Oceanographer, inventor and writer Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus introduced the idea of a National Sea Grant College Program: “I have suggested the establishment of ‘sea-grant colleges’ in existing universities that wish to develop oceanic work… These would be modernized parallels of the great developments in agriculture and the mechanic arts which were occasioned by the Land-Grant Act of about a hundred years ago… Establishment of the land-grant colleges was one of the best investments this nation ever made. That same kind of imagination and foresight should be applied to exploitation of the sea.”

President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill establishing the Sea Grant Program through The National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966.

Michigan Sea Grant was established at University of Michigan.

Michigan Sea Grant became a cooperative program between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, adding MSU extension services to the program.

Michigan Sea Grant achieved college status (highest level of program).

Michigan Sea Grant celebrates 45 years of outreach, education and research focused on the Great Lakes.


life ring holland DSC_0252-adjustedCurrents Near Piers and Outlets Prove Deadly in 2014

The numbers of drownings and rescues were down in 2014 due to cooler temperatures, but dangerous currents still proved to be deadly, especially near piers and river outlets. The first fatality in Michigan was a 17-year-old male about to graduate from West Ottawa High School. He jumped off the pier at Holland State Park into Lake Michigan. Sgt. Cal Keuning, from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, led the marine unit that recovered the body. Keuning is part of a statewide water safety effort, led by Michigan Sea Grant, highlighting the danger of pier jumping.

Throughout the 2014 swim season, cool air and water temperatures across the Great Lakes region led to below-average numbers of current-related incidents. There were 6 fatalities and 12 rescues related to currents on the Great Lakes, which is below the 12-year average of 12 fatalities and 25 rescues per year.

The data for 2014 has now been updated in the Great Lakes Current Incident Database, available at The database was developed and is maintained by Michigan Sea Grant and the National Weather Service (NWS). Megan Dodson, a NWS meteorologist, gathers the statistics for the database and provides yearly swim season assessments of conditions related to currents.

“A majority of the current-related incidents in 2014 occurred near river mouths, which is unusual when compared with past years,” said Dodson. “The cooler air and water temperatures may have driven beachgoers to swim near river mouths and other outlets, where the water is much warmer. However, there are currents present that can be strong and vary depending on the flow of the outlet and the waves at the beach. While these currents are most dangerous during times of high waves, they can still be strong despite calmer lake conditions — as we saw during the 2014 swim season.”

Read the Full News Release


The Lakes in Transition: Seasonal Change is Afoot

As the seasons turn, the Great Lakes also experience transitional changes. With the cold weather comes a process called “turnover.” During the seasonal transition, temperature and oxygen levels are affected — and contribute to how much life the Great Lakes can support. Both are explored in separate lessons available at no cost for teachers, non-formal educators and those simply interested in learning more about the natural biological process of the Great Lakes. Below is a preview of the lesson content.

Water Layers: How they Form and How they Mix

Water in a lake separates into warm and cold “layers” during summer. When this happens, scientists refer to the lakes as being stratified. During the process of becoming layered, the lakes undergo what is called thermal stratification.

How do they become layered? Stratification happens as a result of water’s temperature-dependent density. Warm water near a lake’s surface (the top layer) warms from the sun and can be several inches to many feet deep, depending on the size of the lake and the amount of sun it receives. As water temperature increases, the density decreases, and therefore the warm water remains at the surface. A lake’s surface layer of warm water is called the epilimnion.

Cooler water, which is denser than warm water, sinks to the bottom. The cold, deep waters form the hypolimnion (the bottom layer). During summer, these cold, bottom waters do not mix with the warm surface water. At the beginning of the summer, the hypolimnion will contain more dissolved oxygen because colder water holds more oxygen than warmer water. However, as time passes, the hypolimnion will contain less oxygen and nutrients than the warmer waters above because of decomposition of organic matter and respiration by animals and plants living there. Deep water fish, such as salmon and lake trout, generally swim in the cold waters of the hypolimnion.

A thin layer of water called the metalimnion — or thermocline — separates these warm and cold layers of water.

In the fall, Great Lakes surface waters begin to cool. When the water temperature drops near 4° C or 39.2° F, it reaches maximum density or heaviness, and it sinks. When that happens, the top water descends to the bottom of the lake, which causes a lake’s waters to mix. Wind also plays a role in this mixing. Since wind is typically stronger during fall, it helps mix the whole water column from top to bottom.

This seasonal mixing — called turnover — also occurs in the spring. Seasonal mixing is important because it introduces oxygen to different layers within the lakes and also helps circulate nutrients through the water column.


Graphic: Water Temperature and Lake Stratification




Overview-CMP video
New Clean Marina Program Videos

Curious about boat bottom washing in the Great Lakes region? Want to explore best management practices marinas can follow to keep Great Lakes waters clean? Three new videos exploring different aspects of being a Certified Clean Marina are now available.

The videos are included in a series produced by Michigan Sea Grant as part of the Great Lakes Clean Marina project. They are available through the classroom, on the network website and via YouTube and are highlighted below.


Great Lakes Clean Marina Program Overview: The Benefits of Clean Marinas and Clean Boating
This video provides an overview of what Clean Marina programs throughout the Great Lakes have to offer, reasons you should consider becoming certified or supporting certified marinas and what you can expect at a Clean Marina.


Keeping it Clean: Best Practices for Certified Clean Marinas
How can you help keep the Great Lakes clean? This video provides an overview of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that marina operators and boaters can employ to keep pollutants out of the lakes.


Marinas and Boat Bottom Washing Best Practices
This video features an overview of boat bottom washing techniques from around the Great Lakes. Our marina experts also discuss why it is important to keep boat bottom wash contained and some of the systems they use to do so.


The Great Lakes Clean Marina Network includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin Clean Marina programs and supports efforts to increase the number of certified marinas in the region. Clean Marina leaders assist marina participants with site visits and training to address more than 75 best practices required for certification.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), supported the Green Marina Outreach and Education project led by Michigan Sea Grant.


Megan-Dodson-award-winner-612px12014 Van Snider Award

Megan Dodson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, was awarded the 2014 Van Snider Award. Dodson is a leader in coastal hazards outreach and a great partner to Michigan Sea Grant. She is an inspiration to others with her water safety education efforts, participating in the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program and other community-based committees. She has partnered with Michigan Sea Grant for many years on various dangerous current projects.

Currently, Megan is partnering with MSG on two dangerous currents projects:

  • In 2013, she helped with the agenda and presented at three full-day educational workshops to train park personnel about dangerous currents.
  • Megan, along with Michigan Sea Grant, developed a searchable Great Lakes Current Incident Database. Her ongoing research has determined that structural currents are a significant factor in fatalities in Michigan and the region.

Our Sea Grant team has come to rely not only on Megan’s expertise, but her enthusiasm for her work.

About the Award

Michigan Sea Grant established the Van Snider Award in 2010. Who is Van Snider? Snider is the former President of the Michigan Boating Industry Association and a long-time partner and friend of Michigan Sea Grant. Through his work, he has exemplified what it means to be a partner — he is considerate, willing to help, diplomatic and a great all-around resource. The award is given out annually to recognize individual partners.


Featured Publications

Guide to Great Lakes Fishes

10-706 Michigan Watershed map FINAL
Michigan watershed map

Dabblers and Divers poster


Fellowship Opportunities

Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

This one-year program matches graduate students with hosts in the legislative or executive branches or other institutions in Washington, D.C. Fellows focus on policy projects related to ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. Deadline: TBD (Late Feb. 2015)

NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship

Fellows work for two years with agency hosts around the U.S. in state coastal zone management programs. Projects will address coastal resource management issues such as climate change, coastal hazards or land use planning. Deadline: Jan. 23, 2015

Great Lakes Commission–Sea Grant Fellowship

This one-year fellowship is based at the Great Lakes Commission, a non-profit, binational organization in Ann Arbor. The Commission works to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development of the Great Lakes region. Fellows contribute to research coordination and policy analysis activities. Deadline: Feb. 27, 2015

Michigan Sea Grant Research Fellowships

Michigan Sea Grant will offer a new fellowship opportunity starting in 2016. The fellowship will support up to two graduate students performing Great Lakes ecosystem research at a Michigan university for one or two years. Details will be available in a forthcoming Request For Proposals, to be issued in January 2015.

For more information, see: Fellowship Opportunities

Anniv logos 2Registration for the National Ocean Sciences Great Lakes Bowl is Now Open

The NOSB mission is to enrich science teaching and learning across the United States through a high-profile national competition that increases high school students’ knowledge of the oceans and enhances public understanding and stewardship of the oceans. The Great Lakes Bowl is the competition for students from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Deadline to register: Dec. 19, 2014

Learn more: About the NOSB Great Lakes Bowl