Summer 2014

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New Research Projects Examine Muck, Great Lakes Knowledge, Sustainable Harbors and Open Channels

Michigan Sea Grant is funding four new, two-year research projects focused on wicked problems in the Great Lakes region. The projects follow an Integrated Assessment approach to research, which means they bring together many different stakeholders and decision makers. The end result of an Integrated Assessment project includes relevant suggestions or plans generated by those affected by the issue, as well as scientific data.

Projects include:

  • Drainage design that could improve water quality
  • Getting to know the Great Lakes through formal education
  • Learning more about muck in Saginaw Bay
  • Sustainable management strategies for small harbors

Developing Open Channel Design Criteria: Restoring Our Rivers – $225,295

Principal investigator: Carol J. Miller, Wayne State University

Open Channel Design, Macomb County
When driving along a road in an agricultural area or viewing the mosaic of farmland from the sky, you may have noticed drainage channels. These canals form a crisscross of ditches or small streams through farm fields and alongside roads. They help move runoff and excess water from one area to another and can help manage water flow. As a result, they also can affect water quality. This Integrated Assessment will examine how multi-stage channel design could be applied in Michigan. Multi-stage design is a type of drainage with a lower and upper channel, rather than just one uniform ditch, that can mimic self-sustaining, natural systems and improve long-term drain stability and water quality. The research team will develop design guidelines, create practical tools and build partnerships to help people better address drain design.

Fostering Great Lakes Literacy, Identity and Stewardship – $177,142

Principal investigator: Shari L. Dann, Michigan State University

GL Literacy DSC_0019
While most Michigan residents have an appreciation for the Great Lakes, public understanding of how they “work” on a scientific and environmental level is often lacking. The team will compile and analyze existing research and data sets about Great Lakes K-12 learning and will engage diverse stakeholders in deliberative dialogue around policy options to enhance Great Lakes learning.

Where People Meet the Muck: Muck in Saginaw Bay – $247,794

Principal investigator: Donna Kashian, Wayne State University

Saginaw Bay State Recreation Area
Muck is a problem in several regions of the Great Lakes, including Saginaw Bay. It has been blamed for poor water quality and economic losses — and it is not a new issue. Records of muck in Saginaw Bay go back to the 1960s, but other accounts mention problem muck as far back as the 1920s. The research team will summarize what is currently known about muck-related conditions at the Bay City State Recreation Area (BCSRA), including the socio-economic impacts of muck at the park and on the Saginaw Bay Region as a whole. Engaging people who are affected by the muck — the stakeholders — is a priority throughout the project.

Sustainable Management Strategies for Small Harbors – $175,000

Principal investigator: Donald Carpenter, Lawrence Technological University

The trend of fluctuating water levels across the Great Lakes — particularly persistent low water levels in the past 10 years — combined with an economic downturn have taken their toll on local waterfront economies. In addition, state and federal funding for public harbors is increasingly limited.

The research team seeks to develop a sustainable small harbor management strategy for Michigan’s coastal communities. The team will host facilitated charrettes (focus groups) in four harbors with local stakeholders. From the meetings, the team will develop a toolkit and planning resources to help guide public harbors’ pursuit of financial sustainability. The project will identify opportunities for both revenue generation and cost savings, and an economic model will be developed that coastal communities can use to assess the financial viability of their harbor. Research will help inform both the development of a financial model and toolkit and the content of the Harbor Master Plans as harbors build physical and economic resilience and seek more sustainable futures.

Michigan Sea Grant is supporting this project in conjunction with several state partner organizations.

Seeking Wicked Problems for Upcoming RFP

Michigan Sea Grant would like your input to shape our next request for proposals (RFP). We’re looking for suggestions on wicked environmental problems that would make good research projects — do you know of any?

Please send them by Oct. 30 to Catherine Riseng, Research Program Manager at



Harmful Algal Blooms and Drinking Water Problems

Lake Erie Algal Bloom, August 2014
Tests at a water treatment plant found elevated levels of the toxin microcystin — which is produced by blue-green algae — in the drinking water for Toledo, Ohio, as well as communities in southeast Michigan. The toxin was part of the Harmful Algal Bloom, or HAB, that was found in the western basin of Lake Erie.

The City of Toledo leadership cautioned residents and the several hundred thousand people served by its water utility not to drink tap water, even if they boil it beginning Aug. 2. Exposure to high levels of microcystin can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, liver inflammation, pneumonia and other health problems, some of which can be life threatening. The toxin levels decreased on their own to safe levels (according to World Health Organization recommended guidelines) within two days. The Toledo water plant also reportedly modified its operations, including increasing carbon, to combat the toxin.

The all clear was given on Aug. 4, and residents were advised that the drinking water was once again safe for bathing, cooking and consumption. However, HABs are a large and ongoing issue in the Great Lakes, particularly the bay regions (Green Bay, Saginaw Bay, Maumee Bay, etc.) we will likely hear more about as the season progresses.



Keeping the Great Lakes Region Clean

Great Lakes Clean Marina logo-finalThe Green Marina Education and Outreach Project has resulted in 69 Clean Marina certifications, approximately 5,000 best management practices implemented, and more than 2,200 individuals participating in Clean Marina workshops. Michigan Sea Grant coordinated the project in partnership with Wisconsin and Ohio Sea Grant programs. Marinas across the Great Lakes have joined a network to share ideas and promote education about protecting our waters for swimming, fishing and boating.

Clean Marina programs encourage marina operators and recreational boaters to protect water quality by engaging in environmentally sound and economically feasible best management practices. The outreach project began several years ago as a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant and, as a result of past progress, continued into 2014 on a second wave of funding.

“This project is successful because marina operators, resource managers and Sea Grant advanced existing Clean Marina efforts and helped foster new programs in the region,” said Michigan Sea Grant’s Elizabeth LaPorte, director of communications and education and co-investigator on the project. “We took a big step forward to protect Great Lakes water quality by working with many partners.”



News Briefs

A Group of Fellows

Three students nominated by Michigan Sea Grant have been selected to receive NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships.

Rachel Jacobson from the University of Michigan, and Ayman Mabrouk and Linda Novitski, both from Michigan State University will attend Knauss Placement Week.

MSG Fellows

Pictured from left to right: Rachel Jacobson, Ayman Mabrouk and Linda Novitski.

Jacobson obtained a Master of Public Policy degree from the Ford School of Public Policy as well as a Master of Science degree from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, both at the University of Michigan. She has also worked for organizations like the Kresge Foundation and The Garrison institute as well as an internship with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where her focus was on climate change adaptation.

Mabrouk originally hails from Egypt, where he has many years of experience as a researcher and natural resource manager. He worked extensively for the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, most recently as the assistant director for the Nature Conservation Sector. He graduated from MSU with a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife earlier this year, examining the sustainability and the livelihood of artisanal fisheries and impact of marine reserves on coral reef fishes.

Novitski recently completed a Ph.D. in zoology with an environmental science and policy specialization from MSU. She has experience working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences, as well as the California Academy of Sciences.

Knauss Placement Week is an event in November where the fellows interview with potential job hosts. Based on those interviews, they will be matched with legislative or executive branch federal agencies and work in the Washington D.C. area during the one-year paid fellowship.

The fellowship provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The fellowship is named after one of Sea Grant’s founders, former NOAA Administrator John A. Knauss.

See: Knauss Fellowship

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Avian Botulism Confirmed

Avian botulism is a food poisoning whereby waterfowl ingest a toxin, which is produced by the naturally occurring rod-shaped bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed that about 24 mallard ducks died from type C avian botulism along the southern shore of East Grand Traverse Bay in early August. Should we be concerned?


Lake Huron Charter Fishing 2014

Charter News – Lake Huron Rebounds

The news coming out of the Lake Huron has taken a rosier turn: native fish have rebounded, and charter fishing has provided consistent action targeted on these native species. The update comes from a Michigan Department of Natural Resources report on charter fishing catch and effort on Lake Huron during 2013.

More than a decade ago, the salmon fishery collapsed and wreaked economic havoc along Lake Huron as charter anglers interested in catching Chinook and coho salmon greatly reduced their fishing trips to Lake Huron sites. But in the last few years, the fishery has turned around; this time focusing on native fish, such as walleye. Although Lake Erie is better known for consistent walleye catches, Lake Huron’s charter fishing catch rates surpassed Lake Erie catch rates in 2013. Fishing for lake trout and smallmouth bass has also contributed to the turnaround.

See: Article


Public Notice: Michigan Sea Grant Program Invites Comments

The Michigan Sea Grant College Program will undergo a program site visit and program review by a federally appointed Site Review Team October 28-29, 2014. Congress has mandated that Sea Grant College programs be regularly reviewed.

Submit Comments By Oct. 21, 2014

If you would like to submit comments to the Site Review Team about Michigan Sea Grant, please send your written comments via email to


Great Deal on the Whitefish Cookbook

10-502-Whitefish-Cookbook-COVER-web-500pxFor a limited time, Wild Caught and Close to Home: Selecting and Preparing Great Lakes Whitefish, the Great Lakes cookbook, is on sale for only $9.23! The price reflects a 45% discount in honor of Michigan Sea Grant’s 45th anniversary. The price is good until September 30. Quantities are limited. To purchase the cookbook, place it in the cart and enter 45Years into the coupon code section, and then click apply. The discount should be reflected in the total immediately.

For bulk quantities, contact


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