Current Projects

The following projects have been selected to receive support from Michigan Sea Grant. Do you have an idea for a project? Send suggestions to Research Program Director Catherine Riseng at criseng@umich.edu. Follow Michigan Sea Grant on social media or join our mailing list for details about upcoming requests for proposals.

2020-2022

Anishinaabe-Gikendaasowin in integrated assessment research in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for stewardship and governance partnerships

Michigan’s tribal communities hold a wealth of environmental knowledge. In the Ojibwe language, Anishinaabe refers to Indigenous Ojibwe people, and gikendaasowin is defined as “knowledge” or “intelligence.” Click the links to hear the words pronounced as part of the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary.

Valoree Gagnon, director of university-Indigenous partnerships at Michigan Technological University, will work with tribal groups to synthesize, honor, and spread Indigenous community knowledge about natural resources and environmental science. The goal of this project is to help integrate Indigenous knowledge into stewardship, governance, and research for natural resources in the Great Lakes region.

Lead principal investigator: Valoree Gagnon, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Updating predator-prey stocking models and strategies in Lake Michigan

As natural resource managers reassess the way they stock trout and salmon species in Lake Michigan, Assistant Professor Kelly Robinson from Michigan State University will update models that forecast salmonine fish populations while incorporating benefits, risks, and tradeoffs of different stocking strategies. Lake Michigan’s fishery stakeholders will be part of the decision-making process.

Lead principal investigator: Kelly Robinson, Michigan State University

Project Overview (PDF)

Identifying factors that affect toxicity in Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms

Gregory Dick, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, will develop models to help determine why some strains of harmful algal blooms are more toxic to humans and animals than others. This project aims to enhance the ability to forecast algal bloom toxicity and help guide policies to prevent toxic blooms.

Lead principal investigator: Gregory Dick, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Developing a strategy for tracing septic field contamination in the Saginaw Bay watershed

Aging septic systems in the Saginaw Bay watershed can leak into groundwater and surface waters, contributing to issues like beach closures and algae blooms in Saginaw Bay. Matthew Schrenk, an assistant professor at Michigan State University will partner with state and local agencies to develop a system of microbial and geochemical tracking strategies that could identify septic system leaks. This could be instrumental in helping local and state agencies restore the water quality and ecosystem health of the Saginaw Bay watershed.

Lead principal investigator: Matthew Schrenk, Michigan State University

Project overview (PDF)

An integrated approach for understanding and managing Lake Michigan’s shifting shorelines

Managing Lake Michigan’s shorelines requires an understanding of physical, biological, and social factors, especially as climate change
is influencing weather patterns. A diverse regional research team including investigators from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana aims to foster resilient coastal communities around Lake Michigan by tracking the movement of sediment along the shoreline, assessing attitudes about lakeside development and protection, and devising a framework for empathetic decision-making about coastal resources. This project is jointly funded by Michigan Sea Grant, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Lead principal investigators:

Guy Meadows, Michigan Technological University
Chin Wu, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Cary Troy, Purdue University

Project overview (PDF)

The effects of nutrient loading on nutrient limitation in Great Lakes coastal ecosystems

Graduate Fellow Erin Eberhard at Michigan Technological University will collaborate with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to investigate how nutrients move through watersheds to coastal ecosystems where wetlands, streams, and lakes meet. This project will provide key understanding of nitrogen cycling in Great Lakes coastalregions. 

Graduate student fellow: Erin Eberhard, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Characterizing black tern nesting response to changing water levels in Lake St. Clair

Black terns, a threatened species in Michigan, nest in places vulnerable to flooding and water level fluctuations. Graduate Fellow Jennifer Fuller from the University of Michigan will work with the Audubon Society to study how water levels affect black tern colonies in the St. Clair Flats near Lake St. Clair, home of one of the largest black tern colonies in the Great Lakes region. This research will inform conservation management strategies for these vulnerable bird populations.

Graduate student fellow: Jennifer Fuller, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Investigating competition and overlap between different types of Lake Superior lake trout

Graduate Fellow Will Otte at Northern Michigan University will work with U.S. Geological Survey research staff to look for overlapping habitat and dietary needs among several types of lake trout in Lake Superior. This research will help natural resources professionals understand and manage trends in lake trout populations.

Graduate student fellow: Will Otte, Northern Michigan University

Project overview (PDF)

2018-2020

Tracking biodiversity in Lake Michigan’s interdunal wetlands

Many of West Michigan’s coastal dunes house sensitive and complex wetland ecosystems. Despite supporting migratory birds and some of Michigan’s more precarious plant, animal, and insect species, these interdunal wetlands have not been thoroughly inventoried. Tiffany Schriever, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Western Michigan University, will lead a study of the distribution patterns of amphibians, reptiles, and aquatic macroinvertebrates in interdunal wetlands on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. She will flag areas of high diversity and assess movement of organisms among neighboring wetlands to determine how communities are connected or isolated.

Lead principal investigator: Tiffany Schriever, Western Michigan University

Project overview (PDF)

Cladophora, mussels, and the nearshore phosphorus shunt in Lake Michigan

Since invading the Great Lakes, filter-feeding zebra and quagga mussels have increased water clarity in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario. This has boosted the growth of bottom-dwelling filamentous algae like Cladophora, which washes ashore in stringy green mats to foul beaches and harbor harmful bacteria. The invading mussels also recycle phosphorus — a nutrient that feeds algal growth — through their feces. Pengfei Xue, an assistant professor in the Michigan Technological University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will lead a team applying mathematical models to untangle the web of processes supplying nutrition to Cladophora at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lead principal investigator: Pengfei Xue, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Modeling potential habitats for Asian carp in Lake Michigan

Alongside efforts to prevent and detect invasive Asian carp in the Great Lakes, scientists are also working to determine which areas might provide favorable habitat to invading carp. Current efforts to model potential carp habitat and distribution in Lake Michigan have only assessed surface conditions. University of Michigan graduate student Peter Alsip will work with NOAA scientists to develop a three-dimensional model of potential habitats for bighead and silver carp in Lake Michigan, factoring in climate change and other long-term shifts in lake conditions.

Graduate student fellow: Peter Alsip, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Executive Summary (PDF)

I once caught a fish “THIS BIG”: Using participatory photovoice to understand Michigan’s Great Lakes anglers

hat draws Michigan women to pick up a fishing pole? How does a Lake Michigan fishing trip differ from an experience on Lake Superior? What might attract new anglers to the pastime? These are questions Erin Burkett, a doctoral student at Michigan Technological University, and researchers at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources hope to answer. Recreational fishing rates are declining across Michigan, leading some to wonder whether this important economic engine will remain viable in the future. To understand women’s experiences and motivations for fishing, Burkett will engage groups of anglers in a form of qualitative data-gathering called “participatory photovoice,” a technique that encourages participants to snap photographs that capture the essence of their individual experiences, then share the stories behind the images.

Graduate student fellow: Erin Burkett, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Final report (PDF)

Studying potential risks of airborne algal toxins

As harmful algal blooms become an annual fixture in Lake Erie’s western basin, it’s more vital than ever to understand the full effects of algal toxins on human and environmental health. A still-murky question is whether toxin molecules can become aerosolized, or airborne, in droplets of water kicked up by waves, strong winds, and watercraft. To test this, University of Michigan doctoral student Nicole Olson and staff from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will run water samples from Lake Erie and Lake Huron through a wave simulator to determine whether algal toxins and other organic material become airborne along with water droplets.

Graduate student fellow: Nicole Olson, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Impacts and drivers of round goby invasion in Great Lakes tributaries

Rivers and streams linked to the Great Lakes serve as nursery and spawning habitat for many fish species. Unfortunately, these tributaries also provide channels for invasive species to move into inland waters. Stressors such as habitat loss, prior invasions, high nutrient levels, or pollution may render tributaries more vulnerable to colonization by new invasive species. Corey Krabbenhoft, a Ph.D. student at Wayne State University, will study this question, working with local watershed councils to quantify ecological stressors in seven Michigan rivers and gauge the relative impact of invasion by round goby.

Graduate student fellow: Corey Krabbenhoft, Wayne State University

Project overview (PDF)

Final report (PDF)

2016-2018

Green infrastructure implementation: Planning for a sustainable future

Green infrastructure uses plants, soils, and natural processes to manage rain and snowmelt wherever it flows. Many Michigan communities are interested in using green infrastructure to supplement traditional grey infrastructure components such as storm drains, sewer pipes, and wastewater treatment plants. However, there are many barriers to the large-scale adoption of green infrastructure projects. Individuals, organizations, and communities across the state face regulatory red tape, lack of funding, lack of quantifiable incentives, and other challenges.

The research team will identify and address these challenges and develop strategies for easing the transition toward green infrastructure in Michigan.

Lead principal investigator: Don Carpenter, Lawrence Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Executive Summary: Green Infrastructure Barriers Survey (PDF)

Green Infrastructure in Michigan: An Integrated Assessment of Its Use, Barriers & Opportunities Final Report (PDF)

Cisco restoration in Lake Michigan

Cisco, once the dominant prey species in the Great Lakes, have been decimated by overfishing, habitat loss, and invasive species. Today, new opportunities are rising to restore cisco populations in Lake Michigan. However, there are diverse views on the best strategies for cisco restoration. This project will pull together stakeholders who are most likely to be affected by cisco restoration efforts. The research team will help resource managers evaluate policy options and identify necessary tools and data for future restoration activities.

Lead principal investigator: Sara Adlerstein, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Status and Trends (PDF)

Economic effects of Area of Concern remediation

Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) are locations within the Great Lakes Basin where a water body has experienced severe environmental degradation and has been designated for clean-up by the U.S. EPA. Initially designated in 1987, many AOCs have undergone extensive remediation efforts. Little is known about the potential relationships between remediation activities and neighborhood factors such as housing prices, population density, residents’ income, and educational characteristics. The project team will investigate how restoration activities at AOCs have affected the composition and economic well-being of surrounding neighborhoods.

Lead principal investigator: Michael Moore, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Using acoustic cameras to track native and invasive migratory species

Michigan’s streams are home to two very different migratory species: the invasive, harmful sea lamprey and the valuable, angler-friendly rainbow trout. In recent years, state-of-the-art acoustic cameras (cameras which capture images using sound waves) have been deployed in two northern Michigan rivers to collect images of migrating fish. The research team will develop a computer program that can process images generated by the acoustic cameras and distinguish between sea lampreys and rainbow trout. The results will help verify or update lamprey and trout population estimates calculated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Graduate student fellow: Erin McCann, Central Michigan University

Project overview (PDF)

Tracking harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie

In recent years, the western basin of Lake Erie has experienced a rising number of severe algal blooms. These blooms can bring serious consequences for human and environmental health, as well as economic activity in nearby communities. The research team will use satellite imagery, buoys, field data, weather conditions, and river flow patterns to characterize the effects of the Detroit River on the optimal conditions for bloom formation. This information can give managers an advantage in predicting when and where future algal blooms may appear.

Graduate student fellow: Angela Yu, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Effects of nearshore nutrient cycling on Lake Michigan’s benthic invasive species

Nutrient cycling in Lake Michigan has shifted in recent years, with an increased proportion of incoming nutrients being claimed by benthic, or bottom-dwelling, organisms living near shore. In places where the benthic near-shore habitat is dominated by invasive species, this diversion of energy may have wide-ranging impacts on Lake Michigan’s food web. The project team surveyed populations of bottom-dwelling invasive species in nearshore habitats and set up artificial habitats to test how well these invasive species performed under different nutrient conditions. Finally, they sampled and analyzed various Lake Michigan invertebrates, algae, plankton, and fish to determine how nutrients are cycling through nearshore and offshore habitats.

Lead principal investigator: Kevin Pangle, Central Michigan University

Journal article (PDF)