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 Manager Michael Fraker at Follow Michigan Sea Grant on social media or join our mailing list for details about upcoming requests for proposals.



Helping Michigan communities meet their water use needs through collaborative water resource management

Even in a state where water feels abundant, having adaptive and collaborative processes for allocating water resources can help ensure sustainable use while minimizing conflicts. In Michigan, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) monitors and manages large withdrawals from water bodies or groundwater sources. A 2008 law authorized local water users to create Water User Committees (WUCs) to work with EGLE. Michigan Sea Grant and EGLE are supporting a research team that will create a WUC guide that incorporates the diverse perspectives of state water users and paves the way toward local collaborative governance of water resources.

Lead principal investigator: Adam Zwickle, Michigan State University (joint project with EGLE’s Office of the Great Lakes)

Project overview (PDF)

Understanding where walleye spawn in Saginaw Bay to ensure better management and habitat protection

Invasive species, habitat degradation, and declining water quality led to a collapse of walleye (Sander vitreus) populations in Saginaw Bay in the mid-1990s. Fortunately, these populations have since recovered, and management goals have shifted to ensuring a sustainable harvest. Chris Vandergoot, Director of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) at Michigan State University, will lead a team using acoustic tags and receivers to identify walleye spawning sites and their relative importance in Saginaw Bay. Ultimately, this project could provide one of the last key missing pieces of information in understanding and helping to manage this newly recovered population and fishery.

Lead principal investigator: Chris Vandergoot, Michigan State University

Project overview (PDF)

Measuring the role of invasive mussel larvae in lower trophic levels of Lake Huron’s food web

Invasive zebra and quagga mussels have massively altered the flow of energy and nutrients through Great Lakes food webs. Gordon Paterson, an assistant professor at Michigan Technological University, will lead a project to investigate the role of juvenile zebra and quagga mussels (called veligers) in Lake Huron’s food web. Paterson and his team will analyze veliger samples from Saginaw Bay to determine their nutritional value and how much energy they make available to predators. Results will provide important insights into invasive species’ roles in shifting food webs around the Great Lakes.

Lead principal investigator: Gordon Paterson, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Mapping genetic variation in Microcystis to improve Great Lakes harmful algal bloom models

Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, and other areas of the Great Lakes regularly experience harmful algal blooms (HABs), population explosions of microscopic organisms which can generate toxins that threaten recreation, ecosystem health, and drinking water supplies. Microcystis is a genetically diverse bacteria species commonly found in HABs. Vincent Denef and Melissa Duhaime, professors at the University of Michigan, are leading a project that will link Microcystis genetic variation with its ability to defend against predators and viruses. Incorporating these insights into decision-making models could help improve HABs predictions and tracking, as well as illuminating the effects of Microcystis on Great Lakes food webs.

Lead Principal Investigator: Vincent Denef, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Using audio playback to attract desired migratory bird species to restored coastal wetlands

Coastal wetlands provide critical habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife and can help improve water quality. In Michigan, groups working to restore degraded coastal wetlands have realized that some important species may fail to recognize restored wetlands as suitable habitat. This is especially true in wetlands where a species does not encounter conspecifics, or individuals of the same species, already living in the habitat. Dustin Brewer, a PhD candidate at Central Michigan University, will work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists to play audio recordings of rails, a migratory wetland bird, at multiple potential habitat sites in central Michigan. This study will improve understanding of how audio playback might help attract rails and other migratory marshbird species to restored habitats, and more generally improve our understanding of how conspecific cues might be used to help conserve populations of focal species.

Graduate student fellow: Dustin Brewer, Central Michigan University

Project overview (PDF)

Understanding the effects of invasive mussels on freshwater bacterial communities in the Great Lakes

In the Great Lakes, invasive dreissenid mussels – commonly known as zebra and quagga mussels – are threatening the health of coastal ecosystems. These invasive mussels alter food webs and have been linked to occurrences of harmful cyanobacterial blooms and avian botulism outbreaks. Nikesh Dahal, PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, will investigate how predation by invasive mussels alters the structure and function of freshwater bacterial communities in Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Dahal will use genomic sequencing to analyze distribution of traits that allow species to survive and thrive under changing ecosystem conditions. Results from this work can build a deeper understanding of how invasive species affect these crucial freshwater ecosystems and inform future management strategies.

Graduate student fellow: Nikesh Dahal, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

Variation among walleye populations may affect how they respond to climate change

Walleye have long been stocked in Michigan’s inland lakes. Juvenile survival rates and adult population sizes are declining, partly because of changing water temperatures due to climate change. However, some populations may be more resilient than others because of differences in the way they store and use energy. Scott Jackson, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, will work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to test the impacts of increasing temperatures on walleye from two populations that serve as the source for all stocked walleye in Michigan. This information will help the Michigan DNR better understand differences in walleye stocking success and its causes, so that they can make any necessary changes to rearing and stocking strategies to maintain and improve Michigan’s walleye populations.

Graduate student fellow: Scott Jackson, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)


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)

Project will lead to improved coastal resources and shoreline management (online article)


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)

Getting their feet wet: Michigan Tech researchers investigate wetland nutrient cycles (online article)


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)