Current Projects

The following projects have been selected to receive support from Michigan Sea Grant. Do you have an idea for a project? Follow Michigan Sea Grant on social media or join our mailing list for details about upcoming requests for proposals.



Assessing blue gentrification in Michigan’s coastal communities

Blue gentrification poses a significant challenge for coastal communities in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. This emerging issue involves the displacement of long-term residents near water bodies due to physical and cultural changes. This project aims to assess the extent of blue gentrification from 2006 to 2020, identify its driving forces, and develop policy and strategies to address it. By combining geospatial analysis, surveys, and interviews, the project team will evaluate the effects of waterfront revitalization projects and vacation rentals on gentrification. Outputs from this work will include an interactive tool, webinars, a policy brief, and local activities. A team including researchers, NGO experts, and educators, will seek to promote sustainable and equitable blue economies along Michigan’s coastline, addressing residential displacement, and advancing justice and inclusion.

Lead Principal Investigator: Joshua P. Newell, University of Michigan

Project overview (PDF)

An Ecosystem-Scale Approach to Understanding Changing Winters in the Great Lakes

The Laurentian Great Lakes are the world’s largest reservoir of freshwater; unfortunately, this valuable resource is being affected by multiple interacting stressors, many of which are related to climate change. Winter limnology represents a major gap in our understanding of the lakes’ responses to a changing climate, hampering our ability to manage these systems for resiliency. This research will use a networked science approach to conduct synchronous, standardized sampling across the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair to assess chemical, physical, and biological limnological aspects of these systems during winter. Using a networked approach will allow the team to achieve broad spatial coverage to put winter conditions and ecology in context and facilitate predictions of future ecosystem responses to climate change.

Lead Principal Investigator: Trista J. Vick-Majors, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

A Novel Assessment of Lake Trout Growth Sensitivity to Winter and Spring Climate and Possible Interactions with Declining Prey Abundance in Lake Superior

Lake Superior is among the most rapidly warming bodies of water on the planet, yet little is understood regarding how native lake trout have responded to this stressor. This research will use a new approach that looks at year-to-year variation in the growth of fish ear stones. Scientists can use the width of these stones to measure the growth of a fish in a given year and compare it with climatic variation in that same year to determine, over decades, how climate variables regulate growth. Because lake trout are a long-lived species, growth climate sensitivity can be assessed over decades; researchers will look at data from 1980 to 2022. Results from this research will improve understanding of lake trout population dynamics and provide valuable information to fisheries managers, helping to boost the economy and culture of coastal towns and communities they support.

Lead Principal Investigator: Steven Voelker, Michigan Technological University

Project overview (PDF)

Michigan the Beautiful: Great Lakes

Using input from a multi-sector advisory group and robust Tribal engagement, researchers will assess how Michigan’s coastal and Great Lakes waters can contribute to the United Nations “30×30 goal” of ensuring 30% percent of Earth’s land, coast, and open waters are under effective conservation and management by 2030. The project team will analyze the current status of Michigan’s coastal and open Great Lakes waters to determine what areas are and are not protected; identify and evaluate management and policy options to reach the 30×30 goal; and develop tools and information to guide implementation of identified management and policy options.

Lead Principal Investigator: Jennifer Read, University of Michigan Water Center

Project overview (PDF)

Determining Great Lakes invasive carp species susceptibility to emerging viral infections

Invasive aquatic species, particularly invasive carp, threaten Great Lakes ecosystems and regional economies. These carp have already infiltrated water bodies near the Great Lakes, primarily through connections between the Mississippi River basin and Lake Michigan. Their establishment poses a severe challenge because they are difficult to control and eradicate and can cause ecosystem damage. This research will explore the susceptibility of invasive carp species to new and emerging fish viruses circulating in the Great Lakes. These findings will inform management approaches to maintain healthy Great Lakes ecosystems and may contribute to international efforts against aquatic invasive species.

Graduate Research Fellow: Santosh Lamichhane, Michigan State University

Project overview (PDF)

Community Dynamics of Cyanobacteria in Lake Erie: Testing Environmental Drivers of Bloom Succession

This project will investigate how environmental factors influence the shifting array of algae species in Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms. In particular, cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cHABs) pose significant threats to water quality, ecosystems, human health, and coastal communities, particularly in Lake Erie. It’s important to understand how environmental drivers such as water column stratification, nutrient concentrations, and temperature affect which species develop. This study aims to refine forecasting models and aid in the mitigation of cHABs, contributing to broader efforts by federal agencies to manage cHABs in the Great Lakes and assess the impact of environmental policies.

Graduate Research Fellow: Carol Waldmann Rosenbaum, Michigan State University

Project overview (PDF)

Externally funded projects

Developing tools to assess flood risk and mitigation strategies for Great Lakes communities

As climate change fuels stronger and more frequent storms, Great Lakes coastal communities are looking for ways to prepare and adapt to keep their residents and infrastructure safe from floods. In 2023, Michigan Sea Grant received $500,000 in funding from National Sea Grant for a collaborative project that will help improve resilience under future climate change scenarios in disadvantaged coastal communities in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Lead principal investigator: Jeremy Bricker

Project overview (PDF)


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)

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)

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)