Teachers: GLEP Registration Open

Event Date: 4/23/2018
End Date: 6/15/2018

Award-winning program advances Great Lakes literacy and stewardship among K-12 students throughout southeast Michigan.

Teachers: Register now for the 2018 Great Lakes Education Program and think spring!

The Great Lakes Education Program begins its 28th year of classroom and vessel-based education in April. More than 3,400 teachers have joined the program on the water over those years.

GLEP education provides teachers and students with an award-winning learning opportunity that includes classroom, vessel-based and shoreside education. Students are the future stewards of our incredible Great Lakes, and this is an effective and memorable way to engage them in both learning about the lakes and in developing a personal sense of stewardship. We share a common ownership of and stewardship responsibility for the lakes. Teachers can register their class to participate and help students understand how important the Great Lakes are in Michigan.

Helps meet science standards

The program helps teachers meet Michigan’s Grade Level Content ExpectationsMichigan K-12 Science Standards, and the regional Great Lakes Literacy principles. Not to mention that 95 percent of students report they felt more knowledgeable about Great Lakes science after participating.

More than 115,000 students and adults have joined the program and learned more about the Great Lakes since 1991. Designed as a collaborative effort of  Michigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea Grant, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes Education Program provides students, their teachers and adult chaperones with an unforgettable on-the-water learning experience. With locations on both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, it is easy for schools throughout southeast Michigan to participate.

Register now

Registration is now open for the spring 2018 Great Lakes Education Program season, which runs from mid-April through mid-June. For more complete information on the program, the spring season calendar, locations, cost, and how to register go to the Great Lakes Education Program website.

Ottawa County Water Quality Forum

Event Date: 11/30/2017

Twelfth Annual – November 30, 2017

8:30 a.m. (Check-in at 8 a.m.)

Topics Include:

  • Ground Water Study Update
  • The Hiawatha Drain and its Partnerships
  • Status Update on Spring Lake Internal Phosphorus Loading
  • Regional Water Infrastructure Pilot Study
  • Macatawa Watershed E. coli Levels and Population Genomics
  • Impacts of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on Water Quality
  • Historical and Projected Future Climatic Trends in the Great Lakes Region
  • Project Clarity Update
  • Bass River Deer Creek Project Update
  • Teaching for the Watershed: No Child Left Outside of Waders
  • Aquatic Invasive Plant Species 
  • Asian Carp Prevention and the Brandon Road Study


Ottawa County Administrative Office
Main Conference Room
12220 Fillmore Street
West Olive, Michigan

Students team up with Michigan Sea Grant to protect native fish

A threatened fish called the River Redhorse is the latest subject of the Native Fish Heroes poster series.

The River Redhorse suffers from a case of mistaken identity. Even though it is a native fish that requires clean flowing rivers, many people mistake the River Redhorse for invasive carp or other native suckers that can tolerate polluted water. In fact, the River Redhorse is listed as a threatened species in Michigan and is only found in a handful of large, rocky rivers.

Students participating in the Lakeshore Environmental Education Program (LEEP) at Walden Green Montessori School in Ferrysburg had a chance to get to know the River Redhorse this spring. They learned how to identify closely-related species and teamed up with Michigan Sea Grant to teach others why the River Redhorse is so rare.

Guilt by association

The River Redhorse is one of six species of redhorse sucker living in Michigan waters. Some of the other species are very common, and fishing regulations allow for unlimited harvest of other sucker species using a variety of gear including spears, bows and arrows, certain types of nets, and hook-and-line. Suckers are bony but very good to eat when canned or ground. Unfortunately, the River Redhorse is easily mistaken for other species and is sometimes harvested along with other sucker species.

Worse yet, some people mistakenly believe River Redhorse are a harmful or invasive species. They get to be fairly big (over 30 inches long) and could be confused with invasive common carp. Perhaps this is one reason why River Redhorse are sometimes left on the bank to rot.

River Redhorse need clean-swept rocky areas to spawn. Many large rivers suffer from pollution in the form of silt and sand that washes in from eroding banks, city streets, and agricultural land. This “nonpoint source” pollution can smother eggs and also harms native filter-feeding mussels. The River Redhorse feeds heavily on native mussels, and the decline of mussels in many areas of the eastern United States may be one reason for the rarity of River Redhorse.

Big rivers are also subject to development for flood control, navigation, and hydro power.  Channelization removes important shallow-water spawning area and dams restrict the movement of fish. This can block River Redhorse from reaching historic spawning grounds, but some dams also restrict the movement of harmful invasive species.

Even though River Redhorse are not common anywhere, there are three Michigan river systems that still provide good habitat and support breeding populations: the Muskegon River, St. Joseph River, and Grand River.

Students at Walden Green attend school near the mouth of the Grand River, one of the last places in Michigan to find River Redhorse. By highlighting threats and suggesting ways that people can help to keep our rivers clean, the students hope to help protect this local treasure. They even came up with a “Rockin’ River Redhorse” theme poster, which emphasizes the fish’s need for clean, rocky habitat.

The River Redhorse poster is the second in Michigan Sea Grant’s Native Fish Heroes poster series. The Lake Sturgeon was the first poster created, and other teachers around Michigan have expressed interest in tackling Cisco, Smallmouth Bass, and Burbot. If you teach at a K-12 school and have a local connection to one of our fascinating native fish species, contact Michigan Sea Grant for additional details.

Download poster Big rivers, big problems

Fishing for Drum

Event Date: 6/17/2017

June 17, 2017, 8:00 am-10:00 am

Location: Historic Ottawa Beach Parks, Black Lake Boardwalk-West

Learn to catch big fish from shore! The freshwater drum is a hard-fighting native fish that eats invasive species like zebra mussels and round gobies. Also known as “sheephead”, the drum is related to prized saltwater species like redfish and seatrout.

Michigan Sea Grant Fisheries Biologist and Educator, Dan O’Keefe will lead participants in learning drum biology and how to catch them! Additionally, you’ll learn how to clean and cook this tasty fish.

Bring your own fishing equipment and a valid Michigan fishing license (youth under 17 years of age do not need a license). A limited number of loaner rods will be available if you do not have your own. You may also wish to bring sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, and bottled water.

Hiring On-Call Sea Grant Support Staff

Event Date: 5/8/2017
End Date: 6/1/2017

Position Description

Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension are pleased to announce the availability of an on-call position beginning July 1, 2017.

The successful applicant will work as part of a team planning, organizing, implementing, and evaluating Sea Grant Extension Programming in coastal and Great Lakes communities. This position will include work on citizen science programs such as the Great Lakes Angler Diary, assistance planning for events including Regional Fisheries Workshops and the National Working Waterfronts Symposium, and work on educational materials including the Introduction to the Great Lakes online course. The successful applicant will interact with Sea Grant partners at the federal, state and local levels including anglers who volunteer for citizen science programs and natural resource professionals specializing in Great Lakes and coastal issues.

This position is located in West Olive in the Ottawa County MSU Extension office. 

Major Responsibilities

  • Assist three Sea Grant Extension Educators with secretarial support, data entry, management of e-mail lists, development of educational materials, and other duties related to program coordination, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Communicate with volunteers, natural resource professionals, and other stakeholders by phone, e-mail, and social media.
  • Other duties as assigned.



  • Strong writing, editing, data entry, and communication skills.
  • Proficiency with Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.
  • Demonstrated interest in Great Lakes issues, fisheries management, or coastal communities.
  • Ability to work independently and budget time efficiently.


  • Experience working with software including but not limited to Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp, Adobe Creative Suite, Excel, Word and social media platforms.
  • Undergraduate coursework in fisheries management.
  • Ability to travel throughout the state.

Hours & Compensation

  • Approximately 12 hours/week on average and no more than 19 hours in any given week.
  • Some evenings and weekends required; occasional travel.
  • $13-15/hour depending on qualifications.
  • Travel expenses provided when required to perform work duties.

To Apply:  Send cover letter, unofficial transcripts, and resume to Dr. Dan O’Keefe, okeefed@msu.edu, by June 1, 2017.

About Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU) and is part of the National Sea Grant College Program. Michigan Sea Grant supports research, education and outreach projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of Great Lakes resources. Sea Grant also supports extension educators located in coastal communities. These extension educators work within the MSU Extension system which includes offices and staff across the state dedicated to bringing the knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities, and businesses.  

2017 Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/14/2017

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant invite you to attend the 2017 Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop. The workshop will include presentations on Lake Michigan’s plankton problems, tribal fishing, salmon and trout tagging program and more. Presentations by MSU’s Quantitative Fisheries Center will include “Lake Michigan Fisheries Models: Where are we going, where have we been,” and “Should we treat Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as one lake?” An interactive computer modeling exercise will help the audience see how computer simulation works and provide feedback. See the full workshop agenda.

The workshop is $30 and includes lunch.

To register by phone, contact Cara at (231) 843-5825 or via email at cemitchell@westshore.edu.
Payment can be made the day of the event, reservations are required. Deadline to register has been extended to January 7, 2017.

Date: January 14, 2017
Time: 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Location: West Shore Community College, Administration and Conference Building, 3000 North Stiles Road, Scottville, MI 49454
Contact: Cara at (231) 843-5825 or via email at cemitchell@westshore.edu

Sea Grant 50th Anniversary: Celebrating the work of our Extension educators

Bringing stakeholders together is an important part of Sea Grant’s mission, says Dan O’Keefe

Dan O'Keefe talks about Salmon

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Dan O’Keefe explains how to fillet a fish to campers at the 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

In 2016, the National Sea Grant College Program celebrates 50 years of putting science to work for America’s coastal communities.

Our Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators live and work in coastal communities around Michigan. We celebrate their hard work and take this opportunity to introduce each of them during this anniversary year.

Dan O’Keefe is located in Ottawa County and serves eight counties along the coast of Lake Michigan. He has been an Extension educator for nine years. Dan graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s of science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. He received his master’s in biology at Central Michigan University and his doctorate in Wildlife and Fisheries from Mississippi State University.

What made you decide to be an Extension educator?

I have always enjoyed teaching, so the idea of being an educator was naturally appealing. My previous work in fisheries research also convinced me that education is a critical component of natural resource management. Natural resources are managed by government agencies that act on behalf of the public. If people are not well-informed they can influence management decisions in ways that are actually against their own interests in the long run.

How has Michigan Sea Grant made a difference to Great Lakes fishing?

We have been involved in aquatic invasive species education and prevention, documenting the economic impact of fishing-related industries, and development of new ways to market commercially caught Great Lakes fish. We have also partnered with other groups to restore spawning reefs, bring surface temperature maps to big lake anglers, and improve the design of fishing access sites. In recent years, Sea Grant has been instrumental in citizen science projects that enable anglers to collect data on Lake Huron fish diet and the prevalence of wild salmon in Lake Michigan.

I think the most important aspect of our work is less obvious, though. Over the past few decades, Michigan Sea Grant has worked to bring anglers, fisheries biologists, coastal community leaders, and lake managers together. The results are not always clear-cut, but the goal is to arrive at resource management decisions that are both socially acceptable and based on sound science. Meetings and surveys leading up to the 2012 decision to reduce Chinook salmon stocking were a good example of this. Support for the 50 percent stocking cut was nearly unanimous because of good public process, educational efforts, and the sound scientific basis for the cut.

What challenges does your area of the state face as you look to the future?

Last year, recreational harvest of Lake Michigan fish was the lowest it has been since coordinated recording began in 1985. Coastal communities are very concerned that tourism could fall off sharply if fishing continues to decline.

How will you and Michigan Sea Grant help?

I have been involved in studying the reasons for the decline of fishing-related tourism after the collapse of Lake Huron’s salmon fishery, and that experience has much to teach us now that Lake Michigan is facing a similar (but not identical) situation. I think that we may be able to avoid a collapse on Lake Michigan, but we need a good collaborative decision-making process to involve anglers and other stakeholders in making difficult choices related to the future of the fishery.

Sea Grant has always encouraged people to take a big-picture view of issues that have social, economic, and biological aspects. In the case of Lake Michigan, we must begin to manage multiple fish species in a more coordinated manner. This is much more difficult from a technical standpoint than single-species management, and it will also be more difficult in terms of stakeholder engagement.

Do you have any advice for students who might want to pursue a career with an environmental focus?

Don’t expect other people to do things that are not in their own self-interest. Many students prepare for careers in conservation, environmental protection, or natural resource management because of their desire to create a more sustainable world. To be successful, it is important to accept other people where they are at and address them in ways that respect their value systems.


Sea Grant is a federal-state partnership that turns research into action by supporting science-based, environmentally sustainable practices that ensure coastal communities remain engines of economic growth in a rapidly changing world. There are 33 programs across the country working to help build and grow innovative businesses along America’s oceans and Great Lakes, protect against environmental destruction and natural disasters, and train the next generation of leaders.

Established in 1969, Michigan Sea Grant, is a collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We offer research, education and community outreach on topics such as aquatic invasive species, coastal development, commercial and sports fishing, and environmental stewardship for youth.

Lake Michigan Fisheries Workshop, South Haven

Event Date: 4/21/2016

Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2016
Time: 7:00 P.M. – 9:30 P.M.
Where: South Haven Moose Lodge
1025 Wells Street
South Haven, MI 49090

This workshop is provided free of charge and no registration is necessary.

Hosted by the South Haven Steelheaders, a Chapter of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fisherman’s Association

7:00 – 7:10
Welcome from South Haven Steelheaders and Chapter Business
Tim Stegeman – President, South Haven Steelheaders

7:10 – 7:20
Introductions and Michigan Sea Grant Update
Dan O’Keefe – Extension Educator, Michigan Sea Grant

7:20 – 7:50
Status and Trends of Prey Fish in Lake Michigan
Chuck Madenjian – Research Fishery Biologist, USGS Great Lakes Science Center

7:50 – 8:20
Mass Marking of Great Lakes Chinook Salmon and Lake Trout
Charles Bronte – Senior Fishery Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

8:20 – 8:40
Salmon Ambassadors Program and Great Lakes Angler Diary App
Dan O’Keefe – Extension Educator, Michigan Sea Grant

8:40 – 8:50

8:50 – 9:30
Management Updates and Development of a Lake Michigan Management Plan
Jay Wesley – Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator, Michigan DNR

If you have questions about the program, contact Dan O’Keefe at (616) 994-4572 or okeefed@msu.edu.

Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/9/2016

The Lake Michigan fishery has been changing dramatically in recent years. The annual Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop features presentations by scientists who work to understand how ecosystem changes affect salmon and trout. This year’s workshop will feature a presentation on the Great Lakes Mass Marking Program from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Mass marking of stocked Chinook salmon and lake trout is now providing a greater understanding of when and where stocked and wild fish contribute to fisheries.

A unique feature of this year’s workshop will be a facilitated discussion led by Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The discussion will utilize an audience response system and Q & A to help fishery managers understand what charter captains, anglers, and conservationists would like to see in a Lake Michigan Management Plan.

Invasive red swamp crayfish found in Holland

Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus_clarkii credit Mike Murphy

Red Swamp Crayfish, Photo: Mike Murphy

The remains of invasive crayfish were found at a popular fishing site on Lake Macatawa

Native crayfish don’t get much attention in the world of aquatic science. In fact, the last comprehensive survey of crayfish in Michigan waters was conducted in 1975. The underwater world has changed a lot since then, in large part due to the arrival of invasive species like the rusty crayfish. Dr. Brian Roth with Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is leading a project in collaboration with the Michigan DNR-Fisheries Division that will map the current distribution of both native and invasive crayfish species.

In addition to the mapping component, Dr. Roth and graduate student Kelley Smith are also working on a risk assessment for another invader that has never been found alive in Michigan waters. The red swamp crayfish is an incredibly hardy and destructive pest that also happens to taste great. Although the red swamp crayfish is native to the southern U.S., invasive populations have invaded coldwater streams in Germany and would likely flourish in many habitats in the Great Lakes region.

A sampling crew led by Smith was working on Lake Macatawa in Holland, Michigan, last month when the two components of the crayfish project came together. While taking a break from crayfish trapping, Smith decided to walk along a boardwalk and look for evidence of red swamp crayfish.

Two years ago, conservation officers with Michigan Department of Natural Resources noticed some anglers on Lake Macatawa and the lower Grand River were using red swamp crayfish as bait. In 2013, it was illegal to transport live crayfish into Michigan for use as bait, but loopholes remained.

crayfishposterThe red swamp crayfish is widely available from southern fish farms and they are sold alive by food markets, pet stores, and biological suppliers. Anglers had evidently been buying crayfish intended for food or other uses, and then using them as bait. State law was changed in 2014 to prohibit possession of live red swamp crayfish, regardless of intended use.

Unfortunately, they are still being used as bait. Smith found the remains of several dead red swamp crayfish at Kollen Park in Holland on June 26, 2015. Although it is possible that anglers had purchased dead crayfish, it is also possible that they were purchased alive. Both the MSU crew and Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducted additional sampling in Lake Macatawa and the lower Grand River in response to the finding. To date, no live red swamp crayfish have been captured.

This is a good thing, because the red swamp crayfish is nearly impossible to get rid of once they establish breeding populations. They are able to move over land and construct burrows where they can evade even the most aggressive aquatic chemical controls. In fact, they are so hardy that they can survive in some wastewater treatment facilities after being flushed down the toilet.

To protect Michigan waters from the red swamp crayfish and other invaders, Michigan State University Extension recommends contacting a pet retailer or veterinarian regarding proper euthanasia and disposal of unwanted pets. Unwanted aquarium plants should be placed in sealed plastic bags before disposing in the trash. Unused live bait should also be disposed in the trash and never released into the wild. Report red swamp crayfish sightings and send photos to the DNR-Fisheries Division’s Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator (Seth Herbst,Herbsts1@michigan.gov) or by using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). If you find live red swamp crayfish being offered for sale in Michigan, contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline (800) 292-7800.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.