Current Projects

The following projects have been selected to receive support from Michigan Sea Grant. The research will be completed between 2018 and 2020. The next request for research proposals will support projects in the 2020-2022 funding cycle. Do you have an idea for a project? Send suggestions to Catherine Riseng, Research Program Director, at criseng@umich.edu.

For information on prior projects, see: Research Themes

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 project investigator: Tiffany Schriever, Western Michigan University


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


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


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

What 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


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


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


2016-2018

Spring Lake IA, rain garden (Integrated Assessment) Stormwater management, potentially toxic cyanobacteria blooms, algea

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 Project Investigator: Don Carpenter, Lawrence Technological University


Cisco_adjusted

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 Project Investigator: Sara Adlerstein, University of Michigan


DTE Energy soft engineering project, Detroit River. Next to Belanger Park

Economic Effects of AOC 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 US 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 Project Investigator: Michael Moore, University of Michigan

Project Overview (PDF)


MeasuringSL_cropped

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)


HABs Image

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 Project Investigator: Kevin Pangle, Central Michigan University

Project Overview (Journal Article, PDF)