Current Projects

The following projects have been selected to receive support from Michigan Sea Grant. The research will be completed between 2014 and 2016. The next RFP for research projects will be released in early 2017. Do you have an idea for a project? Send suggestions to Catherine Riseng, Research Program Director, at

For information on prior projects, see: Research Themes



Sustainable Small Harbor Management Strategy Project

Michigan is home to more than 80 public harbors and marinas, run by the state, county or local government. Each year, Great Lakes boating infuses the Michigan economy with nearly $2.4 billion through direct and secondary spending. The trend of fluctuating water levels across the Great Lakes, particularly persistent low water levels in the past 10 years, combined with economic downturn have taken their toll on local waterfront communities. In addition, state and federal funding for public harbors is increasingly limited.

The research team seeks to develop a sustainable small harbor management strategy for Michigan’s coastal communities. The team is hosting charrettes (facilitated community planning sessions) in New Baltimore, Au Gres, Ontonagon and Pentwater. Information on public meetings is available on the project website.

Project number: R/CCD-33
Don Carpenter, Lawrence Technological University
Project Website | Project Overview (PDF)


Where People Meet the Muck: Muck in the Saginaw Bay

In several regions of the Great Lakes, including Saginaw Bay, muck is a problem. It has been blamed for poor water quality and economic losses — and it’s not a new issue. Records of muck in Saginaw Bay go back to the 1960s, but other accounts mention problem muck as far back as the 1920s. The muck in Saginaw Bay is thought to be the result of excess nutrients in the system (for example, phosphorous from fertilizers or sewage from combined sewer overflows), though changes in the food web, particularly those caused by invasive mussels, likely add to the problem.

The research team will explore the causes, consequences and possible ways to address the muck problem at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Saginaw Bay, as well as the public perception of the issue.

Project number: R/SS-2
Donna Kashian, Wayne State University
Project Website | Project Overview (PDF)


Fostering Great Lakes Literacy

The Great Lakes are our most notable and treasured natural resource, providing social, economic and environmental benefits to Michigan and the surrounding region. While most residents have an appreciation for the lakes, public understanding of how they “work” on a scientific and environmental level is often lacking. There is an opportunity to strengthen the role that Great Lakes-related content plays in the state’s K-12 systems. Based on that research and stakeholder input, the team will subsequently make recommendations for enhancing K-12 education in Michigan.

Project number: R/SS-1
Shari L. Dann, Michigan State University
Project Website | Project Overview (PDF)


Developing Stable Open Channel Design

The conventional trapezoidal drain is the main type of drainage ditch in use throughout Michigan. Trapezoidal drains are highly efficient at providing drainage and moving flood flows, but also have a high risk of failure, require more maintenance and contribute to several other problems related to water quality. In contrast, channel design that mimics self-sustaining, natural systems has been shown to improve long-term drain stability and water quality.

The research team will explore if and how the principles of open channel design — a more resilient, natural approach to drainage — can be successfully integrated into existing county drain programs and policies.

Project number: R/CCD-30
Carol J. Miller, Wayne State University
Project Website | Project Overview (PDF)