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 2015. Do you have an idea for a project? Send suggestions to Catherine Riseng, Research Program Director, at

Sustainable Small Harbor Management Strategy Project

small-harbors-150pxMichigan 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 | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Developing Stable Open Channel Design

Open Channel Design, Macomb CountyThe 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 | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Fostering Great Lakes Literacy

GL Literacy DSC_0019The 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 | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Where People Meet the Muck: Muck in the Saginaw Bay

Saginaw Bay State Recreation AreaIn 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 | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Ongoing Projects

The following projects are ongoing, with final reports expected by late 2014 or early 2015.

Assessing the Torch Lake Area of Concern

Torch Lake, located in the Keweenaw of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was impacted by copper mining from the mid-1800s to the late 1960s. Because of several environmental issues such as fish tumors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed Torch Lake as an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987. After some clean up, the EPA recently reported that there was not enough information available in order to accomplish rapid remediation of the site. The research team will combine existing information with previously untapped information in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the mining and environmental history of the area, to educate and engage stakeholders and to supply material that can be used to help remediate the site where needed.

Project number: R/WQ-4
Noel R. Urban
, Michigan Technological University
Project Web Page | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Projected Climate Changes on the Grand Traverse Bay Region: An Adaptive Management Framework

Great Lakes coastal communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change and variability. The research team will examine the potential risks that climate variability and change could bring to the Grand Traverse area. The project will consist of interactive workshops and technical assessments conducted by an interdisciplinary team from Michigan State University. The team seeks to better inform stakeholders and the scientific community about the vulnerability of the Grand Traverse Bay to climate variability and change, and will begin a process of adaptive management that should ultimately improve the region’s ability to respond to and mitigate the impacts of change.

Project number: R/CCD-23
David Hyndman, Michigan State University
Project Web Page | Fact Sheet (PDF)


Michigan Sea Grant Projects

As part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Michigan Sea Grant was awarded more than $1.5 million to help restore the Great Lakes. The program is leading two projects while assisting on five others. The projects focus on endangered fish, invasive species, beach contamination, water pollution and sound boating and marina operations.

Michigan Sea Grant is leading the following projects:

Restoring Native Fish Habitat in the St. Clair River

Total Funding: $1.04 million over a 2-year period
New underwater reefs were constructed in the St. Clair River order to encourage native fish reproduction, like lake whitefish, walleye and lake sturgeon. Studies before and after construction will allow biologists to evaluate the impact of the work and improve future habitat restoration efforts. The restoration has seen early success and has led to continued restoration efforts and project funding. See: Fish Restoration in the St. Clair River