Current Projects

The following projects have been selected to receive support from Michigan Sea Grant. The research will be completed between 2016 and 2018. Learn more about the current request for research proposals, which will support projects in the 2018-2020 funding cycle. 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


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 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)


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)

Previous projects: 2014-2016


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)