Let’s Talk About Muck

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.

What do we mean when we say muck? Muck is a common term for mats composed of different types of algae, other aquatic plants (macrophytes) and decomposing organic matter that form in the water or wash up on shore.

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.

Because this is a persistent and complex problem, Michigan Sea Grant funded a research team to perform an Integrated Assessment about the muck in Saginaw Bay.



Core Research Question

What are the causes, consequences and possible ways to address the muck problem at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Saginaw Bay, and what is the public perception of this issue?


About the Project

Using the Integrated Assessment (IA) framework, the research team will summarize what is currently known about muck-related conditions at the Bay City State Recreation Area (BCSRA), including the social and economic impacts of muck at the park and on the Saginaw Bay Region as a whole. The project will build off of the five-year Saginaw Bay Multiple Stressors Project that started in 2007 and focused on evaluating different stressors and their effects on Saginaw Bay.

Engaging people who are affected by the muck — the stakeholders — is a priority. The target audience includes key decision makers from local, state, federal and non-government organizations in the region, as well as individuals with an interest in the muck-related issues at the park and in the Bay.

Are you a stakeholder? Learn more about how to become involved.

The team will ask for stakeholder input using a suite of models, interviews, surveys and meetings. The results of the IA will provide stakeholders with a shared understanding of what is currently known about the muck and options for managing the effects of muck.

Ultimately, the assessment will help the research team identify a series of feasible short-term and long-term management actions that could help alleviate and better manage the effects of muck.

To learn more, see the Project Fact Sheet (PDF).