Michigan Sea Grant funds $1.7M in new research to investigate lake trout, blue gentrification, and more

February 19, 2024
Written By:
Elizabeth Striano, Michigan Sea Grant
Lake Superior's Keweenaw Bay in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Image credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant
Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Image credit: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan Sea Grant is funding six new research projects, totaling nearly $1.7 million, to investigate the shifting dynamics of harmful algal blooms, economic trends in coastal communities, emerging fish viruses, and other issues relevant to the Great Lakes.

Every two years, Michigan Sea Grant requests proposals for projects addressing issues affecting the Great Lakes and Michigan’s coastal areas. Funded projects are selected through a competitive process involving external peer review and advisory panel recommendations.

Starting in early 2024, funded projects will develop information, create tools and build partnerships that will improve decision-making to address particularly challenging coastal issues in the state and fulfill critical research needs for the Great Lakes ecosystems.

“We are funding a strong slate of projects that will provide new knowledge and information to improve management and conservation of our Great Lakes resources,” said Silvia Newell, Michigan Sea Grant director and professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

“As the climate changes and environmental stressors grow, research and science has become increasingly important in protecting our ecosystems and helping communities in Michigan adapt.”

Michigan Sea Grant has selected the following projects for funding in 2024-26:

Assessing blue gentrification in Michigan’s coastal communities. Blue gentrification poses a significant challenge for coastal communities in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. This emerging issue involves the displacement of long-term residents near water bodies due to physical and cultural changes. This project aims to assess the extent of blue gentrification from 2006 to 2020, identify its driving forces, and develop policies and strategies to address it. Researchers will seek to promote sustainable and equitable blue economies along Michigan’s coastline, addressing residential displacement and advancing justice and inclusion. Lead Principal Investigator: Joshua Newell, University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.

An Ecosystem-Scale Approach to Understanding Changing Winters in the Great Lakes. The Laurentian Great Lakes are the world’s largest reservoir of freshwater. Unfortunately, this valuable resource is being affected by multiple interacting stressors, many of which are related to climate change. Winter limnology represents a major gap in our understanding of the lakes’ responses to a changing climate, hampering our ability to manage these systems for resiliency. This research will use a networked science approach to conduct synchronous, standardized sampling across the Great Lakes and Lake St. Clair to put winter conditions and ecology in context and facilitate predictions of future ecosystem responses to climate change. Lead Principal Investigator: Trista Vick-Majors, Michigan Technological University.

A Novel Assessment of Lake Trout Growth Sensitivity to Winter and Spring Climate and Possible Interactions with Declining Prey Abundance in Lake Superior. Rapid warming and ice cover loss have modified the growth of lake trout in Lake Superior. This research will use a new approach that looks at year-to-year variation in the growth of fish ear bones. Scientists can use the width of these bones to measure the growth of a fish in a given year and compare it with climatic variation in that same year to determine, over decades, how climate variables regulate growth using data from 1980 to 2022. Results from this research will improve understanding of lake trout population dynamics and provide valuable information to fisheries managers. Lead Principal Investigator: Steven Voelker, Michigan Technological University.

Michigan the Beautiful: Great Lakes. Using input from a multisector advisory group and robust Tribal engagement, researchers will assess how Michigan’s coastal and Great Lakes waters can contribute to the United Nations’ “30×30” goal of ensuring 30% percent of Earth’s land, coast and open waters are under effective conservation and management by 2030. The project team will analyze the current status of Michigan’s coastal and open Great Lakes waters to determine what areas are and are not protected, identify and evaluate management and policy options to reach the 30×30 goal, and develop tools and information to guide implementation of identified management and policy options. Lead Principal Investigator: Jennifer Read, University of Michigan Water Center.

Determining Great Lakes invasive carp species susceptibility to emerging viral infections. Invasive aquatic species, particularly invasive carp, threaten Great Lakes ecosystems and regional economies. These carp are difficult to control and eradicate and can cause ecosystem damage. This research will explore the susceptibility of invasive carp species to new and emerging fish viruses circulating in the Great Lakes. These findings will inform management approaches to maintain healthy Great Lakes ecosystems and may contribute to international efforts against aquatic invasive species. Graduate Research Fellow: Santosh Lamichhane, Michigan State University.

Community Dynamics of Cyanobacteria in Lake Erie: Testing Environmental Drivers of Bloom Succession. This project will investigate how environmental factors influence the shifting array of algae species in Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms. In particular, cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cHABs) pose significant threats to water quality, ecosystems, human health and coastal communities, particularly in Lake Erie. It’s important to understand how environmental drivers such as water column stratification, nutrient concentrations and temperature affect which species develop. This study aims to refine forecasting models and aid in the mitigation of cHABs, contributing to broader efforts by federal agencies to manage cHABs in the Great Lakes and assess the impact of environmental policies. Graduate Research Fellow: Carol Waldmann Rosenbaum, Michigan State University.

Michigan Sea Grant projects often include extensive partner and community engagement to address important ecological and socioeconomic issues within the Great Lakes and to inform planning, policy and natural resource management. Graduate Student Fellowships support graduate students and help develop the next generation of scientists and resource managers.

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It supports research, education and outreach designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of Great Lakes resources.

More about the newly funded research projects