Independently or in teams, IGLR faculty have developed successful research programs through traditional departments exploring the Great Lakes and associated ecosystems. The Institute provides a centralized location for developing collaborations to harness this expertise with a multidisciplinary approach.
Faculty members in the IGLR include nationally and internationally recognized experts on:
Gulls at Great Lakes beaches impair water quality and are an emerging public health and economic issue for coastal communities. This project will implement border collies as a cost-effective, public-friendly gull exclusion tool that will reduce beach closings related to gull-driven microbial impairments to beach quality. Gull exclusion success will be measured as: 1) reduced numbers of gulls in dog treatment beach zones; 2) reduced levels of E. coli and zoonotic pathogens in dog-treatment beach zones; and 3) reduced numbers of gull-related complaints that beach managers receive.
Evaluating environmental DNA detection alongside standard fish sampling in Great Lakes coastal wetland monitoring, 2010
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment
Collaborating with lead scientists from the University of Notre Dame and with the new EPA project above, Dr. Don Uzarski will participate in fish monitoring in the littoral zone of the Great Lakes, a critical part of ongoing efforts to improve Great Lakes health, restore coastal areas, and manage invasive species 1-3.
Find out more >>
In fact, the U.S. EPA, as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, plans to distribute over $10,000,000 over the next five years to implement a comprehensive basin-wide coastal wetland monitoring program. The importance of ecosystem monitoring has also been emphasized in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy and through the development of State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC) indicators. While nearly all ecological monitoring programs currently rely on capture or observation of live organisms, recent developments in environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to detect aquatic macro-organisms 4, 5 indicate that this genetic approach may greatly enhance monitoring programs. The emerging value of eDNA monitoring lies in its high sensitivity, ease of sample collection, and rapid and accurate species identification 6-8. However, eDNA methods have yet to be tested in the framework of a large-scale, multi-species monitoring program - the framework in which such methods may prove most valuable. The seed project proposed here will provide critical preliminary information necessary to develop a comprehensive study of the efficacy and efficiency of eDNA monitoring in Great Lakes coastal habitats.
eDNA is the genetic material from living organisms that can be detected by sampling the non-living environment. eDNA monitoring involves collecting water and extracting any DNA it contains, then identifying this DNA to species using standard genetic techniques. eDNA comes from cellular material that organisms shed into the environment. As this material diffuses in water, it expands the area and time window that can be sampled to detect an organism’s presence. Recently, eDNA from water has been used for targeted detection of aquatic invasive species at low densities 4, including Asian carp invading toward the Great Lakes via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal 5. Its application for larger-scale aquatic monitoring programs is particularly promising because eDNA sample collection and genetic assays are so scalable – many species can be detected from a single water sample. As the number of sites or target species increases, economies of scale in genetic identification also provide substantial time- and cost-savings. Finally, with the advent of single molecule real time DNA sequencing 9, genetic monitoring costs are projected to decrease drastically 10, 11.
In the seed project proposed here, we will leverage data from an ongoing coastal wetland fish monitoring program on Lakes Michigan and Huron to compare eDNA methods with fish abundances determined using standard methods. Testing the performance of eDNA methods in the framework of an existing large-scale, multi-species monitoring program will address several critical uncertainties about their benefit to Great Lakes coastal monitoring. Specifically:
- Do eDNA methods consistently detect fish when they are detected by standard sampling?
- Do eDNA methods detect fish that were not detected by standard sampling?
- Does the abundance of a species’ eDNA correlate with its abundance in standard sampling?
IUGLS Ecosystems Study Area Working Group: Investigating the Effects of Changes in Lake Level on Coastal Ecosystems, 2010
University of Minnesota ($300,004)
A team of highly experienced Great Lakes researchers will investigate effects of changes in lake water level on coastal ecosystems at all sites listed as ‘sites of interest’ by the IUGLS Environmental Technical Working Group.
Find out more >>
These researchers have years of data from Upper Great Lakes coastal ecosystems and will work collaboratively to explore relationships between water levels and biota. Several researchers (Meeker, Steinman, Wilcox) have been involved in previous studies of the effects of water level changes on coastal or wetland ecosystems.
Water level effects study team members and the datasets available for analysis
Team Affiliation Datasets
Dr. Valerie Brady, NRRI, UMD Saginaw Bay coastal wetlands, intensive
Macroinvertebrate, habitat data at multiple UGL sites
Dr. Don Uzarski, CMU, Multiple UGL wetland sites, extensive data
Dr. Gerald Niemi, NRRI, UMD Bird, habitat data at multiple UGL sites
Dr. Robert Howe, UW Green Bay, Bird, habitat data at multiple UGL sites
Dr. Lucinda Johnson, NRRI, UMD Fish, habitat data at multiple UGL sites
Nipigon Bay, extensive and intensive
Dr. Dennis Albert, Oregon St. U, Multiple UGL wetland sites, extensive
Dr. James Meeker, Northland College, Extensive Lake Superior site data
Water level effects in Voyagers National Park
Dr. Al Steinman, Annis Water Resources Inst., GVSU Lake Michigan drowned river mouths, extensive
Dr. Doug Wilcox, SUNY Brockport, Vegetation data at multiple UGL wetland sites, extensive
Dr. Terry Brown, NRRI, UMD GIS and aerial photographic data for the UGL
Dr. Euan Reavie, NRRI, UMD Diatom and algal data at multiple UGL sites
Team members bring a large number of datasets to this effort. These include datasets from the large sampling efforts encompassed by the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI) project (Niemi, Brady, Brown, Howe, Johnson, Reavie), and the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium (Uzarski, Steinman, Wilcox). GLEI data were collected during one to two visits to multiple coastal sites across the U.S. Great Lakes. Site types included coastal wetlands, coastal uplands, shallow nearshore high energy zones, and embayments. Data were collected on birds, amphibians, fish, macroinvertebrates, vegetation/macrophytes, algae/diatoms, water quality, water depth, sediment composition, human influences, and a variety of additional habitat descriptors. Data are available for 50-200 sites, depending on the particular biota and ecological processes.
Population Trajectory Improvement for At Risk Freshwater Mussels in the Great Lakes Watershed, 2010-2011
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species – GLRI funding ($214,252)
Dr. Daelyn Woolnough and Dr. Dave Zanatta are developing host fish testing and propagation facilities for state and federally endangered freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) at Central Michigan University (CMU).
Find out more >>
Specifically, they are targeting federally endangered Northern Riffleshell and Clubshell and federal candidates Rayed Bean and Snuffbox in Michigan and the Great Lakes watershed. We will also target Michigan state Threatened and Endangered species [e.g., Wavyrayed Lampmussel, Eastern Pondmussel, Round Hickorynut, and others]. All of these species are considered globally rare or imperiled. This would include species-specific searches of streams and coastal refuges in the Great Lakes watershed for gravid females of these species. Host fish testing and propagation would occur in temperature controlled Aquatic Habitat (AHAB) units as was previously used with success by Dr. Woolnough at the first Canadian facility of this kind at the University of Guelph (Canada). This facility will provide brood stock of these imperiled species for future management, augmentation at current sites and augmentation at historic sites throughout the State of Michigan, the Great Lakes states, and potentially internationally.
- Development of host fish testing and propagation facility for imperiled freshwater mussels in the Great Lakes Watershed.
- Propagate brood stock for state and federally listed freshwater mussels.
- Provide invasive species-free laboratory and habitat facilities for state and federally-listed freshwater mussels grow-out opportunities.
- Augment and reintroduce imperiled freshwater mussels to Great Lakes watershed rivers using genetically sound methods and monitor success.
Conservation of native freshwater mussel refuges in Great Lakes coastal zones,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act ($381,168)
In order to determine if existing freshwater mussel populations need additional management efforts to prevent inbreeding, Dr. David Zanatta and other researchers will sample unionids in 23 known refuges in the lower Great Lakes and in addition investigate several possible refuges.
Find out more >>
Freshwater mussels (Unionidae) are often considered ideal sentinel organisms for degradation or improvement of aquatic systems and overall aquatic biodiversity given their sensitivities to habitat changes and their lifecycle dependence on host fish populations. Freshwater mussels have become the most imperiled faunal group in North America as a result of human impacts such as overharvest, pollution, impoundment of rivers, and the introduction of exotic species. The diverse native mussel communities have declined sharply since the introduction of dreissenid mussels into the Laurentian Great Lakes in the late-1980s. However, there have been several locales identified as refuges in coastal and nearshore areas. Although, these have existed with the ongoing threat of dreissenid mussels in nearby offshore waters for over 20 years, the long-term survival of unionids in these habitats remains in question. How unionids survive in these habitats is being studied, but we still do not know the key habitat characteristics of these refuges or how many species and populations remain in the Great Lakes. Moreover, another major issue that has (as yet) been overlooked for the Great Lakes, specifically: within site genetic diversity/ between site gene flow. Genetic analyses are needed to determine if existing populations need additional management efforts to prevent inbreeding. We propose to sample unionids in 23 known refuges in the lower Great Lakes and in addition investigate several possible refuges. We will examine their genetic diversity/isolation to determine if there is gene flow between coastal refuges and nearby riverine habitats. This information will help managers develop conservation strategies to sustain existing populations in these refuges. Second, we will sample key habitat attributes in these refuges to develop predictive models. This will provide managers with information to locate and protect additional unionid refuges and also to manage sites to promote unionid colonization and survival. We will also make management recommendations to agencies responsible for conservation of coastal zones and recovery of listed (Endangered and Threatened) species. Finally, this expansive project will train undergraduate and graduate students, thereby creating a cadre of future scientists and managers who will work to protect this imperiled resource.
Dr. D. Zanatta (Principal Applicant), Central Michigan University
Dr. L. Burlakova, Buffalo State College
Dr. A. Karatayev, Buffalo State College
Dr. R. Krebs, Cleveland State University
Dr. M. Hoggarth, Otterbein College
Dr. F. A. de Szalay, Kent State University
Dr. J. Bossenbroek, University of Toledo
E. Meyer, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program
M. Walsh, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program
Dr. M. Schlesinger, New York Department of Environmental Conservation
R. Haas, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment
T. Crail, University of Toledo
P. Badra, Michigan Natural Features Inventory
N. Welte, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
L. Holst, New York Department of Environmental Conservation
D. Schloesser, U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center
Monitoring the Status and Trends of Ecosystem Health of Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands: An Intensification of the National Effort, 2010-2012
Environmental Protection Agency/Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment ($319,328)
Dr. Don Uzarski and others intend to implement the EPA’s National Assessment protocols (when finalized and where applicable), in addition to the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Plan developed by the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium (GLCWC) to evaluate the status and trends of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Great Lakes coastal wetlands are extremely unique, and, therefore, are not included in the national assessment.
Find out more >>
- Select 70 study sites using the GLCWC random stratified design.
- Visit selected sites annually to collect physio-chemical, plant, invertebrate, and fish data.
Report on annual status and trends using GLCWC IBIs and relative to past (baseline) data (e.g. Uzarski et al. 2005, 2005)
Quantification of the success and potential impacts of new rock ramp fish passages in the Saginaw Bay watershed
2011-2013 Great Lakes Fishery Trust ($257,430)
Dr. Brent Murry and others are evaluating the effectiveness of new rock ramp fish passages to achieve their desired conservation goals. Dam removals and construction of fish passages are rapidly becoming dominant initiatives associated with Great Lakes’ fishery and ecosystem restoration. Rigorous scientific assessment of whether or not fish passages are meeting their intended conservation are, however, lacking in the Great Lakes region. Our project will: 1) evaluate the success of a recently built (Shiawassee River) and a pending (Cass River) rock ramp fish passages at increasing upstream fish movement and reproductive success, and 2) evaluate changes to existing fish assemblages upstream and downstream of the dam as a result of fish movements.
Find out more >>
The ultimate goal of a rock ramp fish passage is to increase ecosystem connectivity and increase availability of habitat for fishes to complete their life cycles while allowing for the continuance of an impoundment with social value. Walleye, suckers, and lake sturgeon (among other species) migrate far inland from the Great Lakes each year to spawn in tributary habitats. In most cases the optimal habitat is blocked by dams and other barriers. The Shiawassee River fish passage (completed in summer 2009) in Chesaning opened 37 miles of previously unavailable habitat, and the pending Cass River rock ramp (anticipated completion September 2012) will open an additional 75 miles of river, provided that walleye (and other fishes) are, in fact, able to successfully pass the structure. There have been several other efforts of differing designs to pass walleye beyond existing dams but with little success.
Re-establishing hydrologic connectivity and subsequent fish movement between upstream and downstream reaches is also expected to alter fish distribution and biodiversity patterns. Many of the region’s dams have been in place since the mid-1800’s resulting in isolated upstream and downstream communities. Upstream communities have developed in the absence of “lake-run” fish and have higher diversity owing to greater abundance of small-bodied fishes such as cyprinids and darters, whereas downstream reaches are dominated by large-bodied piscivores and detrivores. Changes in fish distributions due to movement across the rock ramp could increase biodiversity across the system as a whole as the two separate assemblages merge or may potentially decrease upstream diversity due to increased predation pressure. We will examine changes in fish community composition and relative abundance above and below dams/ramps.
Dr. Brent Murry (lead PI), Central Michigan University
Dr. Tracy Galarowicz (co-PI), Central Michigan University
Dr. Daelyn Woolnough (co-PI), Central Michigan University
Dr. Donald Uzarski (co-PI), Central Michigan University
Dr. Daniel Hayes (co-PI), Michigan State University
David Reynolds (MS student), Central Michigan University
Jacob Stoller (MS student), Michigan State University
Andrea Ania and James Boase (collaborators), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jim Baker and Joe Leonardi (collaborators), Michigan Department of Natural Resources