Our mission is to advance fundamental and strategic science and train the next generation of freshwater professionals to inform policy, improve management, and promote the health and sustainability of freshwater systems worldwide.
Human and Ecosystem Health
Widespread chemical and biological pollution. Invasive species. Intense human activity. Engineered modifications.
These changes have significantly compromised the lakes’ ability to provide the clean water vital to life on our planet. We study freshwater biological and chemical contaminants and pollutants, the effects on indigenous organisms and populations, and the impact on humans who use the water. Scientists use model organisms for environmental disease studies and provide translational research and policy development that fosters ecosystem remediation and restoration for improved public health. We examine health and sustainability of urban coastal communities, aging infrastructure, and impacts of changing climate and demographics.
Freshwater System Dynamics
What makes aquatic ecosystems tick? Why is one lake clear, while another is green with algae? What species of fish, and how many fish, can a lake support? How are the structure and function of aquatic systems affected by invasive species, weather conditions, and land use?
Answers to these questions rely on an understanding of how physical, chemical and biological processes interact. These dynamic processes are studied here by sampling from boats and ships, SCUBA diving, deployment of in situ sensors, laboratory experiments, and computer modeling. Our focus is on the North American Great lakes, but we also work in other lakes and rivers around the world. Our research helps to advance science while guiding the management of aquatic ecosystems.
Exciting advances are happening right here as scientists develop new technologies essential for scientific exploration, observation, monitoring, sampling, and forecasting, as well as for conservation, food production, and water treatment.
Buoy networks that collect data day and night in any weather explore the unknown and finds solutions to the world’s freshwater problems. Robotic systems explore difficult-to-reach surf zones and remote areas, including a 300-pound amphibious robot to study Lake Michigan at new depths. Research in aquaculture focuses on developing new freshwater species such as yellow perch, and on environmentally friendly intensive recirculating systems for the production of freshwater fish species.
Freshwater Policy and Economics
Agriculture and energy. Scarcity and distribution. Transboundary and local disputes. These politically charged issues present important policy challenges.
We transfer scientific knowledge to the public domain, develop strategies and find interdisciplinary solutions for solving freshwater resource problems and conflicts. The Center for Water Policy addresses a growing need for interdisciplinary solutions to freshwater conflicts — conflicts that are becoming more frequent as population growth spurs intense competition over our planet’s precious and finite freshwater resources.
We’re committed to advancing key research priorities
Investment in our research continues to increase, with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and corporate partners.