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.

Meet our scientists and explore their work

Sandra Mclellan: Bacterial genetics, fecal pollution, fate and transport of bacteria, pathogens in the environment, beach closings

Rebecca Klaper: Genomics, emerging contaminants, pharmaceuticals, nanomaterials, toxicology, nantoxicology, ecology, biomarkers, water policy

Michael Carvan: Toxicology, toxicogenomics, epigenetics, behavioral toxicology, gene-environment-disease/dysfunction interactions

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.

Meet our scientists and explore their work

Stefan Schnitzer: Plant community ecology/tropical forest ecology; plant species diversity, coexistence, and distribution; negative feedback from soil biota as a mechanism to maintain diversity; disturbances in the maintenance of plant species diversity; tropical and temperate forest dynamics and regeneration; plant competition and facilitation; ecology of lianas (woody vines); effects of terrestrial plant communities on freshwater ecosystems

James Waples: Biogeochemistry, carbon cycling, radiochemistry

Jerry Kaster: Function and evolution of freshwater and marine invertebrates

John Janssen: Fisheries ecology, biological oceanography

Laodong Guo: Biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, colloids and nanparticles, stable isotopes, radionuclides, environmental change

Tim Grundl: Groundwater chemistry, contaminant transport and degradation, environmental tracers

Russell Cuhel: Microbiogeochemical ecophysiology, physical-chemical-biological coupling, time series analysis, hydrothermal vents, lithotrophy

Harvey Bootsma: Tropical limnology, nutrient cycling, food webs, carbon dynamics

Carmen Aguilar: Effects of invasive species on food web interactions and ecophysiology

Paul Roebber: Air-water interactions, synoptic-dynamic and mesoscale meteorology, numerical modeling, data analysis

J. Val Klump: Biogeochemsitry, limnology, radiochemistry, nutrient and carbon cycling, observing systems

Freshwater Technology
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.

Meet our scientists and explore their work

Matthew Smith: Instrumentation and sensor development, automation of molecular biological methods, in situ chemical and biological detection in aqueous environments

Osvaldo Jhonatan Sepulveda Villet: Molecular ecology, population genetics, aquaculture techniques, Great Lakes biotics and abiotics

Fred Binkowski: Fisheries biology, lake sturgeon biology, early life history of Great Lakes fishes, aquaculture, urban aquaculture

David Garman: Environmental management from water resources and pollution control through to new environmental technologies, covering all aspects of measurement,management policy and strategic analysis

Thomas Consi: Marine robotics, marine scientific instrumentation, engineering education

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.

Meet our scientists and explore their work

Jenny Kehl: Water security, water policy, political economy, resolution of issues related to water extraction and resource allocation, and transboundary water governance.

Ramiro Berardo: Political science, cooperation and coordination in water policy networks, water resources management, and social capital.

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.


Explore freshwater systems and develop methods for their preservation and management.

Study the impacts of climate change, human activity, and invasive species on the Great Lakes and freshwater ecosystems worldwide.

Improve water safety through cutting-edge research.

Track the presence and sources of pathogens and determine the impacts of contaminants on human and ecosystem health.

Form collaborations among scientists, engineers, and industry to develop cutting-edge sensor, genomic, robotic, and aquaculture technologies.

Manage, replace, and restore the Great Lakes’ commercial and recreational fisheries.

Uncover new techniques in fisheries management and develop innovative food technologies to spawn a new urban aquaculture industry.

Link science to action and develop transformational policies on topics including trans-boundary water issues, dispute resolution, and adaptive environmental management.

Drive new technologies in water research and management.

Generate strong policy from great science.