Great Lakes Region

Current projects | Completed projects

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative requires oversight, monitoring, assessment, and coordination to succeed. Recognizing this necessity, the GLRI Action Plan incorporated these critical themes into Focus Area 5. NOAA is contributing to this focus area by providing a coordinated network of scientific observations and models, and youth education programs. Together, these initiatives provide tools and resources to sustain this tremendous investment in the Great Lakes.


Read on to learn more about NOAA’s Focus Area 5 projects:


Education Objective

Superior 6th graders set sail! A field trip to Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve through B-WET-supported Rivers2Lake program. Credit: Lake Superior NERR.

Great Lakes Bay Education and Training (B-WET) Program

B-WET is an environmental education program that provides competitive funding for projects that support place-based experiential learning for students and related professional development for teachers. The core component of B-WET funded projects is the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEEs), multi‐stage activities that include learning both outdoors and in the classroom.


Using a Teacher Mentor Model to Expand the Impact of the Center for Great Lakes Literacy’s Community of Practice

This project enhances the Center for Great Lakes Literacy’s vision to build a community of Great Lakes literate educators, students, scientists, environmental professionals, and citizen volunteers dedicated to improved Great Lakes stewardship. The goal is to have 45 mentor teachers work with 100 mentees across the basin to incorporate Great Lakes education and stewardship in their educational programming; and further promote Great Lakes literacy by supporting educators, who want to extend learning and stewardship opportunities to students or colleagues, by way of providing stipends and guidance

Contact:  Kristin TePas, IL-IN Sea Grant,


Science Objective

Evaluating Water Clarity, Turbidity, and Eutrophication Status of the Great Lakes With Satellite Radiometric Data

This project is evaluating the spatiotemporal changes in water quality of all five Great Lakes using satellite data. The water quality will be investigated from two perspectives: 1) Overall quality and 2) Eutrophication status. Satellite-derived Secchi disk depth and nephelometric turbidity will be used as proxies of overall water quality. The degree of eutrophication will be evaluated with also two parameters, chlorophyll-a concentration ([Chl-a]) and the red-to-blue phytoplankton absorption band ratio.



Great Lakes Synthesis, Observations, and Response (SOAR) System

NOAA’s Great Lakes Synthesis, Observations, and Response System (SOAR) coordinates and integrates coastal ecosystem observations that support Great Lakes restoration projects, including AOC restoration. GLRI funds have been integral to developing and honing the system, which uses scientific models and observations from on-water and remote sensing platforms to create database products for assessment and decision support. SOAR is focused on Areas of Concern and restoration projects within the Great Lakes. However, its value extends far beyond the region, since SOAR observations feed into a global observation network.



Great Lakes Synthesis, Observations, and Response (SOAR) Under Ice

SOAR Under Ice will attempt to provide the initial background high temporal resolution, real-time physical, chemical, and biological observations to improve our understanding of winter ecosystems and provide model and forecast validations. The project will deploy a short, cabled system providing observations of relevant year-round water quality (temperature, conductivity, chlorophyll, phycocyanin, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen) parameters through the winter ice season at one location in the Great Lakes. Acoustic sensors will measure waves, currents, and ice thickness for use in ice product modeling and forecasting.



Hardened Shoreline Ecological Indicator GIS

For many years the need for tracking changes in hardened shoreline has been recognized as a priority in the Great Lakes and it is one of many GLWQA ecological indicators. Understanding where hardened shoreline plays a role in identifying opportunities for littoral system restoration is a critical aspect of prioritizing work in an anthropomorphic system.
NOAA used existing aerial imagery and ancillary data to develop a baseline hardened shoreline classification using the best available imagery to date. This effort provides a Great Lakes (U.S. side) baseline for this long ignored ecological indicator.



Long-term Data Assimilative, Temperature and Currents Database

This project is creating a long-term temperature and currents database for lakes Erie and Michigan by assimilating data collected from the SOAR network, moorings and gliders into a Great Lakes forecast model. The combined data-model approach offers the most accurate three-dimensional temperature and currents reanalysis and simulations to support GLRI management and restoration efforts in the Great Lakes region. Once completed, this long-term, data-assimilative reanalysis will allow decision makers and coastal managers to evaluate various planning and restoration scenarios due to climate change.



NOAA Support of the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative

NOAA scientists are participating in a collaborative effort, funded in part by the GLRI, to improve scientists’ understanding of the structure and function of the ecosystem of Lake Huron (2012) and Lake Michigan (2015). The Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) specifically seeks to clarify the impacts of stressors such as invasive species, climate change, nutrient loading, and overfishing on the Great Lakes.  Moreover, it integrates long-term observations on the Lakes’ biological, chemical, and physical variables with laboratory experiments to develop new concepts and modeling tool to explore changes in the lake, including the pressing issue of nuisance and toxic algal blooms in nearshore areas.  The project will provide researchers and policymakers with a more holistic understanding of the Lake Huron and Lake Michigan ecosystem and enable them to improve management of the lake in the face of ecosystem stressors.



Sea Grant Outreach and Engagement

GLRI provides support to various Sea Grant-led projects that extend the impact of U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office using Sea Grant outreach capacity.

Contact: Tomas Hook, IL-IN Sea Grant,


State, Tribal and Federal Capacity to Coordinate and Implement LAMP Programs

NOAA is active in the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with staff participating on eight of ten Annex Subcommittees. Annex 2 – Lakewide Action and Management Plans is particularly challenging requiring staff to lend their geographic and technical expertise across five lake processes and the actions under each. The GLRI provides funding to ensure that NOAA is fully supporting each LAMP with science, products and services across our broad mission and coordinating the work and travel of staff on each lake LAMP.



Updating Vertical Datums at Local Ports and Harbors of Refuge Through Seasonal Water Level Measurements

An accurate Great Lakes wide elevation reference datum is a fundamental requirement for monitoring change in Great Lakes land and water levels and for providing a geospatial foundation for marine spatial planning. Additionally, an accurate datum supports effective restoration projects, mapping, dredging, international water regulation and power generation, resource management plans, and more. This project will collect water level data at 10 small ports and harbors locations in designated Areas of Concern (AOC) during June-September of 2020, and provide International Great Lakes Datum (IGLD) 1985 heights. The 1985 heights will be converted to IGLD 2020 heights when the new datum is updated in 2025/2026.




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