GLRI Focus Area 5: Foundations

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. 

Contact: Kristin TePas, IL-IN Sea Grant,

Science Objective
Development of a satellite remote-sensing algorithm to detect and monitor phytoplankton community composition in the Great Lakes

NOAA will build an algorithm to obtain phytoplankton community composition (PCC) information from NOAA VIIRS aquatic color satellite data. The algorithm will be built based on satellite-derived phytoplankton light absorption spectra, aph(λ), and field-measured phytoplankton taxonomy data already collected in the Great Lakes. NOAA will also apply the develop PCC algorithm to VIIRS data to create monthly PCC maps of the Great Lakes.


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. 


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. 


Framework for resilient GLRI investments

The goal of this project is to integrate the expertise of federal agencies to improve the ability to design resilient coastal projects by forecasting the range in high and low water elevations, forecasting wave/surge intensity; and identifying areas susceptible to erosion and accretion. 


Great Lakes nearshore geomorphic vulnerability index

After completing the geomorphic index for Lake Michigan in FY21, the interagency team, led by USACE, will evaluate the available data and GLRI priorities to select which lake(s) will be the subject of the next phase of this work. In FY22, the GIS work on the selected lake(s) would be prioritized.  NOAA will provide geospatial technical assistance and support toward this end.


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.


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.


Late fall, winter and under-ice observations on mobile platforms

The absence of winter information thus compromises our overall understanding of the Great Lakes ecosystem, and our ability to develop and calibrate ecological and food web models to forecast change, or the ecosystem’s response to system drivers (e.g., invasive species, timing of nutrient inputs, annual environmental variability). In response, we propose to integrate and apply available unmanned technologies with remote sensing capabilities for measuring the winter spatial distribution and abundance of one aspect of the Great Lakes food web that represent important food web components, i.e., Mysis and pelagic planktivorous fishes.


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. 


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. 


Remote sensing products to support GLNPO Great Lakes monitoring

NOAA will derive remote sensing products in support of the three categories in support of GLNPO: 1) products with established methods, 2) pilot research for remotely sensed zooplankton biomass, and 3) longer term goals for future products with methods that are not yet available but are currently in development.  A fourth category of technical assistance and guidance to outfit the R/V Lake Guardian with instrumentation upgrades for improved remote sensing-derived products and enhanced water quality monitoring assessments. 


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,

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. 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.



See also: Foundations: Completed projects