Great Lakes Environmental Research

June 28, 2022 – Can the Great Lakes Overcome Climate Change, and increasing algal blooms? (video; 1 hour; TVO)

Sept. 2021 – More than 100 years after the original 1913 study monitoring untreated sewage pollution in the boundary waters of the Great Lakes, the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Health Professionals Advisory Board concluded that an updated basinwide water quality survey – using cutting-edge DNA technology – is both feasible and necessary. The Board is now working to develop an implementation plan for the proposed study. Read more from the IJC online…

image: “Zones of Pollution” identified in the 1913 IJC study.

May 2021 – Ohio State University will host a live web event for NOAA’s annual Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) Forecast for western Lake Erie on June 30 from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern. In addition to the official forecast, the event will feature spring nutrient loading and projections along with expert commentary and highlights of recent research efforts and successes.

March 2021 – Status of the Food Webs of the Great Lakes (US EPA) – click to open the 2 page PDF containing excerpts, plus a link to the full report

March 22, 2021 – ‘Winter is vanishing’ from the deep waters of Lake Michigan (CNN)

January 26, 2021 – Great Lakes ice cover shrinks, with big toll on leisure, erosion, ecosystems (London Free Press)

October 13, 2020 – A Stressful Interaction: Some Ecosystem Stressors Have Greater Influence When Combined (IJC)

July 14, 2020 – Great Lakes water temperatures are blowing away records and could climb higher (Washington Post)

April 17, 2020 – COVID-19 disrupts Great Lakes research, outreach (Great Lakes Echo)

(banner image source: NASA Visible Earth)

image: excerpt from the IJC reportFeb. 13, 2018 – the International Joint Commission released a report of their analysis that commercial fertilizer and manure applications are the largest sources of excess phosphorus into the western basin of Lake Erie. The study was conducted to better understand the influence of phosphorus and its potential to cause eutrophic conditions and algal blooms. Climate change is further expected to influence the rate of phosphorus entering Lake Erie. Read the report here.

March 7, 2017 – Could Trump’s proposed EPA cuts leave Ontario to clean up the Great Lakes? (TVO)

March 3, 2017 – Trump may cut Great Lakes protection budget by 97 per cent (CTV)

Statement from Alliance for the Great Lakes on Reports of Massive U.S. EPA & Great Lakes Program Budget Cuts  (Alliance for the Great Lakes)

December 14, 2016 – Great Lakes Invasive Species Documentary (Great Lakes Echo)

November 30, 2016 – Underwater Glider Helps Monitor Great Lakes Water Quality  (US EPA blog)

November 21, 2016 – Weather the Storm: Improving Great Lakes Modeling (Michigan Technological University)

October 14, 2016 – Using Airplanes for Algal Bloom Prediction in Lake Erie (NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab)

October 3, 2016 – Lake Huron whitefish feeling effects of invasive mussels (

September 19, 2016 – Great Lakes holding their heat this September (The Buffalo News)

September 9th, 2016 – Tracking the Toxicity of Lake Erie Algal Blooms (Video) For more info about NOAA – Great Lakes Environmental Research see here.

November 23, 2015 – Lake Erie 2015 algae bloom was larger than Toronto (London Free Press) See more at NOAA.

Update August 26, 2015: FOCA is part of bi-national network of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) who have provided insights into, and support for, work underway within the US Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, related to commitments to set phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie.

FOCA, along with our ENGO partners, are strongly supportive of setting phosphorus targets for Lake Erie by the February 2016 deadline,  and to the development and implementation of  Domestic Action Plans  – as soon as possible.

Read the latest “nutrients” submission by the ENGO network.

Through the Nutrients Annex (Annex 4) of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the United States have committed to:

“… contribute to the achievement of the General and Specific Objectives of this Agreement by coordinating binational actions to manage phosphorus concentrations and loadings, and other nutrients if warranted, in the Waters of the Great Lakes.”

In other Great Lakes news, the Canadian and US governments are holding webinars in early September to discuss the LakeWide Action Management Plan for each lake and the public involvement/engagement in each LAMP:

  • Lake Huron on September 1; 2:00pm – 4:00pm EDT
  • Lake Superior on September 2; 2:00 – 4:00 EDT
  • Lake Michigan on September 9; 2:00 – 4:00 EDT
  • Lake Ontario on September 11; 2:00 – 4:00 EDT
  • Lake Erie on September 15; 2:00 – 4:00 EDT

To participate / get the webinar info, contact:


July 23, 2015 – Harmful Algae on Lake Erie

Lake Erie blooms bulletinDespite spring projections of a better than average algae situation for Lake Erie in 2015, recent reports are less optimistic. Late and persistent spring rains and recent hot weather have meant increased nutrients loads, and ideal conditions for the formation of blue-green algae blooms. You can learn more about the algae and other Great Lakes monitoring programs here.

As part of the obligations under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Environment Canada has posted Recommended Binational Phosphorus Targets to Combat Lake Erie Algal Blooms for comments until August 31, 2015.

May 2015: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) conducts research on the environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes, to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities.

One area of focus is on Harmful Algal Blooms (or HABs).

The GLERL “Lake Erie HABs Tracker” is a tool that combines remote sensing, monitoring, and modeling to produce daily 5-day forecasts of bloom transport and concentration. This is based on daily satellite imagery, and real-time monitoring which is used to estimate the current expanse and intensity of blooms,  and modeling to predict where the bloom will travel and what concentrations are likely to be seen. These predictions can provide water managers with timely information for public health decision-making.

IMG_0089GLERL researchers are working to identify factors that influence harmful algal blooms (HABs) and to develop methods to forecast toxic cyanobacteria blooms. Research is focused on improving our ability to predict when algal blooms will occur, whether or not they are toxic, and their impact on human health.

The Lake Erie- Experimental HAB Bulletin was developed to provide a weekly forecast for Microcystis blooms in western Lake Erie. When a harmful bloom is detected by the experimental system, scientists will issue a bulletin. The bulletin depicts the HABs’ current location and future movement, as well as categorizes its intensity on a weekly basis.

BUTTON asterixOn May 26, 2015, the HAB Bulletin featured an Early Season Prediction: that 2015 would not likely see a repeat of the severe blooms experienced in 2011, and 2013.  While things can change, and there is much uncertainty in such predictions, this seems to be a positive sign for Lake Erie – for now.

Lake Erie Oxygen Depletion

The Lake Erie ecosystem faces wide and varied threats to its health and integrity, including recurring low oxygen episodes (‘dead zones’) in the central basin. A prominent feature of Lake Erie’s central basin is the lake bottom area of severe hypoxia (< 2-3 ppm dissolved oxygen concentration) that recurs annually during late summer. Although the size of the dead zone declined with reduced phosphorus inputs during the mid-1980s, current levels of oxygen depletion are on par with those observed during the preceding period of severe cultural eutrophication, which is of concern to both Lake Erie resource management agencies and user groups.

The Hypoxia Warning System is intended to provide Lake Erie central basin drinking water managers information about the transport of hypoxic water into municipal water intakes. The objectives of the project are to understand the chemistry and biology surrounding the microbial-driven formation of hypoxia and subsequently provide warnings of water chemistry changes, upwelling events and internal waves impacting drinking water quality at Cleveland, OH.

Some background:

August 4, 2014 – Toledo’s Contaminated Water: Here’s What Went Wrong (Time Magazine)

Drinking water fouled by toxic algae (Circle of Blue)

Related resources on FOCA’s website:

Great Lakes Strategy and Action webpage

Terry ReesGreat Lakes Environmental Research