NOAA-GLERL: Lake Michigan Field Station



NOAA GLERL's Lake Michigan Field Station (LMFS) is the home port for NOAA Great Lakes vessels, which operate throughout the Great Lakes. It is also the platform for the long-term observations research program on Lake Michigan.

The LMFS is strategically positioned on Lake Michigan to provide support to the local and regional community by further developing NOAA's role in freshwater ecology, ecosystems management, coastal management, and water-based commerce. This field station promotes long-term observations, field work, and process studies essential for understanding and developing future ecological services.

Science: The LMFS supports GLERL's Ecosystem Dynamics theme with on-site researchers, laboratory facilities and storage, and direct access to ship resources. The LMFS also provides a base and accommodations for offsite researchers from GLERL and partner agencies. Science at LMFS is primarily focused on field-based long-term observations and field-based shorter-term process studies in Lake Michigan.

Vessel operations: LMFS is home to vessel operations, which is a critical asset that supports NOAA GLERL science on the Great Lakes. The LMFS provides a base for vessel operations that ensures vessel safety, compliance, maintenance, planning, and effective field operations. The facility has both small boat and deep-water docking capabilities.

Partnerships/Outreach: The physical location of the LMFS promotes partnerships with many other agencies and universities including the US Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, Purdue University, Michigan Tech Univ., Univ. of Michigan, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority.

Staff


Steve Bawks
Boat Captain
(231) 720-5822


Beau Braymer
Boat Captain
(231) 720-5000


Dan Burlingame
Boat Captain
(231) 755-3831


Matthew Cooper
Visiting Scientist
(231) 755-3831 ext. 162


Dennis Donahue
Field Station Manager / Marine Superintendent
(231) 755-5173


Aaron Dunnuck
Research Staff
(231) 755-3831 ext. 154

Jeff Elliott
Research Staff
(231) 755-3831 ext. 151


Bob Harvey
Vessel Crew
(231) 720-5898


DJ Henman
Management Analyst
(231) 755-3831 ext. 156


Thomas Joyce
Boat Captain
(231) 755-3831 ext. 115


Steve Pothoven
Fishery Biologist
(231) 755-3831 ext. 155


Jack Workman
Boat Captain
(231) 755-3831 ext. 117


Andrew Yagiela
Boat Captain
(231) 720-5899

Facilities


History

In 1990, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, assumed ownership of the former Coast Guard base at Muskegon, Michigan on the south side of the channel between Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan. The site includes three buildings and research vessel dockage next to the main building.

The US Coast Guard established the Muskegon Life Saving Station in 1879, and a building was constructed at the current location in 1905. You can read more about its history from this PDF from the Coast Guard and from this page on the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy's website.

With its distinctive building architecture and prime location adjacent to public parks, the field station has become an icon of the Muskegon community. The LMFS is centrally located on the Maritime Heritage Walkway, which was funded by a NOAA Preserve America grant in 2009. Interpretive signage along that walkway includes educational opportunities that explain the technical and green elements of the facility. That spirit of preservation was made evident in the softening of landscape, native dune grass plantings, and habitat reclamation.

A facility improvement project at the LMFS was completed in 2012 and addressed infrastructure deficiencies and improved resources to support growth in the Green Ship Initiative and field science projects. The design and construction process followed many of the LEEDS objectives established for much larger buildings and new construction, which was a choice rather than a requirement. These engineered elements and construction practices met the objectives of sustainability, efficiency, and limited environmental impact.

Building 1

A renovation project on Building 1 was completed in 2005 on the 100th anniversary of the building. Great care was taken to recreate the exterior architecture and maintain the historic details of its original design. While modern materials were used, this prominent building appears just as it did to the lumber schooners in the last days of sail. Much of the interior spaces, mechanical, and utilities were upgraded but maintain the color schemes and layout of its early days in the Life Saving Service. (pictures can be seen here at the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy's website)

Building 1 houses office space, a conference room, field staging area, wet lab for fish and invertebrate research, and short-term dorms.

Building 2

From January to October 2012, this building was completely renovated. The exterior of the building was designed to complement the architecture of the adjacent 1904 main building. A boathouse that stood on the site 100 years ago offered design details that have renewed relevance today. Large windows provide natural light and ventilation to all work areas. Reuse of 80% of the existing structure, new materials from regional sources, and selection of high efficiency components support sustainability goals. Installation of an innovative storm water collector (see below) with hydrocarbon filters demonstrates a practical means of protecting this fresh water resource. Demands on city water are reduced by the installation of a lake water pump for irrigation and boat maintenance. An existing meteorological shore station and offshore buoys are now complimented by the addition of a wind turbine and solar collectors, providing a connection from observed weather to harnessing nature's energy.


The addition of a wind turbine and solar collectors provide a connection between our observed weather stations (existing meteorological shore station and off shore buoys) and harnessing nature's energy.

The new 1.5 KW horizontal axis turbine (pictured above left) not only adds to the renewable energy capacity but also allows for side by side evaluations of "small wind" turbine technologies. A portion of the building's heat and domestic hot water is provided by the array of 24 evacuated tube solar collectors (pictured above right) generating 106,000 BTUs integrated with the boiler system.


Building 2 houses offices for vessel crew, a conference room, locker/shower room, shop, tool room, storage rooms, second floor loft for valuable storage and enhanced natural ventilation, fuel/oil shed, and two high-bays for vessel maintenance. Multi-use, shared workspaces reflect the utilitarian feel of the original building and promote teamwork.


At the LMFS, installation of an innovative storm water collector with hydrocarbon filters demonstrates a practical means of protecting this fresh water resource.

Building 3

Building 3 contains three labs that house water filtering stations for nutrients and chlorophyll, a bench-top fluorometer, a spectrometer, sensors for field use (CTDs), three incubators, a cryo-freezer, an inverted microscope for phytoplankton work, and a dissecting scope for zooplankton work.

Vessel Operations

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) Lake Michigan Field Station (LMFS) is home to vessel operations, which is a critical asset that supports NOAA GLERL science on the Great Lakes. The LMFS provides a base for vessel operations that ensures vessel safety, compliance, maintenance, planning, and effective field operations. The facility has both small boat and deep-water docking capabilities.

Vessels that NOAA-GLERL Utilize

  • Laurentian R8001 - GLERL's largest research vessel
  • NOAA R5501 - Gives GLERL the flexibility of a fast boat able to conduct heavy lifts with a small crew. Has limited overnight accomodations for 4. See a YouTube clip of RV5501 docking.
  • NOAA R5002 Storm - Used to support the science missions, dive operations, and multibeam/side scan for the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Vessel has limited accomodations for 24-36 hour operations.
  • NOAA R4105 Huron Explorer - A refurbished USCG utility boat used for Great Lakes Science. The R4105 is also part of the "Green Ship" Initiative for the Great Lakes that operates the vessel without petroleum-based products.
  • NOAA R2604 - The vessel has twin 150 hp Yamaha outboard engines, a walk-through cabin that can seat 4 people, a self-bailing deck and a removable dive door.
  • NOAA R2601 Cyclops - Near shore vessel for science based sampling.
  • NOAA R2507 - Open boat best used close to shore in good weather
  • NOAA R2506 - Open boat best used close to shore in good weather
  • NOAA R2306 - Primarily services GLERL's ReCON buoys

Other Vessel Links

Great Lakes Association of Science Ships

Green Ships


The R/V Laurentian's alternative fuel program has exclusively used B100 soy Biodiesel for the past seven seasons. Current investigations include new technologies to blend diesel with compressed natural gas (CNG) to further reduce cost and emissions. The vessel's main propulsion engine (pictured) and its primary generator run on biodiesel and use other bio lubricants.


NOAA operates a fleet of research vessels and small boats on the Great Lakes through its Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). As part of its larger stewardship mission in the marine environment, NOAA has converted its research vessels from petroleum-based fuels and lubricants to renewable and environmentally-friendly products that reduce fossil fuel emissions.

GLERL's Green Ship Initiative, begun in 1999, has led the nation by successfully converting the laboratory's entire diesel-powered vessel fleet to biofuels and bio-lubricants. This effort produced the first federal vessel to run completely on non-petroleum products. The marine diesel-powered vessels in the Great Lakes are now fueled by B100 (100%) soy biodiesel, a true renewable energy source. This is a significant advancement over the use of B20 petroleum blends (20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel). All other shipboard mechanical and hydraulic systems on GLERL vessels have been converted to use bio-products (bio-based oils and lubricants made from rapeseed and canola oils) to meet the objective of totally petroleum-free vessels.

Advantages of Biofuels

B100 biodiesel has many benefits over traditional, petroleum-based diesel fuel. It reduces air pollution, costs less than petroleum diesel, and results in cleaner engines. Experts estimate that about 1/3 of our transportation fuel needs can be met by domestically-produced biofuels.

Environmental and Social Benefits

  • Decreases emissions of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and air pollution
  • Lessens risk of environmental harm in the event of a fuel spill
  • Reduces dependence on imported oil
  • Supports agriculture and the U.S. economy

Operational Benefits

  • Improves engine performance
  • Extends engine life
  • Reduces need for engine maintenance due to cleaning properties of biodiesel
  • Reduces operating and maintenance costs by 20-40% vs. petroleum-based fuels

Human Health Benefits

  • Reduces exposure to harmful and cancer-causing chemicals
  • Reduces seasickness due to less offensive odor

Green Tips for Recreational Boaters

Any diesel-powered boat can be converted to run off biofuels, just like GLERL's vessel fleet. Converting your boat is not only good for the environment, it's better for the health and safety of you and your family. Even gasoline-powered vessels can "go green" by using bio-based oils and lubricants. There are many technologies emerging to make recreational boating more environmentally-friendly, including the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol and butanol that can improve engine performance and reduce air pollution. GLERL has assisted industry groups in evaluating alternative fuels for gasoline engines and has helped develop best industry practices.

In addition to biofuels, there are many other ways to reduce your recreational vessel's impact on the environment. These include eliminating overboard discharges of waste, following best practices for fueling your boat, and using environmentally-friendly alternatives to anti-fouling bottom coatings. These tips and more are available here from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and here at eartheasy.com.

You can also help the environment by docking your boat at a certified Clean Marina that is committed to environmental stewardship. More information on Clean Marinas is available here from NOAA.

Green Ship Initiative factsheet

Research


Science

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) Lake Michigan Field Station (LMFS) supports on-site researchers, laboratory facilities and storage, and direct access to ship resources. The LMFS also provides a base and accommodations for offsite researchers from GLERL and partner agencies. Science at LMFS is primarily focused on field-based long-term observations and field-based shorter-term process studies in Lake Michigan.

Long-Term Observations

Recognizing the value of a long-term perspective on how ecosystems change over time, GLERL has invested in researching the southern basin of Lake Michigan since the 1970s. GLERL's focus on Lake Michigan has led to the establishment of the Long-Term Research (LTR) program. GLERL's LTR approach integrates a core set of long-term observations on biological, chemical, and physical variables, with short-term process-based studies for understanding ecosystem change. Such information is essential for the development of new concepts, models, and forecasting tools to explore impacts of various stressors on the ecosystem.

Long-Term Observations Program

Other Projects

Lake Michigan Field Station - Frequently Asked Questions


How old are the buildings at the NOAA Lake Michigan Field Station (LMFS)?

Building 1 is a historical site that NOAA took over from the US Coast Guard. It is the main office space and houses the marine superintendent and scientists stationed at LMFS. It also contains a lab area that is used mainly for analyzing fish samples.

Building 2 is for vessel operators who oversee the maintenance and underway periods for vessels.

Building 3 is primarily a laboratory, but it also has a small office space.

Does the public have access to the pier lighthouse? If so, is there a possibility of going through the lighthouse?

The lighthouse is run by the Muskegon community. Click here for more information.

What are the open hours of LMFS?

LMFS is open Monday through Friday 8AM to 4PM.

Is fishing allowed along the pier?

Yes. However, please use caution and always walk between the yellow lines. This will help ensure your safety when boat operators, scientists, and the coast guard are working in the lagoon area.

Are there tours available for NOAA's LMFS

Due to limited staff, LMFS does not provide tours to the public.