Research Programs

See also: Researcher Profiles

Ecosystems Dynamics

IPEMF (Modeling)

OSAT (Observations)

The Ecosystem Dynamics branch collects ecological data and conducts experimental research on the ecosystem processes of the Great Lakes, the largest fresh water system in the world. The Great Lakes ecosystem is dynamic, constantly changing in response to its surroundings. These changes have been accelerated by human-generated factors, such as chemical pollution, invasive species and climate change. Our scientists are exploring how and why these changes are affecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and its health. To answer these questions, Ecosystem Dynamics research, conducted on both a short and long term basis, examines the structure and function of the Great Lakes ecosystem, including the interaction of the ecosystem’s biological, chemical and physical components.

The Integrated Physical and Ecological Modeling and Forecasting (IPEMF) branch conducts research to predict the effects of physical, biological, and chemical changes on the Great Lakes system, including those changes generated by humans. To make these predictions, models are developed based on known environmental processes combined with data gathered from field observations on characteristics of the lakes and their surroundings. The mathematical relationships represented in these models are studied to forecast how the Great Lakes environment will change based on different situations. The models our scientists produce help us understand the processes that connect changes in the atmosphere, freshwater systems and oceans, space, land surface, ice systems with ecosystems, organisms and humans.

GLERL’s Observing Systems and Advanced Technology (OSAT) branch develops and operates technology for scientific observations of the biological, chemical and physical components of the Great Lakes ecosystem. In addition, OSAT provides the real-time and historical data necessary to increase the reliability of Great Lakes forecasting on conditions, such as hypoxia and harmful algal blooms. An important role of OSAT is providing the support for research conducted from GLERL’s two other science branches, Ecosystem Dynamics and Integrated Physical and Ecological Modeling and Forecasting. Through the development of cutting-edge instrumentation and observing and remote sensing technologies, our OSAT scientists acquire the data and develop information needed to improve our understanding of the Great Lakes ecosystem and support decision-making for improved resource management.