Notice: this is a new page to replace the legacy Great Lakes Water Life gallery. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Rochelle Sturtevant at


The North American Great Lakes constitute a very large and ecologically diverse set of connected freshwater ecosystems, holding roughly 20% of the world’s fresh water, and encompassing ~240,000 km2 of surface area, 17,000 km of shoreline, and thousands of tributary streams and fringing wetlands. The Great Lakes also hold a correspondingly wide diversity of flora and fauna, although they do not have as many species as other large lakes of the world due to their comparative geologic and evolutionary youth.

This database was developed to meet a need for a comprehensive, accessible inventory inclusive of the wide range of biodiversity of this unique system. Our intent is to support researchers and managers in common information-gathering tasks such as generating expected species lists, finding records for unfamiliar or rare taxa, identifying rare native species, summarizing broad-scale biodiversity patterns and identifying knowledge gaps. We are hopeful that this inventory of native species will also prove of interest to students of all ages who wish to learn about and celebrate our native biodiversity.