Coastal Studies in the Great Lakes

(NSF Publication 97-38)



Research activities in the Great Lakes are supported by a number of organizations including the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Coastal Ocean Program (COP) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Generally speaking, NSF/OCE research projects focus on basic oceanographic processes and the study of natural systems. A component of NOAA's COP focus is directed towards developing tools and capabilities to improve coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems management. Environmental and resources management decisions are most appropriately based on knowledge gained from both basic and applied research. Both NSF/OCE and NOAA/COP regard the Great Lakes as part of the U.S. coastal zone and recognize that many features of the Great Lakes can best be studied using oceanographic methods. An opportunity exists for U.S. scientists to propose multidisciplinary, collaborative research projects to address the broad intersection of basic and applied research interests of NSF/OCE and NOAA/COP as described below.


This Announcement of Opportunity is under the auspices of the Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP) initiative within NSF/OCE and the regional ecosystem studies initiative of the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program. CoOP objectives are to plan and implement multi-investigator, multidisciplinary research in the coastal ocean including large inland bodies of water (the Great Lakes) that exhibit processes similar to those in the ocean. A better understanding of the processes that affect cross-margin transport is central to CoOP interests. This active transport links processes at work near the coast to those operating over the continental shelf and beyond. COP objectives are to facilitate planning and to implement multi-investigator, multidisciplinary research to improve the ability to predict Great Lakes, estuarine, and coastal ocean responses to human-initiated and natural events. The planning assumption unifying both programs is that a series of well-designed, multidisciplinary process and modeling studies will provide significant new information to advance our understanding of coastal oceans that will have applicability to environmental impact and resource management issues. CoOP sponsored a workshop entitled "Great Lakes Coastal Ocean Processes Workshop" that was held October 6-8, 1994, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The workshop's goal was to create a document that would define areas for study that would lead to better quantitative understanding of the processes that dominate the transport, transformations, and fates of biologically, chemically, and geologically important matter in the Great Lakes. Copies of the workshop report are available from:

The CoOP Office
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
10 Ocean Science Circle
Savannah, GA 31411 USA
phone: 912-598-2493;
FAX 912-598-2310

The NOAA Coastal Ocean Program (COP) has recently evolved towards regional approaches that focus on critical coastal ecosystems and high priority coastal issues. The projects are multi-investigator, multidisciplinary, large scale and model based; support NOAA coastal ecosystem and living resource responsibilities; demonstrate activities to ensure interactions between science and policy; encourage collaboration between NOAA, academic, and state agency personnel; include a path leading to longer-term operational or management activity; and are tractable within a five year period. COP sponsored a workshop titled "Forming an Initiative - Coastal Zone Management and the Laurentian Great Lakes" that was held November 5-6, 1992 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The workshop's objective was to develop a conceptual framework for an integrated, yet focused research effort for the Coastal Ocean Program. Further information on COP's regional ecosystem studies and the COP workshop report is available from:

NOAA Coastal Ocean Office
1315 East-West Highway
Station 15147
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3232
phone: 301-713-3338



Among the coastal waters of the United States, those of the Great Lakes represent some of the most heavily utilized, densely populated and dynamic. The Laurentian Great Lakes are a major resource to North America, containing 20% of the world's surface freshwater and 90% of the surface freshwater of the U.S. They serve as the focus for a multi-billion dollar tourist and recreation industry, supply 40 million people with drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife and 250 species and subspecies of fish (with an annual commercial and recreational value of about $4 billion), and they support transportation and diverse agricultural production. The basin also is home to 15% of the U.S. and 60% of the Canadian population. The lakes are a highly managed system, with eight states, one provincial government, several federal agencies, and international treaties all playing a role. Many of the Great Lakes have been strongly influenced by human activities resulting in habitat loss and excessive loading of nutrients and contaminants. Over the past few decades, nutrient and contaminant point source controls have been successful in reducing nutrient over-enrichment problems and improving water and habitat quality. However, the inputs of nutrients to some regions of the lakes, particularly coastal and bay regions, are still too high to sustain desirable ecosystems and are now thought to originate predominantly from uncontrolled and poorly understood non-point sources. Coastal waters are sites of intense biological, chemical, and geological processing of materials arriving from both the terrestrial and offshore zones. The character of these waters, from their capacity to assimilate anthropogenic inputs, to their ability to sustain fisheries and their influence on regional climate, is dictated by a complex set of oceanographic processes and forcing functions which are often unique to coastal environments. Knowledge of the transformations and flux of materials through this region is needed to develop the ability to forecast the impact of both natural and anthropogenically-induced phenomena. While oceanographic in scale (the lakes are large enough to be significantly influenced by the earth's rotation), the Great Lakes are, at the same time, closed basins in which the influence of coastal processes are magnified beyond that of most coastal marine systems. Nowhere is an understanding of how complex physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes interact in a coastal system more important to a body of water than in the Great Lakes. As a site for studying these processes in a generic sense, the Great Lakes offer some distinct advantages. One is tractable size. Another is a closed basin morphology. Both make for comprehensive studies in which basin scale, mesoscale, and microscale coverage is feasible, mass balances are possible, and hydrologic budgets, flushing and water residence times are well known. Similarly, the biology is simplified. Species diversity is comparatively low and food chains are short. However, as is typical of coastal regions, variability is high and ecologically non-steady state conditions prevail. Historically, the lakes have been sites for some leading research in coastal hydrodynamics. In recent years, however, there have been few comprehensive studies designed to address fundamental questions concerning the biological, chemical, and geological impact of natural processes that are typical of coastal regions. An overriding feature of the physical dynamics of the Great Lakes is the annual switch between vertically well-mixed conditions and vertically stratified conditions. These different regimes, and the transition from one to the another, drive the nature, timing and duration of cross-margin exchange processes. These processes, in turn, exert a major influence on biogeochemical interactions at a number of important boundaries and interfaces. In addition, physical processes are thought to control inputs of nutrients and toxic contaminants into coastal and bay regions of the lakes. Significant inputs of nutrients and contaminants from these non- point sources are thought to be associated with major meteorological events (e.g., high winds, heavy rainfall, or combinations thereof) that deliver large quantities of particles and associated nutrients and contaminants into the ecosystem over short time periods.



Based on the recommendations from NSF-CoOP and NOAA-COP Great Lakes workshops, the NSF-CoOP Scientific Steering Committee, and the NOAA-COP Coastal Ocean Council, there is now an opportunity to submit proposals for a coordinated study in the Great Lakes. This cooperative inter-agency initiative anticipates supporting integrated, multi-investigator, multidisciplinary programs of modeling and process studies with the overall goal of improving understanding, predictability, and management of Great Lakes resources. As outlined in the CoOP Science Prospectus (Brink et al. 1992) and the CoOP Great Lakes Process Report (Klump et al. 1995), CoOP's primary interest is in research to address the following question:

What processes control the cross-margin (inshore to offshore) transport of biological, chemical, and geological materials in the coastal margins of the Great Lakes?

Examples of processes that might be addressed include:

1.Storm Induced Transport Processes: How important are the patterns and intensities of storms in the overall transport of biota, nutrients and biogeochemically important materials?

2.Biological Transformations: How are differences in the composition and production of inshore and offshore plankton maintained in an advective environment?

3.Sediment-Water Interactions: What is the episodic nature of the flux of biogeochemically important materials between the sediment and water column?

4.Thermal Structure: How and to what extent are cross-barrier fluxes and biological production restricted by the strength of the thermocline and thermal bar?

5.Jets, Meanders and Eddies: What is the role of meanders and eddies relative to the coastal jet in the cross-margin flux of suspended and dissolved materials?

As outlined in the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program's April 1995 Call for Concept Papers, COP's primary interest is in research to address the following goal:

Develop and test scientific strategies for assessing, quantifying, and predicting the impacts of multiple stresses, both natural and anthropogenic on the ecological resources of the Great Lakes or selected subregions.

Areas to be addressed could include:

1.Evaluating the importance of point and non-point sources of pollution;

2.Evaluating how episodic events impact non-point source pollution control strategies;

3.Models to synthesize data on system behavior and interactions and ecosystem perturbations, identify data and information gaps, and aid in design of data collection; and

4.Evaluate modeling frameworks for management issues and concerns.

This Announcement provides an opportunity for investigators to propose an integrated research program to address the combined interests of NSF-CoOP and NOAA-COP in the Great Lakes. Proposals from teams of investigators are encouraged, with clear identification of individual(s) having responsibility for program integration and synthesis. Proposed studies must be multidisciplinary and present a balanced and well-rationalized scientific plan for addressing BOTH the CoOP and COP issues outlined above in a Great Lake(s). Studies may be proposed by submission of several collaborative proposals having some common objectives from different PIs, or by an omnibus proposal that contains various multidisciplinary components. In either case, a common overview statement of research approach and objectives should be prepared. The CoOP Office at University of Maryland (see above) will facilitate the exchange of information amongst PIs wishing to develop a proposal in response to this Announcement. The CoOP Home Page will provide occasional postings and other useful information:

Site selection should consider application of results to the Great Lakes in general as well as to the coastal ocean. Site selection should also consider potential cooperative research benefits with other U.S. agencies as well as Canadian Great Lakes research programs. Proposals must be RECEIVED by March 14, 1997.

NSF/CoOP and NOAA/COP advisors envision a five-year study encompassing two years for field studies, and two to three years for data synthesis and analysis. Current CoOP and COP investigations are funded at about $1.5 and $1.0 million per year, respectively. Depending on availability of funds, a commensurate amount is anticipated in FY1997 and FY1998 for field programs to be conducted in CY1998 and CY1999. Decreasing levels are anticipated in subsequent years to cover data analysis and post-field work activities described in this Announcement. This funding availability should be adequate to support a set of collaborative continuing grants for one or more interdisciplinary teams of about 8-12 investigators. Proposed efforts should take advantage of existing research efforts and facilities sponsored by other agencies. In particular, cooperation with other agencies sponsoring research activities in the Great Lakes (e.g., NOAA, EPA, and Canadian laboratories) is strongly encouraged.




Proposals submitted in response to this Announcement of Opportunity should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the guidelines provided in the NSF brochure, Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) NSF 95-27. Single copies of this brochure are available at no cost from the Forms and Publications Unit, phone (703) 306- 1130, or via e-mail from Proposals will be subjected to initial screening for the requirements in the GPG and will be returned without review or advance notification if deficiencies are found. Proposals will NOT be forwarded to other Programs if found to be inappropriate for this competition.


All proposals involving Federal and/or academic scientists must be submitted to the address below. Federal scientists will be eligible for funding by NOAA but not NSF. Proposals submitted in response to this Announcement of Opportunity must be received by 14 March 1997; and be identified by entering "CoOP - Great Lakes 97-38" in the Program Announcement block of the cover page. Proposals received after the deadline will be returned to the sender un-reviewed. Proposals should be sent to:

National Science Foundation PPU
4201 Wilson Blvd. P-60
Arlington, VA 22230

If you have questions or require further information, contact H. Lawrence Clark, NSF Division of Ocean Sciences: 703- 306-1584 (e-mail: or John Wickham, NOAA Coastal Ocean Office, 301-713-3338, (e-mail:


Review of proposals and support of the CoOP/COP Great Lakes program will be handled cooperatively by NSF and NOAA. Proposals will be evaluated based on the four general criteria described in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide and in accordance with established NSF and NOAA procedures for external merit review. Proposals' responsiveness to the stated goals of the Coastal Ocean Processes (CoOP) program at NSF/OCE and the regional ecosystem studies initiative at the NOAA Coastal Ocean Program, and complementarity with other research projects will also be considered in the evaluation by panel(s) of expert scientists.

Proposals should include plans for the documentation, archiving, and dissemination of CoOP/COP research data. All funded participants must adhere to data management policies applying to recipients of federal funding in geosciences (CoOP Data Policy available through CoOP Office or

Following the review process, Federal scientists and others who are selected to receive funding from NOAA, may be required to submit additional forms and paperwork required by NOAA.


Brink, K.H., J.M. Bane, T.M. Church, C.W. Fairall, G.L. Geernaert, D.E. Hammond, S.M. Henrichs, C.S. Martens, C.A. Nittrouer, D.P. Rogers, M.R. Roman, J.D. Roughgarden, R.L. Smith, L.D. Wright and J.A. Yoder, 1992. Coastal Ocean Processes: A Science Prospectus. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Contribution Number WHOI-92-18, 103pp.

Klump, J.V., K.W. Bedford, M.A.Donelan, B.J. Eadie, G.L. Fahnenstiel and M.R. Roman, 1995. Coastal Ocean Processes: Cross-Margin Transport in the Great Lakes. Coastal Ocean Processes, University of Maryland Technical Report, UMD-TS-148, 133 pp.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide awards for research in the sciences and engineering. The awardee is wholly responsible for the conduct of such research and preparation of the results for publication. The NSF and NOAA, therefore, do not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

The NSF and NOAA welcome proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists and engineers, and strongly encourage women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to compete fully in any of the research and research-related programs described in this document.

In accordance with Federal statutes and regulations, and NSF and NOAA policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin, or disability shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from the NSF and NOAA. Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities provides funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities (investigators and other staff, including student research assistants) to work on an NSF project. Contact the program coordinator in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources. The telephone number is (703) 306-1636. The Foundation has TDD (Telephonic Device for the Deaf) capability, which enables individuals with hearing impairment to communicate with the NSF Information Center about NSF programs, employment, or general information. The telephone number is (703) 306-0090.



The information requested on proposal forms is solicited under the authority of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended. It will be used in connection with the selection of qualified proposals and may be disclosed to qualified reviewers and staff assistants as part of the review process; to applicant institutions/grantees to provide or obtain data regarding the application review process, award decisions, or the administration of awards; to government contractors, experts, volunteers and researchers as necessary to complete assigned work; and to other government agencies in order to coordinate programs. See Systems of Records, NSF-50, "Principal Investigator/Proposal File and Associated Records," 60 Federal Register 4449 (January 23, 1995), and NSF-51, "Reviewer/Proposal File and Associated Records, "59 Federal Register 8031 (February 17, 1994). Submission of the information is voluntary. Failure to provide full and complete information, however, may reduce the possibility of your receiving an award.

Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 120 hours per response, including the time for reviewing instructions. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information including suggestions for reducing this burden, to:

Herman G. Fleming
Reports Clearance Officer
Contracts, Policy and Oversight
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230

Programs described in this publication are in Category 47.050 (Directorate for Geosciences) in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.

OMB 3145-0058 P.T.: 22 K.W.:
1008004; 1008000 NSF 97-38 replaces 96-78 (electronic dissemination only)