Protect. Preserve. Advance. Great Lakes Research Center

Deploy under-ice robots. Study lake ecology and fish biology. Capture sonar images with underwater autonomous vehicles. Investigate aerosol chemistry and how warm winters impact coastal food supplies.

Inside the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC), biologists, geologists, engineers, chemists, geospatial information science specialists, and social scientists work together with students and staff along Michigan Tech’s Innovation Shore.

Great Lakes Research Center
Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University

The four-story, 50,000-square-foot center has a boathouse for the University’s nine surface and sub-surface research vessels and environmental monitoring buoy network, a complex of research laboratories, faculty, staff and student offices, and a public area that includes conference facilities and space for K-12 education. Eight laboratories are tailored for different research topics that relate to the Great Lakes, including invasive species, fish ecology, sediments, remote sensing, and atmospheric science.

“What we learn here can be both scaled and transferred to the world, creating opportunities far beyond the Great Lakes,” says the Center’s Director Guy Meadows. “We bring scientists together for freshwater research on the shores of the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin to be a leader in aquatic science, engineering, technology, and policy.”

Meadows says one of the Center’s most important functions is to educate the scientists, engineers, technologists, policymakers, and stakeholders of tomorrow about the Great Lakes basin. The Center for Science and Environmental Outreach provides K–12 student, teacher, and community education/outreach programs.

With the Center’s outreach programs to elementary students, Meadows says they are working to create the next generation of scientists.

“We need to engage them with the concept that science can be fun before the eighth grade and hold their interest through college.” Last year the Center’s outreach programs reached more than 13,000 students, teachers, community, and family members.

To maintain the Center and the research taking place, support is needed. Meadows says fellowships support graduate and undergraduate students who are conducting research about the Great Lakes. “They are the next generation of leaders and scientists who are working across all science frontiers to solve multidisciplinary problems. We need to help recruit the best and brightest and retain them at Michigan Tech to provide educational opportunities for the next generation of Great Lakes and freshwater scientists, engineers, and policy makers.”

Beyond fellowships for students, creating an endowment for the Center’s operations would allow new research to address the challenges facing the Great Lakes. “An endowment would support leadership development, advanced capabilities, and collective efforts to make a positive and purposeful impact on the Great Lakes and the region.”

The Center’s custom fleet of research vessels launch right from campus on the Keweenaw Waterway—the open waters of Lake Superior are just a few miles away. Due to its heavy use, the Center’s main vessel, the R/V Agassiz soon will need two new engines. The vessel is used for research, education, and outreach, making two to three class trips per day, several days per week and has been doing so for the past 15 years.

Meadows says they would like to build the research vessel fleet by being the first university to operate a fully autonomous research vessel adding an 18-foot-long driverless science ship. This autonomous surface vessel (ASV) would not need a crew onboard and can operate continuously for up to five days, 24 hours a day. This would allow Tech to pioneer and perform aquatic research.“We take Great Lakes science and bring computers, autonomous vehicles, engineering, and cybersecurity together for practical use.”

Superior, the University’s high performance computing cluster, provides researchers with new computational tools to predict wind, wave, and current patterns in all five Great Lakes. Scientists also can better predict complex processes by building models of nutrients, harmful algae blooms, and transport paths of invasive species and pollutants. Computing clusters like Superior are needed to look to the future. “What will the Great Lakes be like in 50 years? What decisions do we make today to preserve this resource? The GLRC is built upon the latest technology, the most advanced research, and the best scientists and engineers. Our vision is to sustain this excellence.”

Learn how you can support the Great Lakes Research Center. Contact Director Guy Meadows, gmeadows@mtu.edu, 906-487-1106.