Headquarters - Ann Arbor, MI

Science Center Objects

The USGS Great Lakes Science Center is dedicated to providing scientific information for restoring, enhancing, managing and protecting living resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes region. The USGS Great Lakes Science Center is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has biological stations and research vessels located across the Great Lakes Basin

The Center

GLSC Director and other personnel in front of GLSC headquarters

Personnel in front of Ann Arbor headquarters. From left: Michael Schmid, Ryan Williams, and Deirdre Jordan (all SUNY Maritime College Shipping internship cadets), Director Russ Strach, and Branch Cheif Kurt Newman.

(Credit: Josh Miller, USGS. Public domain.)

Since 1927, Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC) research has provided critical information for the sound management of Great Lakes fish populations and other important natural resources in the basin. GLSC research focuses on six science themes: deepwater ecosystems, coastal ecosystems, environmental health, invasive species, restoration ecology, and emerging issues. The GLSC is geographically deployed throughout the Great Lakes basin through seven strategically located field stations and five large research vessels.

The GLSC uses interdisciplinary teams and approaches to provide the information needed to solve the complex biological issues and natural resource management problems facing the Great Lakes. Working in partnership with resource management agencies, the GLSC provides unbiased scientific information on Great Lakes biological and habitat resources, and determines the effectiveness of resource management and ecological restoration efforts. The Great Lakes states, tribal fishery management authorities, Canadian federal and provincial authorities, and U.S. federal agencies are the GLSC’s main partners.


The Science

Research at the GLSC is organized according to four science themes, which build upon historical and current strengths, and anticipate future concerns and needs:

Ecosystem Assessments

Understanding the status and trends of an ecosystem is an important first step in making science-based ecosystem management decisions. About one quarter of GLSC research focuses on understanding ecosystems though assessments. Much of this research focuses on aquatic ecosystems, from wetlands and streams to the coastal and offshore waters of the Great Lakes. About half of GLSC assessments are long-term, annual surveys of Great Lakes fish communities, some dating back to the 1970s. Other, specialized assessments focus on ecosystem conditions at a given point in time on subjects less prone to annual change, such as wetland condition. Some attention is given specifically to predator-prey interactions across the food web. Taken together, these assessments provide critical, foundational information to natural resource managers so that they can respond to changing conditions or plan for protection or restoration of ecosystems.

Invasive Species and Ecosystem Stressors

The Great Lakes region regularly encounters conditions that cause stress to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Occasionally, non-native species find their way or are introduced to the region. Some of these invasive species establish themselves and begin to outcompete native species or alter habitat. Algal blooms and aquatic microbial pathogens in nearshore regions of coastal environments can disrupt food webs or cause disease in fish and wildlife. Large scale drivers of stress, such as altered whether patterns or stream flow regimes, can cause subtle but significant impacts at wide geographic scales. These stressors can threaten valuable ecosystem services such as clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and tourism economies. The GLSC conducts science to understand these stressors in order to explain their causes and consequences and reveal opportunities for intervention.

Evaluation & Development of Management Approaches

Natural resource managers throughout the Great Lakes basin face the challenge of understanding the region’s complex and interrelated ecosystems and developing management strategies that lead to desired outcomes. Scientists have developed robust methods to assess the condition and trajectories of ecosystems. However, these methods often do not deliver information at the scale, with the detail and accuracy, or on the timetable that is most helpful to environmental managers. The GLSC conducts research to evaluate the effectiveness of assessment methods or develop new methods. Scientists have also developed strategies and technologies to restore imperiled native species or habitats and control invasive species, yet there is always need to improve these approaches and develop new ones. This is why the GLSC assesses and develops strategies and technologies for restoration and invasive species control.

Imperiled Species

Great Lakes ecosystems have undergone dramatic changes over the past 200 years due to human activity. These changes have imperiled some the region’s native plant and animal species. State, federal, and tribal natural resource managers conserve and restore native species because these species can maintain ecosystem stability, productivity, and services. In addition, native species often carry significant cultural value for the region’s residents. The GLSC studies the biology, genetics, ecology, and population dynamics of several species imperiled in the Great Lakes, such as lake trout, lake sturgeon, cisco, bloater, burbot, lake whitefish, walleye, Mysis, and Pitcher’s thistle. This information is used by natural resource managers to plan, execute, and improve protection and restoration strategies.