Great Lakes Observing System

Great Lakes observing systems provide critical information to support natural resource decision making, public health protection, and navigation safety and efficiency.

With our partners at NOAA GLERL, CIGLR is at the forefront of implementing well-integrated observing systems that monitor key aspects of the Great Lakes environment. Data collected from buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles, gliders, and satellites help us understand natural changes in the system, identify human-induced disturbances, support the development of climate, weather, and ecosystem forecasts, provide information for wise natural resource management, and fulfill critical information needs for public health protection and navigation safety.

Our Great Lakes observing activities include the:

1. Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS)

The GLOS network of buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and gliders provides information on key weather, water conditions, hydrodynamic, and biological variables throughout all of the Great Lakes. GLOS focuses on four priority areas – climate change impacts, ecosystem and food web dynamics, protection of public health, and navigation safety and efficiency – to make real-time and historical data publicly available to the larger Great Lakes community. The information generated and distributed within the GLOS network is used to develop and improve Great Lakes models and forecasts, and provides recreational users with continuous wind and wave forecasts to enhance boater safety.

CIGLR owns and operates two monitoring buoys in Lake Michigan and one at the University of Michigan Biological Station. These buoys are operational through the major boating seasons and report real-time water conditions and associated data every ten minutes. CIGLR also owns and operates a Slocum glider, two buoyancy gliders, and two AUVs that supplement buoy observations by measuring conditions throughout the water column along defined paths in the lake. The AUVs and gliders are able to traverse from one side of a Great Lake to another, and collect data from the surface to the deepest depths. Examples of AUV and glider applications include glider surveys of Lake Huron to examine the exchange of nutrients and algal production from Saginaw Bay to the open lake as part of the Coordinated Science Monitoring Initiative (CSMI), annual cross-lake glider surveys in Lake Michigan as part of the Long-Term Research program, and AUV missions in Lake Erie to support data needs for harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring and forecasting. We are currently working with NOAA GLERL to develop technology for incorporating acoustic telemetry into the AUVs for tracking fish movement and behavior.

2. Great Lakes CoastWatch

NOAA GLERL serves as the Great Lakes regional node of the nationwide NOAA CoastWatch program. CIGLR supports GLERL’s efforts to obtain, produce, and deliver environmental data products in support of research, management, and decision making in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes CoastWatch team provides access to near real-time and retrospective satellite and in-lake observations. Information and products from this program are used to help track algal blooms, pollution, ice cover, wind, and water intake temperatures at fish hatcheries; produce models of wave height, lake currents, and damage assessments; and support research, educational, and recreational activities. Users of this information include government agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard and National Weather Service, academic institutions, commercial interests, and the public. CIGLR supports this program by producing satellite-derived maps, facilitating the dissemination of CoastWatch data and products, and researching algorithm development of remotely sensed data.

3. Synthesis, Observations, & Response (SOAR) System

The Great Lakes Synthesis, Observations and Response System (SOAR) program coordinates and integrates regional coastal observations to develop decision support tools for resource managers. We interpret satellite images and deploy real-time observing system components both on the water (buoys, wave gliders) and in the air (remote sensing via aircraft-mounted sensors). Along with remote sensing data, our buoys deployed in Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, Muskegon Lake Area of Concern (AOC), Lake Michigan, and Lake Erie report on oxygen conditions, algal blooms, and nutrients. We use data from these systems to create forecasting products that evaluate restoration effectiveness, provide ecosystem assessments, and aid in decision support for regional managers. The real-time data and forecasts help public utility managers maintain high quality drinking water, keep beaches safe, inform the public on current water quality conditions, and provide the critical environmental information to assess ecosystem health on Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie.

Stay up-to-date on the most recent news and scientific media generated from our Great Lakes Observing System Research research here:


Biddanda, B.A. 2017. Global significance of the changing carbon cycle. Eos- Earth and Space News, American Geophysical Union. 98(6):15-17. Biddanda_etal.pdf

Bullerjahn, G.S., R.M. McKay, T.W. Davis, D.B. Baker, G.L. Boyer, L.V. D’Anglada, G.J. Doucette, J.C. Ho, E.G. Irwin, C.L. Kling, R.M. Kudela, R. Kurmayer, J.D. Ortiz, T.G. Otten, H.W. Paerl, B. Qin, B.L. Sohngen, R.P. Stumpf, P.M. Visser and S.W. Wilhelm. 2016. Global solutions for regional problems: collecting global expertise to address the problem of harmful algal blooms. A Lake Erie case study. Harmful Algae. 54:223-238. (DOI:10.1016/j.hal.2016.01.003). Bullerjahn_etal.pdf

Carmichael, W.W. and G.L. Boyer. 2016. Health impacts from cyanobacteria harmful algae blooms: Implications for the North American Great Lakes. Harmful Algae. 54:194-212. (DOI:10.1016/j.hal.2016.02.002). Carmichael_etal.pdf

Cotner, J.B., A.D. Weinke and B.A. Biddanda. 2017. Great Lakes: Science can keep them great. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 43:916-919. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2017.07.002). Cotner_etal.pdf

Defore, A.D., A. Weinke, M. Lindback and B. Biddanda. 2016. Year-round Measures of Planktonic Metabolism Reveal Net Autotrophy in Surface Waters of a Great Lakes Estuary. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 77:139-153. (DOI:10.3354/ame01790). Defore_etal.pdf

Fahnenstiel, M.J. Sayers, R.A. Shuchman, F. Yousef and S.A. Pothoven. 2016. Lake-wide phytoplankton production and abundance in the Upper Great Lakes: 2010-2013. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 42(3):619-629. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2016.02.004). Fahnenstiel_etal.pdf

Kerfoot, W.C. and S.C. Savage. 2016. Multiple inducers in aquatic foodwebs: Counter-measures and vulnerability to exotics. Limnology and Oceanography. 61:382-406. (DOI:10.1002/lno.10223). Kerfoot_etal.pdf

Kerfoot, W.C., N.R. Urban, C.P. McDonald, R. Rossmann and H. Zhang. 2016. Legacy mercury releases during copper mining near Lake Superior. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 42:50-61. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2015.10.007). Kerfoot2_etal.pdf

Kerfoot, W.C., M.M. Hobmeier, F. Yousef, B.M. Lafrancois, R.P. Maki and J.K. Hirsch. 2016. A plague of waterfleas (Bythotrephes): impacts on microcrustacean production in a large inland-lake complex. Biological Invasions. 18:1121-1145. (DOI:10.1007/s10530-015-1050-9). Kerfoot3_etal.pdf

Salk, K.R., P.H. Ostrom, B.A. Biddanda, A.D. Weinke, S.T. Kendall and N.E. Ostrom. 2016. Ecosystem metabolism and greenhouse gas production in a mesotrophic northern temperate lake experiencing seasonal hypoxia. Biogeochemistry. 131:303-319. (DOI:10.1007/s10533-016-0280-y). Salk_etal.pdf

Troy, C., D. Cannon, Q. Liao and H. Bootsma. 2016. Logarithmic velocity structure in the deep hypolimnetic waters of Lake Michigan. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 121:949-965. (DOI:10.1002/2014JC010506). Troy_etal.pdf

Watson S.B., C. Miller, G. Arhonditsis, G.L. Boyer, W. Carmichael, M. Charlton, R. Confesor, D. C. Depew, T.O. Höök, S. Ludsin, G. Matisoff, S.P. McElmurry, M.W. Murray, P. Richards, Y. R. Rao, M. Steffen and S. Wilhelm. 2016. The re-eutrophication of Lake Erie: Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. Harmful Algae. 56:44-66. (DOI:10.1016/j.hal.2016.04.010). Watson_etal.pdf

Weinke, A.D. and B.A. Biddanda. 2017. From bacteria to fish: ecological consequences of seasonal hypoxia in a Great Lakes estuary. Ecosystems. (DOI:10.1007/s10021-017-0160-x). Weinke_etal.pdf

Xue, P., D.J. Schwab, R.W. Sawtell, M.J. Sayers, R.A. Shuchman and G.L. Fahnenstiel. 2017. “A particle-tracking technique for spatial and temporal interpolation of satellite images applied to Lake Superior chlorophyll measurements.” Journal of Great Lakes Research. 43(3):1-13. (DOI:10.1016/j.jglr.2017.03.012). Xue_etal.pdf

Research Themes


GLOS Photo Gallery