The Great Lakes

Our Rochester area community's environmental health is greatly influenced by the Great Lakes--the largest source of fresh water in the world.  

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Lake Ontario 2010

What is the likely climate future for the Great Lakes region? In general, the climate of the Great Lakes region will grow warmer and probably drier during the twenty first century. Climate models predict that by the end of the century, temperature in the region will warm by 5 to 12°F (3 to 7°C) in winter, and by 5 to 20°F (3 to 11°C) in summer. Nighttime temperatures are likely to warm more than daytime temperatures, and extreme heat will be more common. Annual average precipitation levels are unlikely to change, but the seasonal distribution is likely to vary greatly, increasing in winter and decreasing in summer. Overall, the region may grow drier because any increases in rain or snow are unlikely to compensate for the drying effects of increased evaporation and transpiration in a warmer climate. This drying will affect surface and groundwater levels, and soil moisture is projected to decrease by 30 percent in summer. In addition, the frequency of 24-hour and multiday downpours, and thus flooding, may continue to increase.

These changes in temperature and precipitation will strongly alter how the climate feels to us. Within three decades, for example, a summer in Illinois may feel like a summer in Oklahoma does today. By the end of the century, an Illinois summer may well feel like one in east Texas today, while a Michigan summer will probably feel like an Arkansas summer does today. Residents in Toronto could experience a shift from a southern Ontario summer to one that by 2030 may feel more like one in upstate New York, and by the end of the century more like one in northern Virginia today.
From Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region | Impacts on Our Communities and Ecosystems from a Report of The Union of Concerned Scientists and The Ecological Society of America


Page Contents: Great Lakes NewsLinks | Great Lakes & Climate Change | Take Action for Great Lakes | Great Lakes Education | Monitoring the Health of Great Lakes | Resources for the Great Lakes | Important Great Lakes Documents | Great Lakes Coalitions | Essays on the Great Lakes |


Great Lakes There are several major issues (including diversion, water levels, fish diseases, invasive species and clean water) that could greatly alter our way of living if they were upset—and there’s evidence that many are.    


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SEARCH: Use search engine below to find anything posted since 1998.



  Algae growth is first documented biological impact of warmer Lake Superior Scientists have known for years that Lake Superior and other Great Lakes have warmed rapidly in recent decades and now, for the first time, they have documented the first physical impacts of that warming — an explosion of a tiny algae called cyclotella. That’s the finding of a new study published Friday in the journal Limnology and Oceanography. “This is the first detection of a biological impact from climate change on the Great Lakes ecosystem,’’ said Euan Reavie, paleolimnology specialist for UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute, one of nine scientists from six states and provinces who collaborated on the project. (December 5, 2016) Duluth News Tribune [more on Great Lakes, Water Quality and Climate Change in our area]

Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014 Protecting against extreme water levels, restoring wetlands and preparing for climate change | The International Joint Commission, after 14 years of scientific study and public engagement, advances Plan 2014 as the preferred option for regulating Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River water levels and flows.   Plan 2014 is designed to provide for more natural variations of water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that are needed to restore ecosystem health. It will continue to moderate extreme high and low levels, better maintain system-wide levels for navigation, frequently extend the recreational boating season and slightly increase hydropower production. More year-to-year variation in water levels improves coastal health.



Download the Full ReportLake Erie Ecosystem Priority 2012-2015 |The Commission has hosted eight public meetings to inform and engage stakeholders and the general public about its Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority (LEEP). Under this priority, the Commission will develop a report analyzing the scientific, economic and social issues related to the causes and controls of harmful algal blooms. For example, a binational group of scientists is examining the source of phosphorus loads to the lake and how climate change might affect the amount and timing of those inputs. They are also assessing the adequacy of monitoring programs and the effectiveness of agricultural and urban best management practices and other alternative solutions to reducing nutrient loads. Other researchers are looking at the economic impact of excess algal growth compared to the costs and benefits of potential solutions. Draft research papers on these topics are expected to be completed by the end of 2012 and those papers will inform an expert forum to be held in February 2013. A draft report with recommendations on the essential elements of a plan for governments to address harmful algal blooms will be released to the public for comment in the summer of 2013 and a final report by October 2013. Subsequently, the IJC will focus on implementation and governance issues. Stakeholder engagement is a key factor throughout the process.



Take Action to Protect our Great Lakes locally:

Check these local efforts to curb the abuses of one of the largest fresh water systems in the world, in our backyard

  • Join the Great Lakes Committee   of the Rochester Regional Group Sierra Club | Sierra Club
  • Citizen action to protect and restore the water quality of the Great Lakes basin: Freshwater Future "Freshwater Future builds effective community-based citizen action to protect and restore the water quality of the Great Lakes basin. We work toward this goal by providing financial assistance, communications and networking assistance and technical assistance to citizens and grassroots watershed groups throughout the Great Lakes basin. Through these efforts we work with over 1,800 grassroots watershed groups and citizens to protect and restore the rivers, lakes and wetlands in their communities. Freshwater Future, Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. "
  • Adopt-a-Beach™: Alliance for the Great Lakes "Adopt-a-Beach™ is the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ premier volunteer program, with some 11,000 participants ranging from individuals and families to schools and businesses. Our Adopt-a-Beach™ Program is more than just a beach sweep. Teams conduct litter removal and monitoring, and also complete a beach health assessment form that includes science-based observation and testing. Information collected by the teams is entered into our Adopt-a-Beach™ online system and is used to educate the public, share with local beach authorities and improve our beaches.
  • Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan The Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) is a binational plan to restore and protect the health of Lake Ontario by addressing the chemical, biological and physical stressors affecting the lake. Both the Niagara River and St. Lawrence River are included in the scope of the Lake Ontario LAMP. The Lake Ontario LAMP is led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, DEC, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The LAMP guides the activities of these and other U.S. and Canadian federal, state, provincial, and tribal agencies by establishing ecosystem goals, objectives and indicators. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) 


Restoring the Great Lakes - Success Stories from the 2014 Field Season Over the past five years the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has blossomed from a line item in the President’s budget into a rich mosaic of conservation actions taking place across the Great Lakes basin. We’re excited to say, this is only the beginning. Bringing tangible environmental change to the Great Lakes is a marathon and with the assistance of GLRI our staff and our partners are off to a strong start.

Through our 2014 inter-agency agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received more than $49 million to support new and ongoing Great Lakes projects. In total, we have received more than $230 million over the past five years. As always, we are proud to share our accomplishments with you. The 2014 edition of Restoring the Great Lakes focuses on the progress of projects, as well as highlighting a few new projects to keep your eye on.

For our readers who live, work and play on or around the Great Lakes, you already know how precious a resource the Great Lakes are to our country. To our friends who live in distant places, and who may not have had a chance to experience the wonder of the Great Lakes, please know that our work may still touch your life in unexpected ways. The songbird chirping by your window or waterfowl swimming in your local pond is a testament to our migratory bird habitat work in the Great Lakes. It reminds us that we live in an interconnected world where the results of conservation actions happening thousands of miles away may still find their way into our lives.

We invite you out to our national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries to learn more about the work that we do and the people who make it happen. Our GLRI supported projects in the Great Lakes reflect the passion and hard work of our staff. Come witness it for yourself. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Great Lakes studies and reports linked to Climate Change

Climate Change is going to profoundly affect all the Great Lakes ecosystems--plants, wildlife, fish, invasive species, water levels, storm intensity--you name it.  We live in the Great Lakes ecology and that means profound changes are happening and more are coming.  Read this studies and reports to comprehend the importance of addressing Climate Change.

  • This looks like a great project to help get communities in the Great Lakes basin get their water infrastructure up to snuff for Climate Change. Check it out: Great Lakes Water Infrastructure Project “Analyzing and Proposing Solutions to Water Infrastructure Failures in Great Lakes Cities It could cost Great Lakes states $200 billion over the next 20 years to bring drinking and wastewater infrastructure to a state of good repair. One of the primary drivers of sky-rocketing infrastructure investment needs is a history of low investment. The vast majority of water supply and wastewater infrastructure was installed in the early 20th century and is over 100 years old. To add fuel to the fire, increased federal regulations, climatic stressors, and rising construction costs all exacerbate the level of infrastructure investment needed.” (from CNT)
  • The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region The field of climate change adaptation is in a period of critical transition. The general concepts of adaptation have been well developed over the past decade. Now, practitioners must move from...[show full description] Document Citation: Gregg, R. M., K. M. Feifel, J. M. Kershner, and J. L. Hitt. 2012. The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. EcoAdapt, Bainbridge Island, WA. --from EcoAdapt
  • National Climate Assessment: Midwest Technical Input Report At the request of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, GLISA and the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment formed a Midwest regional team to provide technical input to the National Climate Assessment (NCA). In March 2012, the team submitted their report to the NCA Development and Advisory Committee. The following white papers comprised the chapters of the report, focusing on the potential impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options to climate variability and change across many sectors.  Great Lakes Integrated Science Assessments- GLISA  [more on Great Lakes in our area]
  • International Upper Great Lakes Study "FINAL REPORT TO THE INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION MARCH 2012 LAKE SUPERIOR REGULATION: ADDRESSING UNCERTAINTY IN UPPER GREAT LAKESWATER LEVELS  SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS  | Changing water levels can have significant effects on the lives of the more than 25 million people who live and work in the upper Great Lakes region. The front cover shows an integrated view of the key interests served by these waters. In the centre of the image is a photograph of the control structures at the outlet of Lake Superior on the St. Marys River, the only location in the entire Great Lakes basin upstream from Niagara Falls where water levels can be affected by regulation. Under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, domestic and sanitary water uses, navigation, and power and irrigation are given order of precedence. These uses must be taken into account in the development of regulation plans. Today, it is recognized that other interests have rights under the Treaty, consistent with the International Joint Commission’s balancing principle – providing benefits or relief to interests affected by water levels and flows without causing undue detriment to other interests. With this in mind, the International Upper Great Lakes Study added the interests of ecosystems, coastal zone uses and recreational boating and tourism to its analysis of Lake Superior regulation and uncertainty in future upper Great Lakes water levels. In addition, the Study recognized that First Nations in Canada, Native Americans and Métis represent an important perspective in the upper Great Lakes. For thousands of years, and continuing into the present, many Native American communities and First Nations have relied on the natural resources of the Great Lakes to meet their economic, cultural and spiritual needs. " from International Joint Commission
  • Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region (2003) | Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Impacts on Our Communities and Ecosystems is a comprehensive report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ecological Society of America, and written by leading university and government scientists in the Great Lakes region. This report examines the potential impacts of climate change upon the various ecosystems of this diverse and rich region. The report is designed to raise awareness of climate change and broaden understanding of its potential impacts and solutions. It is written in a readily accessible style for the general public, state and national policymakers, and business leaders. If you would like to be kept informed of our activities in the region, fill out our Great Lakes notification form and we will keep you posted. Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Great Lakes National Parks in Peril The Threats of Climate Disruption At stake are the resources and values that make our national parks the special places that Americans love. Principal Authors Stephen Saunders Dan Findlay Tom Easley The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization Contributing Author Theo Spencer Natural Resources Defense Council July 2011
  • On Thin Ice: Warming Winters Put America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage at Risk tells the stories of how 2011-2012’s warm winter impacted hunters and anglers across America and details the steps we need to take now to protect those traditions for future generations. - National Wildlife Federation
  • "The Great Lakes Compact The Great Lakes contain six quadrillion gallons of water (about 18.4 billion acre-feet), more than one-fifth of the world’s surface supply of freshwater and more than 95 percent of the surface freshwater supply in the U.S.32 Although the volume of the Great Lakes is vast, less than 1 percent of its waters are renewed annually through precipitation, runoff, and infiltration.33 The Great Lakes Basin ranks third in terms of total freshwater use out of the 21 major watersheds in the U.S.34 Lake levels are expected to decline over the next century in each of the Great Lakes, from 1 foot on Lake Superior to as much as 3 feet on Lakes Michigan and Huron.35 Management and use of water in the eight Great Lakes states is governed by the Great Lakes‒St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Agreement and Compact.36 In ratifying the Compact, each state agreed to undertake a series of actions, including the establishment of thresholds governing new or increased withdrawals of water; implementation of a permitting process for new withdrawals; development of water conservation and efficiency programs, including the establishment of state-specific goals and objectives to guide individual states’ programs; and improved data gathering and sharing across the Basin. In addition, the Compact directs states to “[g]ive substantial consideration to climate change or other significant threats to Basin Waters and take into account the current state of scientific knowledge, or uncertainty,”37 and to take appropriate measures, such as adaptive management, to address these threats. " (Page 198) Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning --from Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Online Map Guides Great Lakes Climate Change Adaptation Planning   Record heat, severe storms, rising waters: climate change adaptation becomes more of an imperative every day. But without accurate data to guide planning, government action risks being ineffective or insufficient, a problem when planning for effects decades down the road. That’s where a new interactive map from the University of Michigan comes into the picture – for the Great Lakes, at least. “Socioeconomics and Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region” is an online tool combining economic, infrastructure, and population data for 225 counties across 8 states. The University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute jointly developed the map with the nonprofit Headwaters Economics research group to help local governments across the region understand, plan for, and adapt to local climate change impacts. Eight States, Countless Challenges Like the rest of America, the Great Lakes region is starting to experience a changing climate, often in unique ways from county to county. “The impacts of climate variability and change will be felt different in different regions of the Great Lakes based on their economies, infrastructure, and vulnerable populations,” said Don Scavia of the Graham Sustainability Institute. (August 15, 2013) Clean Technica [more on Great Lakes and Climate Change in our area]
  • Restoring the Great Lakes’ Coastal Future Technical Guidance for the Design and Implementation of Climate-Smart Restoration Projects | "The purpose of this Restoring the Great Lakes’ Coastal Future is to provide an initial suite of tools and methods to assist in the planning and implementation of climate-smart restoration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its partners and grantees. The guidance is intended to be a living document that evolves in response to workshops, trainings, on-the-ground projects, and other stakeholder input. " (2011, EcoAdapt and National Wildlife Federation)



Great Lakes Education

Learn about important issues that pertain to our Great Lakes. 

  • Liquid Pipeline: Extreme energy’s  threat to the Great Lakes and the  St. Lawrence Seaway By Maude Barlow "This report details plans to transport dangerous new forms of energy – as well as the waste from more traditional forms – around, under and on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is also a call to action to stop these plans before it is too late. Production of unconventional energy in North America is exploding and so are the transport routes to carry it. The tar sands of Alberta are producing far more bitumen than can be sold in Canada. If current expansion plans are realized, the tar sands could one day be producing 5 million barrels (800 million litres) of heavy crude – the dirtiest oil on Earth – a day. This would eventually require an additional 14,000 kilometres of pipelines to carry the oil to export markets. Refining of tar sands crude in American refineries has also exploded; there are now 66 U.S. refineries processing Alberta bitumen, the majority of which are located in states within the Great Lakes Basin. "
  • Major report on the health of our Great Lakes. Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Resources November 2007 - This report provides a comprehensive look at how climate change will impact water resources in the Great Lakes region and in other regions of the United States. By exploring the impact climate change will have in reducing water supplies across the country, this report highlights the need for water conservation laws and policies in the face of growing demand for clean, fresh water." --National Wildlife Federation is solely responsible for the content of this report.
  • A new threat to our lakes is underway by Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in New York - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation "Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) virus is a serious pathogen of fresh and saltwater fish that is causing an emerging disease in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. VHS virus is a rhabdovirus (rod shaped virus) that affects fish of all size and age ranges. It does not pose any threat to human health. VHS can cause hemorrhaging of fish tissue, including internal organs, and can cause the death of infected fish. " Also, check out all news links on this issue in the past: VHS News Links from
  • Important Canadian report about eating fish in the Great Lakes--things are not improving: Up to the Gills: 2009 Update on Pollution in Great Lakes Fish "This report examines fish consumption advisories in the Great Lakes between 2005 and 2009. Up to the Gills finds that levels of toxic chemicals in Great Lakes fish are alarmingly high, and are not improving. The major chemical contaminants that cause consumption advisories for Great Lakes fish include mercury, PCBs, pesticides, dioxins and furans. Health effects of these chemicals include damage to the nervous, respiratory and immune system, as well as cancer."
  • Learn all about our Great Lakes from those who have experienced it—you. -- Great Lakes Wiki - The Great Lakes Wiki explores new ways of speeding the flow of information, knowledge and news about one of the world's greatest natural resources. It relies on the experience and knowledge of a network of citizens, including scientists, hunters, policymakers, environmentalists, anglers, lakeside property owners, boaters, business operators and others who care about the Great Lakes region.
  • Great Lakes Educators of Aquatic and Marine Science (GLEAMS) GLEAMS is a network of people - from the Great Lakes Region - representing a variety of disciplines and working together for the advancement of aquatic education. GLEAMS aims to provide educators with information, methods and materials for including water related content and activities into their curricula. GLEAMS also provides its members with opportunities to network and connect with marine and aquatic science educators throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond.
  • TEACH Great Lakes Are you interested in learning more about the Great Lakes? Start your exploration with an Introduction to the Great Lakes. Do you have a specific question about the Great Lakes that you've been wondering about? Visit the Great Lakes Vault of Knowledge to submit questions and get answers.
  • Great Lakes Forever Great Lakes Forever is a public education initiative of Biodiversity Project and its partners. Great Lakes Forever is designed to raise awareness of the ecological value of the Great Lakes and concern about the threats to the ecosystem’s health. It is also designed to encourage citizen involvement in Great Lakes protection. The campaign has two goals: A broader, more engaged constituency that sees reasons to care more about the Great Lakes and is therefore more receptive to messages encouraging positive actions.Institutional commitment and a sustainable capacity to build a more engaged Great Lakes constituency. Great Lakes ForeverThe Great Lakes frames discussion of the Lakes around four key issues: water quality, water quantity, habitat protection, and invasive species control. Working with a coalition of Wisconsin partners and region-wide advisors, we are working to raise the profile of important, but poorly understood Great Lakes issues, such as: polluted run-off, groundwater depletion, and habitat loss. The program combines five communications components in an effort to reach the public on these issues: media outreach (press kits,) educational advertising (print and radio,) point-of-experience signs (at coastal park facilities,) community events, and Web-based outreach.
  • Impacts of Climate Change in the United States - Great Lakes THE POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON THE GREAT LAKES REGION Critical Findings for the Great Lakes Region from the First National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change
  • International Association for Great Lakes Research - IAGLR The International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) is a scientific organization made up of researchers studying the Laurentian Great Lakes, other large lakes of the world, and their watersheds, as well as those with an interest in such research. IAGLR members encompass all scientific disciplines with a common interest in the management of large lake ecosystems on many levels.
  • Lake Ontario Waterkeeper As one of the most exciting young environmental groups in the country, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has drawn local, regional, and national attention for our clean water initiatives. Launched in February 2001, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper trains other individuals and volunteer groups to be local water guardians and to report pollution concerns.
  • Climate Change:    Great Lakes Climate | Great Lakes Climate Change Science and Education Systemic Network (GLCCSESN) | Great Lakes Climate "This project will begin on 15 September 2010. Climate Change Education Partnership - Great Lakes Climate Change Science and Education Systemic Network. "


Monitoring the health of the Great Lakes

Sites that actually get you up to the minute information on the state of our Great Lakes

  • "Blue Accounting helps Great Lakes communities set shared goals and measure whether we are achieving them by transforming existing data into useful information. Working together, we can improve the decisions we make to ensure the Great Lakes will always be the backbone of our region, supplying fresh water and natural beauty and serving as a powerful economic engine. Read our story."
  • Great Lakes Monitoring "Welcome to Great Lakes Monitoring! This site provides easy access to long-term, environmental monitoring data collected throughout the Great Lakes. There are a range of environmental parameters to choose from such as nutrients, contaminants and physical properties of water from various sources. Features: Explore trends across the basin and visualize available data from a variety of sources Compare data among various locations or parameters Search for specific data and download"
  • Down The Drain Report "Water Conservation in the Great Lakes Basin - 2010 - Water is essential to life on earth, so much so that we often take it for granted. Throughout the day, from the time you shower in the morning until you brush your teeth before you go to bed, you are using water. Most Canadians use water like we breathe air; not thinking about it, just doing it. Many Canadians have developed this type of thinking because we benefit from one of the earth’s greatest gift, the Great Lakes. The vast majority of the residents of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec and significant populations in the States of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin depend on the water of the Great Lakes for drinking, irrigating crops, generating power, transporting goods and recreation. Ontarians are the largest water users of the Great Lakes "  --from Environmental Defence
  • Keeping tabs on Ontario Lake's Health:  Great Lakes Observing System The Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) is being developed to provide critical real-time and historical data for multiple users, including, among others, resource managers, researchers, homeland security interests, the commercial shipping industry and the recreational boating community.
  • Great Lakes Monitoring: The  Lake Guardian The Lake Guardian is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) largest Great Lakes' research and  monitoring vessel.  It is the only self-contained, non-polluting research vessel on the Great Lakes.  The Lake Guardian, operated by the EPA’s Chicago-based Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO, conducts monitoring programs that sample the water, aquatic life, sediments, and air in order to assess the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem by using state-of-the-art data collection techniques and instruments during the biannual spring and summer surveys.  It is also used to support research activities conducted by Federal, State, and, local agencies, and universities.
  • Great Lakes Air Deposition Program The Great Lakes Air Deposition (GLAD) program is coordinated by the Great Lakes Commission to address the deposition of toxic pollutants to the waters of the Great Lakes region and to promote coordinate efforts to reduce such deposition and the resulting adverse impacts on human and wildlife health. The program supports scientific research, information gathering and collaboration among policy makers.
  • Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AoCs): Rochester Embayment | Great Lakes | US EPA The Rochester Embayment is an area of formed by the indentation of the Monroe County (New York) shoreline between Bogus Point in the town of Parma and Nine Mile Point in the town of Webster, both in Monroe County. The northern boundary of the embayment is delineated by the straight line between these two points. The southern boundary includes approximately 9.6 km (6 miles) of the Genesee River that is influenced by lake levels, from the river's mouth to the Lower Falls. The drainage area of the embayment is more than 3,000 square miles (7,770 km2) in area. This area consists of the entire Genesee River Basin and parts of two other drainage basins; the easternmost area of the Lake Ontario West Basin and the westernmost area of the Lake Ontario Central Basin. --from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) Homepage Ecosystem forecasting predicts the effects of biological, chemical, physical, and human-induced changes on ecosystems and their components. These forecasts, both qualitative and quantitative, offer scientifically sound state-of-the-art estimations of likely outcomes.
  • Welcome to the USGS Great Lakes Science Center The Great Lakes Science Center exists to meet the Nation's need for scientific information for restoring, enhancing, managing, and protecting living resources and their habitats in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. The Center is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has biological stations and research vessels located throughout the Great Lakes Basin. The precursor to the current Center's programs began in 1927 when investigations of the collapse of the Lake Erie cisco population were initiated by the Center's first director, Dr. John Van Oosten. Our research spans a range of studies including fish populations and communities, aquatic habitats, terrestrial ecology, nearshore and coastal communities and the biological processes that occur in this complex ecosystem of the Great Lakes.
  • The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is improving habitat for fish, wildlife and people in communities across the eight-state Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Restoration Database (GLRD) showcases projects implemented under the Initiative’s Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration Focus Area in Fiscal Years 2010-2012 to increase awareness and improve communication on accomplishments in this important component of the restoration program. The GLRD is a searchable database that enables users to search for projects using a variety of queries, including a key word search. A fact sheet can be generated for each project to provide more detailed information on its goals, objectives, location, recipient organization and contact. For more information on the GLRI visit

Resources for the Great Lakes

Though, Rochester, NY specifically is located on Lake Ontario, our city is influence by all that happens to any of the Great Lakes because we are next to the last of the Great Lakes before their waters flow into the St, Lawrence River.  The sites below focus in on various areas of the largest freshwater system in the world, which holds a fifth of the world's fresh water. 

  • NY's Great Lakes: "This Web site provides users with a portal of links to New York’s Great Lakes information. This includes links to mini-grant projects, research priorities and findings, and other existing information. "
  • Introduction:  The Great Lakes  The Great Lakes - SuperiorMichiganHuronErie and Ontario - are an important part of the physical and cultural heritage of North America. Spanning more than 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) from west to east, these vast inland freshwater seas have provided water for consumption, transportation, power, recreation and a host of other uses. The water of the lakes and the many resources of the Great Lakes basin have played a major role in the history and development of the United States and Canada. For the early European explorers and settlers, the lakes and their tributaries were the avenues for penetrating the continent, extracting valued resources and carrying local products abroad. Now the Great Lakes basin is home to more than one-tenth of the population of the United States and one-quarter of the population of Canada. Some of the world's largest concentrations of industrial capacity are located in the Great Lakes region. Nearly 25 percent of the total Canadian agricultural production and 7 percent of the American production are located in the basin. The United States considers the Great Lakes a fourth seacoast, and the Great Lakes region is a dominant factor in the Canadian industrial economy. EPA
  • International Joint Commission Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters wisely and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.
  • Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan The Lake Ontario Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) is a binational plan to restore and protect the health of Lake Ontario by addressing the chemical, biological and physical stressors affecting the lake. Both the Niagara River and St. Lawrence River are included in the scope of the Lake Ontario LAMP. The Lake Ontario LAMP is led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, DEC, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The LAMP guides the activities of these and other U.S. and Canadian federal, state, provincial, and tribal agencies by establishing ecosystem goals, objectives and indicators. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
  • LOCI: Lake Ontario Coastal Initiative "The Lake Ontario Coastal Initiative, is a public/private, grassroots, regional partnership. The U.S. portion of Lake Ontario’s shoreline and watershed lies wholly in New York State. Despite significant water quality improvements in the open, offshore waters of the Lake over the last three decades, the 300 miles of shoreline, river and creek mouths, and embayments suffer from many impairments that limit their recreational use, elevate the cost of drinking water withdrawals that serve over a million customers, including the Rochester and Syracuse metropolitan areas, and affect the region’s recreation and tourism based economy and property values, reliant on high quality water resources." 
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, Missions Great Lakes Habitat Initiative (GLHI)
  • Council of Great Lakes Governors The Council has one simple mission: To encourage and facilitate environmentally responsible economic growth through a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors among the eight Great Lakes States and with Ontario and Québec. Through the Council, Governors work collectively to ensure that the entire Great Lakes region is both economically sound and environmentally conscious in addressing today's problems and tomorrow's challenges.
  • Great Lakes Commission | Commission des Grands Lacs The Great Lakes Commission is a public agency established by the Great Lakes Basin Compact in 1955 to help its Member states and provinces speak with a unified voice and collectively fulfill their vision for a healthy, vibrant Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River region. Commission products and services focus on communication and education, information integration and reporting, facilitation and consensus building, and policy coordination and advocacy.
  • Great Lakes United: Great Lakes United is an international coalition dedicated to preserving and restoring the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem. Great Lakes United is made up of member organizations representing environmentalists, conservationists, hunters and anglers, labor unions, community groups, and citizens of the United States, Canada, and First Nations and Tribes.
  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative "The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. A task force of 11 federal agencies developed an action plan to implement the initiative. This action plan covers fiscal years 2010 through 2014 and addresses five urgent issues: Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern; Combating invasive species; Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off; Restoring wetlands and other habitats; and Tracking progress and working with strategic partners. With input from citizens, three key priorities will guide restoration for 2012 and 2013: Cleaning up Areas of Concern, Reducing nutrients entering the Lakes, and Preventing the introduction of new invasive species."
  • IUGLS - International Upper Great Lakes Study "Governed by the International Joint Commission, this multi-disciplinary Study depends on several groups who provide essential support. Their broad involvement and impact are critical to the Study's success. "
  • Great Lakes Echo - Environmental news across the basin "We foster and serve a news community defined by proximity to and interest in the environment of the Great Lakes watershed. We use traditional news reporting methods but also push the frontiers of journalism to harness the knowledge, interests, skills and energy of that community. "
  • NY Sea Grant | "Bringing Science to the Shore" since 1971. "Established in 1966, NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program promotes the wise stewardship of coastal resources in 32 joint Federal/State university programs in every U.S. coastal and Great Lakes state and Puerto Rico (click here for U.S. map with locations). The Sea Grant model has also inspired similar projects in the Pacific region, Korea and Indonesia. New York Sea Grant (NYSG), one of the largest of these programs, is a cooperative program of the State University of New York (SUNY) and Cornell University, with administrative offices at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, extension administration at Cornell University in Ithaca, and extension staff throughout the state. "
  • Great Lakes Integrated Science Assessments GLISA "Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) links science, people, and information, bridging the gap between producers and users of scientific information. GLISA facilitates smart responses to climate variability and change. "
  • Freshwater Future "works to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.  As the only watershed-wide organization dedicated solely to supporting the needs of community-based groups and actions working to protect and restore Great Lakes land and water resources, we are able to help protect and restore the Great Lakes like no other organization. We have helped thousands of community-based groups and individuals for over fifteen years.  Freshwater Future has provided over $1.5 million in grants, locally targeted resource toolkits,  trainings,  as well as planning and strategy consulting assistance.  We also encourage engagement and participation in community decision-making to protect and restore local rivers, lakes and wetlands. The groups we help work at the local community level where large environmental organizations cannot.  It is at the local community level where thousands of decisions are made every day that impact the health of our waters and our communities. Our support helps people make an on-the-ground difference in their community."
  • The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) is a collaboration of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, with the participation of Ohio State University and Michigan Sea Grant. Its Core Management Team is comprised of leading climatologists, social scientists, and outreach specialists. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with additional support from U of M and MSU, GLISA is part of a national network of regional centers focused on adaptation to climate change and variability. 
  • GEO Great Lakes is part of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). GEOSS is a coordinating and integrating network of observing and information systems. The GEO GL team supports data collaboration efforts between the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Region.
  • Great Lakes Now "Over the past four years, Detroit Public TV has been telling stories and providing coverage of important conferences and issues related to protecting, cherishing and enjoying the Great Lakes. Now, thanks to the generous support of the Erb Family Foundation, DPTV is establishing year-round coverage to help tell the stories of the lakes on an ongoing basis. "

Important Great Lakes Agreements and Documents.

Because the Great Lakes spans several states and two countries there are several agreements that help policy makers decide how to proceed on environmental issues.

  • Synthesis of the Third National Climate Assessment for the Great Lakes Region The Great Lakes region of the United States covers all or portions of eight states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) and straddles regions typically described as the Midwest and the Northeast (See NCA Ch. 16: Northeast and Ch. 18: Midwest). Approximately 23 million people live in the U.S. side of the Great Lakes Basin. The Great Lakes region is a varied region containing agricultural lands, forests, urban areas (including Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Rochester), and the Great Lakes themselves. The potential vulnerabilities to climate variability and climate change. Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA) S
  • Keeping Great Lakes Water Safe: Priorities for Protecting against Emerging Chemical Pollutants "More than 85,000 chemicals are in production and use in the United States today and the number is growing. Of those, more than 2,200 are produced at a rate of 1 million-plus pounds a year, and nearly 20,000 registered pesticide products have entered the market since registration began in 1947. Still more are on the way. Advances in chemistry and biotechnology mean new compounds are being synthesized at an unprecedented rate. These chemicals don’t simply disappear after fulfilling their intended uses, but find their way into the environment and the water. As the number of chemicals around us continues to grow, the potential for these chemicals to end up in the Great Lakes — with retention times of up to nearly 200 years — also grows. "November 27, 2012 , Alliance for the Great Lakes
  • Binational Toxics Strategy | Great Lakes | US EPA
  • Our Great Lakes - Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), first signed in 1972 and renewed in 1978, expresses the commitment of Canada and the United States to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and includes a number of objectives and guidelines to achieve these goals. It reaffirms the rights and obligation of Canada and the United States under the Boundary Waters Treaty
  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan (February 2010) "The lands and waters of the Great Lakes are like no other place. In a world where fresh surface water is increasingly in demand, the region contains some 20 percent of it. At a time when people are not looking as much to faraway places for respite, the Great Lakes offer some of the most majestic natural shorescapes on the planet to accommodate them. As a result, people are reconnecting to their beaches, wide-open waters, petroglyphed bluffs, dune ranges and tumbling tributaries like never before. Likewise, these same resources have served as the raw material to build some of the Earth’s most legendary cities, create jobs to support families, and contribute to the largest economy in the history of the world. Still, our expectation that the Great Lakes will continue to meet these needs has resulted in lost flora, fauna, soil, and air and water quality to the point where the ecosystem is showing signs of severe stress and its ability to keep up with these demands is in doubt. While in the past we have worked to minimize harm, public demand for a new standard of care is surging. That standard of care is that we must leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them. We must continue to go beyond minimizing harm to proactively rehabilitating the Great Lakes. Only then will they be able to keep providing jobs, recreation and sanctuary. "
  • Great Lakes--St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact Implementation "On December 13, 2005, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers signed agreements at the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ (CGLG) Leadership Summit that will provide unprecedented protections for the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin. "


Great Lakes Coalitions

Organizations whose goals are to protect specific areas of the Great Lakes 

  • FL-LOWPA Finger Lakes - Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance is a coalition of all 25 counties in New York State's Lake Ontario drainage basin. FL-LOWPA fosters coordinated watershed management programs across the Lake Ontario Basin based on local needs.
  • OSOS Save our Sodus Save Our Sodus, Inc. is an organization concerned with deteriorating water quality in Sodus Bay. Our members include local residents, vacationers, property owners, businesses, farmers, boaters, sportspeople and many others who recognize the importance of preserving the bay's natural beauty and purity. Water quality and pollution are quickly becoming an international concern and threaten to emerge this century as a global crisis to the world's populations. We understand that the best way to effectively protect and preserve these waters is locally, through citizen support and community action. By joining together, we can increase public awareness, create a common voice and reverse the pollution damage that is done daily to Sodus Bay and its tributaries.
  • Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative "The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) is a binational coalition of mayors and other local officials that works actively with federal, state, and provincial governments to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes. GLSLCI is an independent 501(c)(3) headquartered in Chicago. David Ullrich is the Executive Director and point of contact for the Initiative. Before heading the Initiative, Mr. Ullrich was deputy regional administrator for the Great Lakes region of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1992 until 2003. During his 30 years with EPA, he had been acting regional administrator, director of the Waste Management Division, acting regional counsel, and chief of Air Enforcement."
  • - Welcome to the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association's Website! The Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, a Waterkeeper Alliance Member and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, serves the waters and fish of Lake Erie, beginning in the east at Sandusky Bay and extending west to the Ohio line of the Maumee River. This includes counties in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario; the rivers Raisin, Maumee, Sandusky, Touissaint, Portage, Ottawa, and Huron; and all creeks, ditches, drain pipes and runoff to the waters of Western Lake Erie, with the exception of the Detroit River.
  • Alliance for the Great Lakes "The Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest independent citizen's organization devoted 100 percent to the Great Lakes. Our professional staff works with scientists, policymakers, businesses, community groups and everyday citizens to protect and restore the world's largest surface freshwater resource. From forging forward-looking Great Lakes policies to promoting Great Lakes education to on-the-ground efforts to improve thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline, we've been out front and behind the scenes caring for the lakes since 1970. In 2008, we received the American Bar Association's Distinguished Achievement Award in Environmental Law and Policy, the first not-for-profit citizen's group to receive the honor. "
  • GREAT LAKES COMMONS "We are a growing and open network of people, organizations and institutions from the Great Lakes bioregion who care passionately about these remarkable bodies of water. Great Lakes Commons was initiated and incubated as a project by  On The Commons. A number of organizations and individuals from the U.S., Canada, and First Nations provided leadership and guidance from early on. These include the Council of Canadians, Blue Mountain Center, Detroit People's Water Board, Vermont Law School Environmental Law Center, Blue Planet Project, FLOW for Water, and Food and Water Watch. Individuals who are key GLC collaborators are listed below. Together we are environmentalists and scientists, recreationalists and teachers, urban and rural, Native and non-native, people of faith and artists, food growers and public health advocates — people like you who want to see the Lakes thrive for generations to come. "