Archived Faculty Projects

Below are some of the past projects performed by our team of faculty.

Improving beach monitoring for fecal contamination in urban waterways

Identifying waterways with a high bacteria level and exposure risk is necessary to protect public health at the approximately 560 bathing beaches along the American coast of the Great Lakes. City of Detroit beaches and rivers are less frequently monitored than neighboring affluent communities for periods of high bacterial loads, resulting in an unknown and potentially significant health risk to this underserved community. Contributing to high bacterial loads in Detroit surface waters are sewer overflows, surface runoff, failing septic systems, illicit sewer pipe connections, and sediment erosion. Ongoing collaborative research takes a community-based approach and engages local groups to empower residents to understand the risk and participate in monitoring their local beaches. Through development and implementation of rapid, reliable, accurate, simple and cost effective methods that are feasible for routine water quality monitoring and application of fecal marker technologies, we help to identify and address the sources of fecal water contamination.

Water contamination is a significant concern for both military and civilian water support agencies. Contamination may range from specific biological and chemical contaminants identified as having a high toxicity and a high potential for being used as terrorist agents to common biological and chemical contaminants from municipal and industrial sources. In order to ensure the safety of the public and soldiers, civilian and military water support agencies have a need to be able to detect the whole spectrum of contaminants in water. These intertwining needs have brought about collaborative effort between the army and local public health departments in Oakland County, Macomb County, and Wayne County. The initial goal identified was to determine in real-time, whether recreational water locations such as beaches are safe for public use. The current test to determine if a water source is contaminated has at least a twenty-four hour turnaround time. The system under development will eventually be able to detect a broad variety of biological and chemical contaminants in real-time or by remote monitoring and thus will serve as an important component in ensuring the safety of soldiers and the public.

The Secretary of the Army is the Department of Defense (DOD) Executive Agent for water resources management in support of contingency operations. The Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Michigan is responsible for research, development, and engineering support for the development of equipment for water storage, distribution, water quality monitoring, water purification, and treatment. Part of the UWERG Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsytems (SSIM) water monitoring program is with TARDEC.

Investigators: Dr. Donna Kashian, Dr. Jeffrey Ram

Biotic and physical influences on internal phosphorus loading in a Great Lakes coastal ecosystem

Michigan's Saginaw Bay is a eutrophic embayment of Lake Huron with excess nutrient loading from a large agricultural watershed. Despite ongoing efforts to reduce nutrient loads, phosphorus levels remain elevated. The effects of sediment type, oxygen level and the presence of zebra and quagga mussels on internal phosphorus loading were evaluated in order to better understand sediment phosphorus fluxes. Comparisons of phosphorus flux under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and due to remineralization from mussel biodeposits, indicate that phosphorus release under anaerobic conditions is higher compared to aerobic conditions. These results suggest that contributions of phosphorus from sediments in Saginaw Bay may be controlled by episodic anoxic events. This work is an important part of a larger collaborative project to investigate the role of multiple stressors in Saginaw Bay.

Investigators: Dr. Donna Kashian
Partners: Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Saginaw Bay Muck - Integrated Assessment




Using the Integrated Assessment (IA) framework, the research team will summarize what is currently known about muck-related conditions at the Bay City State Recreation Area (BCSRA), including the social and economic impacts of muck at the park and on the Saginaw Bay Region as a whole. The project will build off of the five-year Saginaw Bay Multiple Stressors Project that started in 2007 and focused on evaluating different stressors and their effects on Saginaw Bay.

Engaging people who are affected by the muck the stakeholders is a priority. The target audience includes key decision makers from local, state, federal and non-government organizations in the region, as well as individuals with an interest in the muck-related issues at the park and in the Bay.

Are you a stakeholder? Learn more about how to become involved.

The team will ask for stakeholder input using a suite of models, interviews, surveys and meetings. The results of the IA will provide stakeholders with a shared understanding of what is currently known about the muck and options for managing the effects of muck.

Ultimately, the assessment will help the research team identify a series of feasible short-term and long-term management actions that could help alleviate and better manage the effects of muck.

Find out more here

Long-term changes in Daphnid responses to Great Lakes contaminants

This project presents a new method for studying past environmental change and long-term anthropogenic disturbances in the Great Lakes. Results from this project can aid in improved modeling, predictions and management for issues surrounding long-term change in the Great Lakes. Our lab is resurrecting historic daphnid populations for use in a series of carefully controlled bioassays aimed at determining the pace of evolutionary responses to environmental change. Ephippia, which are modifications of the daphnid carapace containing diapausing eggs, accumulate in the sediment and can be viable for decades. It is expected that historic daphnid populations will be more sensitive to persistent Great Lake contaminants than modern populations. We have initially focused on critical pollutants such as DDT and toxaphene through a series of bioassays. Our comparisons of environmentally relevant concentrations evaluate mortality and sublethal endpoints such as fecundity, growth rate, and sex-ratio. Through evaluation of the level of adaptation to contaminants over time we will have a better understanding of how modern daphnid populations are more tolerant than historic populations to pollutants such as DDT and toxaphene.

Investigators: Dr. Donna Kashian

Detroit River Fish Consumption Advisory

Most fish are a healthy food choice, but some have harmful chemicals in them. UWERG members teamed up with University of Michigan researchers, the State of Michigan, and local community organizations to advise the public on how to eat Detroit River fish safely.

Link to "Eating Fish from the Detroit River" Poster

Link to "Eat Safe Fish in the Detroit Area" Pamphlet

Investigators: Dr. Donna Kashian, Dr. Maria Pontes Ferreira

Great Lakes Coastal Marshland Restoration

Working with multiple partners including Macomb County, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Clinton River Watershed Council, Oakland University, ASTI Environmental and others we are collaboratively working together to restore 486 acres of Great Lakes marsh infested with the invasive plant species, Phragmites australis. We conducted pre-restoration baseline monitoring and evaluated post-restoration biota recovery. In addition to monitoring we are also evaluating ecosystem functional measures and examining how Phragmites coverage impacts the native seed bank. This project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Investigators: Dr. Donna Kashian

Open Channel Design - Integrated Assessment

This Integrated Assessment will examine how multi-stage channel design a type of drainage that mimics self-sustaining, natural systems and has been shown to improve long-term drain stability and water quality could be applied in Michigan. The project will focus on the Middle Branch and North Branch of the Clinton River in Macomb County. Macomb County has already developed the first open channel design criteria (standards for planning, installation and maintenance) in Michigan, that incorporates a multi-staged design approach to more closely resemble a natural system.

The research team will develop design guidelines, create practical tools and build partnerships to help people better address county drain design. Researchers will work closely with stakeholders to examine the issue from many perspectives, identify challenges and evaluate feasible solutions. By soliciting stakeholder input, the tools will be understood and as practical as possible. All guidance and tools developed will be accessible online.

The research team will also evaluate other options for channel design that may be more appropriate for local soil and geologic and hydrologic conditions. The team will compile and summarize the relevant data and studies of existing two-stage channels, including a cost-benefit analysis of conventional and more natural ditch designs.

Find out more here

Authentication of tuna species in canned fish products

Accurate identification of the contents of canned products was conducted for their correct labeling and assignment of value; however, the canning process for tuna and related species destroys many of the ordinary markers of species identity. We demonstrated that despite the occurrence of considerable DNA degradation in the canning process, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) followed by sequencing or restriction site analysis can be used to identify tuna species and to differentiate them from their close relatives (specifically from bonito and mackerel). Degenerate primers for amplifying phylogenetically informative regions of the mitochondrial cycochrome b gene in degraded DNA were demonstrated, and appropriate restriction enzymes for a less expensive method of distinguishing the species were identified.

Investigators: Dr. Jeffrey Ram

Exotic gobies in the Great Lakes region

Several species of freshwater gobies have recently invaded the Great Lakes region of North America. The exact origin of the invading population is unknown but believed to be in their native range in contributory waters of the Black Sea. We determined haplotype frequencies for sequences in the cyt b mtDNA sequence of several populations in and near Lake St. Clair and compared them to a possible source population from the Black Sea near Varna, Bulgaria. The mtDNA sequences we analyzed were the first to be determined in gobiidae. Five haplotypes were identified in the populations analyzed and their frequency was significantly different between the Great Lakes sites and Varna, Bulgaria, suggesting that Black Sea near Varna was not the origin of the invading population.

Investigators: Dr. Jeffrey Ram