HUW Projects

Community Outreach

Creating Great Lakes Stewards to Promote Clean Water & Healthy Urban Watersheds in Detroit

Through a collaborative project with Michigan Technological University, Detroit Zoological Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, Detroit Audobon, and U.S. Forest Service, Healthy Urban Waters has been engaging teachers and students through workshops and field trips in addressing urban stormwater, green infrastructure, drinking water, and wastewater.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Habitats Tour

Healthy Urban Waters worked with a middle school girl scout troop to teach them about water quality and aquatic habitats. Through hands-on activities and visiting habitats, we were able to teach the troop about the different needs of various animals and what scientific observations to make to determine if a habitat is of good quality.


Lake St. Clair Metropark Monitoring

With the Clinton River Watershed Council and the Lake St. Clair Metropark Nature Staff, we hosted high school students in our lab and taught them about water quality and microinvertebrate research.



Green Infrastructure and Flooding

Detroit Biodiversity Network's 6000 Woodward Bioswale and iBioswale

The mission of the Detroit Biodiversity Network (Biophiliacs) is to engage students in hands on projects that support and improve the sustainability of urban ecosystems on Wayne State University's campus and in surrounding Detroit communities. DBN grows native plants on the greenhouse atop Science Hall and plants them in numerous locations around campus. Two of their most recent installations have been two bioswales near the Integrative Bioscience Building. These bioswales include native plants and collect stormwater runoff from adjacent parking lots.

Green Infrastructure Flood Mitigation Analysis and Modeling

This study provides detailed information about an area in the City of Detroit that has had known flooding problems and a significant number of FEMA flood damage claims from 2000 and 2014.  The modeling and analysis performed is applicable for strategically locating green infrastructure and other alternative storm water treatment practices in this area.  The analysis also is applicable for assessing the effects of alternative storm water management practices on flooding.  Most importantly, the analysis process is documented to provide a tool with broad applicability for identification of appropriate flood mitigation actions generally.

Detroit Flooding Study

HUW researchers teamed up with Wayne State's Center for Urban Studies and University of Michigan researchers to better understand the prevalence of flooding in Detroit. This project looked at flooding prevalence across the city from 2012 to 2020 finding that nearly 43% of households surveyed reported household flooding. A journal article was recently published as well as a report outlining the issue of flooding across the city.

Macomb County Sewer Analysis

Fatberg Display

In September 2018, Macomb County extracted a 100 foot long fatberg from one of their main sewer pipes. A fatberg is a conglomeration of fats combined with solid debris such as wipes and other personal hygiene products. A part of the fatberg was extracted and saved and through a partnership with Wayne State University and Michigan Science Center, this portion was put on display at the Michigan Science Center in December 2019.

Wipes Analysis

Displosable wipes have been an ever increasing problem in sewer pipes, often causing issues with pumps and sometimes clogging pipes if not handled correctly. Research was done to better understand how much wipes decompose and if "flushable" wipes would actually decompose, as they are marketed.

Fatberg Game

During the summer of 2019, Game Art students at Lawrence Technological University became aware of the Fatberg and created a serious game to help inform the public about the issue. During the game, the player chooses where in his/her apartment to throw out the trash; down the sink, in the toilet, or in the waste bin. Once the player has thrown trash away, the game moves to the sewer, where the Fatberg is growing. When the player removes trash from the Fatberg, they learn about how to dispose of it properly. 

Click here for direction on how to play the game. Compatible with PCs only.

Click here to download and play the game. The game size is approximately 38M, and 7zip is needed to extract all files.

Click here to take a short survey on your experience with the game

The application is provided on an 'as is' basis. As a result Wayne State University is not responsible for any technical failure of the application; or any damage or injury to users or their equipment.

Data Collection

Huron to Erie Drinking Water Monitoring Network

The Huron to Erie Drinking Water Monitoring Network was established in 2007 to provide early warning of chemical spills or contamination that may impact the source of drinking water along the Huron to Erie corridor. Healthy Urban Waters currently manages the data and website. Check out this video for more information about this initiative.

Lake St. Clair Lake and Marsh Water Quality Monitoring

Two sondes were installed in Lake St. Clair and Point Rose Marsh at Lake St. Clair Metropark. These sondes provide real-time water quality data which allows analysis.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Field Station

Bioassay Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality of four water sources (Lake St. Clair, Clinton River, Rouge River, and Detroit River) is being analyzed using a bioassay experiment with water mites. The species Lebertia quinguemaculosa is being used as a bioindicator of healthy water. All three rivers are designated under the EPA as Great Lakes Areas of Concern and Lake St. Clair is being used as a control. Survival rate and activity level of water mites is being analyzed.

Mosquito Larvae Mesocosms

Research into whether water mites can be used as a biocontrol against mosquitoes is being conducted. It has been discovered that the species Lebertia quinguemaculosa eats mosquito larvae and they are being added to mesocosms with mosquito larvae to record the success of mosquito larvae consumption. Hydrachna mites have also been added to a mesocosm as a control, since they do not eat the larvae.

Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water Works Park (WWP) Field Station

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds

The removal efficiency of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) during drinking water treatment processes and the interactions of EDCs with bacteria in drinking water is being analyzed. One EDC (4-nonylphenol) was examined in the pilot plant to study the removal efficiency, interaction with microbial community, and bacterial resistance to disinfection.


Microplastics have become a growing topic of research due to the increasing proliferation in our environment. The interactions of microplastics with bacterial proliferation and biofilm formation, as well as their removal efficiency in drinking water treatment processes, are being investigated. One type of microplastics (polyethylene microplastic beads, the most common plastic) was included in this study.

Detroit's Historic Belle Isle Aquarium Field Laboratory

Water Mite Research

At the base of food webs for many organisms in the Great Lakes are small invertebrates that form the source of nutrients for fish and other larger organisms and others that are important carriers of human pathogens. The Ram laboratory, in collaboration with WSU/UD-Mercy post-doc Adrian Vasquez and WSU undergrads, use microscopic and molecular tools to study the predators and prey of water mites.  Increased knowledge of water mites as voracious carnivores of midge and mosquito larvae  and diverse other species is likely to have implications for protecting humans from mosquitoes and understanding how mites impact the food webs upon which Great Lakes organisms depend.

Gar Fish Research

Gar fish evolved over 200 million years ago, but in recent times their populations have been decimated by habitat loss and by game fisherman who mistakenly thought they damaged gamefish populations.  Only seven species of gar exist, several are considered endangered, and the Belle Isle Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world with all seven species.  Nicole Farley in the Ram laboratory developed species specific gar primers to serve as tools to detect gar environmental DNA, which can now be used to aid in monitoring gar restoration.

E. Coli Research

Beaches in the Area of Concern watersheds in the Detroit River/Lake St. Clair region are frequently closed due to high E. coli levels that indicate the possible presence of human pathogens.  Together with the University of Windsor, the Ram laboratory at Wayne State has been using Quantitray enumeration and high throughput sequencing to analyze the diversity of bacteria present at the Belle Isle Beach and comparing it to Canadian beaches, in a project supported by the Erb Foundation and Healthy Urban Waters.  While great bacterial diversity was expected, a surprise was the degree to which the diverse types of bacteria change over the course of a summer. Potential human pathogens were also detected and need to be further investigated.

Promoting Student Interest in Science through a Scalable Place-Based Environmental Education Program at a Public Aquarium

The educational achievement of Detroit's K-12 students in science is far below averages for the state and much lower than desired to provide economic opportunities in a future, technically advanced economy. In a project supported by the National Science Foundation, Belle Isle Aquarium staff, Detroit public schools, Michigan Technological University, and Wayne State University collaborate on a research project to promote student interest in science and science careers.  This collaboration offers advanced professional development to teachers and interesting field trips and support of learning objectives during field trips to the Belle Isle Aquarium.

Ballast Water Study

Invasive species have been causing havoc with the food webs of the Great Lakes especially since man-made canals enabled ships from foreign ports to enter the Great Lakes.  With funding from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Ram Laboratory leads a project to apply tests for organisms in ballast water of ships to help prevent the release of non-native organisms when ballast water is discharged into the Great Lakes.  

Invasive Species Education Grant

In addition to the large numbers of organisms introduced into the Great Lakes by ballast water, many invasions have been initiated by the accidental or intended release of non-native organisms obtained by purchase or seemingly harmless stealth.  Based on the concept that increased knowledge of the disastrous consequences of introducing invasive organism through trade, The Ram Laboratory, in collaboration with Michigan Technological University and the support of the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, has launched an educational program to increase teaching about invasive species in K-12 classrooms.  In addition to teachers' workshops, their online communication module has over twenty different lesson plans for K-12 teachers to use to teach this important topic.