Research and Outreach


Boardman River – Located in Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties, the Boardman River flows in a southwesterly direction for 40 miles eventually emptying into Grand Traverse Bay. In addition to being the bay’s largest tributary, the Boardman River ranks among Michigan’s top 10 trout streams. After years of input and assessment about whether to remove aging dams on the river, three dams are now slated for removal — Boardman, Brown Bridge and Sabin — at an expected cost of $8 million. Many believe that this action will return the Boardman River to a free-flowing, cold-water river.

Great Lakes Hydrographic Survey Project – The Great Lakes Water Studies Institute has conducted advanced hydrographic surveys of both east and west arms of Grand Traverse Bay and northern Lake Michigan, resulting in finding a 1980 shipwreck near Suttons Bay and creating a depth map of East Bay. Since existing data dated to the 1920s, the survey project has provided important updated information with multiple applications, including environmental impact assessments, commercial navigation charts and fisheries support. Underwater research is conducted with side-scan and multibeam sonar equipment, from the Michigan State Police and Kongsberg Underwater Technology, Inc., aboard the NMC research vessel Northwestern. Students gain technical competencies and educational opportunities to develop case studies and field projects based on the survey data.

Online Water Library (OWL) – The NMC Library has established the Online Water Library (OWL), an open access repository for research on the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams in the Grand Traverse region for researchers, educators and the general public. More information »

R/V Northwestern A 56-foot, aluminum hull, twin-engine research vessel. With a 14-foot beam and a large salon. The engines are 318 horsepower 8V71 Detroit Diesel plants that provide both power and good fuel economy. The Northwestern runs on biodiesel and cruises at a speed of 10 knots while comfortably handling up to 20 passengers on day trips.

See the Bay, LIVE – Visit the live webcam located at NMC's Great Lakes Campus. You can point the camera where you want to see what's happening on the bay, on the State of Michigan training vessel, or on shore at the Great Lakes Campus. Great Lakes Campus webcam »

Upper Great Lakes Observing System – Follow the air temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure and relative humidity of West Grand Traverse Bay. Data is transmitted in 10-minute intervals to the Internet via cellular modem. Upper Great Lakes Observing System »


Freshwater Roundtable – Formed with the help of Rotary Camps & Services, this group of Executive Directors of regional natural resource organizations collaborates on projects and activities. They hosted the second annual Freshwater Summit, which brought together water resource professionals and the public to discuss issues and network. Members include Conservation Resource Alliance, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Conservation District, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Inland Seas Education Association, Leelanau Conservancy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Michigan Sea Grant, Traverse City Rotary Water Committee, Watershed Center and the Water Studies Institute.

Freshwater Summit – Since the inaugural Freshwater Summit in 2008, each October participants in this annual conference convene to study the science of freshwater as well as freshwater advocacy issues. The Freshwater Summit is cosponsored by the Watershed Center, NMC’s Water Studies Institute, Michigan Sea Grant, Conservation Resource Alliance, Grand Traverse Conservation District, Inland Seas Education Association, Network of Lake Associations, Rotary Water Committee and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.

Grand Traverse Band – Tribal Voices of the Watershed: This unique Freshwater Studies student project is a significant collection of stories from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who have lived for more than three generations near Grand Traverse Bay. All recordings of personal histories about living in our watershed and all documents reviewed are part of the Online Water Library (OWL) at NMC and is available to researchers and the general public. More information »

Kids’ Free Fishing Day – The annual Kids’ Free Fishing Day, held in June at Northwestern Michigan College's Great Lakes Campus, is a free event for all children accompanied by adults. Under the supervision of the Department of Natural Resources, 750 rainbow trout 10 inches or longer are stocked for the event. Fishing rods, reels and bait are provided.

The event is sponsored by NMC's Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, Traverse City Rotary Clubs, Rotary Camps & Services, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Great Lakes Children’s Museum, Grand Traverse Area Sport Fishing Association, and U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.