Fishnetting  SNRE

Featured Research Project

A Collaborative Approach to Understanding the Dynamics of the Muskegon Watershed: A Comprehensive Model, Risk Assessment and Tools for Use in Management 

Mike Wiley, University of Michigan; 
Bryan C. Pijanowski, Michigan State University; 
John Koches, Grand Valley State University; 
Paul. W. Seelbach, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division 

Project Overview

Watershed management programs across Michigan suffer from the lack of an integrated analysis grounded in meaningful collaborations among governmental agencies, academic institutions, and local stakeholders. On the Muskegon, as elsewhere, there currently is no effort underway that will provide a process for the holistic integration of all that is currently known about the watershed from the head waters to the river's outlet to Lake Michigan. Muskegon River  SNRE
 Many environmental and economic problems facing the citizens of this important watershed require an understanding of the interactions of key components: the watershed's human communities, land use/cover patterns, hydrogeology, and complex natural communities. Changes in land use occurring within the watershed are diverse and are driven by internal factors (e.g., planning, local economics), as well as external factors (demand for seasonal homes, climate change, global agricultural economics). These changes need to be quantified, and their effects understood, and assessed. Hydrology of the watershed is in turn being modified by changes in land cover (e.g., increase in impervious surfaces, aforestation patterns). As well as by climate variation, sediment loading, artificial drainage, and channel impoundment. Natural biological communities (e.g., fish, birds, stream macrophytes) respond to both direct and indirect alterations in hydrology and resulting habitat structure. Ultimately, changes on the landscape trigger complex responses in the chemistry and biology of the river. The watershed's ecological and social services, which emerge from the integration of all watershed components, are poorly understood but are critical considerations in any regional decision making. All of these ecosystem components need to be understood and related in a risk assessment framework so that managers and citizens of the Muskegon watershed can make important decisions about the future. 


We are combining the considerable wealth of data, experience and tools that already exist in Michigan through ongoing efforts at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University and their partners in state government (MDEQ, MDNR) to assess current status and future risks facing the Muskegon River Watershed. This collaborative research effort is unique in it's scale of collaboration and draws upon the diverse talents in many different organizations. 

Building on existing data, models, and management tools, we are producing a system-wide modeling approach (MREMS: Muskegon River Ecological Modeling System) that will be used to perform risk assessment in the Muskegon River Watershed. This model will be used by a variety of agencies and stakeholders as a decision tool to explore the various management options and to understand the trends and dynamics occurring across the watershed. We are coordinating our stakeholder interaction efforts through current outreach and education programs of GVSU, MSU Extension, MDNR, and an existing MDEQ funded 319 Project. 

Expected Outcomes

Specific outcomes that we anticipate are: (1) a new integrated set of models that can serve as the basis for discussion, hypothesis testing and further research development; (2) a formal risk assessment that examines the relative severity of important problems facing the watershed such as urban sprawl, sedimentation and impoundment; (3) a linkage of process-based models to ecological services assessment, and (4) a number of internet-based tools and model products. We believe that these outcomes will be relevant to all citizens of the watershed and help to advance the science necessary for integrated assessment of watersheds and Ecosystem Management. 

SNRE Staff and Student Researchers

Mike Wiley,  Paul Seelbach, Paul Richards, Catherine Riseng,  Mike Moore,  Ed Rutherford,  Martha Carlson, Kevin Cronk, Beth Sparks-Jackson,  Matt Baker, Steve Hensler,  Sara Creque 

Other SNRE Projects Associated with the Muskegon River Initiative

Ecological Assessment and Monitoring Program Development: [GLFT/MSU] Mike Wiley, Catherine Riseng, & 

Institutional Framework for Watershed Policy and Management [Wege Foundation/Ferris State] Terry Brown, Julia Wondolleck, Donna Erickson 

Salmonine Recruitment dynamics in the lower Muskegon: [GLFT/UM] Ed Rutherford 

Perch Recruitment dynamics in the Lower Muskegon: [GLFT/UM] David Jude 

Riparian ecosystem classification and dynamics: [MDNR/UM] Mike Wiley, Matt Bake, Paul Seelbach 


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