Graham Sustainability Institute

Inclusion of Climate-Change Effects on Lake Levels in Management Plans of Tribal Fisheries

Little Traverse Bay at sunset

Project Team

Frank J. Marsik (PI), Richard B. Rood, Barbara Doyle – University of Michigan
Kyle P. Whyte – Michigan State University
Ellie Masters – Oberlin College

Project Summary

The Great Lakes Water Levels Integrated Assessment aimed to help decision makers address the challenges and opportunities posed by Great lakes water level variability.
For Indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region (including federally-recognized Tribes), water is a fundamental element of spiritual, cultural, economic and political significance. Climate change has the potential to impose a wide spectrum of impacts on freshwater ecosystems within the Great Lakes. Moreover, warming air temperatures play an important role in controlling the water levels of the Great Lakes, as air-water temperature differences, and the extent of seasonal ice coverage, drive evaporation from these lakes. These climate and water level changes pose challenges for the: (a) management of Tribal fisheries which support important fish populations and (b) protection of culturally important coastal sites (ex: Tribal burial grounds).
Through meetings with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) during the planning grant phase, the team developed a trust-based relationship/approach through which  “western science” approaches and indigenous science approaches can be integrated into considerations of climate change effects on lake levels in management plans for Tribal fisheries and coastal sites. 
The team focused on the priorities and preferences of their partners, the LTBB and GTB, regarding shoreline management, fisheries, and cultural resources. The project sought to identify climate-driven lake level futures for the Lake Michigan-Huron system and then assess the potential impact of these plausible futures on the vulnerabilities of Tribal communities, their fisheries and their Tribal governance. 


This project received a $50,000 Integrated Assessment Grant in 2015.