Graham Sustainability Institute

U-M Water Center Awards Over $500k for Freshwater Research on Campus and Seeks Additional Proposals

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
South Haven, Michigan - Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant

Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant.

The U-M Water Center has awarded six research and capacity building grants, totaling more than $500,000, to increase freshwater research at the University of Michigan.

These projects were selected under the first round of the Center’s current funding initiative, a rolling request for proposals entitled Increasing Freshwater Research Capacity at the University of Michigan. Through this RFP, the Center seeks to engage diverse faculty and researchers to address critical freshwater issues, and expand freshwater research and teaching on campus. A primary goal of the initiative is to support projects that address key challenges at the interface of the natural, social, physical, and health sciences.

The RFP offers two levels of funding: leveraging projects, up to $50,000, to develop perspective or synthesis papers, develop curriculum, support instrument acquisition, or support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; and projects up to $250,000 for larger, cross-departmental efforts that cultivate research partnerships as the basis for long-term freshwater research efforts at the University.

This first round of grants, which range in size from $33,629 to $270,463 and include five leveraging grants and one larger grant, were awarded to diverse teams led by researchers from across the University including the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. The large grant recipient was awarded more than $250,000 after the review process and follow up with the project team made clear that additional funds could lead to further development of collaborations on campus. The six winners were selected from 20 proposals submitted to the first round of the Center’s rolling RFP.

The projects will support efforts to: enhance learning and research experiences for undergraduates studying aquatic geochemistry, conduct research regarding the little understood role of algal pathogens in regulating harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, investigate public and expert perceptions of muck (large amounts of decomposing algae on beaches) in Saginaw Bay, develop a sensor platform to improve measurements of overlake evaporation, obtain equipment capable of detecting, quantifying and classifying previously unidentified organic contaminants present in freshwater systems, and establish a research program on campus to study the ecological and environmental health risks of microplastic debris in the Great Lakes.

“Research that is truly responsive to freshwater challenges must be collaborative and integrate input from diverse expertise,” said Water Center Director Allen Burton. “This first round of grants represents a strong foundation for enhancing the University’s ability to contribute freshwater solutions and we look forward to bolstering these efforts in the second round with even more collaborations and innovative ideas.”

Projects were selected based on the ability of teams to initiate new freshwater collaborations on campus, apply on-campus expertise to freshwater topics in novel and needed ways, and identify and commence development of new freshwater research programs on campus. The large projects in particular must go beyond a typical research project focused on answering a research question and also emphasize building new relationships, working across disciplines, and growing capacity on campus to do freshwater research.

The six grants and their principal investigators are:

  • “Advancing student learning in freshwater science: curriculum development and research experiences for undergraduates in aquatic geochemistry,” Rose Cory, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
  • “Identifying the environmental controls of algal pathogen epidemics and their influence on harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie,” Timothy James, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
  • “Stuck in the Muck: Comparing how experts and local communities see beach muck in the Great Lakes,” Rachel Kaplan. School of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • “A new sensor platform for the measurement of evaporation across the Great Lakes,” Branko Kerkez. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
  • “High Resolution Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry for Expanding UM Freshwater Research,” Krista Rule Wigginton, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
  • “Microplastics in the Great Lakes: Towards establishing a long-term multidisciplinary research platform to assess the impact of microplastics on Laurentian Great Lakes ecosystem health,” Melissa Duhaime, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Detailed descriptions of the six projects are available at

Proposals for the second round of the RFP are due to the U-M Water Center by 12:00 p.m. noon EST on Monday January 13, 2014. The Water Center strongly encourages applicants from all disciplines that contribute to freshwater research and learning on campus.

Additional details about the funding opportunity including how to apply are available on the RFP homepage. Please direct any questions regarding the RFP to Maeghan Brass at