Graham Sustainability Institute


HabitatFreshwater and estuarine systems provide life-sustaining benefits to humans and wildlife. These benefits are realized across scales, boundaries, and time. Often interconnected and sensitive to disturbances, protecting aquatic habitats requires working locally, regionally and nationally. We support and lead a number of research projects, with the goal of making aquatic habitat management and restoration more efficient and effective.

We support research that:

  • Develops decision support tools to improve Great Lakes habitat management. Research teams developed a suite of decision support tools to guide stream barrier removal/repair, Phragmites control, and nearshore habitat restoration actions. Resource managers voiced needs for the types of tools being developed and are iteratively working with project teams to shape and improve them.
  • Identifies keys to wetland restoration success. Researchers are assessing socio-economic factors affecting landowner participation in public-private partnership programs such as the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and examining the biological components of restoration success. They are working with the managers of these programs to identify drivers of success and how to increase landowner participation.
  • Coordinates collaborative habitat restoration projects. Water Center staff are working closely with federal and state agency partners to plan and implement a series of projects that re-create lost fish spawning habitat in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. Over the past ten years, this collaborative effort has used an adaptive management approach to design, study, and revise methods for developing fish spawning reefs that are sustainable and benefit native fish, such as lake sturgeon. Lessons learned are being documented in a practitioner-oriented guide to support similar restoration efforts. See: Restoring Fish Habitat
  • Evaluates novel strategies for restoring and protecting shorelines. Researchers are working with different estuary reserves to study and test a number of different techniques for stabilizing shorelines and enhancing coastal habitat. These projects are helping state and federal agencies understand how to regulate and promote the use of “living shoreline” techniques that incorporate vegetation, oyster reefs and other natural materials to protect coastal areas.