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Mapping the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are expansive, interconnected watersheds in Canada and the United States. But less than 15 percent of the lake floor has been mapped using high-resolution bathymetry technologies, indicating a large gap of knowledge in our understanding of these valuable watersheds. High-resolution or high-density maps are produced at a resolution of less than 10 meters, revealing small objects like boulders, shipwrecks and marine cables and pipelines, according to the Great Lakes Observing System.

An international partnership between Waterlution, a nongovernmental organization in Ontario, and Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) seeks to bridge this gap to better manage and protect the lakes.


Waterlution and NMC hope their partnership will allow multisector stakeholders to share knowledge and develop a better approach to understanding these ecosystems.



mapping coastal realm noaa
A near-shore high resolution bathymetric map from a presentation by Brandon Krumwiede on ‘Mapping the Coastal Realm.’ Credit: NOAA


A 2020 US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) progress report notes that “knowledge of the depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor are foundational data elements necessary to explore, sustainably develop, understand, conserve, and manage our coastal and offshore natural resources.”

Funded by the Consulate General of the United States in Toronto, Waterlution and NMC are holding six online “speaker series” events where water professionals from NMC collaborate with Waterlution workers trained in capacity-building skills. The sessions began in May and end in November.

The extensive topics covered by the speaker series include mapping, technology, coastlines, habitat, fisheries, geology as well as archaeology. The sessions feature scientists and policy specialists speaking to the condition of the Great Lakes and describing changes that need to be made and issues that need to be addressed, from binational and multisector perspectives.


Waterlution contributes by guiding network building and facilitating fruitful discussions, most significantly during an upcoming November 18 collaboration event, where participants will engage in dialogue-based trainings and a World Café that will reflect on all presentations from the series.


This approach combines the best attributes of network collaboration with technical skills in order to bridge gaps in knowledge about these watersheds. Together, these contributions will inform policies that can better protect the lakes.


The fifth session of the series is a virtual Lakebed 2030 Conference set for Sept. 29 through Oct. 1. Besides Waterlution and NMC, other partners in that event include NOAA, the Marine Technology Society, Great Lakes Observing System, Marine Center at Northwestern College and the Hydrographic Society of America. The conference is free thanks to a grant from the US consulate.


Over the conference duration, scientists, researchers, policy analysts, government employees and industry members will come together to discuss marine mapping and develop a strategy to categorize lakebed information. They also will discuss innovative new technological advancements in the Great Lakes community.


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