2013 Research Magazine

Great Lakes Research Center

Great Lakes Research Center

A Rendezvous for Science—and a Whole Lot More

If you build it, they will come. Not ballplayers per se, but major leaguers nonetheless: researchers, academics, policy wonks, and business people, all drawn by a common concern for the world’s greatest system of lakes.

“The Great Lakes Research Center will enable all these groups to come together and work as a team on water-related activities in the broadest sense,” says Guy Meadows, director of Great Lakes initiatives. “The work done here will be all encompassing and highly interdisciplinary, ranging from sustainability issues to the economy of the upper Great Lakes region.”

The four-story center houses a complex of research laboratories, each tailored for a different topic that relates to the Great Lakes, among them invasive species, fish ecology, sediments, remote sensing, and atmospheric science. It also has offices for visiting scholars, a boathouse for the University’s research vessels and environmental-monitoring buoy network, and a public area that includes conference facilities and space for K-12 education.

Seventy-four percent of the funding for the $25.4 million facility was provided by the State of Michigan. The University’s share is 26 percent, or $6.6 million. “We’ve also had tremendous support from the private sector for equipment,” Meadows said. “The driving force has been our alumni ties with industry partners.”

The center opened in August 2012, but its seeds were sown a decade earlier. “That’s when Michigan Tech realized that water is the focus of many of the University’s strengths, and the concept of the Great Lakes Research Center was born,” says Meadows.

The center is designed to foster collaboration within the University and beyond. “We also want partnerships throughout the Great Lakes basin, including US and Canadian government labs, industry, and other universities,” says Meadows. “Our success depends on the desire of faculty, policy experts, and outside researchers to come together to do great work.

“That takes a state-of-the-art place with state-of-the-art equipment and state-of-the-art computing facilities,” he said. “That’s what Michigan Tech has built, and now we invite everyone with a passion for the Great Lakes to come and be part of it.”

Where Science and Policy Meet

With input from social scientists, the GLRC will be a nexus of research and policymaking, to help meet human needs while protecting the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth.

A Boathouse to Die for

A hoist, electronics, repair shops, office, and space for staging and cleanup are just an hour’s ride from Lake Superior.

Rooftop Gardens

These natural air conditioners also soak up runoff.

Wireless Auditorium

90 seats are available for classes, seminars, and professional meetings.

Fun Science for Kids . . . and Everyone Else

Kids of all ages enjoy programs from fish dissection workshops, to nature hikes, to cruises on the Research Vessel Agassiz.

80-Square-Foot GeoWall

This flat-panel display lets researchers share results with stakeholders.

Tools and Toys for Scientists

9 research labs are stocked with top-of-the-line equipment for studies in chemical analysis, sediments, air quality, and more.

Big Water, Big Picture

A supercomputer can crunch a tsunami of data and predict what Lake Superior will look like in 100 years.


8 gardens incorporate cultivars of native plants to mimic the region’s ecosystems—including a functioning bog.

Captured Warmth

Exhaust from the nearby heating plant warms the center in winter.

Downloadable PDF of Great Lakes Research Center Infographic

A Place on the Water

It has labs for everything from supercomputing to invasive species, for everyone from school kids to university researchers.

There’s a weather station on the roof, and just outside, scientists can board the Research Vessel Agassiz and be on Lake Superior in under an hour.

Designed by FTC&H, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, its colors and construction evoke the red sandstone cliffs of Jacobsville and the deep blue of the big lake.

It’s the Great Lakes Research Center, or GLRC. Completed in August 2012, the four-story center overlooking the Keweenaw Waterway is dedicated to furthering knowledge of the greatest chain of freshwater lakes in the world.

“It’s a very cool building, and the things it will enable us to do will be even cooler,” says Guy Meadows, director of Great Lakes initiatives. “Research directed at understanding and preserving all aspects of the Great Lakes is critical to the well-being of our neighbors, our nation, and the world.”

Research Vessels

The 37-foot RV Agassiz, a state-of-the-art floating laboratory, joins two smaller boats, the Polar and the Husky Traveler.

Buoys with Brains

9 high-tech buoys track Great Lakes weather and water conditions.

Roving ROVs

Remotely operated vehicles scour the lake bottom for anything from wrecks to toxic waste.

Endangered Species

The Fish Biology Lab supports science on coaster brook trout, lake sturgeon, and other threatened fish species.

Location, Location, Location

On America’s North Coast, there’s no better place for Great Lakes research.

Exotic Species

Lab space is dedicated to studies of invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels and spiny water fleas.

Everyone can Play

The GLRC can provide space for scientists and others who study the Great Lakes. For more information, contact Guy Meadows at gmeadows@mtu.edu, 906-487-1106.