Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative

In the summer of 2013, the USEPA issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to conduct nutrient-related assessments as part of the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI). The CSMI is a binational intensive monitoring and assessment program conducted on each Great Lake annually on a rotational basis. Lake Erie was the CSMI Great Lake for 2014.

OLEC staff collaborated with four universities and an environmental modeling consulting firm (LimnoTech) to develop a project proposal in response to the RFP issued by USEPA. Our proposal was successful in securing the $500,000 grant from USEPA.

In 2014, the project partners conducted a successful field season in cooperation with other state and federal researchers. The project was completed May 31, 2016.

CSMI Executive Summary

Boat Sampling 2014  Diver Sampling 2014


As the recipient, OLEC served as the lead agency for the grant. Federal funds passed through to the 5 subawardees. OLEC oversaw the grant administration and participated in the coordination and delivery of the education and outreach activities associated with project findings and results.  The four subgrants and one subcontract for this project were administered through the Ohio Lake Erie Commission’s Lake Erie Protection Fund. Two of the following list of five subawardees  provided match funds for the grant.

Project Partners

  • University of Toledo

U. Toledo coordinated the scientific efforts of the participating institutions and its team of five researchers involved in the field and modeling aspects of the project. In the field, UT provided one of the three dive teams that deployed lake bottom chambers for the measurement of internal loading of phosphorus and nitrogen from lake sediments, using wet chemistry and a novel phosphorus sensor developed at UT. A second group at UT collaborated with the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University to use the SWAT and SPARROW models to investigate the effects of different BMPs and future climate change scenarios on the loading of phosphorus from the Maumee watershed.

  • Case Western Reserve University

The CWRU team focused their efforts on determining phosphorus and nitrogen fluxes from the sediments.  They participated in the design, construction, deployment and data analysis of the bottom chambers and developed new iron and phosphorus optode techniques (optodes are a type of optical sensors) for determining pore water concentrations and fluxes.

  • Ohio State University - Stone Laboratory

Stone Lab handled the deployment and sampling of the lake-bottom flux chambers in the Bass Island area for analysis of internal loading of phosphorus and nitrogen. Stone Lab also explored relationships between timing and intensity of annual HABs and seasonal loading of nutrients from the Maumee River. Stone Lab led the education and outreach component of the project.

  • Heidelberg University - National Center for Water Quality Research

The NCWQR’s role in this project was to help quantify internal phosphorus and nitrogen sediment fluxes, to collaborate with UT to develop and apply watershed models for western Lake Erie, analyze our long-term data for seasonal patterns for use in both watershed and basin-scale models, and to collaborate with other PI's in exploring relationships between seasonal loading and HAB development.

  • LimnoTech (subcontract)

LimnoTech’s role in this project was to synthesize and interpret on a system level the field monitoring and research utilizing the Western Lake Erie Ecosystem Model (WLEEM). The WLEEM will allow us to quantify the relationship between nutrient loadings from all sources to the Western Basin and it’s response in terms of the temporal and spatial profiles of nutrient concentrations and cyanobacteria blooms (HABs), thus providing resource managers with support in addressing management questions.

Each of the researchers participating in this project has particular expertise with different aspects of the Lake Erie ecosystem and nutrient dynamics. All participate with the Lake Erie Millennium Network, a binational network of researchers collaborating on the critical issues facing Lake Erie.

Projected Outcomes

This project is a critical component of the larger, binational CSMI in 2014 being undertaken by federal and provincial partners in the U.S. and Canada. This project will contribute to the development of an integrated nearshore framework as called for in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Through a combination of field work, laboratory studies, and modeling the subawardees will quantify and evaluate river hydrologic influences and develop a nutrient mass budget for the western basin to improve current understanding of the roles of external and internal nutrient loading.   

 Specific outputs generated by modeling efforts include:

  • Movement of phosphorus (soluble, particulate, etc.) and nitrogen in the western basin of Lake Erie
  • Contributing nutrient sources (by type and location) to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
  • Contribution of western basin phosphorus to low oxygen in the central basin of Lake Erie.

Specifically, the project will 1) quantify the internal nutrient loads to the water column in the western basin, 2) evaluate the key factors of river hydrology and seasonality of loads to harmful algal blooms in the western basin, including the effects of storm and other meteorological/climatological events, and 3) develop a nutrient mass budget for the western basin of Lake Erie. The field work will be conducted during 2014 and the overall project period for the grant will extend for two years.