GLREC Research Opportunities


Research Needs by Park:

Staff from each national park in the Great Lakes Network has indicated which research areas they believe would be of greatest benefit to their park. These research needs are listed below.

Bill Route, Coordinator for the NPS Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network, tests for contaminants in young bald eagles
Contaminant levels tested in young bald eagles

photo by Craig Thompson, Institute for Wildlife Studies

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (contact e-mail us)

  • Continue white-tail deer population evaluations to determine vegetation impacts from browsing
  • Determine impacts of deer browse on birds and other species
  • Determine forest health and development of long-term monitoring protocols
  • Determine levels and impacts of mercury and other toxic chemicals within the aquatic/terrestrial food web
  • Determine appropriate trapping levels of fur-bearing mammals
  • Develop a coastal processes assessment (Great Lakes Coastal Indicators)
  • Study visitor dispersion dynamics and their impacts on habitat
Birch bark containers
Pioneers and native Amvericasns utilized birch bark containers to harvest and clean wild rice.

eGrand Portage National Monument (contact e-mail us)

  • Develop species introduction history, intraspecies ecology and disturbance management for ethnographically significant species such as: black fruited hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata), jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), wild chives (Allium schoenoprasum var. sibiricum) and caraway (Carum carvi)
  • Conduct breeding bird surveys
  • Develop native plant community GIS
  • Create a soils and hydrology GIS
  • Develop streambank erosion abatement and restoration strategies

Researcher Heather Brookhart installs a mist net to capture bats over the Little Calumet River
Researcher prepares mist net for bat inventory at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

photo by Joy Marburger

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (contact e-mail us)

  • Create historic land use, vegetation, soils, and fire history coverage maps and GIS change analysis research to show habitat loss of various species due to habitat fragmentation and land use changes
  • Determine groundwater chemistry and hydrologic maps of flows and levels in streams, wetlands, and lakes in the watershed
  • Develop conservation strategies and management framework for preserving biodiversity of compositionally and successionally complex and small scale habitat mosaics in the context of landscape fragmentation
  • Determine successful techniques to restoring disturbed lands including establishment of native plant species, controlling invasive species, securing rare and T&E species.
  • Evaluate various control methods and impacts of restoration techniques after removal of invasive plant species
  • Monitor and evaluate restoration initiative and provide a framework for implementation of adaptive management from information gained
  • Improve understanding of very abundant wildlife: Deer related studies--population dynamics, effects of deer browsing on rare plant populations, effects of deer browsing on native bird populations and habitat Meso-carnivores--impacts of raccoons on turtle and bird populations
  • Determine fire impacts to endangered, threatened, and rare plant species (includes habitat assessment and monitoring).
  • Develop decision support systems for managing imperiled species populations and the prescribed fire used to maintain and restore habitat
  • Investigate fate and risk assessment of air-borne and water-borne organic and inorganic pollutants on fauna in the park (organics=PAHs, PCBs, OCPs, flame retardants, methyl mercury; inorganics=arsenic, boron, cadmium, other heavy metals)
  • Develop modern molecular techniques to evaluate plant and animal biodiversity in the park
Wolves and moose interaction
Isle Royale National Park, as seen from the air

Isle Royale National Park (contact e-mail us)

  • Develop boreal forest research site to conduct research on moose exclosures to determine moose grazing effects on trees and moose impacts on wetland plants
  • Determine impacts of atmospheric contaminant deposition issues related to wildlife (mercury, sulfur, PCBs, OCPs, Atrazine, flame retardants, etc.), plants, lichens, fungi, freshwater mussels, fish, birds
  • Inventory bat populations, research food sources and habitat
  • Survey terrestrial and aquatic invasive exotic species, such as zebra mussels, s piny water flea, and ruffe
  • Survey invasive plant species including spotted knapweed, potential impacts of purple loosestrife (not in park yet, but found along coast of Lake Superior)
  • Investigate island biogeography as a multipark issue (ISRO, APIS, SLBE), including isolation of deer and mice populations, amphibians, insects, and role in plant speciation
  • Investigate fire impacts on understory plant species, mushrooms, liverworts, sphagnum
Water lilies along the shore of the Mississippi River

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (contact e-mail us)

  • Conduct in-depth research on mussels in the 72-mile river reach: Impacts of navigation system on mussel populations, especially endangered Higgins eye mussel, fingernail clams, and fish species; Relocation experiments to determine if mussels can be relocated to urban areas where substantial water quality improvement has occurred
  • Research land cover/land use changes: Include inventory of rare plants and historic changes in distribution; A consistent classification system (last land cover inventory done in 1999); Develop a predictive model for vegetation, soils, impervious surfaces
  • Impacts of precipitation events on urban streams and tributaries
  • Impacts of point-source water quality (such as wasterwater outflows) and non-point sources on river and tributary biota
  • Effects of groundwater withdrawals from aquifer on hydraulic heads and groundwater interactions with the Mississippi River
  • Develop control methods (including prescribed fire) for exotic/invasive species in river ecosystem, including islands: Buckthorn, Black locust, Garlic mustard, Purple loosestrife (test control efficiency of herbivore Galerucella beetles), Zebra mussels, Spiny water flea, Asian carp
  • Develop GIS models for large landscapes, multiple factor analysis, Stream channel model, Sediment transport model
  • Tracking of boat traffic in tributaries
  • Develop science-based restoration methods: Bird habitat restoration, In-river restoration such as for endangered mussels, Oak forest restoration, Dry-mesic remnant prairie restoration
  • Evaluate contaminants: Track methyl mercury in sediments and biota (especially fish) and endocrine disruptors, such as hormones, on biota; Other historic contaminants such as priority organic pollutants, lead, and nitrates; Track Impacts of land-fill cleanup
Castle Rock overlooking Lake Superior
Lake Superior shoreline at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (contact e-mail us)

  • Develop models for habitat loss; outcomes from various models- habitat potential prediction vs. realization
  • Develop cover/land use change maps: Effects of commercial logging and fragmentation on park's biota; Land use changes at the headwaters of streams that pass through the lakeshore
  • Develop Indices of Biological Integrity that are specific to the Park and reflect change in ecosystems (sponges, mussels)
  • Research exotic species biology and control in aquatic environments: Purple loosestrife, Watermilfoil, Nymphoides sp. (recent introduction into Saginaw Bay from Asia), Zebra mussels, Hooked spiny water flea, Spiny water flea (in two lakes), Lumholtz's daphnia, Rusty crayfish, Ruffe, Round gobi, Sea lamprey, Exotic salmonoids (impacts to native fish)
  • Research control exotic plant species in Grand Sable Dunes
  • Investigate prey base for top predators
  • Evaluate fire effects: Anthropogenic fire effects; Jack pine serotiny genetics and recruitment, some cones drop and open without fire impacts
  • Research water quality in park's lakes and rivers
  • Investigate contaminants: Contaminants in air, such as mercury, and impacts to ecosystems; Relationship of contaminants in key organisms, such as bald eagle, otters, lichens, mussels to ecosystem health
  • Investigate impacts of wildlife diseases
  • Investigate impacts of plant diseases and pests on plant biodiversity
mussel inventory
Researchers collect data on native mussels

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (contact e-mail us)

  • Investigate invasive/exotic species control methods: Exotic/invasive plant species- leafy spurge, cypress spurge, buckthorn, Japanese bamboo, reed canary grass; Exotic/invasive animal species- zebra mussels, Asian carp, gypsy moth
  • Devlelop consistent and statistically reliable water quality monitoring in riverway and adjacent wetlands
  • Evaluate conditions of river that favor highly diverse native mussel population
  • Conduct wetland flora and fauna inventories
  • Conduct GIS wetland vegetation and land use change analysis
  • Evaluate impacts of woody debris in river on invertebrate populations
  • Conduct small mammal population inventories and population dynamics on river channel island
  • Determine effects of atmospheric and water-borne contaminants on sediment, wetland, and aquatic biota (such as mercury, POPs, pharmaceuticals): Bioaccumulation through aquatic and wetland food chains; Sub-lethal effects on biota- endocrine disruption, reproductive failure, behavioral changes
  • Develop restoration techniques for native vegetation establishment in various substrates: sand, partially vegetated, trampled areas on trails and campsites


Permits to conduct research in each park must be obtained from individual park resource managers. Links to permit application procedures and requirements can be found on the National Park Service web site:

This dorm, at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is sometimes available for scientists on sabbatical.
Dormitory available for scientists working on sabbatical.

Sabbaticals in the Parks

The Sabbatical in the Parks Program was created to assist in arranging faculty sabbaticals for researchers to conduct scholarly activity in parks in order to advance and disseminate understanding of park resources. Many units of the national park system have field laboratory facilities and housing to accommodate tenured university faculty in research endeavors. A link to sabbatical descriptions and applications can be found on the National Park Service website:

 A 1908 Sears catalog house at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has  been renovated to provide laboratory and office space for visiting researchers.
GLREC Field Research Laboratory.

photo by Joy Marburger

Facilities for Researchers and Students

Each park associated with the Great Lakes Research and Education Center may have facilities including field laboratories, office space, lodging, and conference rooms for faculty and student researchers' use while conducting in-park research.

The GLREC Field Research Station is located at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

A PhD student from the University of Illinois works on methylmercury research in the GLREC lab.
Wet Chemistry Lab

Photo by Joy Marburger

The primary function of the research station is to provide housing, laboratory, and equipment support to enable researchers in the biological, physical, cultural, and social sciences to investigate the natural and cultural resources of the Great Lakes National Parks. The center has developed a research station that has four offices with DSL, wet chemistry area, and laboratory equipment. Equipment includes a laminar flow hood, water purifier, drying oven, incubator, balances, dissecting and compound microscopes, and some field supplies. The lab has coded access for researchers. Storage space for researchers’ field supplies is located in a detached garage.


Two dormitories, which are former private residences, are available for researchers at Indiana Dunes NL to use during prolonged stays in the park. These provide three dorm rooms in each building, and are equipped with washers and dryers, furniture, and kitchen utensils. Linens are NOT provided. Reservations for dorm use must be made in advance of fieldwork after a research permit is issued. The daily lodging fee ranges from $9.31 to $11.42.

Other Network Parks also offer limited facilities to conduct research.

A student intern assists with bear research and is seen here holding a tranquilized 257 lb. black bear.
An intern at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore assists with black bear research.


Since 2004 the GLREC has offered research internships for undergraduate and graduate students during summer months to conduct studies in national parks of the Great Lakes region. The goals of the program are to: 1) support the education and career development of students and recent graduates via research opportunities, and 2) provide needed data and information pertaining to important issues and problems associated with resource management in parks. The program meets the NPS Call to Action, which provides scholarly opportunities to students. Funding for research internships is up to $2,500 per season.

For information on current GLREC sponsored student internships, please contact us via email.


Last updated: January 3, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1100 North Mineral Springs Road
Porter, IN 46304


(219) 395-1882
Indiana Dunes Visitor Center phone number.

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