The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) has awarded 4 one-year grants of up to $50,000 each to organizations that will work with GLISA to address the risks of climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin.

We sought organizations that can bring together stakeholders from specific sectors or communities to identify and promote understanding of the vulnerabilities, anticipated impacts, and potential for adaptation to climate change and variability. GLISA will support these activities by identifying and providing relevant information about the historical climate, projected futures, and adaptation to potential impacts.

Project Descriptions

Project Title: Helping Marina and Harbor Operators Respond to Climate Change
Lead Investigator: Jim Diana, Michigan Sea Grant

Private marinas and small municipal harbors are struggling to fund needed improvements. The recent trend towards low lake levels and increased storm surges caused by climate change only amplify this economic hardship. Though a variety of climate adaptation tools are available, they can be overwhelming to marina and harbor managers. Information overload and uncertainty about future lake levels can result in a lack of confidence and may deter responsive actions. Marina and harbor managers need planning assistance for maintenance, repair, dredging, and general management.

The question of how changing water levels could impact the coastal communities of the Great Lakes has been brought to the forefront by decision making bodies. This project will assist marina and harbor operators in sector-specific problem identification, decision making, and planning related to climate change adaptation. As well as develop an online training module to be introduced, developed, and tested at workshops targeting marina and harbor operators.

Project Title: Making it Personal: Diversity and Deliberation on Climate Adaptation
Lead Investigator: Roopali Phadke, Macalester College, Department of Environmental Studies

Climate vulnerabilities are distributed unevenly across races, ethnicities, classes, ages, incomes and genders. Health burdens are disproportionately located in urban heat islands with low tree canopy density. However, climate adaptation discussions generally involve a narrow group of stakeholders who represent higher education, municipal agencies and environmental NGOs. This project is driven by two profound shifts that Saint Paul residents will experience in the next thirty years: climate change and demographic transition. The Twin Cities are expected to experience growing racial diversity and population growth.

The objective of this project is to make climate adaptation “personal” for those who tend to remain outside of climate change planning discourses. The focus will be the emotional, social, and cultural values and practices that impact public understandings of and responses to climate change. The project will devise and test a neighborhood consensus conference model in Saint Paul, MN that converts the best available climate data into tangible, place-based scenarios in order to assess vulnerabilities and prioritize public investments. The project will also aim to foster the creation of self-sustaining social networks within Saint Paul.

Project Title: Implementation of a Coastal Vulnerability Assessment, Adaptation Strategies, and Adaptive Risk Management Metrics by Wisconsin and Illinois Land Managers into Ravine Restoration Practices and/or Land Use Decisions
Lead Investigator: Angela Larsen, Alliance for the Great Lakes

A series of ravines along the shoreline of Lake Michigan have become a major focus of conservationists in Northeast Illinois and Southeast Wisconsin. Restored ravines protect property values, drinking water quality, and recreational opportunities. They also decrease storm water flowing onto the beaches and into the lake, slowing erosion and decreasing water pollution. Most restoration scientists and coastal land/watershed managers agree that climate change phenomena will impact Great Lakes coastal communities. Still, there is considerable uncertainty as to the scope of the impacts on ravines, and therefore the appropriate management actions. This project provides an avenue for decision makers to implement strategies of adaptive risk management, by allowing them to co-develop, with technical experts as part of a local “knowledge network.”

The predicted outcomes of the project include a strengthened knowledge network of local entities who manage ravines from Illinois and Wisconsin and collaboratively developed, climate-smart adaptation strategies. Two pilot projects will allow local ravine managers to implement those strategies and integrate metrics into their existing restoration projects. The project will also promote “social learning” between affected stakeholders both locally and regionally to support continued outreach beyond the term of this grant.

Project Title: Supporting Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning through Community Participatory Strategic Foresight Scenario Development
Lead Investigator: Dean Fellman, Center for First Americans Forestlands

Climate change could weaken the connections between tribal traditional knowledge and the ecology of their homelands. Traditional knowledge is seen as an important contributor to climate adaptation planning for both American Indian communities and neighboring communities in the region. This project addresses the challenge of how specific tribes can adapt to climate change in ways that ensure the protection of tribal cultures and harness cultural resources, as well as integrate the best scientific resources about environmental change, address emerging social problems, and negotiate jurisdictional challenges unique to federally-recognized tribes.

The project explores two questions: (1) Can foresight processes be used to create viable climate adaptation scenarios that can help tribes build capacities in advance? And (2) Can foresight processes involving tribal leaders and natural resource staff in the agencies and departments of federally recognized tribes garner sufficient community involvement for building scenarios that reflect tribes’ cultures, social situations, knowledge needs and resources, and jurisdictional and legal complexities? To answer these questions, the project will initiate community stakeholder engagement processes of foresight for two to three tribal communities who are part of the network of the Center for First Americans Forestlands.


GLISA is a NOAA-funded partnership between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. We work on issues related to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin and how the region can respond to climate-related risk (e.g., potential damages from changes in long-term temperature and precipitation patterns). For more information about the organization and its mission, see the Who We Are section.