2019 GLISA Small Grant: Responding to Climate Change in the Diverse Shiawassee River Watershed

Project Summary

The impacts of climate change manifest in the Shiawassee River in two significant ways: 1) extreme storm events that cause a rapid rise in water volume/levels; and 2) summer droughts that lower water levels, presenting stress to aquatic life and challenge to recreational users. The Friends of the Shiawassee River will hold three workshops focusing on distinct categories of stakeholders in the watershed: 1) Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change (partnering with the Shiawassee Conservation District); 2) Urban Impacts of Climate Change (partnering with the Michigan Association of Planning); and 3) Wildlife Impacts of Climate Change (partnering with the USDA Fish and Wildlife Service/Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge). The Friends’ goal is to serve as a climate change information “hub” – surveying populations about their observations of local impacts of climate change, connecting those impacts with observed climate trends in the watershed, and helping to foster conversations about what potential changes in practices might be helpful in mitigating those effects. The Shiawassee River will ultimately serve as a common thread to tie diverse interest groups together for both climate change awareness and action. GLISA is assisting with workshop planning and creating a historical climatology for the Shiawassee River watershed. The first workshop is anticipated to be held virtually in early 2021.

Project Accomplishments

  • Project White Paper
  • Three stakeholder workshops (anticipated)
  • Educational information regarding climate change/variability/extreme events to agricultural producers, recreational enthusiasts, and city managers (anticipated)
  • Project white paper (anticipated)


Research findings

The Friends of the Shiawassee River is currently developing an outreach survey for watershed users and inhabitants that will inform (a) what environmental changes have been observed by their three stakeholder groups and (b) the extent to which these groups feel our changing climate has contributed to these observed changes. The planned release of the survey is December 2020. 

GLISA Contribution

GLISA funded this 2019 small grant project and partnered with the grantee to help take historical and future climate information and create localization documents that address how observed and projected climate changes have/may impact the Shiawassee Rivershed and its inhabitants. Additionally, GLISA will assist the Friends of the Shiawassee River in engaging local residents in conversations about their observations and concerns regarding changes, past and future, within the watershed, both through surveys, workshops, and informational webinars.

Project Partners

  • Friends of the Shiawassee River (grantee)
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network