Lake Erie Center


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6200 Bayshore Road
Oregon, OH 43616
Phone: 419.530.8360
Fax: 419.530.8399

The Lake Erie Center is open to the public
Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Tours offered by appointment

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Land-Lake Sensor Network at the UT Lake Erie Center


NSF FSML: Environmental Sensor System for the Lake Erie Center

UT Lake Erie Center

History: The University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center (LEC - pictured at right) is an interdisciplinary research and education center dedicated to solving environmental problems at the land-water interface and bay-lake exchanges in the Great Lakes – the world's largest freshwater ecosystem. The location of the LEC on the shore of western Lake Erie provides lake access and proximity to agricultural and wetland habitats, at the gateway to the upper and lower Great Lakes. LEC research focuses on linkages between land use, aquatic resources, and ecosystem function and services – using the western Lake Erie Basin land-lake continuum as a model of Laurentian Great Lakes ecosystems and aquatic systems worldwide.

Project Synopsis: This NSF FSML (Field Stations and Marine Laboratory) equipment award to the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center funds an environmental sensor network system to assess lake/bay/river changes and analyze key environmental patterns. The project is establishing the first carbon, energy, and hydrologic flux network within the Great Lakes – allowing researchers for the first time to understand the carbon, energy and hydrologic budgets. With our advantageous location and facilities at the LEC, we are able to measure the exchange of carbon dioxide and water between the lake surface and the atmosphere, as well as the key associated ecosystem parameters (e.g., microclimate and water properties) to support mechanistic explorations of Lake Erie.

mobile flux unit

The sensor networks include two permanent monitoring stations installed on existing structures (the Toledo water intake crib (see image below, right) and a NOAA buoy) and a shipboard station on the Lake Erie Center’s Center’s “Mayflier” vessel to support essential experiments on Lake Erie (see image at left). Findings are providing important comparisons and exportations to aquatic systems worldwide. Some preliminary results of this project were recently highlighted on NSF's website.  The sensor networks include two permanent monitoring stations installed on existing structures (the Toledo water intake crib (see image below, right) and a NOAA buoy) and a shipboard station on Lake Erie.

Toledo Water Intake InstallaionThe projects facilitated by the proposed sensor equipment are substantially augmenting our understanding of complex ecosystem functioning by improving scientific infrastructure and by increasing interactions among scientific disciplines.  Scientists, agencies, environmental groups, post-doctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, teachers, high school students, and the public have joined forces at the Lake Erie Center to study Great Lakes land-water interactions as a model of aquatic ecosystems worldwide. The lake sensor network is greatly enhancing and growing educational and research opportunities through this well-interfaced environmental science learning community and serving as an educational and research model for the nation.

8/31/11 algal bloom

The lake sensor network is linked with other existing flux towers in the terrestrial portions of the Maumee River Watershed, including the Oak Openings Savannah, a coastal wetland at the Lake Erie Shoreline, a cropland, and an urban flux tower (see image below or click here for site locations). These clustered towers are permitting us to understand the water-land interactions at the watershed scale and providing key cross-discipline education and research opportunities. The southern shore of Lake Erie and particularly Maumee Bay are intensely human-impacted systems due to high human population density, industrial activity, and agricultural runoff; for which the sensor system network is invaluable. Many of our current research projects at the University of Toledo have immediate application such as tracking E. coli populations, monitoring harmful algal blooms (see image at left -- algal bloom on August 30, 2011, across the street from the LEC in Oregon, OH), remediating waste disposal sites, constructing wetlands, and enhancing sportfish ecology and population structure. Building on existing partnerships with agencies including USEPA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, NASA, USDA, USFWS, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York Departments of Natural Resources, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources allows for rapid dissemination of information and high potential for implementation. These agencies have joined our "Environmental Sciences Leaning Community at the Land-Lake Ecosystem Interface", and are currently aiding the sensor network.

The lake sensor network is significantly enhancing development of the LEC as an environmental research and education leader, serving as a state-of-the-art website and tour demonstration – located just next door to the popular Maumee Bay State Park. The LEC features a popular monthly public seminar series on environmental research, weekly public and school group tours, a NSF Gk-12 program for Graduate fellows in 8 local high schools (reaching 420 students per year), and a NSF URM Undergraduate Research and Mentoring program; all interfaced in a land-lake Environmental Science Learning Community that is networked with the sensor research program and our website. We are focused the GK-12 program on utilizing the sensor network data in high school classrooms, including their science fair projects.

Click Image to View Full Size
UT Lake Erie Center Sensor Network 

Project Team

PIs: Dr. Carol Stepien (Environmental Sciences), Dr. Jiquan Chen (Environmental Sciences), Dr. Richard Becker (Environmental Sciences), Dr. Kevin Czajkowski (Geography & Planning), Dr. Tom Bridgeman (Environmental Sciences); Project Technician: Michael Deal


Site Locations for the Lake Erie Center Sensor Network

Sensor locations

The Working Framework


Download project documents

2014 Reports

Document Description Format, Size & Download Link
LEC Sensor Network 3' x 4' Poster PDF, 1 mb
NSF Final Project Report PDF, 240 kb
NSF Research Findings PDF, 1.4 mb
Published Geophysical Research Article PDF, 1.9 mb


EOS-Earth and Space Science News-Spotlights American Geophysical Union (AGU) Case Study in western Lake Erie, Shao et al.  Collaborating UT researchers on AGU Case Study: R. Becker, Ph.D.; T. Bridgeman, Ph.D.; K. Czajkowski, Ph.D.; and C. Stepien, Ph.D.  **Please click on image below
EOS-Earth and Space Science News
Last Updated: 8/24/18