The Lake Effect: Creating a Resilient Future

Topics: Water Resources, Ecosystems & Biodiversity

The Lake Effect: Creating a Resilient Future explores the Great Lakes Watershed. It examines climate-related issues relevant to one of the largest fresh water systems on the planet using 3D scientific visualizations and 2-D historic imagery from numerous sources, including NOAA, NASA, and JPL.

This event originally took place at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History Planetarium (Ann Arbor, MI) on October 3, 2012. The event was followed up with a Science Cafe about climate change and the Great Lakes region with scientists from NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and the University of Michigan’s Great Lakes Integrated Sciences & Assessments Center. This program has now become part of the planetarium’s public and school program offerings.

Program Kit


Storyboard & Script


Uniview Installer Files

Data Sources

Keeping the Great Lakes Great

North America’s Great Lakes are a robust ecosystem that provides a wealth of economic and social benefits for the 40 million people who live on both sides of the border. But the Great Lakes are also at great risk. There are a number of stresses to the ecosystem: population growth and agricultural intensification, the introduction of aquatic invasive species as well as municipal wastewater effluents and industrial discharges. All of these threaten the Great Lakes and require sustained and focused attention. Learn more by watching our new video that depicts some of the challenges facing the Great Lakes and what Environment Canada and our partners are doing keep the Great Lakes great.

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Incredible by Any Measure… the Great Lakes

How is The Nature Conservancy working to protect the world’s largest freshwater system? By bringing together the best science with innovative conservation action.

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Great Lakes Water Battle

The Great Lakes are at or near record low levels, even as distant states have their eyes on Midwest water.

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Freshwater Seas: The Great Lakes

This sweeping two-hour documentary from Detroit Public TV explores how the Great Lakes shaped America, suffered mightily from abuse and neglect, and were then reborn only to face new environmental challenges. Filmed in high-definition, Freshwater Seas tackles the question: What can we learn from the history of the Great Lakes to prevent disaster in the future?

Modeling Pollution in the Great Lakes

This free Open University course centers on a mathematical model of how pollution levels in the Great Lakes of North America vary over a period of time. It demonstrates that, by keeping the model as simple as possible extremely complex systems can be understood and predicted.

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WWF: Virtual Water: Change the Way You Think About Everything

How much water does it take to make one latte? We can do more using less of our natural resources, right now.

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Good: Water

For World Water Day 2008, we look at the planet’s water, how it’s being used, and the increasing strains on this vital resource. Drink up!

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WWF: The Importance of Water

Of all the water on this blue planet of ours, only 3% of it is freshwater. And this precious, life-giving resource has seen a decline of 35% in the species that live within its realm since 1970. We must use water more wisely. We must make better use of the bounties and services that it provides.

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NASA / USGS | LANDSAT: A Space Age Water Guide

Water specialists Rick Allen, Bill Kramber and Tony Morse have created an innovative satellite-based method that maps agricultural water consumption. The team uses Landsat thermal band data to measure the amount of water evaporating from the soil and transpiring from plants leaves. Evapotranspiring water absorbs energy, so farm fields consuming more water appear cooler in the thermal band. The Landsat observations provide an objective way for water managers to assess on a field-by-field basis how much water agricultural growers are using. Landsat is a joint program of NASA and the US Geological Survey.

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Good: Drinking Water

Celebrate World Water Day!

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Good Transparency: Water Conservation

Thirsty? So is everyone else. We’re headed for a water shortage. Here’s how simple daily choices can reduce your water use. A GOOD Transparency video.

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Great Lakes

  • Great Lakes Digital Library
    The Great Lakes and their connecting channels from the largest aggregation of freshwater on the planet (excluding the polar ice caps). The watershed includes parts or all of eight U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario. The Lakes are the dominant and defining geological characteristic of the upper Midwest, affecting the social, economic, recreational and ecological life of the region. Bordering as it does on four of the five Great Lakes, the State of Michigan and its universities understand the importance of the Lakes for the future vitality of our state. Accordingly the University of Michigan has pursued an active research program in this area, and seeks to share some of its findings through this site. The research papers represented on this site were published by the Great Lakes Research Division, a unit of the University of Michigan Institute for Science and Technology, and later reorganized under the Department of Biology.
  • For Great Lakes’ Sakes at UMN
    International collaboration helps the world’s largest sources of freshwater face the challenge of human-induced change.


National Level Water Data

Great-Lakes Specific Resources


  • Large Lakes Observatory
    Located on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota, the Large Lakes Observatory (LLO) is the only institute in the country dedicated to the study of large lakes throughout the world. We focus on the global implications of our investigations in the areas of aquatic chemistry, circulation dynamics, geochemistry, acoustic remote sensing, plankton dynamics, sedimentology and paleoclimatology.
  • NOAA and the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research
    Programs studying different stressors and external sources in the Great Lakes in order to better understand and identify the worst of the culprits and to determine sound solutions based upon their data.  Some of these programs include Ecological Forecasting, Impacts of Multiple Stressors, Harmful Algae Blooms, and Invasive Species research.
  • Huron River Watershed Council
    Founded in 1965, the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) is southeast Michigan’s oldest environmental organization dedicated to river protection.   The Huron River Watershed Council works to inspire attitudes, behaviors, and economies to protect, rehabilitate, and sustain the Huron River System.




  • Matt Linke (UMMNH)


  • Matt Linke (UMMNH)
  • Dr. Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)
  • Dr. David McConville (The Elumenati)
  • Dr. Healy Hamilton (NatureServe)
  • Dr. Ned Gardiner (NOAA)

GIS & Visualizations

  • Dr. Healy Hamilton (NatureServe)
  • Lydia Hooper
  • Cynthia Powell (CalFlora)
  • Dr. Ned Gardiner (NOAA)
  • Dr. Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)

Creative Direction

  • David McConville (The Elumenati)

Production Coordination

  • Kathi Koontz (CAS)

Technical Support

  • Greg Mancari (DMNS)
  • Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)


Creative Commons images courtesy of:

  • Carole Carey
  • Denish C
  • liv w mcs
  • Staticgirl
  • Xlibber

Additional image courtesy of:

  • Earth Talk