Huron-to-Erie Alliance for Research and Training (HEART)

The Huron-to-Erie Alliance for Research and Training (HEART) is a multiinstitutional alliance dedicated to Great Lakes research. The alliance supports three urban field stations (see map below) located at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Macomb County, Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water Works Park (WWP), and Detroit’s Historic Belle Isle Aquarium. The field stations are an important element of water resources research that allows direct access to observe and understand water interactions with local ecosytems and provides opportunities for hands-on training that directly benefits public health, aquatic ecosystem sustainability, and education. Development and expansion to the HEART Field Station Facilities continues to be possible by a generous grant from the Erb Family Foundation as part of UWERG's Healthy Urban Waters initiative.

The mission of the HEART field stations is to engage and empower the public in creating a sustainable urban environment based on sound science. Our vision is to empower and engage the public in creating a sustainable urban environment based on sound science with a mission to lead the study of the interaction between urban and natural systems, advancing education, policy and health toward environmental sustainability.

[1] Lake St. Clair Metropark Field Station in Macomb County is field study site for aquatic ecology and ecosystem restoration,water monitoring technology development, analysis of coastal bacterial communities, and research on the effects of environmental stressors on water quality.

[2] Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water Works Park (WWP) Field Station provides opportunities for studying sustainable practices and new technologies for water treatment that protect human and environmental health.

[3] Detroit’s Historic Belle Isle Aquarium Field Laboratory supports studies of invasive species, environmental DNA, and conservation and restoration of rare fish species. The adjacent natural areas allow investigations of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, interface of groundwater and surface water, and infrastructure investigations associated with the primary Detroit water intake at this location.

[4] Lake Erie Metropark does not currently have a dedicated HEART field station but provides monitoring opportunities to compare data collected from other field stations.

Field station photo tours

Lake St. Clair Metropark (LSCMP) Field Station

This field station features freshwater resources of Lake St. Clair through which all waters from the upper Great Lakes flow to the lower Great Lakes. It has one of the largest public swimming beaches in the Detroit metropolitan area which provides the opportunity to closely examine variables of urban beach quality and improve methods for pathogen testing.

Marsh restoration work has been done at the on-site Point Rosa and Black Creek marshes with the help of (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative) GLRI funding. Other work to improve water flow in the park has been green infrastructure installation for treating runoff in the extensive impermeable surface parking lot has been implemented with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA) funding.

Beach muck studies have provided insight into the chemical and biotic interactions influenced by human activities.

Wetland restoration project

LSCMP Laboratory

Uniquely situated 30 feet from the public bathing beach, the lab has large "picture windows" through which the public can see scientists at work.

The location of the LSCMP lab creates unique opportunities for researchers to reach the public about water science and public health. Dr. David Szlag (Oakland University) talks about lake water quality to a group of students from Henry Ford Academy School for Creative Studies during a field trip to the park. The field station location also enables researchers to explore social science related to public perceptions of waterborne pathogens, ecological restoration, invasive species, storm water, and climate change.

The LSCMP Lab features DNA-barcoding and eDNA analysis equipment used to identify beach pathogens. Water monitoring technology is tested and developed here in effort to expedite the analysis of coastal bacterial communities. The lab also has bench and storage space for many other experimental projects.

Check out the research poster presenting the work at the LSCMP Field Station -->

Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water Works Park (WWP) Field Station

Through our relationship with GLWA, researchers and students measure chemical contaminants in intake water, evaluate the efficiency of contaminant removal and develop new treatment protocols prior to involving the entire plant (and the 4 million customers that consume the water).


By having an operating water treatment facility within our suite of urban field stations at the interface between the natural and the built environment, we provide a unique opportunity for researchers and students to interact with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water System, which supplies a 1,079-square-mile region serving approximately 40% of the State of Michigan’s population. The System’s water network consists of nearly 4,000 miles of transmission and distribution mains within the service area.

Raw, untreated water flowing into the pilot plant comes from the same intake source, the Detroit River.

Raw water is untreated and therefore contains the to the same mixture of industrial and municipal discharge contaminants that are found in the larger system. Having a microcosm parallel model of the larger system allows us to evaluate the system's ability to remove known contaminants and experimentally manipulate the system to plan ahead for contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). This unique opportunity lends insite on how to detect chemicals that are potential ecological stressors and drinking water contaminants, evaluate their toxicity, estimate risks and make informed adjustments in treatment processes.

Capabilities of the WWP Pilot Plant field station include experiments to evaluate water contaminants, water treatment removal efficiency for parent compounds, fate of transformation products, and contaminant toxicity to aquatic life (specifically keystone species and model organisms). WWP also provides the setting for development and testing of new technologies for contaminant detection, such as biomarkers and automated test systems, and enhanced water treatment processes.

Assisted by a system of highly sensitive monitoring equipment, the WWP Pilot Plant provides insight on the fluctuation in contaminant levels that occur over time at this major drinking water intake.

A panoramic view (below) shows the preliminary treatment components on the left and the ozonation and filtration components on the left.

Drinking water treatment process


Step 1: Coagulation and flocculation

Step 2: Plate settling
Monitoring checkpoints between each step allow for modular modification in the treatment process.
Step 3: Ozonation and Filtration
Tall glass filtration columns allow researchs to observe the results of experimental quality methods.
Stepwise Quality Checks

Detroit’s historic Belle Isle aquarium field laboratory

Environmental DNA (eDNA) collected in water and soil samples from Belle Isle is analyzed on site using existing qPCR equipment and then sent out for sequencing. These genetic sequences are composited to map out the genetic inventory profile of local biota that helps differentiate native species from non-natives. Novel specimens found in microscopy inventories are sequenced and cross-checked using the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) barcode database so that discrepancies can be updated to expand and maintain the accuracy of molecular inventory systems.
A moving display at the Belle Isle Aquarium demonstrates the Automated fluorescence Intensity Detection Device (AFIDD) is an example of technology developed by Dr. Jeffrey Ram's laboratory (WSU) to automatically detect the presence of invasive species in ship ballast water.
Natural areas ​adjacent to the aquarium are used for investigations of terrestrial invasive species, interface of groundwater and surface water, and infrastructure investigations associated with the primary Detroit water intake at this location.
The evaluation of fishery restoration effectiveness in the island’s numerous lagoons compared treated and control (natural) lagoons in an EPA study grant to Friends of the Detroit River. Other studies and public outreach include evaluation of the effectiveness of various communication methods about fish consumption limits and development of signage communicating safe consumption levels for each fish species as well as the methods of preparing fish to minimize toxin exposure.

Explore a map and photos of the WSU-HEART field stations