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HEART field stations facilitate cross-institutional research projects that are aimed to empower and engage the public with scientific knowledge and practical tools. The unique locations and specialized facilities of the three HEART field stations provide invaluable opportunities to explore ways to protect and manage freshwater sources. The field station network has a core team of researchers from Wayne State University who provide primary direction for resources and activities with input from a broad coalition of researchers working with UWERG’s Healthy Urban Waters (HUW) initiative.

HEART facilities support a variety of research themes and activities, including:

Emerging Contaminants in Urban Waterways and Drinking Water

A unique partnership between WSU and the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) allows investigations into real-life interactions between contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) - like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other contaminants - using a scale model drinking water treatment system at the GLWA Water Works Park Pilot Plant. The pilot plant runs parallel to Detroit’s municipal drinking water treatment system that provides drinking water to approximately 4 million people in southeastern Michigan. This research is currently providing insight into best management practices for water treatment plants. Other research is evaluating combined sewer overflow (CSO) management and other water issues impacting local, regional and national health.

Beach Health

The Lake St. Clair Metropark (LSCMP) HEART Freshwater Field Station Laboratory brings the power of high-powered scientific equipment right to the shores of Lake St. Clair. Since urban beaches attract large numbers of visitors each year, they are especially vulnerable to waterborne contamination. Scientists from Oakland and Wayne State Universities are collaborating to improve the accuracy and reduce waiting times required to detect harmful pathogens on public beaches. Continued work aims to perfect rapid testing methods and to develop and validate predictive models for estimating future risks to public health. This research offers innovation and insight to county health departments who are currently responsible for monitoring beaches and then determining when to recommend closures or issue advisories.

Wetland Ecology and Marsh Restoration

Lake St. Clair margins contain some of the most important coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes region. WSU ecology teams have undertaken projects to restore the park’s wetlands to their natural grandeur. Field study projects are supported the HEART field station laboratory where samples can be prepared for analysis of chemical and biological composition.

Stormwater Runoff (Green Infrastructure)

The Stormwater Monitoring Project, a joint program between the HCMA and WSU, takes advantage of the interfaces between human and natural environments created by parking lots and built structures in the LSCMP. This project provides insight into management of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) - a major source of urban pollution that allows sewage with little or no treatment to be discharged into surface waters. CSOs cause degradation of water quality, impact aquatic organisms, and affect recreational water use. There are currently more than 200 CSO locations in Southeast Michigan and projects like this will provide important insight into the improvement of surface waters using green infrastructure.

Invasive Species

Facilities at the Belle Isle Aquarium (BIA) field station laboratory provide unique opportunities for studies related to invasive species.
Invasive species threaten the survival of important native fisheries, devastate local ecosystems, and degrade water quality. BIA projects seek to investigate the influence of invasive freshwater mussels, invasive fish, and invasive plants (such as Phragmites) on the ecology and physiology of local organisms. WSU researchers are currently developing technology that allows preventative, early detection of invasive species to prevent the spread of organisms transported in ship ballast water.

Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries

WSU Biology faculty are documenting the occurrence of large mats of nuisance algae (Lyngbya wollei) that wash onto Lake St. Clair shores. As part of restoration efforts to spawn fish populations in the Detroit River, WSU Biologists work from the HEART research facilities on Belle Isle to supplement sparse knowledge of eddy patterns and to improve impact modeling for artificial reefs. Ease of access to the Detroit River also helps WSU engineers who are working to describe the flow and sediment load of the Detroit River following dredging projects designed to restore fish populations along the corridor.

For more information about the HEART Field stations, visit the WSU UWERG website