Group of researchers in waders, one holds a fish tail up.

Program Contacts: Valerie Brady,, (218) 788-2753 and Euan Reavie,, (218) 788-2692

Environmental indicators are measures that allow users to infer something important about the state of an ecosystem, much the same as blood pressure and body temperature can be used to say something about human health. We use biological communities (e.g., birds, fish, vegetation, invertebrates, bacteria), along with habitat and water quality measures to infer the condition of a water body. When compared to a benchmark condition it is possible to compare these measures to other similar water body types. Such comparisons can be used to plan management activities or prioritize remedial actions.

NRRI scientists contribute extensively to the development of baseline knowledge and methods for determining the status and trends in Great Lake coastal and open water ecosystems, as well as other water body types across Minnesota. Use of paleolimnological tools that allow the reconstruction of environmental conditions (by examining the algae that are preserved in the sediments) can help set restoration targets for systems such as Rainey Lake or the St. Louis River Estuary in Lake Superior. The goal of these activities is to develop methods, collect data, and delivery information that can be used by managers for sound decision making.

Current Projects

  • Great Lakes coastal wetland monitoring (V. Brady)
  • Great Lakes environmental indicators (GLEI) (L. Johnson, K. Kovalenko)
  • Great Lakes phytoplankton monitoring (E. Reavie)
  • Paleo-HAB project (A. Bramburger)
  • Water Quality assessments (R. Axler, E. Ruzycki, J. Henneck)
  • Lake Superior Streams monitoring (R. Axler, J. Henneck)
  • Stream Temperature (L. Johnson, V. Brady)
  • Environmental Flows (L. Johnson, W. Herb)
  • St. Louis River Estuary winter water quality (R. Garono)