The Earth is not flat – and neither is the Lake! Underwater landscapes of the Apostle Islands

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In the upper Great Lakes region, the NPS protects diverse coastal environments in Lakes Michigan and Superior. Until recently, very little information existed with respect to the bathymetry, geomorphology, or benthic habitat features of these areas. Since 2010, NPS and partners have developed high resolution benthic habitat maps for six coastal parks in the Great Lakes, using a novel combination of LiDAR, multi-beam sonar, and satellite imagery.

In addition to high resolution bathymetry, we collected photo and video imagery to validate substrate and benthic features documented in our mapping efforts. In 2018, we began a pilot project at Apostle Islands using tools such as the Benthic Terrain Modeler to further describe lake floor habitat in several areas of the Apostles.

With this work we show features of the underwater landscape with detail previously not shown in bathymetric maps of the area. In pilot study areas, we use these details to further describe specific habitat features in an attempt to estimate areas that may be suitable for invasive dreissenid or native mussels.

Our goal is to ultimately use these tools for habitat descriptors of other species or to show habitat quality and suitability in areas where changes may be occurring due to impacts from coastal and upland erosion or other stressors. Importantly, this effort provides new opportunities for the NPS to engage with partner agencies and participate more fully in Great Lakes habitat assessment initiatives and coastal management and restoration efforts.

Jay Glase, National Park Service (NPS)

Presenter biography

Jay Glase

Jay has been the NPS Midwest regional fishery biologist since 2002. Jay has been stationed in Ashland since 2011 and before that at Isle Royale headquarters in Houghton, Michigan.

Jay works primarily with parks in the upper Great Lakes area but also occasionally works with other Midwest region parks or on national fisheries issues within NPS.

Prior to his time at NPS, Jay was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 10 years where he worked on salmon and steelhead restoration efforts in Northern California. He’s a long-time-ago graduate of Northland College and Humboldt State University and is one of those affected by the Lake Superior bungee effect.

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