Get to know the Great Lakes


According to the Great Lakes Commission, these lakes hold roughly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply – that’s a lot to dive into! Be sure to explore all the lakes have to hold here.

The Great Lakes – Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario, each have unique characteristics. For example, did you know that Lake Superior is the second largest lake in the world? How about the fact that Lake Huron has over 3,000 miles of shoreline, or that Lake Michigan has chinook salmon? Get to know the Great Lakes by checking out these lake profiles from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Thirsty for more Great Lakes knowledge? Visit our fast facts sheet!

Listen to Teach Me About the Great Lakes, a monthly podcast in which Stuart Carlton (a native New Orleanian) asks “smart people to teach him about the Great Lakes. Co-hosted by the awesome staff at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.”

Wisconsin Sea Grant has a library of videos that cover all aspects of Great Lakes literacy. You will find every topic.

Thirsty for more Great Lakes knowledge? Visit our Fast Facts about the Great Lakes page.


Have you ever wondered how the Great Lakes were formed? The story starts with ancient Wisconsin glaciers and ends with the five bodies of water we know and love today. Visit the Wisconsin Sea Grant website to learn more.



Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms in both coastal and inland areas. The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative (GLAC) is a group of Sea Grant staff from around the Great Lakes whose goal is to work together to support an environmentally responsible, science-based, competitive and sustainable aquaculture industry in the Great Lakes region.

The Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility is leading the Midwest in sustainable aquaculture research and development.

A comprehensive guide to aquaculture can be found in the podcast, Aquaculture and You.

Aquatic Invasive Species

While these waters are home to rich biodiversity and cherished memories, they also hold over 100 aquatic invasive species. Learn about lake invaders and how to stop the spread. Then, read the tale of the rainbow trout, an interesting invasive species pervasive throughout the Great Lakes watershed.

Listen to Introduced, a podcast filled with stories of the aquatic invaders that are costing us millions and changing the lakes, streams and wetlands we cherish and rely on.

Another way for aquatic invasive species to enter the watershed is through releases from aquariums. Learn more about what you can do prevent the spread.

Coastal Engineering

Lake levels go up and down, storms and waves batter the coasts, and coastal bluffs erode and fall. Coastal engineering is a type of civil engineering that involves designing, building and managing coastal structures. This can involve protecting houses on the bluffs along the Great Lakes or preventing beaches from eroding. Docks, marinas and harbors may need coastal engineering assistance as well.

Listen to the engineers and staff with Wisconsin Sea Grant and the educators and students in the Racine (WI) Unified School District have to say about their community.

Adam Bechle, coastal engineering specialist with Wisconsin Sea Grant explores what his specialty means for the Great Lakes watershed.

Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Contaminants of emerging concern include pharmaceutical products, household cleaning products, industrial products, agricultural products, surfactants and more. They can be found throughout the environment, including in groundwater, surface water, drinking water, soil and air.

As emerging contaminants accumulate in the environment, they bioaccumulate as they move up the food chain in plants, animals and humans. These chemicals can cause known or suspected adverse ecological effects and/or human health effects. To protect ecological and human health, it is essential that we study their environmental movement, exposure pathways, wastes, biosolids and remediation, toxicology, epidemiology and more. Read about two contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes: plastics and PFAS.

Listen to four-episode mini series on PFAS called The Public Trust, the stories of Wisconsin’s response to PFAS contamination.

Fish & Fisheries

The Great Lakes provide habitat for many aquatic creatures, fish being one of our favorites. Discover some key species living in the water, and explore their role in lake food webs. Then, read or listen to learn more about how they might end up on your plate.

Want to dive deeper, to one of the most unusual species in the Great Lakes? Unearth the story of the sturgeon, an ecologically and culturally important Great Lakes fish.

Ask Dr. Fish is a monthly podcast featuring two awesome fish biologists: Katie O’Reilly and Titus Seilheimer. Fish questions? Science questions? Life questions? They are ready to talk with you!

Mapping of the Great Lakes

Pondering what else the Great Lakes hold? So are researchers! The National Park Service dug beneath the surface to map these bodies of water. Explore what they found, and play around with other ways to map the Great Lakes!

Scientists map water bodies by measuring depth and creating bathymetry maps. View the beautiful Bathymetric Maps of the Great Lakes.

Resilient Coastal Communities

What makes a resilient coastal community? Michigan Sea Grant says it takes planning, patience and more.


Indigenous Connections

The land and water of the Great Lakes have a deep history and importance to Indigenous communities. Take a moment to get to know their stories, and explore collaborations like Biinaagamia.

A leader in the Great Lakes is the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. GLIFWC provides natural resource management expertise, conservation enforcement, legal and policy analysis, and public information services in support of the exercise of treaty rights during well-regulated, off-reservation seasons throughout the treaty ceded territories.


Below the waves of the Great Lakes, where life brims, mysteries also lie. Take a dive into these shipwrecks and unravel their secrets.


What’s more inspiring than water? Discover how Wisconsin students integrate art and science to make work that connects to the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Stories

The Great Lakes are flowing with stories. Some center the people living on the lake; others come from authors ready to take their reader on an adventure. Our select bibliography of the Great Lakes has suggestions for you.

Have you heard the Voices of the Coast? This video series spotlights some of the key individuals who have helped shape, and who have been shaped by, Wisconsin’s coasts.


About the Great Lakes