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Heart Freshwater Center

The Huron to Erie Alliance for Research and Training (HEART) is a unique network of agencies dedicated to the advancement of sustainable strategies that preserve and protect freshwater resources of the Great Lakes.

Overview photo of Lake St. Clair and the land around it

The Huron to Erie Alliance for Research and Training (HEART) is a unique network of agencies dedicated to the advancement of sustainable strategies that preserve and protect freshwater resources of the Great Lakes.

Our mission is to cultivate strong partnerships that foster targeted research, training, and actions that will continue to improve community awareness of and support for the health of our precious waters and the lives that depend on them.

What we do

Cultivate partnerships - Our multi-institutional alliance allows HEART members to leverage group assets to address concerns facing the Huron-to-Erie corridor watersheds. Shared resources may be employed to prioritize and optimize water management strategies and to sustainably address the growing need for clean, affordable water throughout the region. Experience and opportunities generated through our independent institutional programs come together to inform a larger shared network, allowing us to coordinate expertise, systems, and tools in ways that help progress our collective mission.

Research - HEART research partners coordinate independent and collaborative projects, facilitating connections between researchers, government agencies, communities, and the public that provide scientific insight on health and environmental issues and accelerate progress toward a more sustainable future.

Public engagement - HEART promotes community participation in water-related programs and events that spread awareness and empower residents with opportunities to protect clean waters.

Education - Our educational partners offer university and college courses across a broad range of freshwater topics.

  • Transdisciplinary courses pair technical knowledge with out-of-the-box thinking and innovative tools that prepare the next generation of problem-solvers with the dynamic and collaborative strategies they will need to address complicated issues along present and future intersections of human and ecosystem health.
  • Cross-enrollment programs and collaborative research partnerships generate accessible learning opportunities for local students seeking to take active roles in the future of freshwater.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.