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Mapping the Great Lakes: The GLOS Mapping Workshops

Have you ever planned a Lake Superior fishing or kayaking trip? Scheduled an outdoor event along the shores of the mercurial greatest Great Lake? Headed for a Lake Superior beach hoping for a weekend of swimming and lakefront activities only to have the 75° air temperatures sabotaged by a frigid wind off the lake? If you’ve tried to do any of these things you have probably wished you had a better way to gather together the maps and information you need, including a crystal ball to tell you what to expect in the way of traffic, waves, and temperatures.

Workshops—initiated with a pilot session at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario—seek to help you do just that. Conducted by Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant on each of the Great Lakes, the workshops give people managing, using, and educating others about the Great Lakes a chance to learn how Great Lakes data can be integrated and made useful for decision-making. Participants receive hands-on training to learn how to combine data and information from several sources into one tailored tool for use in making management and personal decisions regarding use of the Great Lakes.

Participants in past workshops represent a wide range of professional roles, such as geographic information specialists, small business owners, resource managers, and educators. Workshops have been held in Chicago, Illinois at the U.S. EPA; Duluth, Minnesota as part of the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium annual conference; Alpena, Michigan at the Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary; and Traverse City, Michigan at Northwestern Michigan College. Additional workshops are planned for Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; and again in Duluth in spring 2010. Workshops include a morning overview session, afternoon computer workshop, and separate evening session for educators.

Funding for the workshops came from the Great Lakes Observing System Regional Association. The Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) was established to provide public access to historical, current, and forecasted data for the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River and interconnecting waterways. The goal of GLOS is to help us manage, safeguard, and understand these immensely valuable freshwater resources. GLOS integrates chemical, biological and hydrologic data and monitors lake conditions and trends over time.

The Great Lakes Observing System (http://glos.us) is intended to:


  • Improve predictions of climate change and weather and their effects on coastal communities and the nation;

  • Improve the safety and efficiency of maritime operations;

  • Reduce public health risks; and

  • Protect and restore coastal ecosystems more effectively.



By Cindy Hagley
December 2009

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