Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

Colleen B. Mouw

Committee Member 1

John S. Gierke

Committee Member 2

Timothy S. Moore


Despite efforts to reduce the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in western Lake Erie, blooms recur annually due to agricultural runoff, storms with high winds and heavy rains, and weak lake circulation patterns. The influence from river inputs on the spatial and temporal characteristics of HABs remains relatively unknown. The Detroit River, which contributes about 80% of the basin's total inflow can have a large influence on the spatial and temporal distribution of the bloom. To understand this, optically classified imagery, in situ water measurements, and meteorological and river discharge observations were compiled and synthesized to examine the spatiotemporal variability of the Detroit River, HABs, and their interaction. Results indicate the presence of a defined Detroit River plume, which varies in size depending on wind and water current conditions within the lake. While high discharge of the river has an impact on the entire basin, strong winds in the spring, fall, and during summer pushes the Detroit River further south into the basin. This increases the spatiotemporal interaction between the Detroit River and HAB by limiting northerly bloom extent and diluting bloom water conditions. These results reveal the importance of Detroit River impact on blooms. Here, I present a greater understanding of the Detroit River and its role in the lake aiding the ability to improve predictions of bloom spatial variability.