Great Lakes WATER Institute


The Great Lakes WATER Institute is a University of Wisconsin System research facility and is operated by the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The WATER Institute is home to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Great Lakes Studies, a UWM and UW System Center for Excellence, the Aquaculture and Fisheries Research Center and the NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center.

For more than 40 years, our faculty and scientists have been conducting internationally recognized freshwater research across four essential themes: human and ecosystem health, freshwater system dynamics, freshwater technology, and freshwater policy and economics. 

Our tradition of pioneering freshwater research began decades before our school was even formed. We’ve maintained the Great Lakes’ largest academic research institution and only year-round research vessel. You’ll find our researchers at work at sea, in the field, and in the lab from the Great Lakes of North America to the Great Lakes of Africa. Our students and scientists study at the edge of the largest freshwater system on the Earth’s surface — the Great Lakes. 

We are the first graduate school in the nation dedicated solely to the study of freshwater and one of three such schools in the world, and are a launch pad for critical and fascinating freshwater research. 

Our pioneering graduate programs began in 2009 following a decades-deep history of freshwater studies. Starting with the Center for Great Lakes Studies in 1966 and continuing with the Great Lakes WATER Institute, we are the largest academic research institution on the Great Lakes, and UWM’s freshwater expertise has been key to advancing Milwaukee’s reputation as a world water hub.

Our mission is to advance fundamental and strategic science and train the next generation of freshwater professionals to inform policy, improve management, and promote the health and sustainability of freshwater systems worldwide. 

  • Human and Ecosystem Health: Widespread chemical and biological pollution. Invasive species. Intense human activity. Engineered modifications. 
  • Freshwater System Dynamics: What makes aquatic ecosystems tick? Why is one lake clear, while another is green with algae? What species of fish, and how many fish, can a lake support? How are the structure and function of aquatic systems affected by invasive species, weather conditions, and land use? 
  • Freshwater Technology: Exciting advances are happening right here as scientists develop new technologies essential for scientific exploration, observation, monitoring, sampling, and forecasting, as well as for conservation, food production, and water treatment. 
  • Freshwater Policy and Economics: Agriculture and energy. Scarcity and distribution. Transboundary and local disputes. These politically charged issues present important policy challenges.
Phone Number: (414) 382-1700
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