The Sands of Time

Help us track how Michigan's coastal dunes have changed over time!

How the Dunes Change Over Time

To most Americans, a sand dune conjures up an image of an exotic place somewhere far, far away. But Michiganders don't have to travel far with the world's largest body of freshwater coastal dunes in their backyard. These unique Michigan landmarks began forming around 5,000 years ago and have evolved in complex ways since that time. While scientists generally understand the overall chronology of dune formation, there is a continued need to better understand how the dunes have changed in the historic period. And that’s where you can help.

In 2017, a group of researchers from the Michigan Environmental Council, Heart of the Lakes, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Michigan State University asked people to complete the #HowYouDune Survey to learn how people interact and perceive the dunes. Now, researchers are calling on people like you to become citizen scientists and to help document the changing nature of Lake Michigan’s coastal dunes.

The goal of this project is to build an archive of historic coastal sand dune photographs at many points along Lake MichiganThis database will allow researchers to better understand and predict the morphology, movement, and characteristics of dunes. This information is crucial for long-term preservation, conservation, and management activities within coastal areas.

There are a couple different ways you can help with this project, including:

Entering into our photo contest and submitting historic photos of Lake Michigan's Coastal Dunes

Click here to learn more about historic photos of the dunes!


Participating in an ongoing study of the dunes by conducting repeat photography

Click here to learn more about repeat photography

Taken in Van Buren State Park in 1997.  Same site taken from the same place in 2014.

If you have any further questions, please email [email protected] or call 517-999-0411

Financial assistance for this project was provided, in part, by the Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of the Great Lakes, MDNR, through a grant from the NOAA, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.


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