GRPM Research

The Grand Rapids Public Museum leads research with a team of scientists and experts along with community partners on a variety of topics. Findings are shared through academic publications and conferences, and with the public on the Museum’s website and blog. The Museum’s research team is led by the GRPM’s scientists on staff, Dr. Stephanie Ogren, VP of Science and Education, and Dr. Cory Redman, Science Curator.


Grand River Research

The GRPM provides historical, cultural and scientific interpretation of the watershed including how human actions have affected and will continue to affect the future of natural and human systems. To tell the river restoration story, there are data and knowledge gaps that the Museum and partners are working to fill, including information about the historic and current fish community, how humans interact with the river, and how the restoration actions may change human behavior. The Museum and partner agencies have teamed up to answer some of these questions. 

Partners include:

Lake Sturgeon Juvenile Assessment

The GRPM, Encompass Socio-ecological Consulting LLC and John Ball Zoo research team is working to document young Lake Sturgeon in the Lower Grand River. Finding and documenting these fish indicates successful reproduction and recruitment into the Grand River population. Recently on September 8 and 15, 2022, juvenile Lake Sturgeon were documented in the Grand River by scientists, indicating successful reproduction and recruitment into the Grand River population.

Fish Community Assessment

This annual assessment of fish species will provide a baseline dataset of fish communities in the area of the proposed restoration project. Fish communities are counted through electrofishing surveys. It is a partnership between Grand Valley Metro Council, Grand Valley State University, Encompass Socio-Ecological Consulting and the GRPM. Multiple Grand Valley State University graduate students have worked on this important dataset.

Grand River Habitat Mapping

This year Grand Valley State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will add to the research being conducted on the Grand River by assisting in mapping the Lower Grand River and building a habitat suitability index for juvenile Lake Sturgeon.

Angler Counts

The Grand Rapids Public Museum, Encompass Socio-ecological Consulting LLC, John Ball Zoo and the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds are studying how the Grand River is used by anglers. The research will help document the long-term changes that occur when the city of Grand Rapids begins the river rehabilitation that will add two miles of rapid habitat throughout downtown Grand Rapids, as proposed by Grand Rapids White Water. The research uses a community science technique where professionals and the public work together to document the number of people fishing in the downtown area and the general locations of anglers. Community Science Training for Angler Counts takes place seasonally.

Macroinvertebrate Assessments

Annual macroinvertebrate (aquatic insects) surveys are conducted near the Museum’s Spillman Carousel in the Grand River. This project has been completed in partnership with the Grand Rapids White Water Summer Science and Leadership program since 2019. The Museum is contributing to a large data collection effort, spearheaded by Grand Valley Metro Council with many partners.

Collections Research

Middle Devonian Marine Invertebrates

During the middle Devonian (383 - 393 million years ago), Michigan was covered by a warm shallow sea. The rock units that were deposited during this time are rich with marine invertebrate fossils and can be found throughout the state, but some of the best exposures are in rock quarries. The GRPM has been working with students from Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Community College to bulk sample middle Devonian shales and to describe all the animals preserved in an ecosystem using statistical analyses

Vernal Pools

The GRPM is a partner in the Vernal Pool Patrol and Michigan Vernal Pools Partnership programs with the Michigan Natural Features Inventor (MNFI) and Michigan Vernal. These programs work with citizen and professional scientists and community organizations to identify, map, monitor, and increase the awareness and protection of vernal pools across the state. Vernal pools are a special type of wetland that consist of small, shallow pools of water that typically fill in the spring and dry up during the summer or fall. Vernal pools do not have a permanent fish population, making them critical habitat for a number of invertebrate and amphibian species and important habitat for many other animal and plant species. The GRPM is helping with identifying, mapping, and surveying vernal pools in the greater Grand Rapids area with Dr. Cory Redman serving as a local coordinator for the Vernal Pool Patrol.

Clapp Family Mastodon

The GRPM received the donation of mastodon bones that were found near Kent City, Michigan in August 2022. The Clapp Family Mastodon, as it is now known, is now part of the GRPM’s Collections, and was found as part of a drain project. Crews from Busscher Construction uncovered the bones as part of the project and reached out to the Museum and University of Michigan for confirmation on the find. Shortly thereafter, the bones were excavated by a team of Museum staff and U of M staff led by the GRPM’s Science Curator, Dr. Cory Redman. At this time, all of the bones have been excavated and cleaned, and are now starting the process of slowly drying out. The Museum is working with partners at the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, to begin studying and conserving the bones, so they can be displayed in the future. This process will take about a year and half. At this time the skeleton appears to be ~60% complete and belongs to a single, juvenile mastodon and would have died over 11,700 years ago.

Universal Design

The Museum along with partners DisArt, Disability Advocates and Occupational Therapy departments of Western Michigan University, Colorado Mesa University, and Grand Valley State University are working to research, evaluate and collaborate on implementing the principles of universal design in a museum setting.

  • Use of Pre-Visit Materials for Museum Visitors with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2022 Research group)

  • A Survey of Assistive Technology Preferences for Museum Visitors with Sensory Impairment (2022 Research group)
  • Evaluation and Development of Sensory Inclusive events at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
  • Development of staff training materials for interactions with guests that have different abilities.
  • Jennifer K. Fortuna, Kayleigh Thomas, Jenna Asper, Laura Matney, Kyra Chase, Stephanie Ogren, and Julia VanderMolen.  A Survey of Universal Design at Museums: Current Industry Practice and Perceptions. The Open Journal of Physical Therapy.

  • Fortuna, J., Harrison, C., Eekhoff, A., Marthaler, C., Seromik, M., Ogren, S., & VanderMolen, J. (In Press). Perceptions of accessibility from museum visitors who are visually impaired: A case study.  Visitor Studies.

Museum Education

Through a partnership with Grand Valley State University’s educational instruction program the GRPM is featured in research surrounding using the Museum space as a learning lab.

  • Erica R. Hamilton & Kelly C. Margot (2020) Learning to Teach in a Museum: Benefits of a Museum–University Partnership, Journal of Museum Education, 45:4, 462-475, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2020.1807242

  • Hamilton, E.R., & Vriend Van Duinen, D. (2021). Hybrid Spaces: Adolescent Literacy and Learning in a Museum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 64( 5), 511– 520.

Museum Published Research

Museum Staff often lend their expertise to other researchers and have published on related topics.

  • Fortuna, J. K., Chamberlain, E., Filice, L., Kurt, M., Porter, T., Twichell, S., & Ogren, S.(2024). Exploring the Usefulness of Pre-Visit Materials for Children with Autism at a PublicMuseum. Translational Science in Occupation, 1(1).

  • Cory M. Redman, Jason R. Moore, David M. Lovelace, Julie A. Meachen,The rank abundance distribution of large-bodied vertebrates from Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming, Quaternary International, Volumes 647–648, 2023, Pages 42-52, ISSN 1040-6182,

  • J.A. Meachen, C.M. Redman, B.M. Gilbert, R. Reppen, S. Chomko, K. Lippincott, B.H. Breithaupt, D. Lovelace, J. Laden. (2022) JPT No. 26 – A history of paleontological excavations at the Pleistocene fossil site Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming.

  • K. T. Scribner, G. Uhrig, J. Kanefsky, N. M. Sard, M. Holtgren, C. Jerome, & S. Ogren. (2022). Pedigree-based decadal estimates of lake sturgeon adult spawning numbers and genetic diversity of stream-side hatchery produced offspring. Journal of Great Lakes research, 48, 551-564. doi: 10.1016/j.jglr.2021.12.005

  • Redman, C.M., Moore, J.R., Lovelace, D.M., and Meachen, J.A., in press, The rank abundance distribution of large-bodied vertebrates from Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming: Quaternary International.

  • McGuire, J.L., Woodruff, A., Iacono, J., Sethna, J.M., Schap, J.A., Redman, C.M., and Meachen, J.A., in press, Evaluating the taphonomic consistency of microvertebrate assemblages at Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming, USA: Quaternary International.

  • Lovelace, D.M., Redman, C.M., Minckley, T.A., Schubert, B.W., Mahan, S., Wood, J.R.,McGuire, J.L., Laden, J., Bitterman, K., Heiniger, H., Fenderson, L., Cooper, A., Mitchell, K.J., and Meachen, J.M., in press, An age-depth model and revised stratigraphy of vertebrate bearing units in Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming: Quaternary Internation
  • Meachen, J.A., Redman, C.M., Gilber, B.M., Reppen, R., Chomko, S., Lippincott, K., Breithaupt, B.H., Lovelace, D., and Laden, J., in press, A history of paleontological excavations at the Pleistocene fossil site Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming: Journal of Paleontological Techniques.



  • Redman, C.M., Tomiya, S., Bitterman, K., Cain, K., and Meachen, J.A., 2021, Utilizing inquiry-driven science outreach to curate Natural Trap Cave fossils and inspire the pursuit of STEM careers. Evolution: Education and Outreach 14: 13.



  • Andrea Melvin (2018) The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Uniform, Dress:The Journal of the Costume Society of America, 44:2.



  • Ogren, Stephanie & Huckins, Casey. (2015). Culvert replacements: Improvement of stream biotic integrity?. Restoration Ecology. 23. 10.1111/rec.12250