Four river systems on the Wisconsin shoreline of Lake Michigan are designated Areas of Concern (AOCs) because of severe environmental degradation: the Lower Menominee River, Lower Green Bay and Fox River, Sheboygan River, and Milwaukee Estuary. Each AOC has one or more Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) that form the basis of the AOC designation and that must be remediated or otherwise addressed before the AOC designation can be removed. All four of these AOCs have BUIs for benthos (bottom-dwelling or benthic invertebrates), and all but the Menominee River have a BUI for plankton (free-floating algae and invertebrates, or phytoplankton and zooplankton, respectively). The U.S. Geological Survey collected samples in 2012 at these four AOCs and at six non-AOCs to support the evaluation of the status of aquatic communities in the benthos and plankton at the AOCs. Samples were collected during three periods representing spring, summer, and fall. Benthos samples were collected using a dredge grab sampler and artificial substrates; plankton samples were collected using a tow net for zooplankton and a vertical water sampler for phytoplankton. Benthos and plankton were identified to the lowest possible taxonomic category and counted; samples for documenting water temperature, pH, and specific conductance, as well as sediment particle size and organic carbon were also collected during biological sampling.