Environment & Science

Vince Cavalieri / US Fish and Wildlife Service

It may not feel like Spring, but the piping plovers are returning. 

A growing number of the endangered birds soon will return from their winter nests to their Michigan homes.

Martin Schwalbe

There’s plastic trash in every one of the Great Lakes.

That plastic includes junk people leave at the beach, microbeads from consumer products such as shower gel, face wash and toothpaste, and pellets from plastic manufacturing.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The Ohio state Legislature has passed bills to try to cut down on the nutrients flowing into Lake Erie that feed cyanobacteria. 

Cyanobacteria looks like algae, and some forms are toxic. 

A cyanobacteria bloom shut down Toledo's water supply briefly last summer. 

Manure, untreated sewage, sediment, and phosphorus all encourage the growth of cyanobacteria.

The legislation establishes fines against farmers caught applying manure on a frozen field or right before a heavy rain.

Piping plover.
USFWS

RJ Wolcott of the Grand Rapids Press spoke with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Vince Cavalieri about the return of the piping plover.

The endangered birds winter along the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. Cavalieri says breeding pairs will soon arrive along the coasts of the northern Great Lakes. 

a helicopter flies over a wildfire
The U.S. Army on Flickr / Flickr

As April approaches, the chance for wildfires increases. Most Michigan wildfires occur in April, May or June with few a few minor fires happening throughout the rest of summer and into fall.

Wildfire prevention specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Dan Laux says this spring is already shaping up to be warmer and drier than those in the past. The snow melting so early may mean wildfire season could come sooner, but with the ground remaining damp for a while, Laux isn't too concerned.

NOAA

More than 7,000 square miles of land in the Great Lakes region changed in some way from 1996 to 2010. That’s roughly equal to the surface area of Lake Ontario.

That’s according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Leslie Clapp / Courtesy NestWatch

Spring means Michiganders breaking out the shorts when it's above 40 degrees, grocery store aisles full of marshmallow bunnies, and itty-bitty baby birds.

You can help keep an eye on those babies as part of the citizen science project NestWatch. It's a program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Cornell Lab has been monitoring nesting birds for 50 years, and more than 130 studies have relied on the data from NestWatch.

Picture of the aurora as seen from Peach Mountain Observatory near Dexter, MI
Logan Sisca / Michigan Exploration Laboratory

Recently, Michiganders as far south as Ann Arbor were treated to an amazing Northern Lights show.  Though neither person nor atmospheric ion can stay excited forever, clear skies allowed astronomy enthusiasts to beautifully preserve the event through photos.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Ohio lawmakers are close to a compromise on legislation aimed to reduce farm runoff into Lake Erie and other Ohio waterways.

The goal is to stop the spread of the toxic algae that contaminated Toledo's drinking water supply last summer.

"I think this bill will make sure the nutrients won't get in the water system, and we'll have less algae blooms over time," said Ohio State Senator Bob Peterson who co-sponsored the bill.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley wears the "Google Trekker."
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Today, Google released into the world more than 40 images of iconic places in Michigan.

Google is known for capturing 360-degree street view images with their camera. For these latest images, the camera was strapped onto a backpack and taken to places cars can't go.

Here's a video produced by Google that shows the "Google Trekker" in action in Michigan:

Rusty Tanton / Flickr/user

Lawmakers want to overhaul our nation’s chemical safety law, but there’s a lot of disagreement about how to do that.

In the U.S., chemicals are innocent until proven guilty.

If officials at the Environmental Protection Agency want to ban a chemical, they need to provide a lot of proof that it’s harmful for us or the environment. As the EPA's Dale Kemery once explained to me, "EPA can ban chemicals if it can demonstrate that they present an unreasonable risk. This is a relatively high regulatory standard and requires a substantial amount of high quality exposure and hazard information."

The law we currently have on the books is 39 years old. It’s called the Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA. It’s been widely criticized as toothless and outdated.

Allen Kurta / Eastern Michigan University

  

The northern long-eared bat is a little thing with brown fur.  And its ears are longer than average, for a bat.

In winter, it hangs out in mines and caves in the Upper Peninsula.

gophouse.com

Governor Snyder is joining the debate as the Legislature embarks on the first major re-write of Michigan’s energy policy in many years. He will deliver a speech on the topic in metro Detroit.

“Hopefully, we can establish a strong energy policy for Michigan that can last the next decade or so,” he says. The governor says he has some things he’d like lawmakers to keep in mind.

Could drones detect leaks at oil and gas sites?

Mar 12, 2015
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Some people think drones could help detect pollution and dangerous leaks from the oil and gas business. The technology is taking off, but federal regulations could hold back the use of these drones.

FLICKR USER MOONFLOWERDRAGON / FLICKR

Do you know what's being done with the blood, plasma, tissue or any other samples you hand over to a biobank? Does knowing the intended use of donations help or hinder people’s willingness to donate?

 A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, tried to address these questions.

The old Velsicol chemical plant site from across the Pine River.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The City of St. Louis, Michigan needs a new water system. That’s because pollution from the old Velsicol Chemical plant is leaking into St. Louis’ water supply

They’re planning to get that water upriver from the city of Alma.

Listen as we ride along with this dog sled team

Mar 10, 2015
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Racing across a frozen landscape behind a team of dogs — it’s not just for Alaskans. Dog sledding is popular in our neck of the woods, too. 

We got a chance to go along for a ride.

Matt Philips and Sarah White are unloading precious cargo—their dogs—from the backseat of a black hatchback.

Holland BPW

One of the top Republicans in the state House has introduced bills that would make sweeping changes to Michigan’s energy policies. It comes ahead of Governor Rick Snyder’s address on the issue next week.

Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory

It’s another big year for the majestic white birds from the north.

Snowy owls summer in the Arctic. Sometimes they fly south in the winter in big migrations called irruptions.  In a typical year, we might end up with a few dozen snowy owls in the Great Lakes region.

But in an irruption year the owls can come south by the hundreds or even thousands.

Diane McAllister

People who identify birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count logged a record 5,090 species this winter. That’s just about half the bird species in the world.

It’s part of a huge data collection effort each winter. It’s run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and also Bird Studies Canada.

Detroit’s regional board of water commissioners will vote on new rates next week.

The board will vote on a proposal that would increase Detroit retail customers’ combined water and sewer rates by 12.8%, while suburban wholesale customers would see rates jump a combined 6.4%.

The scientific community largely agrees climate change is taking place. Yet the public debate over climate change is often polarizing.

Andrew Hoffman wanted to explore just what causes people to accept or reject the scientific consensus on climate change. The result is his new book How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.

Hoffman is the Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. He is also a Professor of Sustainable Enterprise.

user crossn81
Flickr

Before the ice melts, let's take time to celebrate one of winter's great gifts: the sea caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Eighteen miles west of Bayfield, Wisconsin is where you can find the island chain in Lake Superior. The islands and the ice have created a breathtaking natural art gallery.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Everyone knows this has been a brutally cold winter in Michigan.

And not just for people.

Polar cold temps have resulted in Michigan lakes and rivers icing over to record degrees. That’s left little open water for ducks to feed.

User:Phils1stPix / Flicker

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned a report on the commercial grass carp industry. Grass carp are one of four species of Asian carp that officials are concerned about.

They’re used to control vegetation in lakes and ponds, and some people like to eat them. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today’s wintry mix of snow, rain and sleet is not stopping Michigan State University’s major nuclear science project from moving forward into a new construction phase. 

350 truckloads of concrete are being poured today into the pit that will eventually be the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. 

That’s enough to cover a football field in two feet of concrete. 

user metassus / Flickr

Michigan has joined the appeal of a federal judge’s decision to restore endangered species protections to the gray wolf.

Animal rights and wildlife groups challenged the de-listing in an effort to stop wolf hunting in Michigan and other Midwestern states. Michigan voters rejected wolf hunting last year – although that referendum was circumvented by the Legislature. However, wildlife groups succeeded in court where they failed politically when a federal judge last month restored the protections.

Sai Pradeep Reddy Kobaku / university of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - It may be the tiniest University of Michigan logo ever made, but it's more than just an effort to show "how small can you go."

Researchers at the Ann Arbor school's College of Engineering have replicated a 3-micron-thick, two-layered block "M" to test a system that they say could be used to deliver drugs at different times and rates or to different parts of the body.

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Michigan is joining the federal government in appealing a decision that restores legal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region.

Federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled in December that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred by dropping the region's wolf population from the list of endangered and threatened species in 2012.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People living near a Superfund site in Kalamazoo seem to like the compromise cleanup plan posed by the city. About a hundred people came to the first public meeting Thursday night to learn more about the plan and to provide feedback.

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