Environment & Science

NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr / Flickr

When we talk about climate change and what it's doing to our world, we often talk about melting ice at the polar cap and rising sea levels.

But there is something else happening as well: The permafrost is melting. And as it does, it is releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A photo of the three wolves left on Isle Royale.
John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson / Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study

The ongoing study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale in Lake Superior has hit a critical juncture. Researchers in charge of the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system anywhere in the world released their annual report today. 

You can read the full report here.

Joshua Doubek / Creative Commons

The campaign to ban the drilling process known as “fracking” plans to launch a petition drive next month. This will be the third time the anti-fracking campaign has tried to get lawmakers or voters to adopt a ban.

Earlier efforts fell short, but LuAnn Kozma of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan says the ongoing controversy about drilling has helped the cause.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan has 883 operating wind turbines.

There’s been a big push for wind farms since 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Kenna Lehmann

Think about the sound of a wolf howling or a dog’s howl – maybe even the giggle of a spotted hyena.

These animals cry out for a reason.

Kenna Lehmann, a zoology graduate student at Michigan State University, is currently studying these hyena sounds in Kenya, at the Masai Mara National Reserve. She’s studying how hyenas, being social hunters, find and catch their prey by way of communicating with each other.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan's experiment with partially deregulating its electricity market could be over.

Bills to rescind the law which allows 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers to leave for an alternate (i.e., cheaper) supplier are moving through the State House.

They're sponsored by the Chairman of the Energy Policy Committee, Republican Aric Nesbitt of the 66th District.

Couches will flame retardants in them will still burn.
Mark H. Anbinder / Flickr

This week, we’re bringing you a series of stories about firefighters and cancer. Firefighters say they’re worried about getting exposed to certain kinds of toxic flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals are everywhere. They’re called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. Firefighters are exposed to these chemicals in the line of duty, but they aren’t the only ones exposed.

For decades, these chemicals have been added to the foam in our couches, our chairs, and the padding underneath our carpets.

But they don’t stay put.

MSU's power plant to stop burning coal

Apr 8, 2015
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University will no longer use coal to power its campus after 2016. 

That's according to an announcement today by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. 

firefighters-South_Carolina-Natl-Guard-flickr.jpg

Firefighters have dangerous jobs. We all know that.

But a growing body of research suggests those dangers don’t go away once the flames are put out: several studies say firefighters have a significantly higher cancer risk, even when they’re young.

A Blood Moon visible during a total lunar eclipse.
Nasa.gov

Early tomorrow morning, a total lunar eclipse, or "blood moon," will grace the skies of much of Michigan. The eclipse itself will span several hours, though total lunar coverage, in which the moon takes on a reddish hue, will last only about five minutes. 

Lunar eclipses occur when the earth slides between the sun and moon, obstructing the light that normally illuminates our moon.  For those viewing from Michigan, the eclipse will start at 5:00 am, with peak lunar coverage occurring at around 7:00 am. 

Brian Wybenga

Back in December, there was a toxic spill in Detroit.

In my kitchen.

It was a Sunday morning. My kids were watching a cartoon. I was reading the paper. And my husband, who does some small-time antiques dealing in his spare time, was monkeying around with one of his treasures in the kitchen.

Urine Collection Event
Hayley Hershman

It looked like an April Fools' Day joke.

A pair of Porta-potties set up near a busy campus bus stop, student and faculty volunteers in T-shirts with "Pee Maize 4 Blue" written on the back, and a #peecycler Twitter campaign.

By Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has put the northern long-eared bat on the “threatened” species list. The agency stopped short of saying the species is in danger of being wiped out by white-nose bat syndrome. The fungus has already killed millions of bats across the country.

FLICKR USER MATT CAVANAGH / FLICKR

Few things are more addictive and entrancing than watching chain reactions and domino builds.

This summer in Wayne, the country’s most famous chain-reaction artists and domino builders will build one of the largest chain reactions in American history.

One of the nation’s premier domino and chain reaction artists is Lily Hevesh, or “Hevesh5,” as she’s known to fans. Another is Steve Price, or “Sprice,” as he’s known.

flickr/David Allen

Frogs really sing in earnest after dark.

They drink and breathe through their skin without a filter and are very sensitive to environmental changes. Scientists can determine the health of an area by measuring how much the frog and toad population is increasing or decreasing – sort of like a canary in a coal mine. How does Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources count the number of frogs and toads across the state?

Kathy Evans, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission

They're known as "Areas of Concern" and Michigan had 14 of them at one time.

Now, we have 12 of these toxic places where pollution from the past is lingering.

This summer, work crews will tackle the next phase of cleanup in the Muskegon Lake area.

Arborlight hopes to replace harsh indoor lights like the ones pictured above with natural lighting that simulates sunlight.
Ari Sandberg / Michigan Radio

For many of us lacking the fortune of an office with a window, harsh indoor lighting has become an accepted staple of workplace life. This reality might be changing in the not-so-distant future.

Ann Arbor-based technology company Arborlight has been awarded a $1.7 million venture capital investment to further commercialize its "daylight simulator."

Morel mushrooms spring from the ground in Michigan.
State of Michigan

If you want to find wild mushrooms and eat them yourself, fine. But if you want to sell them, state and federal law requires a certification.  But until now, Michigan didn’t offer a way to become certified.

“If you talk to the folks up north, they never had a problem, nobody really bothered with it until a couple of years ago,” said Chris Wright. He helped design the curriculum and the new state test to get that mushroom expert designation.

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.

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