Environment & Science

Studies show the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population has decreased by as much as 80% in the last decade.
flickr user Paul VanDerWerf / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Scientists continue to keep a nervous eye on North America’s eastern monarch butterfly population.

That population has dropped by more than 80% over the past decade.

A study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports suggests there’s a “substantial chance” that monarchs could become “quasi-extinct” within the next 20 years.

David Schwab looked at 840 simulated spill scenarios. This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Isle Royale National Park

The National Park Service is taking a closer look at whether or not to bring more grey wolves to Isle Royale National Park. Only two wolves remain on the island now.

To help make its decision, the park service wants to hear from you. It’s accepting public comments on the question right now.

At one point, there were as many as 50 wolves on Isle Royale. But Phyllis Green, Superintendent of the Isle Royale National Park, says that number was abnormal.

Save The Wild UP / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan-based environmental organization is taking a new approach to protect a patch of land near the Yellow Dog River in northern Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve started a crowd funding campaign to raise money to purchase the 695-acre property to protect it from development.

Emily Whittaker, the special projects manager at the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve joined Stateside to talk about the Yellow Dog River Community Forest campaign and what makes the land so special.

DTE Energy

DTE  will build a solar power array on 10 acres of vacant land in Detroit. 

The utility says it will be one of the largest urban solar power projects in the country, producing enough electricity to power about 450 homes. 

The array will be located at the former O'Shea Park, near I-96 and Greenfield Road. 

The utility will pay the city $1 million over 20 years to lease the land, and the deal also requires DTE to develop a new community park, and provide STEM education, workforce development and energy efficiency programs to benefit the local community.

flickr user DryHundredFear / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

How do we break down stereotypes about each other?

That question has driven a Michigan State University journalism class to create a series of guides to help disassemble the myths and stereotypes about different groups in our country.

Bias Busters: Guides to Cultural Competence have been created by students. They're a series of questions and answers about African-Americans, East Asian cultures, Native Americans and more.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $41 million to help farmers in the West Lake Erie Basin reduce phosphorus runoff through voluntary programs.

Gail Philbin of the Michigan Chapter Sierra Club says "every little bit helps," but she thinks there are a number of other things that could do more to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie.

The nutrient encourages the growth of bacteria and algae blooms.

Flickr user USFWSmidwest / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease caused by a fungus. It’s killing bats in 27 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces.

It was first discovered in North America around a decade ago. Researchers think it came over from Europe, possibly on the shoes of a tourist or caver.

A kayak on the Huron River
Deb Nystrom / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Ann Arbor Township and the city of Ann Arbor are both pushing for a federal cleanup of the dioxane plume that has been working its way through the city’s groundwater for several years. The concern is that the 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen, could eventually reach Ann Arbor’s main water source in the years to come.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is asking all water systems to come up with plans to find and replace lead pipes in their communities, even the portions of water service lines that are on private property, which are traditionally the responsibility of the homeowner.

Somewhere beneath the waves of Lake Michigan lies the wreck of the 'Andaste'
flickr user Daniel X. O'Neil / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Great Lakes knows that there are secrets beneath those waves: ships that have foundered.

Many have been found, and their locations are well known, but there are still mysteries to be unlocked.

One of the biggest dates back to a night in September 1929. The ship Andaste was headed from Grand Haven to Chicago when it vanished in a sudden storm on Lake Michigan.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie in late July of this year.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It will take big changes to current farming practices to reduce phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie. 

According to a new study by the University of Michigan Water Center, stronger measures are needed to achieve the 40 percent drop from 2008 runoff levels agreed to last month by the U.S. and Canadian governments. 

Phosphorous from farm fertilizers feed the kind of toxin-producing algae blooms that contaminated Toledo's drinking water in 2014 and caused a two day shut down of the city's tap water.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines runs under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

At the Straits, it splits into two pipelines. Both pipelines are 63 years old (they were installed in 1953).

Right now, we don’t have all the information about the condition of those pipelines. As we’ve reported many times, Enbridge holds all the cards. The company has shared some information with the public, but not a lot.

From left to right, RECaP research assistant Sophia Jingo, Tutilo Mudumba and Robert Montgomery
Dave Ellis / Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Wildlife conservation in Africa is an important and difficult environmental issue for the continent as many of the planet’s most majestic animals are under threat. A group at Michigan State University is working to find creative ways to minimize the loss of animals such as lions, giraffes and elephants.

Robert Montgomery, an assistant professor with MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Tutilo Mudumba, a graduate student from Uganda, joined Stateside to talk about their efforts with the RECaP Laboratory.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a free curriculum to teachers as part of a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

  The U.S. signed the treaty with Great Britain in 1916. The British were acting on behalf of Canada. Similar agreements were reached shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. All are designed to protect birds that migrate across international borders.

Since May of last year, Michigan has now had seven deer test positive for chronic wasting disease.

The two latest cases come out of Ingham and Clinton Counties. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources have been testing deer across the state, having checked around 4,900 animals so far.

Deer program specialist Chad Stewart said he's not ready to call this an "outbreak" yet, but the findings aren't great. 

"It is disheartening that we keep finding more positives because the more we find the more likely that the disease becomes established," he said.

Residents in Flint, Mich., are still living in a state of emergency, waiting for answers about the safety of their water.

After almost two years of bad drinking water, it can be hard for them to trust researchers and officials – except for a group of independent researchers from Virginia Tech who exposed the problem last summer.

"So we trust them. We don't trust nobody else," says Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, a resident of Flint.

Kate Langwig and Joseph Hoyt collecting samples from a cave in northwest Wisconsin.
Jennifer Redel

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

Five of Michigan’s nine bat species can get the disease. The bats that hibernate underground are the ones at risk. And the northern long-eared bat is getting hit especially hard.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz are studying bats in China that appear to be resistant to the fungus. 

Scio Residents for Safe Water

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing to change the state's standard for 1,4 dioxane to 7.2 parts per billion.

That's a ten-fold difference from the current standard of 85 parts per billion.  1,4 dioxane is a known carcinogen. 

The DEQ missed a December, 2015 deadline for issuing updated standards for 308 chemicals, including 1,4 dioxane. 

The agency has issued the new standard for 1,4 dioxane first, likely in response to an increased outcry from Ann Arbor city officials and residents. 

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, Wis. wants to replace its contaminated drinking water with water from the lake.
flickr user Rachel Kramer / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than 40 conservation groups across the Great Lakes are urging the region's eight governors to veto a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes, because its groundwater supply is contaminated with radium.

The federal government has ordered the city to find a new source of drinking water by 2018.

The American Goldfinch
Rodney Campbell

You might be aware that the Great Lakes region is a major migratory bird flyway.

What you might not know is that hundreds of millions of those birds will crash into windows and die.

Sarah Reding is part of a movement that’s trying to help reduce that problem. Reding is the vice president of conservation at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

U.S. Air Force / USGOV-PD, public domain

Health officials have told people living in 24 homes in Oscoda, Michigan, to stop drinking the water from their wells and to stop cooking with it.

The wells in the northeast town tested positive in December for traces of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, which are extremely long-lasting chemicals that accumulate  in the body over time. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals are toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing "reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests."

Rows of cherry trees in an Elk Lake orchard
flickr user Bernt Rostad

From two big snow storms one week to temperatures flirting with 70 degrees the next, Michigan weather does its best to keep us on our toes.

As we stripped off our boots and winter coats in favor of shorts and t-shirts this week, it brought back memories of this time a few years ago. March 2012 saw  temperatures climb into the 80s before reality set back in, with 19 straight nights of freezing temperatures. 

While that temperature swing forced many of us to begrudgingly return to our scarves and gloves, it absolutely devastated Michigan’s cherry crop.

Flickr user tmray02/Flickr

How do you decide if your milk is fresh enough to drink? You might be one of the many Americans who relies on sell-by dates to determine when to throw it out. But it turns out we could be dumping perfectly good milk. 

A physics professor thinks he’s hit on a better way to tell if food is fresh. And he’s taking it to market.

The AlphaGo computer beating a human champion in the game of Go likely won't lead to this. Or will it?
User: Insomnia Cured Here / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For decades, science fiction movies and books have predicted that someday machines will develop artificial intelligence (A.I.) and take over the world. While it’s not exactly the plot of a prequel in the Terminator movie franchise, world champion Lee Sedol was defeated by a computer in a game of Go this week. This marked a milestone for the development of A.I.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers from Virginia Tech are back in Flint to test people’s tap water, but some residents are not willing to have their water tested again.

Last summer, tests by Virginia Tech were the first to show elevated lead levels in Flint’s drinking water.

Virginia Tech Ph.D student says testing the same homes is the best way to know if things have changed, but he says they are running into some resistance from homeowners.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In Flint, there is no shortage of testing going on.

Right now, the state, the EPA, and outside researchers are testing all kinds of water samples collected throughout the city.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Flint on-scene coordinator Mark Durno says all parties will get together in a few weeks to go over the data they've collected.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver (right) stands next to the lead drinking water line that was pulled from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It was a symbolic day in Flint on Friday as the city removed its first lead water service line under Mayor Karen Weaver’s “FAST Start” program.

The Mayor wants to remove all the lead water lines in the city under the program. She’s seeking $55 million to fund the program. Right now, they’ve started the program with $2 million from the state. That money was reimbursed to the city after it spent it last fall as part of the payment to reconnect Flint’s water supply to Detroit’s system. Weaver says the state could pay for the rest using its "rainy day" fund.

flickr user Bart / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

"I’m past freaked out."

An Ann Arbor father said that to Ryan Stanton of the Ann Arbor News/MLive Media Group after finding out that his wife and three kids have been drinking and using water contaminated by 1,4 dioxane.

A dioxane plume that is slowly working its way toward the Huron River in Ann Arbor has already reached some private wells on the west side of the city. 

mdprovost/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There's been an ever-increasing drumbeat of alarm over the more than 62-year-old Enbridge Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac carrying some half a million barrels of oil or liquid natural gas.

Well, if pipelines built in 1953 have you worried, how about pipelines built in 1918?

The owner of the 98-year old pipelines has asked the State Department to update usage permits on the pipes that run under the St. Clair River between Marysville and Sarnia, Ontario. 

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