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Rebecca Williams

Reporter/Producer - The Environment Report

Rebecca has a natural science degree from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources & Environment, where she had close encounters with escaped boars and poison sumac. Before getting into radio, Rebecca snapped photos of Mongolian diatoms and published a few papers in obscure scientific journals.

Now she spends her days reporting on everything from hungry watersnakes to heritage turkeys to people who live in 300 square foot houses.

She’s won several national awards for her work including a first place National Headliner Award at the network level for her stories on the uber-destructive emerald ash borer.

Sea lamprey
Michigan State University

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

Asian longhorned beetle
USDA

Officials want you to help them look for a tree killer.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, really long antennae, and sometimes, blue feet.

It’s not in Michigan yet, as far as anyone knows. But there are infestations in Ohio.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Water filters that you attach to your faucet are known to be good for filtering out heavy metals like lead and disinfectants like chlorine. But they’re not designed to filter out bacteria that can grow in the filter itself.

American pika
Erik Beever

We talk a lot about how people can adapt to climate change, and scientists have found that some animals are changing their behavior, too. The ability to change rapidly because of environmental changes is called behavioral flexibility.

User dsleeter_2000 / Flickr

Remember how it was too hot for planes to fly in Phoenix last month?

That could happen more often as our climate warms.

Radley Horton is an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Horton is an author of a new study on this issue in the journal Climatic Change.

USFWS

Biologists say the sixth mass extinction episode on Earth is already happening. But researchers say if we only look at species extinctions, we miss a big part of the story.

Paul Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of biology at Stanford University, and an author of a new study about this published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joanna Paterson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

23 counties in Michigan have reported one or more unhealthy ozone days each year, on average. That’s from a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

An online map the group produced also shows where those high ozone days tend to overlap with high pollen days. That can make air unhealthy for people with respiratory problems.

Paul Cryan / USGS

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 31 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But clusters of bats that warm up together during hibernation might have an edge against the fungus. Researchers discovered this by putting temperature-sensing surveillance cameras in caves.

CDC

There’s a newly discovered kind of bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, Borrelia mayonii. Scientists have run tests to find out how long it takes to transmit the disease after a tick bites you.

Fishing on Lake Michigan.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Freshwater lakes provide many things: water for crops, recreation, power plants, and of course, fish. But a new study argues we don’t value those fisheries enough.

The study is from Michigan State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Andrew Deines is the lead author. He says we know more about the fish we catch from oceans than we do from freshwater lakes.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

Long-term exposure to certain kinds of air pollution increases the risk of premature death in Americans over 65 years old. That finding holds true even at levels of air pollution below national standards.

Lake Superior
Helena Jacoba / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

If you’re in the U.P. this summer, you can give back to Lake Superior.

There’s a new project called the Lake Superior Volunteer Corps.

Emily Goodman is with the Superior Watershed Partnership. She says they’re looking for volunteers every Friday this summer to help with restoration work along the lakeshore.

“For example, at Pictured Rocks, tourism has nearly tripled in the last couple years. With this increased nature tourism comes more litter, more erosion, sensitive dunes and vegetation are trampled,” she says.

Courtesy of NOAA

This week, experts are getting together in Ann Arbor to make a warning system for meteotsunamis in the Great Lakes. We have on average 106 meteotsunamis in the lakes each year.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New charges in the Flint water crisis are connected to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

Five current and former government officials are now facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the Flint water crisis. The charges are in connection with a Legionnaires' disease outbreak during the height of the crisis. Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia caused by bacteria.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A majority of Americans believe states should take the lead to address climate change if the federal government fails to act.

That’s one of the findings of the latest in a series of National Surveys on Energy and Environment.

Sasha Kravchenko and Jessica Fry, MSU scientists
Michigan State University

What do tiny pieces of decomposing leaves have to do with climate change? It turns out they’re nitrous oxide hot spots.

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

CDC

Tick season is here again. And with Lyme disease on the rise in Michigan and other parts of the U.S., it’s important to know the facts about ticks.

Japanese stiltgrass.
National Park Service

Invasive plants are really good at being bad. They’re hard to get rid of, and a new study finds that even if you rip them out, they can have lingering effects for years.

Dan Tekiela is an invasive plant ecologist at the University of Wyoming. He studied Japanese stiltgrass, and calls it one of the top three worst invasive plants in the eastern U.S.

Tekiela says they removed the plant from several sites. Three years later, things were worse.

“We found the disturbance of us removing that invader actually promoted other weedy and invasive species,” he says.

Paw print
Tracy Ducasse / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Researchers have developed a way to track endangered species using smartphones and drones, and you can help them with that work.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new survey finds a majority of Americans (54%) lean toward regulations as the best way to increase our use of renewable energy versus relying on economic markets alone.

Cary Funk is the associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. She says a majority of Americans say that increasing the use of renewable energy sources should be a top priority for the country’s energy policies.

“But there’s a closer divide on whether or not government regulations are necessary or whether the private marketplace can ensure that businesses and consumers increase more reliance on renewables even without regulations,” she says.

old faucet
Gene Selkov / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Now that President Trump has signed the spending bill, Great Lakes funding is safe, at least for now.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funded in full for 2017. But Trump wants to eliminate this funding entirely in his 2018 budget proposal.

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord / wikimedia commons

It makes sense that the more we run our air conditioners during the heat of the summer, the more pollution we put into the air. But now scientists have figured out exactly how much more.

David Abel is the lead author of a study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, and a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Simone Tosi

Researchers have found a commonly used pesticide can significantly impair the ability of honey bees to fly. The pesticide is called thiamethoxam and it’s used on crops like corn, soybeans and cotton, along with many vegetable and fruit crops.

Timothy Bargar / USGS

Monarch butterflies need more to eat. That's the conclusion of a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The only thing monarch butterfly caterpillars can eat is milkweed.

Wayne Thogmartin is a quantitative ecologist with the USGS. He says the butterfly population has dropped by about 80% since the mid-90s. The population has rebounded a little bit in the last three years, but Thogmartin says it's not a huge improvement.

A storm
Flickr/mdprovost

Any time there’s a heat wave, or a drought or a big flood, scientists like Noah Diffenbaugh get a lot of calls.

“We are as scientists being asked whether or not global warming has played a role in individual extreme weather events,” he says.

The Flint Water Treatment Plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Three years ago today, the city of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking water. We all know how that story goes.

So now, three years later, how has what happened in Flint changed the way we look at our drinking water?

Celeste A. Journey / USGS

A lot of different chemicals end up in our rivers and streams.

Researchers are finding these mixtures of chemicals are more complex than we thought, and it could hurt fish and other creatures.

Courtesy of Michigan Tech

This year’s Winter Study of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale found that there are still just two wolves hanging out on the island.

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