WUOMFM

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.

M. Horath

Canada geese have been spending their winters farther north.

Scientists have figured out geese are drawn to cities for safety more so than for food.

Michael Ward is an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s an author of a study on Canada geese in the Chicago region.

Ward and his team fitted Canada geese with radio collars and tracked them for two years, trying to understand why there are so many geese in Chicago during the winter.

“And what we learned was that they weren’t going there for food, they were going there because there were no hunters,” he explains. “So all of the Canada geese that spent the winter in Chicago survived, whereas half of the birds that decided to leave the Chicagoland area and go to areas where hunting is allowed and more prevalent were harvested.”

Ward says geese are all about conserving energy.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

People are gathering in Buffalo this week for the annual Great Lakes restoration conference.

At the top of their list is making sure Congress fully funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the 2018 budget.

President Trump’s proposed budget included massive cuts to the GLRI.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Pete Markham / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lake Superior is cold, deep and clear. But it’s no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have gotten clearer, bumping Lake Superior to number three.

Scientists have been able to figure how much clearer by using satellite imagery.

Kerry Wixted / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Forests in our region are under attack from a shrub.

The culprit is an ornamental plant called Japanese barberry. It was introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It’s been in used in landscaping in Michigan for decades, but it’s considered invasive.

I just found out I have some in my front yard.

They’re pretty, with bright red berries that birds love to eat.

The Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Researchers find there could be more health effects lingering decades after a toxic contamination of Michigan’s food supply.

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court

The number of state and federal lawsuits related to climate change has been on the rise since 2006.

Sabrina McCormick is an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at The George Washington University Miliken Institute School of Public Health. She's the lead author of a study in the journal Science that finds the role of climate science in court is changing.

Smallmouth bass
micropterus_dolomieu / Wikimedia commons

Antidepressants that people take are building up in the brains of fish like walleye, bass, and perch. Researchers studied fish from the Niagara River, which connects lakes Erie and Ontario.

Sara Bird / Michigan Tech

Earthworms seem pretty harmless. But they’re causing problems for Michigan’s multi-million dollar sugar maple industry.

That’s the finding of a study by Tara Bal, a research assistant professor of forest resources and environmental science at Michigan Technological University.

A cyanobacteria; bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a green bloom of cyanobacteria on Lake Erie again. People who run water utilities and scientists are watching the bloom because the cyanobacteria can produce toxins called microcystins that are dangerous for people and pets. It's what made Toledo’s drinking water unsafe to drink in 2014.

Chris Winslow directs Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. He says the bloom’s covering about 10% of the western basin.

The blacklegged tick can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Experts tell us it’s important to treat Lyme disease early, and state officials say Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. 

But officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it can sometimes be confused with a similar condition that’s also transmitted by ticks, called Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI.

Varroa mites attached to honey bees.
Zachary Huang / MSU

Varroa mites are considered the worst pest of honey bees worldwide. The mites suck blood from the bees and transmit viruses to them.

Researchers have identified six genes in the mites that could be used to attack them.

Zachary Huang is an associate professor of entomology at Michigan State University.

“We found four genes that would reduce their reproduction and two genes that would kill them pretty fast, so those would be used for their control later, perhaps,” he says.

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.

Pages