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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.

A green roof can help reduce the heat island effect.
EPA

The amount of tree cover in our cities is dropping, and we have more paved surfaces. Those are the main findings from a national study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Gary Stolz / USFWS

This time of year, it’s good to keep an eye out for turtles that might be slowly crossing the road.

Lori Sargent is a wildlife biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“They’re on the move because they’re looking for good nesting spots and some species move more than others,” she says.

She says Blanding’s turtles and snapping turtles are the ones you’ll see on the road most often. Sargent says Blanding’s turtles are on the decline in Michigan, mainly because so many get hit by cars.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

The Asian carp action plan for this year is out. It's the plan U.S. and Canadian agencies put together to try to stop carp from spreading.

Charlie Wooley is the deputy regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Midwest region. 

“The most important priorities for us in controlling Asian carp is to keep them out of the Great Lakes,” he says.

Juliet Berger and other birders look through their binoculars at a warbler.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Mornings in Michigan is our series about morning routines and rituals around our state. This time of year, some people get up early to see migrating birds arriving in Michigan. Mike Kielb and his wife sometimes get up at 4 a.m.

UC San Diego Health

The first major results are in from the American Gut Project. It’s a citizen science project to get a better understanding of the microbial communities inside our bodies.

People pay $99 to send in a sample – a swab from their hands, their mouth, or a stool sample.

Daniel McDonald is the project’s scientific director at the University of California-San Diego.

“So it turns out that most of the people sending us samples tend to send us fecal samples. We think it must just be the sexy thing to do,” he says. “But I think a lot of individuals are sending us these samples because they’re curious to learn a little bit more about these organisms that are important for your health that we are just beginning to understand in the scientific community.”

Mosquitoes after a blood meal.
R. Rico-Hesse lab.

It’s not just the mosquito bite that’s a problem. When a mosquito bites you, it also drools on you.

Silke Paust is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“During this poking around phase, basically, and during the feeding, it automatically secretes saliva proteins," she says.

She says there are more than 100 proteins in mosquito saliva. Paust and her team found those proteins trigger a complex immune response.

A congregation of moose on Isle Royale.
Rolf Peterson

The last two wolves on Isle Royale are still hanging on. 

The wolf-moose research study on the wilderness island in Lake Superior is now in its 60th year, and the report from the past year of the study is out today.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A majority of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect air and water quality.

That’s the latest from a national Pew Research Center survey.

The survey found 69 percent of Americans think the government isn’t doing enough to safeguard water quality, while 64 percent say the government isn't doing enough to protect air quality. 

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

We’re coming up on the time of year when people will be testing lakes for toxic blooms of cyanobacteria.

Jason Deglint wants to speed up that testing process. Right now, he says it can take at least a few days.

The Marmorkreb, or marbled crayfish, can clone itself.
Golden library, courtesy of the MDEQ.

There are five new invasive species on the “least wanted list.”

That’s a list the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers puts together. The leaders of the eight states and two provinces on the Lakes decide which species pose the highest risk.

Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

A lot of cities have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

That could mean things like cleaner busses – or energy efficiency. But a sizable chunk of our carbon footprint can be traced to how we get and use our food.

Michal Pech on Unsplash

Air quality has gotten better in the U.S. over the last several decades.

But more recently, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions have not been decreasing the way people expected.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

Microplastic pollution appears to affect creatures at the bottom of the food web the most. That’s one of the main takeaways from an analysis of 43 studies looking at the effects of microplastics on aquatic life.

Microplastics are tiny beads that get into waterways from our consumer products or tiny fibers that wash out of our clothing.

The Great Lakes from space.
NASA

Republicans who correct misinformation on climate change can be even more persuasive than scientists.

Eric Jones / USGS

Some people in Michigan could feel the earthquake that happened last week in Ontario.

It turns out, earthquakes east of the Rockies can be felt much farther away than earthquakes out West.

Oliver Boyd is a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The study found fruits and vegetables were the category of food Americans throw away the most.
FDA

In the U.S., we waste about a pound of food per person per day. The things we throw away the most often? Fruits and vegetables.

Lisa Jahns is a research nutritionist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. She’s an author of a new study looking at American diets and what we throw away.

“Healthier diets were linked to greater food waste,” she says.

Sybil Kolon
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

In Michigan, we have laws in place that give the state the power to essentially rope off polluted areas instead of cleaning them up. Instead, those laws tell the public: don’t drink the water or build your house here.

There are land use restrictions at more than 2,000 sites around Michigan. Officials say they are necessary at sites with environmental contamination to keep people from coming into contact with harmful chemicals.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

At more than 1,600 sites across the state of Michigan, you can’t drink the groundwater. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be safe or legal.

A snapshot of BirdCast's migration forecast.
Kyle Horton

People who study birds are now using radar to make maps that can forecast migration at night. They say these maps could help by reducing the number of birds that collide with buildings and wind turbines.

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

Polychlorinated biphenyls are toxic chemicals that were widely used in industry until they were banned in the 1970s.

PCBs can build up in fish.

A new study finds that levels of PCBs are declining in the air in the Great Lakes region. Except for one kind. It’s called PCB-11 and its levels are holding steady.

If you see the old label on the left, the piece of upholstered furniture likely contains flame retardants. If you see the new label on the right, it will tell you for sure whether it contains flame retardants.
Mark Brush and Arlene Blum

Flame retardant chemicals are in our furniture, in carpet padding, electronics and car seats, but they don’t stay put. They leach out of these products and get into our bodies.

Some of these chemicals, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, were phased out of use starting in 2004.

A new study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology finds levels of PBDEs in kids' blood have been declining.

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan DEQ has approved a permit from Nestle Waters North America to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps from its well near Evart, Michigan.

The state says Nestle has to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval. After that happens, Nestle will be authorized to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from its White Pine Springs well.

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

When you think about greenhouse gasses that are driving our warming climate, maybe you think about power plants or your car. But lakes can release greenhouse gasses, too, and the amount of nutrients that get into lakes from farms and cities matters.

Sea lamprey
Photo courtesy of USFWS

People who battle sea lampreys are happy with the big spending bill President Trump signed on Friday.

Lampreys are an invasive fish that drink the blood and body fluids of fish like lake trout and salmon.

Marc Gaden is the communications director for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. 

“For lamprey control there’s $7 million [in] additional funds and that will be used primarily for lamprey infrastructure,” he says.

Gaden says that infrastructure includes things like barriers and traps.

Marty Heller

Just 20% of Americans are responsible for 46% of the food-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. That’s one of the findings of a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A majority of Americans now say all levels of government need to act on climate change.

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

CDC

It’s been a tough flu season. Health experts are always looking for ways to outsmart the influenza virus.

David Brenner thinks he’s found a new way: a type of ultraviolet light called far-UVC.

Inconsistent lead level readings led to the closure of three buildings on Northern Michigan University's campus.
Flickr user Bart / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Low-income, rural areas are the most vulnerable to drinking water quality violations that could affect people’s health, according to a new nationwide study.

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

An advisory board with the International Joint Commission says the U.S. and Canada should do more to keep nutrient pollution out of Lake Erie.

Sampling locations in the Great Lakes region.
USGS/courtesy of Michelle Hladik

Insecticides widely used on farms, lawns and gardens — known as neonicotinoids — are showing up in rivers across the Great Lakes region.

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