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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.

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.

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some government websites are changing what they say about the environment, and a group of researchers is keeping track. Researchers in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to back up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how information is changing on federal websites like the EPA, the State Department and the Department of Energy, along with other federal agency sites, and they've been finding changes are happening.

A salmon fishing boat.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Fish consumption advisories usually focus on one chemical at a time – like mercury – and these advisories tell you how much of each kind of fish you should eat, and what to avoid. But they don’t often tell you much about mixtures of different chemicals in the environment that could be in fish.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In a new report released today, the National Wildlife Federation took a look at data on currents in the Straits of Mackinac. That’s where Enbridge’s twin pipelines run along the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Mike Shriberg is the executive director of the Federation’s Great Lakes office.

“What this report shows is that there are additional stresses on this pipeline beyond what it was designed for," he says.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a health advisory for microcystin. That’s the toxin that shut down Toledo’s drinking water supply in 2014.

It’s released by a kind of cyanobacteria that’s been forming on Lake Erie every year, and it can hurt your liver.

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

Early budget indications suggest the Trump administration could slash funding for the Great Lakes.

There are many possible cuts to EPA programs. Great Lakes restoration money could be cut by 97%, and money for beach monitoring could be also at risk.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

President Trump called for a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure this week in his address to Congress.

The Great Lakes Commission has ideas for where some of the money should go. The Commission is an interstate compact agency that represents Great Lakes states. The agency released recommendations today for rebuilding our water infrastructure.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The League of Conservation Voters has released its annual National Environmental Scorecard. It shows how members of Congress voted on environmental issues. This year, the group found a deep partisan divide.

Charlotte Jameson is the government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. The group just published its own scorecard for the state Legislature.

USA National Phenology Network, www.usanpn.org

Scientists have known that spring is arriving earlier across the U.S. because of climate change. Now, you can take a look at new maps from the U.S. Geological Survey to see how early spring is arriving where you live.

Jake Weltzin is an ecologist with the USGS, and the executive director of the National Phenology Network.

"The folks down in the southeastern United States, across much of that region, are seeing spring coming as many as three weeks early this year," he says.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is joining nine other attorneys general to oppose a bill in the U.S. Senate.

It would change how ballast water in ships is regulated. Invasive species can hitch a ride in ballast water.

The bill would create a single, national standard and pre-empt states from creating their own standards.

The shipping industry likes that. But the attorneys general are concerned about losing the ability to have stricter state standards.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece.

Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

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 retardants are in a lot of products we use: furniture, carpet padding, electronics, car seats and baby products. Some types of flame retardants called PBDEs have been phased out because they were getting into people’s bodies and there were concerns about health effects.

Researchers are now finding that some of the replacement chemicals are also showing up in people.

Posted with permission / EDGI

Shortly after the election, researchers from the U.S. and Canada got together to start backing up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how the Trump Administration is changing federal websites, and they're already finding some changes.

One of the groups heading up this effort is called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. (You can see EDGI's report on changes to some EPA websites here, and its report on the State Department and Department of Energy here.)

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