The Environment Report

Tuesdays & Thursdays at 8:50 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

About | Archive | Facebook | Podcast | Twitter | Suggest A Story

The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan. Send us your story ideas by following the link above!

Pages

The Environment Report
6:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

A mystery at the bottom of the Great Lakes food web

Michael Twiss is a professor of biology at Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY.
David Sommerstein

The third story in our series, "In Warm Water."

Phytoplankton – the algae that are food for plankton which in turn feed fish – are behaving strangely. They’re surrounded by a nutrient they need to grow. But for some reason, they’re not using it.

The puzzle has big implications for how scientists think about the Great Lakes’ future in a warming world.

Read more
The Environment Report
6:00 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Great Lakes fish on a diet

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor John Janssen
Chuck Quirmbach

The second story in our series, "In Warm Water: Fish & the Changing Great Lakes."

Scientists say one way climate change is harming the Great Lakes is by warming the water too quickly in the spring.

That warm-up can decrease food for tiny creatures in the lakes--the creatures that game fish like trout and salmon eat.

Read more
The Environment Report
6:00 am
Mon September 30, 2013

A chilly Lake Superior warms up

Herring fisherman and president of the North Shore Commercial Fishing Association, Steve Dahl, says the commercial fishing industry on Lake Superior is doing better than ever, but experts predict fish populations will shift due to warming waters.
Photo by Doug Fairchild, courtesy of the Minnesota Sea Grant Institute.

You can listen to the first piece in our series above.

We kick off our week-long series In Warm Water: Fish and the Changing Great Lakes with a look at Lake Superior.

It has long been the coldest and most pristine Great Lake. Its frigid waters have helped defend it from some invasive species that have plagued the other Great Lakes.  But Lake Superior’s future could look radically different. Warming water and decreasing ice are threatening the habitat of some of the lake’s most iconic fish.

Read more
The Environment Report
5:16 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Study finds PCBs can change the songs birds sing

Sara DeLeon, PhD studied birdsong as an indicator of effects of exposure to sublethal levels of PCBs for her doctoral thesis.
Sara DeLeon, PhD / Cornell Lab of Ornithology

An interview with Sara DeLeon, PhD.

Chemicals called PCBs - or polychlorinated biphenyls - are toxic to people and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency says they can cause cancer and other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. PCBs were banned in the 1970s, but they’re still in the environment.

Researchers at Cornell University have previously found that PCBs can change the song centers in the brains of songbirds.

Now – a new study suggests that PCBs could be altering the songs some birds sing.

Read more
The Environment Report
12:00 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Salmon's favorite food dwindling in Lake Michigan

Alewives washed up on shore.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

An interview with Peter Payette.

It looks like food for salmon will continue to be scarce in Lake Michigan. Researchers say it appears not many alewives were born in the lake this year - and salmon eat almost nothing else.

Neither salmon nor alewives are native to the Great Lakes, but it's bad news for people trying to keep the billion-dollar sport fishery alive in Lake Michigan.

Peter Payette is with our partners at Interlochen Public Radio and he's been covering this story. He explains that every year researchers go out on the lakes to see what’s happening.

"One of the important surveys is of prey fish, the little feeder fish that big fish like salmon like to eat, and in Lake Michigan this year they found very few newborn alewives. There are alewives in the lake, ones that were born in years past. But the young of the year, the new class of alewives; they found very few," he says.

Read more
The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Making Michigan wine with cheaper solar energy

Installing the solar panels on the vineyard.
Interlochen Public Radio

Crain Hill Vineyards in Leelanau County is touted as the first in Michigan to run 100% on solar power, and a start-up energy business sees an opportunity for homes and farms because of the steep price drops to install solar in the last year.

Robert Brengman owns Crain Hill Vineyards with his two brothers. He says it’s been a goal from the beginning to tread lightly in this place.

“We’re looking at having a zero carbon footprint on this vineyard, in this winery. I mean that to me is exciting,” Bregnman said. “I think it’s a little part. And we’re trying to do our part of keeping this beautiful area the way it is.”

They won’t be buying electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. There are three new solar arrays mounted on steel poles on a south facing slope that are within sight of the winery’s tasting room.

Tom Gallery designed the system for Crain Hill and says the arrays are built to gather as much sunlight as possible.

Read more
The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Hunting for plastic pollution in the Great Lakes

Rios-Mendoza on the deck of the Sea Dragon, preparing to go out to test Lake Michigan's waters for plastics.
Lewis Wallace

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

A research expedition recently set sail from Chicago to search for a Great Lakes garbage patch.

So-called "garbage patches" or islands are actually collections of tiny plastic particles that are choking up regions of the world’s oceans. The expedition has been testing the waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan for a similar phenomenon.

I met up with expedition organizer Asta Mail at a marina in downtown Chicago. It’s a hot day, and a street vendor immediately offers us bottled water.

Mail points down at a plastic bottle in Lake Michigan. It’s pretty easy plastic hunting.

Read more
The Environment Report
11:52 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Will Enbridge Energy's new pipeline in Michigan be safer?

The new pipeline will run right behind David Gallagher's home.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A new oil pipeline is going underground in Michigan.

Enbridge Energy says this new pipeline will be bigger (36 inches vs. 30 inches) - it will pump more oil to the Marathon refinery in Detroit - and they say the pipeline will be safer. (The map in the slideshow above shows where the new line is going in.)

Read more
The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Wolf pups a good sign for struggling population on Isle Royale

John Vucetich/Rolf Peterson Michigan Tech

An interview with Superintendent Phyllis Green.

The wolves of Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park have not been doing well, but there’s some unexpected good news.

Earlier this year, researchers from Michigan Technological University who study the wolves reported there were just eight wolves left - and they reported they were unable to find any evidence of pups born to those wolves.

But now, that has changed. Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson heard two or three wolf pups in July.

Read more
The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Fracking and the environment: what do scientists know so far?

Eusko Jaurlaritza Flickr

You can hear the interview with Abrahm Lustgarten two minutes into today's Environment Report.

As the national debate around horizontal hydraulic fracturing continues, one of the central questions is: what does the practice do to our environment?

Abrahm Lustgarten is an energy reporter with ProPublica. He's covered fracking extensively, and he recently wrote a piece investigating the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to back away from several studies on fracking.

Read more
The Environment Report
2:32 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

An overhaul for the nation's chemical safety law?

Environmental groups have raised concerns about chemicals such as flame retardants in furniture.
user kahle MorgueFile.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The main law that regulates chemicals in products we use every day is called the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Pretty much everyone says this law is outdated - including the chemical industry and environmental groups.

Rebecca Meuninck is the Environmental Health Campaign Director with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

“TSCA or the Toxic Substances Control Act, was passed in 1976 and it’s never been reformed and unfortunately it’s sort of been broken from the start," she says. “This is a bill that didn’t actually have enough teeth for the EPA to ban asbestos for example. We have many thousands of chemicals; up to 80,000 have been approved at one point or another for use in consumer products or in the marketplace. Unfortunately there’s a lot of data EPA doesn’t have and that companies actually aren’t required to give EPA.”

Read more
The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu July 25, 2013

3 years and nearly $1 billion later, cleanup of Kalamazoo River oil spill continues

Paul Makowski points out ‘milky sheen’ floating on the river. The light blue wisps of sheen disappear within seconds of surfacing.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Three years ago today, an underground pipeline carrying tar sands oil to refineries near Detroit ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. The break went undetected overnight, allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick oil to seep into the Kalamazoo River.

On July 26, 2010, a call came into Jay Wesley’s office in Plainwell that there’d been an oil spill.

“We expected to see an overturned truck or something like that. That’s typically what our spills are like here, very minor,” he says.

Read more
The Environment Report
11:55 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Renewable energy use continues to rise

The 2012 energy flow chart released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory details the sources of energy production, how Americans are using energy and how much waste exists.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

You can listen to this story on today's Environment Report (it starts about a minute in).

In the United States, we’re using more renewable energy than we were a few years ago.

A.J. Simon is the group leader for energy with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The lab just released a chart outlining the nation’s energy use for the year 2012.

“We are significantly expanding our use of wind energy, the technology for wind turbines has come a long way in the past decade or so, and both federal and state policy in terms of renewable portfolio standards as well as financial incentives have encouraged a lot of utilities to install a lot of wind power so we’re seeing huge growth in the generation of electricity from wind," he says.

Read more
The Environment Report
12:26 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

UM researcher studies melting glaciers to learn about climate change

U of M Assistant Professor Sarah Aciego
University of Michigan/S. Pipes

You can listen to today's Environment Report above (the interview with Sarah Aciego starts about a minute in).

With all the heat and humidity we've been having, ice sounds pretty good right about now.

Sarah Aciego is going a long way for some ice this summer: she’s heading to Greenland to study glaciers. She’s an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan.

She pioneered a new way to determine the age of dust trapped in glacial ice.

Read more
The Environment Report
4:39 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Scientists diagnose streams in trouble

How well a stream supports algal, macroinvertebrate, and fish communities tells scientists how healthy that stream is.
USGS

Federal scientists just wrapped up a look at the health of the nation’s streams and rivers. It was a big effort, looking at 20 years of data.

Daren Carlisle is an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the lead author of the study.

Read more
The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue July 16, 2013

EPA delays decision on 'Mount PCB,' cleanup continues at another site

The EPA's Paul Ruesch describing where current work is underway in Portage Creek. Sarah Reding (right) is VP of Conservation Stewardship at Kalamazoo Nature Center.

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. The waste contains polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.  

People can be exposed to PCBs by eating fish from the river. The chemicals can cause cancer, and other health effects.

The biggest concentration of the waste is a 1.5-million-cubic-yard pile in a residential area in Kalamazoo, nicknamed Mount PCB.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will release a feasibility study of the options for the pile by September. For a little perspective, this study was supposed to come out as far back as April 2011.

Read more
The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Unlocking the secrets of sea lamprey love

MSU researcher Yu-Wen Chung-Davidson with a sea lamprey.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

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.

Scientists spend a lot of time trying to outsmart them, and they’ve just made a new discovery.

When you’re a male sea lamprey, with that slimy skin, and a suction cup full of teeth for a face: you’ve got to compensate for that somehow.

Hey baby, is it hot in here? Or is it just me?

It turns out male sea lampreys are hot. They grow a swollen ridge on their back when they’re sexually mature. Scientists at Michigan State University have discovered that ridge heats up when males get around a lady lamprey.

Read more
The Environment Report
10:49 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Developer wants to build homes on reclaimed sand mining site

Plans for a housing development around the South Lake site in Norton Shores.
Castle Dunes LLC

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read the first story in the segment below.

Castle Dunes LLC is proposing to develop more than 200 acres of reclaimed sand mining land in Norton Shores near Muskegon. The company has a purchase agreement to buy the land from the Nugent Sand Company.

A public hearing is being held today to begin the zoning process at the Norton Shores Planning Commission meeting (tonight at 5:30pm in the community room of the Norton Shores Branch Library at 705 Seminole).

The company wants to build single family properties and condominiums around a man-made lake.

That lake was created by mining the sand from the dunes. It turned out to be a major problem for a previous developer when the water levels in the lake rose.

Read more
The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Northern Michigan winemakers hunt for a signature grape

Photo courtesy of Michigan Wines

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read the story below.

Michigan’s wine grape acreage has doubled over the past decade, and many say the quality of Michigan wine has also grown dramatically.

But to uncork a young wine region’s fullest potential, you need something more… you need a signature grape.

And there’s debate among winemakers in northern Michigan as to whether that’s been discovered yet.

Read more
The Environment Report
8:57 am
Tue June 25, 2013

There are 7 places in Michigan where you can text data to scientists

A CrowdHydrology site in Michigan. Each site includes a giant measuring staff and a sign explaining how passersby can contribute to the project by texting water levels to scientists.
CrowdHydrology

You can listen to this story on today's Environment Report (the interview with Chris Lowry starts about a minute in).

If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in science but thought it sounded like a lot of work, now all you have to do is send a text.

Chris Lowry is an assistant professor of geology at the University at Buffalo. He’s the co-creator of CrowdHydrology. You can think of it as crowdsourcing information about water.

“So basically how this works is we have some giant rulers that are set up in streams and there’s a little sign on the top of the ruler that says ‘please text us the water level’ and people who are walking by these signs with their mobile phones can look at the ruler and make a measurement off that ruler of what the water level would be at that particular time of the day and send us a text message," he says.

Then, the data you enter goes into an online database.

"And about five minutes after they send in that text message there’s a point on the plot that appears on our CrowdHydrology web page,” Lowry says.

Read more

Pages