Environment & Science

The Environment Report
5:27 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Tracking Asian carp by what they leave behind

Asian carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
flickr Kate Gardiner

Audio for The Environment Report for Oct. 24th

There’s a lot of time, money and effort being spent to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

To keep them out, we first have to know where the carp are.

Biologists often go out and sample water from rivers and lakes to look for carp. They test the water for genetic material, and some of those tests have turned up positive for Asian carp.

Last year, 20 samples turned up positive hits in Lake Erie. The positive DNA hits raise alarm bells that an invasive carp species might be establishing a population in the Great Lakes.

But the presence of carp DNA does not mean an actual fish was swimming in that area.

Read more
Environment & Science
9:02 am
Thu October 24, 2013

It's getting colder, but hummingbirds haven't left the state yet

An adult male Rufous hummingbird.
Allen Chartier Great Lakes Hummernet

With the chill in the air now, you might guess that most hummingbirds would have ditched Michigan for a more tropical place.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the bird you’re most likely to see in Michigan, and it has flown south, for the most part.

But Allen Chartier still wants you to keep an eye out on your backyard feeders.

He studies hummingbirds and he’s the project director for Great Lakes Hummernet.

“The chances that what you’re looking at is a Ruby-throat is about 50/50, because there are western species that start showing up.”

He says you might get a chance to see a Rufous hummingbird.

“I kind of think of these little birds as each one has certain superpowers, and the Ruby-throat’s superpower is that it’s the smallest bird that can fly across the Gulf of Mexico nonstop. Now the Rufous hummingbird’s superpower is that it’s very cold tolerant. So there are many of these birds that have stayed around in Michigan and Ohio until January and then they move on.”

He says the males are a reddish-brown color with a glowing orange throat and a white breast. But the females look a lot like Ruby-throats.

So if you see one, take a picture of it and e-mail to Chartier. He says he’ll identify the bird and use your sighting in his research.

Here’s his e-mail address: amazilia3 at gmail.com

Stateside
3:54 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Is eating local good for the environment?

Eat more locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables
jamesjyu via flicker

There's much talk in Michigan---and across American---about the local food movement.

For many food activists, eating locally sourced foods isn't just a pleasure, it is a moral obligation. They maintain locally sourced food is better for the entire planet than shipping food thousands of miles across oceans, across continents.

Is eating local always worth it? What works and what doesn't?

Dr. Margot Finn is a lecturer at the University of Michigan. She specializes in food, popular culture, and class, and she joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
6:33 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

State proposes new “fracking” rules

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

State environmental regulators have rolled out proposed new rules to cover hydraulic “fracking” for natural gas. “Fracking” is a process where developers pump water and chemicals into a well to clear a path to hard-to-reach deposits of gas.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant says the rules are partially a response to public concerns over drilling innovations. They allow developers to use fracking to tap into hard-to-reach gas deposits. 

Read more
Environment & Science
3:57 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

How one city in Wisconsin may change how we protect the Great Lakes

Lake Michigan.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

An interview with Noah Hall, a Wayne State University law professor.

A water dilemma is brewing in Wisconsin.

The city of Waukesha (near Milwaukee) is asking for permission to tap into Lake Michigan for drinking water — to the tune of 10.1 million gallons per day.

Waukesha is in a real bind. The aquifer that has provided most of its drinking water for the last century has dropped so far, that the water left behind has unhealthy levels of radium and salt.

So the city of 70,000 is under a federal order to find a new source, and Lake Michigan is just 15 miles away.

But Waukesha has the bad luck to be a mile and a half outside the watershed boundary that encircles the five Great Lakes.

Read more
Stateside
3:56 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Brace yourself — it may be an early winter for Michigan

The South Haven lighthouse, covered in snow.
user Cseeman Flickr

An interview with meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

As I grabbed my gloves and heavy coat this morning, I noted that the thermometer was 33. Just ten days ago, it was 79 degrees. That’s Michigan's weather for you — always keeping us on our toes.

With talk of snowflakes in Flint and friends in Northern Michigan grumbling on Facebook about predictions of snow on October 22, we wondered: Is Michigan facing an early winter?

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joins us to discuss what’s ahead for Michigan weather.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
9:43 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Endangered mussel delaying Grand River whitewater project

A freshly dead snuffbox mussel Dunn's crew found near Riverside Park in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

North America has the most diverse population of freshwater mussels in the world. There are roughly 300 species. But almost 40 have gone extinct in recent history. The presence of one kind of endangered freshwater mussel is delaying projects to restore parts of the Grand River in West Michigan.

To find out more, I meet up with Heidi Dunn and her two-man crew at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. They’re hunting for a beloved endangered animal - well, an endangered mussel – that Dunn loves.

“They’re not the charismatic megafauna. You know, like eagles and bears and other things like that. These are not warm cuddly fuzzies. They’re biological rocks,” Dunn said.

Read more
Environment & Science
2:20 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Senators unhappy about Canada's nuclear waste plan

Bruce Power Ontario Power Generation

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene in a Canadian plan to store nuclear waste underground near Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation proposes a radioactive waste disposal facility at the Bruce nuclear power site in the city of Kincardine. If approved, it would house more than 200,000 cubic feet of waste about a mile from the lake.

In a letter Monday to Kerry, the Democratic senators say they're concerned how storing so much radioactive material that close to the lake would affect the environment and industries such as fishing and tourism.

They ask Kerry to urge the Canadian government to reconsider its plans.

The company says the underground rock formations would keep the waste safe for thousands of years.

Environment & Science
3:38 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

This contest is giving Michigan drivers the chance to be highway planners

A highway.
user Joe Shlabotnik Flickr

An interview with Sarah Szurpicki.

So there you are, driving to and from work or school every day.

Chances are, there's probably a stretch of highway you drive that seems particularly soul-numbing and doesn't let you get any sense of place or community.

If you could design a highway, what would it look like? And could it improve, rather than just carve up your city?

That's the idea behind Highways for Habitats, a contest being run by the Michigan Municipal League's Let's Save Michigan Initiative.

Sarah Szurpicki is a project coordinator with the Let's Save Michigan Initiative, and she's been involved in many efforts to revitalize cities in the Great Lakes region. She joins us today to discuss the contest that would allow drivers to play transportation planner. 

Listen to full interview above. 

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Michigan town looks forward to cleaning up mess left behind by chemical company

A granite marker was placed on the site of the former Vesicol Chemical Corp. plant site in St. Louis, Michigan warning people to stay away.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Forty years ago a chemical mix-up led to one of Michigan’s worst environmental tragedies, and it’s not over yet.

The mix-up occurred in early 1973 at the former Michigan Chemical Corporation plant (which later became the Vesicol Chemical Corporation) in St. Louis, Mich. The company accidentally shipped flame-retardant chemicals to livestock farms around the state.

Farmers thought they were getting a feed supplement. Instead, they were dosing their animals with the toxic chemical PBB.

The problem wasn’t discovered for another year -- and the chemicals were passed up the food chain to humans.

Read more
Environment & Science
3:40 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Have your say on Michigan renewable energy report by Wednesday

Wind turbines make up the bulk of Michigan's renewable energy sources.
warrenski Creative Commons

Wednesday is the deadline to comment on a report that's likely to shape renewable energy standards in Michigan. People can submit comments on the state’s website here.

The state-issued report says renewable energy production is getting cheaper and more efficient. In Michigan, the vast majority is from wind turbines.

Read more
Environment & Science
1:55 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

PCB cleanup in Portage Creek in Kalamazoo finishing under budget, ahead of schedule

EPA workers have dredge and refilled sections of Portage Creek in downtown Kalamazoo that were contaminated by PCBs. Soon the water will be rerouted through the creek.
Paul Ruesch Environmental Protection Agency

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. Some of it had polychlorinated biphenyls; or PCBs. People can be exposed to PCBs by eating fish from the Kalamazoo River. PCBs can cause cancer, and other health problems.

Workers are wrapping up a project to remove toxic chemicals from Portage Creek near downtown Kalamazoo.

Read more
Environment & Science
1:18 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Federal judge approves Lake Michigan coal-dumping deal

The SS Badger.
user rexp2 Flickr

Federal District Court Judge Janet T. Neff approved a plan that would allow “the country’s last coal-dumping ferryboat” to continue operations as it shifts from unloading coal waste into Lake Michigan to storing the ash elsewhere.

The agreement settles a dispute between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Lake Michigan Carferry company over the coal ash discarded in Lake Michigan, and the impacts of such discharging.

Read more
Stateside
2:51 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

When Gerald Ford demanded answers for UFO sightings in Michigan

An interview with Dr. Rudi Lindner.

If you are a baby-boomer who grew up in Michigan, chances are good you remember a particular point in time when you were out in your backyard, peering into the night sky, searching for UFOs.

For one week in March 1966, Michigan was awash with reports of UFO sightings. Scores of people called police to report suspicious items in the sky. Ultimately, the Air Force dismissed these sighting as nothing more than "swamp gas,” causing then-Congressman Gerald Ford to fire off an indignant statement, declaring people deserved a better explanation than something as laughable as swamp gas.

Dr. Rudi Lindner is a professor of History and Astronomy at the University of Michigan. He teaches a class called "Discovery of the Universe" that includes the history of UFOs. He joined us in studio to Michigan’s close encounters with the third kind. 

Read more
Stateside
5:18 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

How is the shutdown affecting Michigan's medical research?

Dr. Ora Pescovitz, CEO of the University of Michigan Health System.
University of Michigan Health System University of Michigan

An interview with Ora Pescovitz.

As we get into the second week of the partial government shutdown, and with the debt ceiling debate looming ever closer, more voices are being raised in warning and concern over how the shutdown is impacting our daily lives.

One of those voices is that of Dr. Ora Pescovitz.  Pescovitz is the CEO of the University of Michigan Health System, and the executive Vice President for Medical Affairs.

How is the shutdown affecting medical research at the University of Michigan? Is life-saving research falling victim to the debate down in Washington, D.C.?

Pescovitz talked to us about the shutdown’s damage to research.

Listen to the full interview above. 

The Environment Report
9:05 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Algal blooms causing concern in northern lakes

Hamlin Lake on Ludington State Park.
Flickr

For years Lake Erie has been the poster child in the Great Lakes for the problem of toxic algae.

More recently, though, the problem has been showing up farther north around Lake Michigan.

Figuring out the causes of the algal blooms can be tough since watersheds are complex systems but some environmentalists are pointing the finger at corn. It’s a valuable cash crop today and could be a growing part of the farm landscape in the Great Lakes in the years ahead.

Algal bloom hits Mason County

Read more
Environment & Science
1:00 pm
Sun October 6, 2013

Group finds 2nd shipwreck in Lake Superior

DULUTH, Minn. — The group that found a sunken freighter off the Lake Superior shore of Marquette, Mich. this spring has found a second one — this time north of Duluth, Minn.

The Duluth News Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/15TjMOm ) the shipwreck hunters confirmed the location of Scotiadoc last month. It's in more than 850 feet of water near Thunder Bay, Ontario, possibly making it the deepest shipwreck ever found in the Great Lakes.

The 424-foot ship sank after colliding with another freighter in 1953, killing one person.

Read more
The Environment Report
9:03 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Warmer waters fuel toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes

Algae scooped out of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Big, ugly algal blooms are reappearing in the western basin (and sometimes the central basin) of Lake Erie.

The blooms happen when excess nutrients – mostly phosphorus – run off into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.

Some of these kinds of algae produce toxins that are among the most powerful natural poisons on Earth.

Over the past decade, these algal blooms have been common in Lake Erie. And scientists predict climate change could make the problem worse.

Read more
Stateside
1:46 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

How much solar energy does it take to cross Australia?

U-M's solar car.
umich.edu umich.edu

Cars running on solar energy might not be in every driveway in the country, but a group of students at the University of Michigan are helping keep the solar power dream alive.

The university’s solar car team, one of the most decorated teams of its kind in North America, is in Australia now, preparing to compete in the World Solar Challenge on Sunday. They’ll be shooting for the fastest time on an 1800-mile race from the top of the continent to the bottom. Teams from across the globe will be using nothing but the sun and a jet-like roadster to get them across the outback.

Read more
The Environment Report
6:00 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Too warm for your fried perch dinner?

Researchers pulling in a trawl net on the USGS Muskie.
Jennifer Szweda Jordan

The fourth story in our week-long series, In Warm Water.

Yellow perch are a staple of firehouse and church fish fries, and the delicate fish on that dish might once have lived in the Great Lakes. But warmer lake waters in a changing climate threaten the yellow perch population as well as other popular cool water fish, like walleye.

Read more

Pages