Environment & Science

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.

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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.

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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.

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Environment & Science
9:06 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Beginning today, Michigan bow hunters will see how deer population has recovered from 2012 outbreak

Hunter poses with kill
mikehanback.com

This is a big day for thousands of Michigan deer hunters. It’s the beginning of bow season.

Hunters should expect to see more deer in southern Michigan this fall.

Last year, nearly 15 thousand deer died of Epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD.

The disease is spread to deer by small insects. It was the largest EHD outbreak in Michigan history.

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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.

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Environment & Science
1:39 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Michigan health officials release report on impacts of Enbridge oil spill

An oil covered blue heron caught in the 2010 spill.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page State of Michigan

The Michigan Department of Community Health released its public health assessment of the waters and fish affected by the 2010 Enbridge oil spill.

You can read their report here.

They conclude the spill is "not harmful to health":

MDCH has concluded that no long-term harm to people’s health is expected from contact with chemicals in the surface water during recreational activities, such as wading, swimming, or canoeing. However, contact with oil sheen and globules in the river may cause temporary effects, such as skin irritation.

Fish from the Kalamazoo River and Morrow Lake were tested for oil-related chemicals, as well as chemicals that were previously found in fish there. Fish from areas impacted by the oil spill, including Ceresco Impoundment and Morrow Lake, had similar levels of oil-related chemicals as fish caught in Marshall Pond (upstream of the spill). All oil-related chemical levels were very low. Mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels were similar to levels measured in fish caught before the oil spill.

The MDCH has released previous reports on the oil spill's effects on drinking water wells, and on the effects of submerged oil in the sediments of the Kalamazoo River.

Environment & Science
1:20 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Michigan lawmakers testify in Canada against proposed underground storage site for nuclear waste

The Bruce Nuclear Power Plant is directly across Lake Huron from the thumb region of Michigan.
Bruce Power Ontario Power Generation

Canadian officials are hearing testimony again this afternoon on a proposal to store low to medium level nuclear waste at an underground repository near Lake Huron.

You can watch the hearings live at this website.

Ontario Power Generation wants to build the repository near the town of Kincardine. The company already has a nuclear power plant located there. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is one of the biggest nuclear plants in the world.

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Environment & Science
12:58 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Join in our discussion about the changing Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are changing. Warming air and water, shorter winters with less snow and ice and more extreme weather are impacting the lakes and the fish that live there. In addition, harmful algal blooms are creating dead zones that are bad news for fish, and impact recreational users as well.

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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.

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Energy
9:00 am
Fri September 27, 2013

U of M researchers to study how well materials hold up in nuclear reactors over time

Members of the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory work on various projects in the research group's main facility in the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering building on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on January 15, 2013.
Joseph Xu Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to figure out how radiation damages the different materials used to make nuclear power plants.

There are roughly 100  nuclear power plants in the U.S., and most of them are getting old. Researchers want to figure out how long the reactors can hold up in such harsh environments over time.

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Environment & Science
12:48 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Wolf hunt licenses go on sale Saturday, while hunt opponents plan busy weekend too.

Wolf cubs
HSUS

Beginning tomorrow, Michigan hunters will start laying down $100 for a license to hunt wolves in the Upper Peninsula this fall.    

State wildlife officials admit they don’t know if the wolf hunt licenses will sell out.   The licenses will be available for hunters as young as 10 years old and from out of state. 

1,200 licenses are being sold for the wolf hunt which starts November 15.

It’s the first wolf hunt since the gray wolf rebounded from near extinction in the Upper Peninsula.   

But along with people buying wolf hunting licenses, there will be people working this weekend to protect the wolves.

Jill Fritz is with Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.  Her group is collecting signatures on a petition to put a challenge to the wolf hunt law on next year’s ballot.

“We’re encountering an enthusiastic public everywhere we go.  Whether we’re out in front of a library in Marquette or at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids,” says Fritz. 

The Department of Natural Resources has set a goal of killing 43 wolves in this fall’s hunt.  The hunt will take place in 3 separate zones in the Upper Peninsula.

Supporters say the U.P.’s growing wolf population is threatening livestock and household pets. Detractors complain the hunt will indiscriminately kill wolves and may make wolf attacks on livestock more common.

Environment & Science
12:30 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

EPA chief will speak in Ann Arbor today

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
EPA YouTube

The new chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, will be speaking at a conference being held at the University of Michigan's Law School this evening.

It's part of a three-stop tour for the new EPA Administrator who has the tall task of leading the Obama Administration's efforts to control carbon emissions.

Here she is talking about their proposed efforts to curb emissions (can you tell she's from Boston?):

From an EPA press release:

...Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will begin a three-day trip where she will speak to students, businesses and other stakeholders on EPA's recent carbon pollution standards proposal for new power plants, and President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution.

The EPA has proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants, and the agency is hoping to work with states to develop standards for existing power plants.

The EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions was supported by a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The intense political pressure and complexity around power plant carbon dioxide regulations has slowed the process for putting power plant regulations in place. It's been more than six years since the Supreme Court ruling.

The Environment Report
8:57 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Northern Michigan vineyard experiments with new kind of chemical-free pest control

Jay Briggs, manager at 45 North Winery near Lake Leelanau. He's experimenting with ozonated water to control pests.
Bob Allen

You can listen to today's Environment Report above or read an expanded version below.

Fruit growers are constantly looking for ways to reduce chemical sprays that control insects and diseases. But they’re slow to adopt a new practice until it’s proven to work.

A vineyard in Leelanau County is one of the first to try a spray that produces no chemical residue and only pure oxygen as a byproduct.

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Environment & Science
11:47 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Detroit officials may collaborate with goats to solve landscaping issues

Solving Detroit's urban landscaping issues, one blade of grass at a time
user: eviltomthai Flickr

When things get tough, Detroit City Councilman James Tate digs deeper.

He (at the suggestions of residents) might have a way to maintain Detroit's miles of vacant lots. 

At tomorrow's city council meeting, he'll talk about the possibility of allowing goats and sheep to graze on tall grasses. 

According to MLive, Tate is bringing in a grazing expert to speak at the meeting. 

"Urban cities are doing this all across the country and having absolutely no issues, whatsoever," Tate said. Allowing the animals into neighborhoods could require changes to the city's urban agriculture ordinance.

Chicago recently used goats (some of whom are named Cream Puff, Orca, and Nugget) to clear invasive plants from a park. 

The grazing expert, according to MLive, was also involved in a similar livestock endeavor in Cleveland. The Cleveland project used sheep -- and one llama -- to maintain a vacant lot. The project received a $2,000 grant from Charter One's Growing Communities program. 

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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.

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Environment & Science
6:27 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Michigan on target to meet renewable energy standards, could achieve more

Morgue File

A new report suggests Michigan is well-positioned to expand renewable energy production.

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Environment & Science
1:06 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Michigan Stadium is hosting a hackathon this weekend

Participants in last year's hackathon present their invention. Last year's competition was on North Campus. This year, hackers will compete in The Big House.
Credit Michigan Engineering / Flickr

Michigan Stadium will be full of college students this weekend. But these students aren't watching a football game -- they're hackers.

A University of Michigan group called MHacks is sponsoring a 36-hour hackathon. It's a competition that challenges participants to use technology to create inventions that solve modern problems.

Thomas Erdmann is a junior at Michigan and the president of MHacks. He says the word hacking gets a bad rap. Erdmann says the hackathon represents what the word hacking really means to engineers.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Experts trying to get leg up on walnut tree disease before it hits Michigan

Carpathian walnuts (left) and black walnuts (right).
Michael Dority

An interview with Michael Dority.

Anyone who had to pay a lot of money to cut down dead ash trees in their yard remembers a pest called the emerald ash borer.  In our region we’ve had a lot of pests and diseases that kill trees, and now experts have their eye on a disease that kills black walnut trees. This disease is called Thousand Cankers Disease and it’s caused by a fungus. The fungus is carted around by a bug called the walnut twig beetle.

You might have a black walnut tree in your yard. The lumber is beautiful and the trees are also important to people who grow them for the nut.

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Environment & Science
7:35 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Biggest-ever gift to Detroit Zoo is a big deal for penguins

The Detroit Zoo announced the largest single private gift in its history Wednesday—and it’s all about penguins.

The $10 million gift from the Polk Family Fund will go toward building the Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center.

Zoo officials say the Center has been in the “planning and design” phase for two years now.

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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.

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