Environment & Science

A snapshot of Pictured Rocks Lakeshore in northern Michigan will be featured on the 2015 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The annual passes are sold nationwide and for use at any national park. Courtney Kotewa of southern Michigan took the photo during a family outing. The image selected as the winning photo of the National Park Foundation's photo contest. 

Nearly 20,000 photos were submitted to the 2013 Share the Experience contest. Share the Experience is the official photo contest of America's national parks and federal recreation lands. 

Kotewa said the photo almost didn’t happen as she was not sure she would take her phone with her on the kayak trip for fear of dropping it in the choppy waters of Lake Superior. Although she grew up in southern Michigan, this trip was Kotewa’s first time to Pictured Rocks. The grand-prize winner said visiting was on her mom’s bucket list. 

www.isleroyalewolf.org

It’s the 56th year of the study of Isle Royale’s wolves and moose. Researchers at Michigan Tech have just finished this year’s Winter Study.

Rolf Peterson is a research professor at Michigan Tech and he just spent his 44th winter on the island. I called him up to find out how the animals are doing. This year, the team counted nine wolves, up from eight last year.

“I guess I’d say they’re bumping along at the bottom, the bottom of where they’ve been for the last 56 years. So for the last three years, there have been either eight or nine animals total, and that’s as low as we’ve seen them.”

Dark Sky status sought for 3 Michigan parks

May 1, 2014
Morguefile

Friends organizations for two state parks and a state recreation area in Michigan's Lower Peninsula are working together with local officials to have the sites designated as Dark Sky preserves.

Eric Ostrander is supervisor of two of the sites, Negwegon State Park and Rockport State Recreation Area. The third site is Thompson's Harbor State Park. 

Joe Gratz / Flickr

The American Lung Association just released its annual report card on air quality, State of the Air.

Detroit and Grand Rapids made the list of most polluted cities for their ozone levels (Detroit ranks 34th worst out of 220 cities; Grand Rapids ranks 30th).

But others made the cleanest cities list: Kalamazoo and East Lansing scored well for particle pollution. Those are very tiny specks found in smoke and exhaust.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge Inc. and made public Wednesday. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

"Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects," their letter said. "And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes."

National Park Service Collection

A popular spot in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will remain closed for the summer because of the mysterious appearance of holes in the 126-foot sand dune's surface.

Last July, a six-year-old boy was almost killed when a collapsing hole at Mount Baldy buried him in sand. Since then, two more holes and some depressions have been found.

So far scientists cannot explain why. That's despite the use of ground-penetrating radar and research analysis by scientists from the National Park Service, Indiana University, and the Indiana Geological Survey.

Scientists are getting ready for a more comprehensive investigation of the sand dune this summer.

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is proposing changes to their rules for oil and gas drilling in the state.

MDEQ leaders say they've had a successful record regulating the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state for more than five decades, but new practices by the oil and gas industry are leading to the rule changes.

The industry's practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known commonly as "fracking," has allowed companies to extract a lot more oil and gas from the ground.

Pushing to expand the ban on a lawn care ingredient

Apr 29, 2014
Julie Grant

Cyanobacteria blooms continue to plague Lake Erie. Farms and wastewater have gotten a lot of attention for contributing nutrients that create these harmful blooms.

More recently, the spotlight has focused on lawn care. Grass fertilizers can also contain phosphorus that winds up in waterways. Michigan and other states around the Great Lakes have already banned lawn fertilizers that contain phosphorus. Now international regulators and others are pushing Ohio and Pennsylvania to do the same.

Construction resumes on Tuscola Co. wind farm

Apr 28, 2014
Morgue File

With the return of warm weather, Consumers Energy has resumed construction of a wind farm in Tuscola County in Michigan's Thumb.  Construction began last October and went on hold during the winter months.

The facility is the company's second wind farm. It will include 62 wind turbines.

Brian Wheeler, spokesperson for Consumers Energy, said the facility should produce enough energy for about 60,000 households.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

It's pretty tough to imagine an American city that does not have a coffee shop.

For many places, Starbucks blazed the trail, followed by other chains. And, of course, the hip, locally owned coffee shops.

The variety of flavors and roasts has certainly evolved, from the big brands – the Folgers and the Maxwell Houses – to regionally labeled coffees, and now to beans that are sourced from farms, not just from countries.

So, what's in the future for coffee shops, now that so many of us have discovered we can't do without a really fine cup of coffee?

Anya Pomykala is the chief barista at Zingerman's Coffee Company in Ann Arbor. She joined us to share her thoughts.

*Listen to the interview above.

Lyndon Township

A Ready Mix concrete company wants to dig for sand and gravel on a site north of Chelsea, Michigan. McCoig Materials is planning the mine right in the middle of the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation Areas (see the map above for the location of the proposed site).

The plan has drawn opposition from hundreds of residents and other advocates who fear the mine could affect water resources in the area. They also are concerned about the truck traffic that would roll through downtown Chelsea.

Lyndon Township officials will vote on whether the mine should move forward. A meeting has been scheduled next month. From the township:

Bureau of Land Management

"How many of you are here to stop the drilling?" one woman asked the crowd of about 200 at a town forum in Scio Township last night.

Big applause broke out.

It was the first indication that the crowd was not going to be a friendly one for the executives from West Bay Exploration, a Traverse City-based drilling company that has asked several landowners in Scio Township to sign over leases for their mineral rights.

The town forum was billed as an opportunity to "become educated about oil and gas leasing."

At 3:00 p.m today you can tune into Lester Graham's documentary, "Growing up in poverty and pollution," produced for State of Opportunity. Or, you can listen to the compelling stories these families anytime over at State of Opportunity.

R/V Laurentian NOAA / Creative Commons

You’ve probably heard about the big bad invasive silver or bighead carp, also known as Asian carp.

But there’s another invasive fish that’s roughly a third the size of the carp that’s already done a lot of damage to Great Lakes fisheries. Alewives have been a particular menace in Lakes Michigan and Huron. The invasive fish cause all kinds of problems for native lake trout.

Alewives scarf down lake trout eggs and very young fish. But even once lake trout grow big enough to turn the tables and eat the alewives, the invasive fish still cause problems.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been nearly four years since the Enbridge Energy oil spill. Enbridge has already recovered more than a million gallons of heavy tar sands oil from the Kalamazoo River. But federal regulators have ordered the company to clean up another 180,000 gallons that’s mixed in with sediment on the river bottom.

Now that spring is here, work is underway again.

Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith says dredge work is nearly finished on a section of river near Battle Creek. Workers will remove Ceresco Dam closer to Marshall this summer.

USFWS Midwest

There are fewer wolves living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

State wildlife biologists report a slight dip in the wolf population following last fall’s controversial hunt.

The Department of Natural Resources has just completed a census of wolves in the Upper Peninsula. The DNR admits the count is more of an estimate than an accurate head count.

Brianna Allgood gets a checkup on her asthma.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Children growing up in poverty face huge challenges. One challenge that might not come to the top of the mind, though, is pollution.

As part of Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, reporter Lester Graham spent the past three months exploring the problem.

His documentary, "Growing up in Poverty and Pollution," will air tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Lester joined us today to talk about his project.

*Listen to the audio above.

Shawn Malone / UP Second Wave

With its rocky soil, thick forests and painfully short growing season, the Upper Peninsula is never going to look like Iowa or Kansas – and that's okay. For more than a century, a hardy batch of growers and livestock farmers have managed to survive and prosper in these less-than-ideal conditions. Thanks to new technologies and some decidedly low-tech solutions, the U.P.'s latest generation of ag workers are more productive than ever. Ultimately, the fruits of their labor may be felt – and tasted – far beyond the region's borders.

Age-Old Limitations
If you're a U.P. native, you don't need an advanced degree to understand why agriculture is challenging here. But Alger County MSU Extension Director Jim Isleib has one, so people tend to listen to his thoughts on this issue. "Poor soils and a short growing season – that about sums it up," he says. 

webapps.lsa.umich.edu/

Today marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Many consider April 22, 1970 to be the birth of the modern environmental movement.

At that time, Earth Day organizers had an advantage: The environmental problems were highly visible, tangible problems that people came up against in their daily lives, such as toxic effluent from factories spilled into streams and rivers. Kids couldn't swim in lakes and rivers because they were too polluted.  Parks and highways were strewn with trash and air pollution made people sick.

You could draw a direct connection between these problems and the need for environmental action to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Many of today's biggest environmental concerns seem more abstract even though they are perhaps even more threatening than the burning river in Cleveland. Global warming is one example.

That's why a study by our next guest caught our eye. He found that what is happening to moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that we're underestimating the impacts of climate change because much of the harm is hidden from view.

Mark Hunter is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sara Hoover / Interlochen Public Radio

Students in northern Michigan are planting clones of ancient sequoias today.

There's a grove of sequoias along the shores of Lake Michigan on the site of a former Morton Salt factory.

Sequoia trees are not native to Michigan, but this grove has grown in Manistee for more than 65 years when they were brought here from the West Coast. Now, those trees are going to take another trip, or their clones will.

Students who attend Interlochen Arts Academy are planting them on campus along Green Lake. The clones are from Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.

David Milarch is the group's co-founder. He says they’re planting clones of redwoods around the world today.

“Ninety-six percent of all of our redwoods have been cut down, butchered and sold,” Milarch says.

Here's a look at how the group collects genetic material from these old growth trees:

Both the Interlochen Center for the Arts and nearby Interlochen State Park have lost many trees recently due to disease and bug infestation.

Head park ranger Chris Stark has mixed feelings about the planting. He'd prefer to plant native varieties, such as the white pine.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

I thought I knew a lot about the Great Lakes, until I met Chris Gillcrist. He’s the kind of guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team.

This is the kind of fact I learned from him every few minutes:

“The first millionaire in American history is John Jacob Astor. It’s a guy trading beaver pelts from the Great Lakes and sending them to Europe.”

Gillcrist is the executive director of the new National Museum of the Great Lakes. It opens this Saturday, April 26, in Toledo.

There are a lot about shipwrecks here, sure,  but Gillcrist wants you to know it’s much more than that.

“We look at it as retrofitting American history to more accurately depict how the Great Lakes impacted the nation as a whole over the past 300 years,” he says.

Crews working to remove propane tanks from river

Apr 20, 2014
Wikimedia Commons/Larry Pieniazek

EVART, Mich. (AP) - State emergency officials say they are working to remove dozens of propane tanks floating in the Muskegon River as part of flood-recovery efforts in western Michigan.

State Emergency Operations Center spokesman Ron Leix said Saturday that more than 40 tanks have been retrieved by state and local crews working with propane safety experts on flat-bottom boats. He says floodwaters dislodged them from the residential properties along the river.

NOAA

Residents of the Great Lakes basin are worried about their water.

Whether pollution, energy or invasive species like Asian carp, many of the 1,250 people surveyed in late 2013 by schools like the University of Michigan felt that the Great Lakes were ok, but could be better. This is despite tons of efforts to clean them up, says Barry Rabe, a public policy professor at U-M who was part of the survey.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / U.S. government

Things are not looking good for Michigan’s bats.

As Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported earlier this week, bats infected with the deadly white-nose syndrome have been found in Michigan.

The disease, which has killed more than six million bats in North America since 2006, wakes up bats during hibernation once a week – twice the normal amount of hibernation disturbance.

According to Allen Kurta, a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University, when the fungus keeps the bats waking up, they use up their stored fat too quickly:

“So, by arousing much more frequently, they’re using up their fat much more frequently; they are then running out of that fat come February and March, and essentially they will die of starvation because there are no flying insects out there to give them food.”

And in short, the spread of the disease is threatening the livelihood of the state's bats. 

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America,” said Kurta. “You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.”

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to help out the little guys.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Monahan’s Seafood Market in Ann Arbor carries soft-shell crabs from Maryland, Alaskan salmon, and Florida red snapper.

But at the moment, they’re fresh out of Great Lakes whitefish.

Bernie Fritzsch manages the fish market.

“We’re hoping to see it today, but we haven’t seen it for the last week,” he says.

user Alain r / Wikimedia Commons

Ever since Stephen Hawking came out with his theory about how black holes work, physicists – including Hawking himself – have been wrestling with a "hole" in that theory.

Hawking postulated that if you threw something like a chair into a black hole, given enough time that chair would "dematerialize." It would disappear, leaving no trace of its existence.

But the laws of physics don't allow for things to simply disappear. Things can change, or be altered, but they can't disappear. You can burn a piece of paper, and it's no longer there, but the carbon, water, and other molecules still exist somewhere. Again, it can't simply disappear.

It's called the black hole information paradox.

PBS' Kate Becker quoted Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind in describing Hawking's theory in her post "Do Black Holes Destroy Information?":

As Leonard Susskind wrote in “The Black Hole War,” his 2008 book on the problem of black holes and information loss, “The possibility of hiding information in a vault would hardly be a cause for alarm, but what if when the door was shut, the vault evaporated right in front of your eyes? That’s exactly what Hawking predicted would happen to the black hole.”

The solution?

Now comes a theoretical physicist and computational biologist from Michigan State University who believes he has solved Hawking's black hole information paradox.

Chris Adami joined us today on Stateside. (You can listen to how he explains his theory above.)

Hawking discovered that black holes emit a glow called the “Hawking radiation.” That radiation, Hawking theorized, consumes the black hole and all things in the hole are lost. Poof! Nothing left.

Adami theorizes that a copy of the chair is made before it goes into the black hole.

More on Adami’s solution from MSU:

One of the aerial images near Munising, MI capture from the video.
Roam, Inc. / YouTube

Spring in Michigan's Upper Peninsula means watching the layers of snow melt. Thomas Dolaskie of Roam, Inc. in the UP put together this video of a spring weekend in Munising, Michigan. He writes:

Filmed the first weekend of April, 2014 – we got in the last snowshoe and frozen lake roaming of the year, and watched the waterfalls start to flow. Relax, it's spring. 

Here's the video:

Steve Sawyer / Flickr

If you eat bacon, prepare for higher prices at the grocery store soon.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is deadly to piglets, and it’s shown up on at least 93 Michigan farms. The virus was first seen in the U.S. about a year ago. It causes severe diarrhea in baby pigs that eventually dehydrates and kills them. It is extremely infectious  and so far little is known about how it spreads.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission meets about a wolf hunt in Michigan.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

When the Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted to allow a wolf hunt in Michigan, they did so with the idea that the hunt would help curb the number of so-called "problem wolves" in the Upper Peninsula – wolves that preyed on livestock owned by cattle farmers.

But MLive reporter John Barnes looked at the wolf predation records in the Upper Peninsula and found that one farmer accounted for the majority of predation reports.

Ryan Von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bats with white-nose syndrome have been found in Mackinac and Dickinson counties in the Upper Peninsula and Alpena County in northern lower Michigan.

The fungal disease has killed more than six million bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006.

Allen Kurta is a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University. He’s one of the researchers who found the infected bats. I spoke with him for today's Environment Report (you can hear him talk about white-nose syndrome above).

Kurta compares the discovery of white-nose syndrome in Michigan bats to "every member of your extended family receiving a terminal diagnosis."

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America. You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.”

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