Environment & Science

Michigan State University / http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2014/msu-partners-with-detroit-to-investigate-death-scenes/

It sounds like "CSI" meets "Bones." 

The Wayne County Medical Examiner is sending swab samples from dead bodies to Michigan State University researchers.

They're going to run a new kind of analysis in hopes of determining when someone died, whether they touched a weapon, and possibly even where they've been. 

What they’re looking at are the teeny-tiny things that live on our bodies: microbes.

You can’t see them with the naked eye, but we all have bacteria, fungi, and even tiny worms that live on our bodies and form their own ecosystems.

Randall Schaetzl, MSU

News of a decline might sound surprising since there has been so much excitement and controversy over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in recent years.

But not many high-volume, horizontal wells were actually drilled since 2010, and the company that led the recent fracking boom has left the state.

That leaves the industry and its watchdogs wondering where new action will come from.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The most recent round of environmental DNA sampling on the Kalamazoo River showed no evidence of genetic material from Asian carp, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Ed Golder, spokesperson for the department, says this is very good news, "but it doesn't mean that we're going to stop being vigilant about the concern that Asian carp generally, and silver carp and big head carp in particular, pose to the Great Lakes."

For as many as 250 years, a bur oak has been growing on what is now the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. The big tree stands in the way of an expansion of the Ross Business School.

But instead of cutting it down, the university is moving the tree. It's not easy, it's not cheap, and it's definitely not fast.

Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan is moving a 250-year-old bur oak tree this weekend to make way for an expansion of the Ross School of Business.

The $400,000 cost of moving the tree will come from a $100 million donation for the expansion from philanthropist Stephen Ross.

U of M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald says the project will save a piece of living U of M history, "and  provide a teachable moment where we can learn about this process, because we've – at the University of Michigan – we've never moved a tree like this before."

(courtesy Consumers Energy)

Michigan connected more wind farms to the power grid than almost every other state last year, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Michigan added 175 megawatts of wind power in 2013 – more than 46 other states.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Grand Haven is the latest city to consider climate change in its master plan. It’s part of a grant-funded project called Resilient Michigan.

Harry Burkholder is a community planner with the program. He says they’re working with city and township officials to help them prepare for more extreme weather events like heat waves and intense rainstorms.

“A lot of communities are looking at ways to increase pervious pavement on sidewalks and parking lots; ways that you can collect rainwater right from your home or even from your business in large underground cisterns so it doesn’t automatically go into the sewer system,” he says.

Heavy rain events can overload sewer systems and lead to sewage overflows into rivers and lakes.

Resilient Michigan is also working with Monroe, Ludington, St. Joseph and East Jordan.

They’ll be launching a program with the Port Huron community in November, and Burkholder says they have enough grant money to work with one more Michigan community.

An emerald ash borer
User: USDAgov / flickr

Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service are looking for ash trees that survived the attack of the emerald ash borer.

The invasive insect has been spreading across the Midwest and beyond since 2002 - killing millions of ash trees in its wake.

Here's an animation showing the spread of the emerald ash borer from 2002 to 2014:

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of researchers at Michigan Technological University is conducting tests to find out if traditional asphalt mixed with rubber from scrap tires could make better roads in Michigan.

The research, led by civil and environmental engineering department chair David Hand, has been granted $1.2 million from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Professor Zhanping You has been studying the technology of rubberized asphalt for eight years. He says rubber-added asphalt can make roads more durable and make life easier for drivers.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded grants to three states - Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana - to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie.

This summer, a toxic cyanobacteria bloom shut down the water supply to the city of Toledo.  Algae and cyanobacteria thrive in high-phosphorus environments.

Much of the phosphorus comes from farms surrounding the lake.

Jamie Clover Adams is Michigan Director of Agriculture and Rural Development.

She says Michigan has only about 15% of the land near Lake Erie, but the state has to do its part.

Environmental groups say a proposal from within state government to weaken Michigan’s toxic air pollutant guidelines would put public health at risk.

Michigan has some of the strictest guidelines in the nation when it comes to toxic air chemicals. It’s one of just nine states to regulate all potentially toxic emissions.

East Grand Traverse Bay
User: Bryan Casteel / Flickr

One of Michigan's greatest natural treasures and most popular tourist destinations is Grand Traverse Bay.

So the appearance of a large plume of what looked like chocolate milk in East Grand Traverse Bay last month set off alarm bells.

It didn't take long to realize the murky plume in the East Bay came from clay-filled silt, which was seeping into the East Bay from a major construction site in Acme Township.

Now the state Department of Environmental Quality says the runoff from the Grand Traverse Town Center site violates various state and federal permits.

And those who love Grand Traverse Bay are deeply concerned.

Steven Stinson

A large plume of clay-laden silt has clouded the waters in portions of East Grand Traverse Bay.

The plume has been linked to run-off from the construction site of Grand Traverse Town Center in Acme Township, a 160-acre multi-use development which will be anchored by a Meijer store.

Brian Jankowski of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said the run-off violates various state and federal permits.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It's only one study. 

But if it's right, then researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have just proven that Lake Erie is even more vulnerable to toxic bacterial blooms than we thought.

And we don't really know why. 

Don Scavia is one of the study's coauthors. He's a professor at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. 

"So we know that phosphorous loads going into the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily from agricultural sources, is what’s driving these blooms," he says. 

Clarence S. Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library

Michigan Radio's M I Curious project is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Shelly Scott asked Michigan Radio this question:

Have there ever been pirates on the Great Lakes?

“I thought: we’ve got such nice water bodies around here, why don’t we hear anything about fantastic things that happened on the Great Lakes?” she says.

Scott is an engineer at Ford and she’s also a leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  These 5th grade girls had some questions about freshwater pirates too:

“What do pirate ships look like? Was there any pirate treasure in the Great Lakes? How did they get away with stealing other people’s treasure?” asked Maria Kokko, Lilli Semel and Shannon Scott.

This 250-year-old bur oak tree on the University of Michigan's campus will be moved on Oct. 25, weather permitting.
Corey Seeman / Flickr

I hope they have more success than I did.

I tried moving a four-year-old oak tree in my backyard… and failed. Of course, they’ll be using more than just a spade and a burlap sack.

We’ll likely find out over the next few years whether the $300,000 to $400,000 project to move the 250-year-old bur oak tree on the campus of the University of Michigan worked.

The tree is being moved as part of a $135 million, donor-funded expansion of U of M’s business school. The school announced today that the oak will be moved on October 25, weather permitting.

Moving my tree's root ball was hard enough. How in the world will they move a 700,000 to 850,000 pound root ball?

Glad you asked. Here’s a video showing exactly that:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is opening a $46 million complex for researchers to study nanotechnologies in energy, biotechnology and other fields.

The Center of Excellence in Nano Mechanical Science and Engineering is a 62,000-square-foot addition to laboratories on the Ann Arbor school's north campus. Researchers will be able to watch the degradation of materials that go into things like cars and medical devices.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Michigan Radio's MI Curious project puts our journalists to work for you: We investigate questions you submit about our state and its people.

One of the MI Curious questions was submitted by listener Justin Cross from Delton, Michigan. He asked: "What's the status of the Enbridge pipeline in the bottom of Lake Michigan running through the Straits of Mackinac?"

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has been working to find an answer to the question. Brush says what he found is that Enbridge holds all the cards. The company is willing to talk, and they are aware of people's concerns. 

Morgue File

New legislation that would repeal Michigan’s renewable energy standard has been met with heavy opposition from environmentalists, and even some utilities.

In 2008, state lawmakers said electric utilities must generate at least ten percent of their energy using renewable sources by 2015. Recent studies show they are on track to meet that requirement.  

Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced a bill last week that would repeal that part of Michigan’s energy law.

“Obviously, if it was not more costly, we wouldn’t have to mandate it,” said McMillin.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

We've been working to find an answer to the question, "What's the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?"

It was posed by Justin Cross for our M I Curious project.

One of the first things we discovered was that the company holds all the cards.

The eclipse is happening now. You can watch it online here, or better yet. Go outside and look!

One of our Facebook fans, Ben Wojdyla, reminds us that a big event is yet to come:

If you're vigilant, you can catch the selenelion, a rare celestial occurrence wherein a lunar eclipse and the rising sun can be observed simultaneously. Should occur between 7:30 and 7:45.

Here are the photos being shared on Twitter:

With Dutta's technologies, gadgets like Fitbit don't need to be plugged into the wall or need batteries.
User: Ian D / Flickr

 

It's not often you can say without a shadow of a doubt that someone is "brilliant." 

But you can make a good case for Prabal Dutta. He's an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan.

And he has been named one of Popular Science's 2014 Brilliant Ten, a list saluting scientific innovators who are changing the world as we know it.

Dutta made this list for his work on energy scavenging sensors. He explains that these sensors won't need batteries because they can harvest energy from the world around them.

A silver carp.
Michigan Sea Grant

ALLEGAN, Mich. - Officials say genetic material of Asian carp has been found in a river in the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced DNA from silver carp was detected in one of 200 samples taken in July the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County. The river flows into Lake Michigan.

Officials say the discovery marks the first time so-called environmental DNA for silver carp has been found in Michigan's Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. In a statement, the agencies say there's "no evidence that a population of silver carp is established."

The silver carp is one of the Asian species threatening to invade the Great Lakes and compete with native fish for food.

Central Power Plant, Ann Arbor, MI
Press Release Distribution / prlog.org

A new study states that Michigan is one of five states that would see the most public health benefits from the EPA's proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

User: Takver / Flickr

Say the words "climate change," and just watch the battle lines form.

On one side, we have those – including the scientific community – who say it is not only coming, it is here and we're going to be challenged by extreme weather as a consequence.

On the other side, we have those who doubt the grim warnings of climate scientists. They believe warming is just a part of nature's cycle.

user farlane / flickr

The rough winter of 2013-2014 was not kind to Michigan grapes.

And we're going to see that in the wine grape crop this year.

Linda Jones is executive director at Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Jones projects a 50% reduction in wine output due to the harsh winter. 

Michigan-sportsman.com

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Scientists plan to trap up to 18 feral swine and fit them with radio collars in a five-year project to learn more about the unwanted critters' movements and habits in rural Michigan.

Researchers with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan at Flint will participate in the $500,000 study funded by the state and U.S. agriculture departments.

Michigan State wildlife professor Gary Roloff says getting rid of the animals requires a better understanding of how they spread and how their rooting behavior damages woods and farmlands.

Center for Effective Government

They are supposed to be a safe places to learn, but a new report finds that hundreds of thousands of Michigan children attend schools inside what chemical companies call a vulnerability zone.

Sean Moulton, director of open government policy with the Center for Effective Government, says the level of risk associated with a particular chemical facility has to do with the quantity of chemicals being handled, how dangerous those chemicals are and the proximity of the facility to population centers.

A diamondback terrapin hatchling.
C.A. Chicoine / TurtleZone News

The Detroit Zoo is caring for more than 1,000 turtles authorities say are tied to an international smuggling ring.

According to a news release Friday from the zoo, a number of the turtles were found stuffed into rubber snow boots and cereal boxes inside a Canadian man's luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week. The man was attempting to board a plane for Shanghai, China. 

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