Environment & Science

Environment & Science
3:31 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

How are robins faring this winter?

Should we be worried about robins this winter?
Wikipedia.org

If you grew up in Michigan, chances are when you thought of the very first signs of spring you thought of crocuses and robins. 

But have you noticed that in recent years, something has changed– that robins are pretty much with us all through the winter?

Why has this happened, and do we have any reason to worry about robins in this exceptionally harsh winter?

Julie Craves, director of the Rouge River Bird Observatory in Dearborn, joined us. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
12:21 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

MSU breaks ground on advanced nuclear science project

Numerous dignitaries, including U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, symbolically broke ground for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the MSU campus.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Using one of the lowest-tech tools – shovels – officials broke ground today on what will someday be one of the most advanced centers for scientific research in the world. 

Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation joined Michigan State University officials and others in breaking near-frozen ground for what will be the Facility of Rare Isotope Beams.

The facility, known as FRIB, will allow scientists to experiment with nuclear elements that do not normally exist on Earth.

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Environment & Science
4:30 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

Federal agency wants you to help improve honeybees’ diet

The USDA is trying to improve the honeybees' diets.
cygnus921 Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to give honeybees more and better-quality food in the Midwest.

Dan Zay is a biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. He says the agency hopes a better variety of high-quality flowering plants will help honeybees rebound from major population losses over the last eight years.

“It’s said that one in three mouthfuls of food and drink that we consume involves the efforts of honeybees,” Zay said.

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Environment & Science
1:55 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

MSU breaks ground on a groundbreaking science project

The $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams has been in development for five years.
(artist's conception) Michigan State University

Michigan State University breaks ground Monday on a major scientific research project.

The $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams has been in development for five years.

Thomas Glasmacher is the project director.   He says FRIB will have an impact far away from the East Lansing campus.

Environment & Science
5:48 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Isle Royale wolf that crossed ice bridge was shot with pellet gun

"Isabelle" on the icy shoreline of Isle Royale before she crossed to the mainland.
Isle Royale Wolf Moose Study

A wolf that fled from Isle Royale National Park over an ice bridge was found dead on the Minnesota mainland last month.

Researchers were unsure how the wolf died at the time, but a necropsy found that the five-year-old female wolf was shot with a pellet gun.

Lee Berquist of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more:

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Environment & Science
9:29 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Obama makes Sleeping Bear Dunes wilderness

Part of the shoreline in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
user rkramer62 Flickr

EMPIRE, Mich. (AP) - President Barack Obama has signed a bill designating 32,557 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as protected federal wilderness, the final step for a proposal that has been debated locally for more than a decade.

The measure cleared the U.S. House in March and the Senate last June. The White House says Obama signed it Thursday.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes federal park is headquartered at Empire along Lake Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula. It's famed for towering sand dunes, some of which rise hundreds of feet above the shoreline.

The area is the first land to receive wilderness status from Congress in five years. About 1.4 million people visited the lakeshore in 2011, pumping about $120 million into the local economy.

Environment & Science
5:04 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Wolf hunt referendum petitions filed

endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com

The campaign to repeal Michigan’s new wolf hunting law filed petitions today to put their challenge on the November ballot.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign says it has 225,000 signatures. That’s well over the 161,305 needed to qualify for the November ballot.

This would be the second hunting referendum on the ballot. The Legislature passed a new hunting law to sidestep an earlier petition drive and referendum.    

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Stateside
3:58 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

What can be done about algae blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie?

Algae in Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

If you lived in Michigan in the 1960s and '70s, you will remember: Lake Erie was on the "critical list." It was once declared dead.

But it got back on the road to health and recovery until the mid-1990s.

That's when the lake started showing signs of distress, with large algae blooms and dead zones showing up again.

Now comes a report from an international agency that keeps a close eye on the health of the Great Lakes, and it is a clarion call to action. Among the agencies contributing to the report is the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

Don Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Mary Mandeville (L) and Tim and Mary Jane Eder on Island Lake. The proposed mine site is west of the lake.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

A Ready-Mix concrete company, McCoig Materials, wants to open up a mine on a site north of Chelsea. The two parcels of land they want to mine are in between the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. This part of southeast Michigan has a lot of little lakes and unique natural areas.

McCoig Materials wants to operate the mine for 22 to 30 years and remove 11 million tons of sand and gravel.

People who live on the lakes nearby have been raising concerns about that.

Mary Mandeville spends summers in her cottage at Island Lake.

“Just to the west of us is where the proposed gravel mine would be putting in their operations. We’re very concerned about the impact on the environment, on the water table level. We’re concerned about air quality with all the dust from the dumping of the gravel into the trucks.”

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Environment & Science
7:37 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Forest Service grant will help Belle Isle forestry

Detroit kids learn about the ecology on Belle Isle in 2012.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The federal government is offering some help to restore the forest on Detroit’s Belle Isle.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow announced the $300,000 grant from the US Forest Service Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been cutting down a lot of dead and damaged trees on Belle Isle lately, as the island makes its transition to a state park.

The grant will help carry on that effort. It will also help the DNR and community groups reforest the island.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu March 6, 2014

President's budget cuts Great Lakes programs

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

President Obama’s 2015 budget includes some cuts to Great Lakes programs.

Obama is asking for $275 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would be $25 million less than the current funding level.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says if the cuts go through, you'd see projects slow down.

“Whether it’s a contaminated cleanup project that’s underway but not completed, or a habitat restoration effort or dealing with the problems of keeping aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

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Environment & Science
3:11 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Great Lakes ice levels approaching record set in 1979

Great Lakes ice levels as of March 4th, 2014. The blue areas show open water.
Credit NOAA

The last time I posted on this (on Feb. 26), the ice levels on the Great Lakes had dropped off.

There had been a slight warm-up and some strong winds that had opened up the water.

But it's been cold since then, and the ice levels have increased on the Great Lakes. Here's a graphic showing you where the ice levels stand as of yesterday. The blue areas show the open water:

As I mentioned in my previous post, ice formation on the lakes is dynamic – constantly changing.

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Environment & Science
8:13 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Obama's proposed budget includes money for MSU's FRIB project

Mark Burnham, vice president of government affairs at MSU, says the president’s budget proposal “will keep FRIB on schedule as planned.”
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A big-ticket construction project on the Michigan State University campus is in President Barack Obama's proposed budget.

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or F-Rib for short, may turn MSU into a destination for advanced nuclear science research. But its $730 million price tag has raised questions about whether it will get the funding it needs to get built.

The president’s fiscal year 2015 budget calls for investing $90 million in the project.

Mark Burnham is the vice president of government affairs at MSU.

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The Environment Report
5:03 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Building owners try their own 'Biggest Loser' competition

Building owners will be competing for bragging rights.
Photo courtesy of Fellowship of the Rich, Flickr

There’s a battle brewing in West Michigan. It’s a competition among building owners who want to cut their carbon emissions.

This battle is not a real knock-down, drag-out blood battle – it's more like a friendly wager for bragging rights. It’s a race to see which building can reduce the most energy use per square foot.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Invasive lampreys getting too comfortable in Michigan's Inland Waterway?

A face only its mother could love.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

You can listen to today's Environment Report here.

We spend about $21 million a year keeping invasive sea lampreys in check in the Great Lakes.

But they’re resilient creatures. Even after we spend all that money, we still can’t get rid of them.

Scientists now suspect lampreys are getting a little too comfortable up north.

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Stateside
5:16 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Help is on the way for Michigan's fragile honeybee population

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee

This winter has been especially tough for the already-fragile population of Michigan honeybees.

Beekeepers are coping with a nearly decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins. It's called "colony collapse disorder".

Now comes the unrelenting cold of this record-setting winter, and beekeepers in Michigan and other states are reporting staggering losses that could endanger crop production all over the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it's spending $3 million on a new program to help honeybees. 

Let's find out why this is so crucial and what it means for Michigan's farmers and beekeepers.

Mike Hansen is the State Apiarist with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Environment & Science
3:32 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Ohio explores return of sturgeon to Lake Erie

Lake Sturgeon
Credit MI DNR website

PORT CLINTON, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's wildlife agency is looking at bringing a prehistoric fish back to Lake Erie. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is looking into whether it can reintroduce breeding populations of sturgeon to the lake. 

Sturgeon were once plentiful but thought to be all but gone from Lake Erie less than two decades ago.

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Environment & Science
3:14 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Mardi Gras beads may present a health hazard

The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center tested the beads … mainly produced in China … and found they contain unusually high amounts of lead and flame retardant chemicals.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

It’s Mardi Gras time. But there’s a warning for people who want to ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.

People will go to great lengths to grab a necklace of Mardi Gras beads. But the Ecology Center’s Jeff Gearhart says they should think twice.

The Ann Arbor environmental group tested beads from different sources and found many contained high amounts of highly toxic substances,

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The Environment Report
2:52 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

What all the snow and ice will mean for Great Lakes water levels

Icy Lake Michigan channel at Grand Haven in 2011.
R. Greaves NOAA GLERL

Listen to Drew Gronewold talking about what our snowy winter means for our summer beach and boating trips.

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but right now, a bunch of scientists are thinking about how high the water at Great Lakes beaches will be this summer.

Early last year, the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron system hit record low water levels.

It made life tougher for the shipping industry, and it’s hard on people who run Great Lakes ports.

Russell Dzuba is the harbor master in Leland.

“For us, it’s shallow. When we went to dredge this year we had to go a foot deeper and the world was a foot shorter, if you will,” he says.

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Environment & Science
12:43 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

More action needed to clean up Lake Erie, says international agency

Algae blooms have once again become common in western Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Massive algae blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie: These used to be major environmental problems around the most urbanized Great Lake back in the '60s and '70s, but they are problems once again.

Now, an international agency that keeps an eye on the health of the Great Lakes is calling for more action.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency, wants sharp cutbacks on phosphorus runoff getting into Lake Erie.

The amount of phosphorus available in rivers and lakes is one of the main drivers of algae growth. The more you have, the more the algae blooms.

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