Environment & Science

Environment & Science
4:25 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

MSU study celebrates marriage of algae gene to a weed

Christoph Benning, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at MSU
Credit Courtesy: Michigan State University

Michigan State University researchers are celebrating the marriage of a weed and an algae gene -- and its value as a potential biofuel. 

The team found that adding an algae gene to mustard weed caused the plant to store oil in its leaves, and the technique could be used to get more energy out of plants grown for bio-fuel.

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Environment & Science
12:03 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Coast-to-coast high speed rail map: fantasy to reality?

A new vision for a United States high speed rail system would connect the country with different regional expresses.
Credit Alfred Twu

The “road trip” has forever been romanticized as the epitome of carefree, coming-of-age adventures. But what if instead of hopping into your car, you could jump on a train and arrive at the other side of the country in the same day?

Berkeley graphic artist Alfred Twu created a map of a potential high speed rail system for the United States.

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The Environment Report
10:11 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Michigan group prepping Kirtland's warbler to come off endangered species list

Male Kirtland's warbler
Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick

The Kirtland’s warbler is a songbird with an enviable travel schedule. The birds spend the winter in the Bahamas, and in the spring, they come home to the Great Lakes region – mostly to Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula.

The warbler has been on the endangered species list for 40 years. But it’s been doing well lately. Federal officials say the birds have met their recovery goal.

But it’ll take a lot of work to manage the birds even after they’re taken off the endangered species list.

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The Environment Report
9:35 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arriving earlier

A ruby-throated hummingbird
katmystiry, Morguefile

You can listen to today's Environment Report above, or read the hummingbird story below. In the audio, the hummingbird story starts about a minute in.

Every spring, instinct tells the ruby-throated hummingbird to head from Mexico to northern states, including Michigan. But experts say it’s making that trip earlier than ever.  That early migration could be a sign of trouble for the tiny powerhouse of the avian world. 

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Environment & Science
2:09 pm
Sat February 23, 2013

University of Michigan researchers say 'retail therapy' actually helps combat sadness

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Feeling the blues?

University of Michigan researchers say so called ‘retail therapy’ can help.

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Environment & Science
11:54 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Michigan DEQ approves stream, wetlands permit for UP mine

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has tentatively approved the last major permit needed for construction of a copper and silver mine in the western Upper Peninsula.

The permit deals with protection of wetlands, inland lakes and streams. It will become final after being signed by Orvana Minerals Corp. and state officials.

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Environment & Science
8:08 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Park revises 2012 Isle Royale female wolf total

Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich Michigan Tech

ISLE ROYALE, Mich. (AP) - Isle Royale National Park's gray wolves apparently don't have a gender gap after all.

Scientists reported last year that only nine wolves remained on the Lake Superior island chain - the lowest total in more than 50 years. They said just one was known to be a female, raising doubts about the predator's long-term prospects for survival in the wilderness park.

But Superintendent Phyllis Green said Thursday that genetic analysis of wolf excrement and additional observations suggest that four or five of the animals are females.

Even so, Green says the wolves' situation remains tenuous and experts are studying how climate change may affect them.

Michigan Technological University biologists are conducting their annual winter study at Isle Royale and are expected to release updated wolf and moose numbers next month.

The Environment Report
9:58 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Michigan inventors compete in college clean tech venture challenge

Two of the guys behind SkySpecs, Tom Brady (l) and Ryan Moore (r), explain their autonomous flying robot.
Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

You can listen to today's Environment Report above or read the story below.

I recently got a chance to hang out with Tom Brady.  

Nope, not the football star. 

But this Tom Brady is working on making a name for himself. Brady just wrapped up his Masters degree. He’s an aerospace engineer, and now he's also the chief financial officer of SkySpecs LLC.

He holds up something that looks half-insect/half-helicopter. It’s an autonomous flying robot. In other words... it has a mind of its own. Brady says it finds its way around with cameras and computer vision.

“Basically, what these things are: they carry sensors to places that an inspector would otherwise have to,” he says.

Say, down into a sewer or up to the top of a wind turbine.

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Environment & Science
3:39 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Mayors express concern to Obama, Harper over Great Lakes water levels

Sunset over Georgian Bay
GeoffClarke/Wikimedia

Nearly 100 mayors of cities located near the Great Lakes are urging President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to help fight historically low water levels in the lakes.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative sent a letter last week to the president and prime minister. David Ullrich,the organization's executive director, said he hopes the letter will make the issue a priority for the American and Canadian government

"Our hope is that more attention can be given by the executive branch in the United States and through the ministries in Canada to make this a higher priority," Ullrich said."

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The Environment Report
10:35 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Despite some bad news, Holland leaders optimistic about battery manufacturing

LG Chem's plant in Holland hasn't produced any batteries yet.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Community leaders in Holland, Michigan are trying to stay upbeat about the future of the battery industry they’ve worked so hard to attract.

But the past week has been rough for advanced battery maker LG Chem. A U.S. Department of Energy audit reported the company likely wasted more than a million dollars in grant money.

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Environment & Science
3:34 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Stateside: Michigan site to research unmanned aircraft

The University of Michigan is teaming up with the Michigan Unmanned Aerial System Center Project to research unmanned drones.
DIY Drones

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When you hear about unmanned aircraft your first thought might be "drones."

There is plenty of debate about using unmanned aircraft for spying and lethal attacks, but there are other uses for unmanned aircraft, and that’s what we are going to take a look at right now.

The University of Michigan is teaming up with the Michigan Unmanned Aerial System Center Project in Alpena, Michigan. 

The Michigan Economic Development recently pledged a half million dollars to the research test site and fly zone for unmanned aircraft systems.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Professor Ella Atkins of the University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering about the new site.

Environment & Science
3:32 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Stateside: Using waste to power your home

Waste could potentially become a new alternative energy source.
Nio_nl Flickr

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Here’s an alternative energy source you may not think about everyday - sour milk, rejected batches of baby food, restaurant grease, hog and pig manure.

You get the picture, but when you mix all those ghastly ingredients together you can get energy.

In this segment of Stateside, we interviewed Dana Kirk from the Anaerobic Research and Education Center at Michigan State University.

He spoke with us about the prospects for being able to power your house with waste.

Environment & Science
11:00 am
Sat February 16, 2013

Report: Renewable energy heating up in Michigan

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new report finds that most of Michigan's electricity providers are on pace to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

The Michigan Public Service Commission's annual renewable energy report released Friday finds the use of wind, the sun and other renewables was expected to have reached 4.7 percent last year. The estimate was 4.4 percent in 2011 - up from 3.6 percent the previous year.

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Environment & Science
12:15 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Crews in Michigan respond to chemical release

ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) - Police in southern Michigan say crews are responding to a chemical release and people nearby are being asked to stay in their homes as a precaution.

No injuries were reported Friday morning in Adrian, about 60 miles southwest of Detroit. Police say there's no immediate threat to the public.

Police say in a statement that a barrel containing 30 to 35 gallons of nitric acid was letting off gas after reacting with a small amount of sodium hydroxide.

Roads nearby are closed and the fire department is asking residents and others within one-tenth of a mile of the area to stay where they are. Police say that could last until 1 p.m.

The Lenawee County hazardous materials team is on the scene along with the county's emergency management office.

The Environment Report
10:57 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Grand Rapids officials making progress on 2020 renewables goal

The mayor of Grand Rapids wants all of the electricity for the city's operations to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Grand Rapids Fire Captain Tony Hendges leads the way down a dark stairwell to the basement of the Leonard Street Fire Station.

Dim fluorescent lights flip on overhead. There’s some exercise equipment on one side of the room. On the other side is a bunch of large white metal boxes and lots of new pipes coming out of them.

“What we have is a recently installed geothermal system here at the Leonard Street fire station,” Hendges said.

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Environment & Science
10:47 am
Fri February 15, 2013

State Senate approves bear cub petting zoos

beingmyself flickr

A bill to let people hold, pet, and take pictures with bear cubs has passed the state Senate. The measure would allow an Upper Peninsula bear ranch to continue to offer the experience. It would let the public handle bears up to 36 weeks old or less than 90 pounds.

Senator Rebekah Warren voted against the bill.

She says lawmakers should put residents’ safety ahead of the financial benefit of a single business.

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The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Grand Rapids officials making progress on 2020 renewables goal

The solar panels on top of Grand Rapids' Water Services Administration building.
Photo by Haris Alibasic City of Grand Rapids

You can listen to today's Environment Report story or read the story below.

The mayor of Grand Rapids wants all of the electricity for the city's operations to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

I recently met up with Grand Rapids Fire Captain Tony Hendges to check in on the city's progress.

He led the way down a dark stairwell to the basement of the Leonard Street Fire Station. There’s some exercise equipment on one side of the room. On the other side are a bunch of large white metal boxes and lots of new pipes coming out of them: a geothermal system.

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Environment & Science
9:47 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

DNR hopes to track wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

The state Department of Natural Resources is on the prowl for wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula, and it's asking for help.

The department launched a survey Monday that hopes to catalog all sightings of wolves or wolf tracks until March 8.

But it's unlikely that very many wolves -- if any -- will be seen. Jennifer Kleitch is a wildlife biologist, and she said no wolves were recorded last time the survey was conducted two years ago.

"The goal of the survey is to determine whether they're here, and if they are, where they're located," Kleitch said. "We don't have a good estimate at this time, and that's why we're continuing to do the survey."

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Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawsuit filed to protect Great Lakes wolf population

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

The Humane Society along with several other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court today to put a stop to gray wolf hunting in the Great Lakes Region.

The lawsuit is against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List.

If its successful, the lawsuit would place the wolves back under federal protection.

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Environment & Science
1:41 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawmakers seek to tap Michigan's 'Rainy Day Fund' for Great Lakes dredging

A dredge operating outside of the harbor in Leland, Michigan.
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

Some lawmakers in Lansing want to tap the state’s “rainy day” fund to pay for emergency harbor dredging in the Great Lakes.

A group of Republican state Senators today endorsed opening up $30 million from the fund for projects around the state.

They also offered a number of ways to fund future dredging projects.

State Senator Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) says a short-term solution isn’t enough to address record-low water levels in the Great Lakes.

“These are designed to be long-term solutions. We have the one-time, right now fix. And in the end of the day we need to have enough dollars to make that this year we’re keeping our ports open,” said Hansen.

Governor Snyder set aside over $20 million in his proposed budget for emergency dredging. That money would not come out of the state’s savings.

The lawmakers say their plan is meant to supplement Snyder’s proposal, not replace it.

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