Environment & Science

Environment & Science
10:37 am
Mon July 16, 2012

State plans to remove Asian Carp species from Michigan lake

A ball of white bread and 6-pound fishing line did this grass carp in.
user Catman529 wikimedia

It's not one of the "Big Three" Asian Carp species that biologists worry could devastate an already struggling Great Lakes fishery (Bighead, Black, or Silver). But the Grass Carp is a species of Asian Carp officials are concerned about. The fish can damage native plant and fish habitat in lakes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources plans to remove these illegal carp from a lake about 20 miles southeast of Jackson, Michigan.

Marrs Lake in Lenawee County is where officials previously said they found a grass carp. MDNR also plan to sample connected lakes (Washington, Wolf and Allen) for grass carp DNA to see whether the fish spread.

The grass carp was found during a June survey after a fisherman submitted a photo of one. During the survey, three other grass carp were spotted.

Environment & Science
4:01 pm
Sat July 14, 2012

Michigan's drought is growing worse

Lawns are burning up and drying out all across Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Look at any of the scorched lawns in Michigan, and you can see the state is in the grip of a drought. And the grip is tightening.

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Environment & Science
2:14 pm
Sat July 14, 2012

2 sturgeon found washed ashore off Lake Huron

Lake Sturgeon
MI DNR website

The Times Herald in Port Huron reports that a Lakeport resident found a 3-foot-long sturgeon this week on a beach.

 The newspaper reports that a 4-foot-long sturgeon also washed ashore in Fort Gratiot, northeast of Detroit.

Michigan Natural Resources fisheries biologist Mike Thomas says it's not unheard of for small numbers of the fish to wash up in one week, but he is "kind of watching what's going on."

Environment & Science
5:00 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Canadian report: Great Lakes would provide hospitable environment for invasive Asian carp

Wikipedia

A new study says Asian carp could easily establish in the Great Lakes  unless physical barriers are built to keep them out.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it would take as few as 10 female and even fewer male Asian carp to create a breeding population.

The invasive fish have already infested the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries.

Andy Buchsbaum  is with the National Wildlife Federation's Ann Arbor office.

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Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Michigan's lone wolverine now part of traveling exhibit

This nine-year-old female wolverine was captured by Jeff Ford's trail cam in Michigan's Thumb region. The animal's body was discovered by hikers in 2010.
Jeff Ford

Few people believed stories about a live Wolverine spotted in Michigan a few years ago.

But a Thumb-area man proved it:  Jeff Ford's trail camera captured images of the animal.

Then some hikers discovered the Wolverine's body in 2010 in Minden.

The state of Michigan paid a taxidermist to preserve the animal. Now it's in an exhibit that travels around the state.

Kevin Frailey is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

He says there's no proof of where this animal came from or whether Wolverines were ever native to Michigan.

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Environment & Science
11:33 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Tracking invasive species in Detroit, one tree at a time

Ecological surveyor Chris Kort leans back to get a better view of a tree he's cataloging. Kort has counted over 13,000 trees in Detroit since March.
Meg Cramer

There’s so much to know about what’s happening in the world around us, and that information gives us insights into patterns and changes that could have a big impact on our lives.

But finding these trends requires a lot of data – and somebody has to go out and get it.

Chris Kort is one of those people. He's an ecological surveyor counting trees in Detroit. For every tree he counts, Kort marks where the tree is, then he adds details like its size, species, and health.

Kort does this all day long, walking up and down Detroit streets, counting trees on city property.

“Since March, I have surveyed 13,468 trees. And counting,” he says.

The data from this survey will go to the city, the state, and scientists at the U.S. Forest Service. It will tell a story about what’s happening to trees in the city.

A database like this has to be built manually by people like Chris Kort, tree by tree.

Kort is like the human version of the Google street view car, roving up and down blocks and adding to his map. He notices details that most people miss. There are some things you can only find on foot. 

“I’ve actually been collecting pennies on the sides of the roads for, like four months," says Kort, "I cashed in 2,200 pennies yesterday. People just don’t pick them up anymore apparently.”

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energy
5:46 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

City of Holland decides winds not strong enough for wind farm

warrenski Creative Commons

The City of Holland is backing out of plans for a potential wind farm. The city-owned utility bought the option to lease hundreds of acres in Allegan County after the state identified the area as one of the best in Michigan for wind energy potential.

But after more than a year of serious study, the city doesn’t think there’s enough potential to build the wind farm.

“When we went into this, everything looked like it was going to be a good project to pursue,” said Dan Nally, who directs business services for Holland’s Board of Public Works.

"We shouldn’t take the fact that this project doesn’t go forward that we are not supporting renewable, because we absolutely, positively are. But we will also, at the same time, get the best value that we can,” Nally said.

The wind was good, but not as strong as they had hoped. The plan was to have a 20 mega-watt wind farm-- relatively small compared to large scale commercial projects.

Nally says the utility has spent roughly $678,000 to collect wind data and study the impact on birds, bats and wetlands.

"We don’t feel that any of this money has been wasted. It’s been an investment in understanding what we could and could not do,” Nally said.

Nally says Holland is working on agreements to purchase renewable power from other wind farms, but he declined to give details until any agreement is negotiated.

Holland and all other utilities in Michigan must have 10 percent of their energy come from renewable sources like wind by 2015. Nally says Holland is still on track to meet that requirement.

Environment & Science
11:55 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Ospreys make a comeback in southern Michigan

Teddy Llovet/Flickr

Everyone loves a comeback story, and this is a good one. Just 13 years ago, there was only one osprey nest in southern Michigan. Today, there are at least 49.

The large raptor, known as the “fish hawk,” began disappearing from the Great Lakes region in step with increasing use of DDT and other pesticides. Scientists have found that these chemicals cause thinning in osprey eggshells.

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energy
11:55 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Palisades nuclear plant restarts after repairs to leaky water tank

The Palisades Power Plant is near South Haven, Michigan.
Mark Savage Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant is returning to service after being shut down for the last four weeks to repair a leaking water tank.

The tank is a giant aluminum sphere that holds 300,000 gallons of water in case of emergencies or a planned refueling outage.

The tank is made up of a bunch of aluminum plates welded together. There are 26 plates on the bottom of the tank.  Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says they found  “several minor through wall leaks” in the aluminum walls and some flaws in the welds themselves and repaired them all.

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Environment & Science
1:01 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Critical NTSB report will likely not affect state review of new Enbridge pipeline in Michigan

Federal regulators this week blasted Enbridge Energy for its handling of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.     But the highly critical federal report is unlikely to affect a state review of Enbridge’s plans for a new oil pipeline through Michigan.  

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Environment & Science
10:06 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Enbridge employees compared to 'Keystone Cops' in 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill

6 and a half foot long rupture in Line 6B.
NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board is not pulling its punches against Enbridge Energy in a highly critical report of the company’s handling of the July, 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

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Environment & Science
9:05 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Report: Waterfowl doing well in 'America's duck factory'

In a narrow swath of grass in a roadside ditch, a mallard hen nests her second brood of the season, a rare event for these ducks. Her first ducklings were killed by a predator.
Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

If you’re a duck, this is a good news, bad news story. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes surveys of the ten most abundant duck species every year. 

Brad Bortner is Chief of the Division of Migratory Bird Management at the Fish and Wildlife Service.  He says this year’s survey recorded 48.6 million ducks. That’s the highest number of ducks recorded since the agency started keeping records in 1955.

"We’ve had a series of very good years on the prairies, with excellent water conditions and great habitat management and restoration programs," he said.

He says more than half of North America’s duck breeding happens in the prairie pothole region of the Dakotas and eastern Montana.  It’s nicknamed America’s duck factory.

Bortner says species such as mallards, gadwalls and redheads are all doing great, and he says the breeding duck populations in Michigan are doing well, too.

So, that’s the good news.  The bad news: some other duck species are not doing so well. 

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Retooling brake pads for salmon

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Washington and California recently adopted laws that ban all but traces of copper in automotive brake pads by the year 2021. The two states say the metal gets into watersheds and hurts endangered salmon. The decision could change the way brakes are made around the world.

Copper is a great material for brakes. It's durable, and it absorbs heat and noise. But it comes with an environmental price.

"Each time a driver uses their brakes, a small amount of the material gets worn off, and when it rains, that can be washed into streams and rivers," said Ian Wesley, who's with the Washington State Department of Ecology.

About a third of the copper in some watersheds in California and Washington State comes from brakes. And copper is not good for salmon, because it wreaks havoc with their ability to smell.

Salmon release a pheromone when they perceive a threat. Other salmon react to the scent by dropping to the bottom of the water and staying there, very still.

"When they do that, it helps them avoid the predators, but if there's even very low levels of copper in the water, they can't smell this pheromone, and they continue to swim around kind of oblivious to the danger that's nearby," said Wesley.

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Environment & Science
4:48 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Federal officials to release report on Enbridge oil spill on Tuesday

The section of Line 6B that ruptured on July 25th, 2010 near Marshall, Michigan
NTSB

Federal regulators will release a report tomorrow on the reasons why an oil pipeline broke near Marshall.

Environmentalists want to see if problems with federal oversight of the pipeline industry will be cited in the report.

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Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

The search resumes Tuesday for possible Asian Carp in Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan

Bighead Asian carp caught in 2010
Illinois DNR

An intensive four day search for the invasive Asian Carp gets underway near Chicago tomorrow. The search area is a short swim from Lake Michigan.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Sat July 7, 2012

Hunt for Asian Carp resumes near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Authorities plan another intensive search for Asian carp next week after repeatedly detecting DNA from the invasive fish in Chicago's Lake Calumet.

Officials said Friday that genetic material from silver carp was found in samples taken in May and June. Policy requires stepped-up efforts to find the fish whenever their DNA turns up during three consecutive rounds of sampling in the same area.

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2:56 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Michigan scientists aid apparent discovery of 'God particle,' one wins $100 from Stephen Hawking

Lead in text: 
In addition to the attention he's receiving for contributing to the possible discovery of the the Higgs boson, or "God particle," University of Michigan professor Gordon Kane is also set to cash in on $100 in bet money from Stephen Hawking.
  • Source: Mlive
  • | Via: Elaine Ezekiel
Stephen Hawking is not often wrong, but when he is, the world's most famous physicist is willing to pay up. Hawking confirmed this week that he owes $100 to University of Michigan Professor Gordon Kane, with whom he had a long-standing bet that the theoretical Higgs boson particle never would be found.
Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Q & A: Filmmaker talks about a night sky without stars

The Milky Way above an AZ observatory.
Wicked Delicate Films, LLC.

When was the last time you were someplace so dark that you could look up at the night sky and actually see the stars? Not just a handful, but hundreds or thousands?

“The Milky Way when it rises here looks like a thunderstorm coming toward you.  And you think, oh my god, it’s going to cloud over and it’s not, it’s the Milky Way rising, it’s the edge of our galaxy coming up.”

That’s a scene from a new documentary. It’s called The City Dark and it airs on PBS stations starting tonight (check your local listings).

The film takes a look at our love affair with artificial light – and why humans and wildlife need the night sky.  Ian Cheney directed and produced The City Dark and we spoke with him for today's Environment Report.  Cheney grew up in rural Maine but has been working in New York City. I asked him why he wanted to make this film.

Ian Cheney: Well, when I moved to New York City, one of the first things I realized was that I was missing the night sky, and that launched me on a journey to explore this broader topic of light pollution and how artificial light affects our world.

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Environment & Science
8:55 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Researchers measure role of urban greenery in carbon dioxide exchange

Emily Peters measures photosynthesis on trees in a suburban neighborhood from an aerial lift truck.
University of California-Santa Barbara

Scientists know a lot about how natural places process carbon dioxide.  But there hasn’t been a lot of research into what happens throughout the year in the green spaces in cities and suburbs.

Emily Peters is an author of a paper out this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research.  She’s been looking at how plants and trees in one suburban neighborhood take in carbon dioxide during the year... and how they offset the carbon dioxide people in the neighborhood emit – by say, driving their cars.

“In the summer we found the uptake of carbon dioxide from the vegetation is enough to offset fossil fuel emissions – just in the summer.”

She says evergreen and leafy trees took in more CO2 during the middle of the summer. Lawns did the best job of taking in CO2 during the spring and fall.  But Peters says those plants did NOT balance out the total amount of carbon dioxide released in the suburban neighborhood by burning fossil fuels over the year. 

If you're wondering: do certain species of trees do a better job than others?

"That is the question everybody wants answered - we can’t go out with this study and tell city foresters they should plant more of this kind of tree vs. this kind of tree."

Environment & Science
7:49 am
Wed July 4, 2012

MSU President Simon expects F-RIB strategy in 2-3 weeks

MSU President Lou Anna Simon
Courtesy of MSU

 Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon says she expects to announce a strategy for the shool's much anticipated F-RIB project in two to three weeks. 

 The comment comes on the heels of an encouraging federal review of critical aspects of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

Simon stresses the importance of ongoing support from Michigan legislators in Washington.

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