Environment & Science

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

If you have any kind of affection for penguins – and really, who doesn't? – start making plans to check out the Detroit Zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

The zoo's biggest, most complex project ever is set to open its doors next week. 

The $30 million conservation center aims to be a state-of-the-art habitat for 83 King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins.

The Canada warbler is declining throughout its range in the U.S.
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Some kinds of birds are doing better in our changing climate, and others are declining. These changes are happening in similar ways in both the U.S. and Europe.

Those are the findings of a new study in the journal Science.

Phil Stephens is a senior lecturer in ecology at Durham University in the UK, and he’s a lead author of the study. 

Stephens and an international team of researchers studied data on more than 500 common species of birds over a 30 year period (1980-2010) in both Europe and the U.S.

Marc Edwards delivers the results of the tests on April 12, 2016.
YouTube / screen grab

New tests from the team at Virginia Tech show Flint’s water is “highly variable” and still not safe to drink without a filter.

Marc Edwards says tests done last month show Flint’s water is still above the federal action level for lead.

More from their press release:

A view of Zug Island from Windsor, Ontario in 2009
user Jamie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A few years ago, residents in the southern and western parts of Windsor complained of a mysterious noise. It was described as a “hum” sound that brought with it vibrations that were often strong enough to rattle windows.

Here is an example of the "Windsor Hum" that was recorded by Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton in May of 2012 (It was digitally enhanced so you are able to hear it on your speakers).

Fishing on Lake Huron
U.S. Department of the Interior

The lake trout used to be the fish to catch in the Great Lakes. But by the 1950s, severe overfishing and an infestation of an eel-like, blood-sucking parasite called the sea lamprey had drastically reduced the number of lake trout and other fish.

Then, a fish called the alewife invaded the Great Lakes through man-made canals.

Without enough lake trout to keep them in check, alewife populations exploded, and have since varied wildly year to year. Dead alewives have been spotted washed up on beaches in piles stretching miles along Great Lakes coasts.

In 1964, the Department of Natural Resources hired a fish biologist named Howard Tanner. They asked him to figure out how to deal with the alewife problem, and left him with an order: “Make it spectacular.”

Courtesy Photograph / Land Conservancy of West Michigan

A 25-year struggle is almost over to save two acres of beach and dunes from development in Muskegon County.

The property will expand the Barrier Dunes Sanctuary and add 204 feet of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline to the existing 1,100 feet of public land, bringing the total length to one-quarter mile.

The land had been slated for a road and home construction.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this week to allocate $300,000 to help buy the scenic two-acre parcel. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, the U.S. EPA wants more transparency about where the nation’s lead lines are. Specifically, the EPA wants to know how many lead service lines there still are underground, and they want to know exactly where they are. As we reported Tuesday, many Michigan cities do not know this basic information, it’s not just Flint.

The EPA also wants water systems to post the results from water tests to prove cities are in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

This week, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gave the feds an update on these requests.

In 2010, oil spilled into a creek near the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge Line 6b
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It was April of 2010 when Enbridge Line 6b ruptured, spilling more than a million gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil into a creek near Kalamazoo.

It was the largest inland spill in United States history.

That spill gave Michiganders a very good reason to sit up and pay closer attention to the nearly 3,300 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines that weave through our state, particularly Enbridge Line 5, which runs in the Straits of Mackinac.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state is now recommending that cities avoid replacing only part of a water service line if it's made of lead. Partial replacements aren’t uncommon.

Typically the municipality only owns part of the line, the part from the water main to the property line. This is the publicly owned portion of the service line. In this case, the part of the line that runs from the public right of way into a home is the privately owned portion of the line.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

Seven of Consumers Energy's oldest and smallest coal-burning power plants will shut down for good on April 15.

They're being shut down to comply with an order to reduce mercury emissions.

Spokesman Brian Wheeler says the shutdown is expected to be smooth.

"Power plants obviously do go on and offline at different times," says Wheeler.  "Sometimes plants get shut down for maintenance.  So the shutdown process  isn't that difficult, but once they're closed for sure by April 15th, they won't come back."

20 Michigan parks to stay open late for Dark Sky Week

Apr 3, 2016
Night Sky
User: seriousfun / MorgueFile.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Twenty of Michigan's state parks and recreation areas will stay open late during International Dark Sky Week, which begins Monday and continues through next Sunday.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the parks are good spots for self-guided stargazing.

If you're interested, call ahead for individual park hours and bring a blanket to deal with frosty night weather.

markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward on a new rule to cut air pollution in part of Wayne County.

The rule will limit sulfur dioxide emissions from two US Steel facilities. They’re in southwest Detroit and two downriver suburbs deemed in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Barb Rosenbaum is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality division.

She says the agency is still working on a larger sulfur dioxide attainment plan for that area, after getting feedback on an initial draft.

Studies show the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population has decreased by as much as 80% in the last decade.
flickr user Paul VanDerWerf / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Scientists continue to keep a nervous eye on North America’s eastern monarch butterfly population.

That population has dropped by more than 80% over the past decade.

A study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports suggests there’s a “substantial chance” that monarchs could become “quasi-extinct” within the next 20 years.

David Schwab looked at 840 simulated spill scenarios. This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Isle Royale National Park

The National Park Service is taking a closer look at whether or not to bring more grey wolves to Isle Royale National Park. Only two wolves remain on the island now.

To help make its decision, the park service wants to hear from you. It’s accepting public comments on the question right now.

At one point, there were as many as 50 wolves on Isle Royale. But Phyllis Green, Superintendent of the Isle Royale National Park, says that number was abnormal.

Save The Wild UP / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan-based environmental organization is taking a new approach to protect a patch of land near the Yellow Dog River in northern Marquette County in the Upper Peninsula. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve started a crowd funding campaign to raise money to purchase the 695-acre property to protect it from development.

Emily Whittaker, the special projects manager at the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve joined Stateside to talk about the Yellow Dog River Community Forest campaign and what makes the land so special.

DTE Energy

DTE  will build a solar power array on 10 acres of vacant land in Detroit. 

The utility says it will be one of the largest urban solar power projects in the country, producing enough electricity to power about 450 homes. 

The array will be located at the former O'Shea Park, near I-96 and Greenfield Road. 

The utility will pay the city $1 million over 20 years to lease the land, and the deal also requires DTE to develop a new community park, and provide STEM education, workforce development and energy efficiency programs to benefit the local community.

flickr user DryHundredFear / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

How do we break down stereotypes about each other?

That question has driven a Michigan State University journalism class to create a series of guides to help disassemble the myths and stereotypes about different groups in our country.

Bias Busters: Guides to Cultural Competence have been created by students. They're a series of questions and answers about African-Americans, East Asian cultures, Native Americans and more.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $41 million to help farmers in the West Lake Erie Basin reduce phosphorus runoff through voluntary programs.

Gail Philbin of the Michigan Chapter Sierra Club says "every little bit helps," but she thinks there are a number of other things that could do more to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie.

The nutrient encourages the growth of bacteria and algae blooms.

Flickr user USFWSmidwest / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease caused by a fungus. It’s killing bats in 27 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces.

It was first discovered in North America around a decade ago. Researchers think it came over from Europe, possibly on the shoes of a tourist or caver.

Deb Nystrom / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Ann Arbor Township and the city of Ann Arbor are both pushing for a federal cleanup of the dioxane plume that has been working its way through the city’s groundwater for several years. The concern is that the 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen, could eventually reach Ann Arbor’s main water source in the years to come.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is asking all water systems to come up with plans to find and replace lead pipes in their communities, even the portions of water service lines that are on private property, which are traditionally the responsibility of the homeowner.

Somewhere beneath the waves of Lake Michigan lies the wreck of the 'Andaste'
flickr user Daniel X. O'Neil / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Great Lakes knows that there are secrets beneath those waves: ships that have foundered.

Many have been found, and their locations are well known, but there are still mysteries to be unlocked.

One of the biggest dates back to a night in September 1929. The ship Andaste was headed from Grand Haven to Chicago when it vanished in a sudden storm on Lake Michigan.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie in late July of this year.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It will take big changes to current farming practices to reduce phosphorous runoff into Lake Erie. 

According to a new study by the University of Michigan Water Center, stronger measures are needed to achieve the 40 percent drop from 2008 runoff levels agreed to last month by the U.S. and Canadian governments. 

Phosphorous from farm fertilizers feed the kind of toxin-producing algae blooms that contaminated Toledo's drinking water in 2014 and caused a two day shut down of the city's tap water.

Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines runs under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

At the Straits, it splits into two pipelines. Both pipelines are 63 years old (they were installed in 1953).

Right now, we don’t have all the information about the condition of those pipelines. As we’ve reported many times, Enbridge holds all the cards. The company has shared some information with the public, but not a lot.

From left to right, RECaP research assistant Sophia Jingo, Tutilo Mudumba and Robert Montgomery
Dave Ellis / Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Wildlife conservation in Africa is an important and difficult environmental issue for the continent as many of the planet’s most majestic animals are under threat. A group at Michigan State University is working to find creative ways to minimize the loss of animals such as lions, giraffes and elephants.

Robert Montgomery, an assistant professor with MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Tutilo Mudumba, a graduate student from Uganda, joined Stateside to talk about their efforts with the RECaP Laboratory.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a free curriculum to teachers as part of a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty.

  The U.S. signed the treaty with Great Britain in 1916. The British were acting on behalf of Canada. Similar agreements were reached shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. All are designed to protect birds that migrate across international borders.

Two more deer confirmed to have chronic wasting disease

Mar 18, 2016

Since May of last year, Michigan has now had seven deer test positive for chronic wasting disease.

The two latest cases come out of Ingham and Clinton Counties. Officials with the Department of Natural Resources have been testing deer across the state, having checked around 4,900 animals so far.

Deer program specialist Chad Stewart said he's not ready to call this an "outbreak" yet, but the findings aren't great. 

"It is disheartening that we keep finding more positives because the more we find the more likely that the disease becomes established," he said.

Residents in Flint, Mich., are still living in a state of emergency, waiting for answers about the safety of their water.

After almost two years of bad drinking water, it can be hard for them to trust researchers and officials – except for a group of independent researchers from Virginia Tech who exposed the problem last summer.

"So we trust them. We don't trust nobody else," says Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, a resident of Flint.