The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it’s found a deer in Meridian Township that’s tested positive for chronic wasting disease. It’s the first reported case of the disease in the state since 2008, and the very first time it has occurred in a wild deer population. Chronic wasting disease is not harmful to humans, but is always fatal to deer.
For the third time in recent years, opponents of hydraulic fracturing are organizing to end the practice in Michigan. The Committee to Ban Fracking, based in Charlevoix, has begun a ballot campaign hoping to put a ban before voters in next years general election.
Say the words “climate change,” and the first thing that might come to mind is melting polar ice caps. That’s an accurate image, but of course, climate change affects the entire planet. Scientists say the rising tides from all that melting ice have to go somewhere, and some Michigan State University students are watching one remote part of the world that’s starting to see some effects.
At the end of each month, we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. This month, some of the biggest environmental stories had to do with energy and how we transport it across the Great Lakes region.
Earlier this week, Valerie Brader, an attorney and former senior policy adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder, assumed her role as executive director of the new Michigan Agency for Energy. Brader will be the top energy adviser to Snyder and state department leaders. Snyder created the agency by executive order in March after setting it as a priority in January’s State of the State address.
The alewife was once the scourge of the Great Lakes. The small, silver herring made its way into the basin through the St. Lawrence River in the late 19th century and proceeded to wreak havoc on the ecosystem. If you were around the region in the 1960s, you might remember the stench of thousands of dead alewives washing up on Great Lakes beaches. Now, scientists are concerned with a decline in the population of this invasive species and how the shrinking numbers of alewives could impact their main predator, the popular Chinook salmon.
In the coming year, nine of Michigan’s coal-fired power plants are scheduled to retire. That has environmentalists and renewable energy advocates cheering. And the state’s two major utilities, Consumer’s Energy and DTE, say they are ready to invest in a more sustainable energy future. But first, the companies say, Michigan has to return to a fully regulated electricity market.
There’s no shortage of talk in Michigan about renewable energy sources. But despite all our efforts to go green, our state is still very dependent on fossil fuels. Recently, a Traverse City-based oil and gas company has been looking at an area in and around the city of Mason as a possible drilling site.
Think about an everyday substance like pollen. There’s lots of it floating around right now. It’s probably on your car windows. Botanists think of pollen’s role in the world as helping propagate new plants. Allergists think of pollen’s role as being something that causes sneezing.
Dozens of bird lovers have journeyed to Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo recently to view the area’s first nesting bald eagles in decades. The nest sits in a large tree in a marshy area in the middle of the Red Cedar river. What’s the likelihood that the birds could make that area a permanent home? Biologist Christopher Hull has his doubts. He has vield the nest and the eagles a number of times, and he thinks the eagles may be in the process of abandoning the nest now.
State officials and other stakeholders are asking Michigan commuters a question: do you drive to work alone? If so, they want to remind you of options that could not only reduce air pollution, but lower your gas budget and benefit your health. Governor Rick Snyder has declared May Commuter Challenge Month. Part of the effort is aimed at the many drive alone commuters that you see on the state’s roads every day.
Along with the spring tulips and early morning birds, you might have also started to notice a few butterflies now that the weather has warmed up. Michigan is home to over 150 species of butterflies, from swallowtails to monarchs. And that means that soon, volunteer monitors will be out in full force for the annual state butterfly survey.
From March Madness to April showers, the signs of spring have been making their arrival in Michigan these past few weeks. You’ve probably also noticed a few more bird songs accompanying those first rays of morning light. Bird enthusiasts such as Harris Nature Center bird naturalist Clare Bratton have been venturing out more and more lately, binoculars at the ready.
At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we’re focusing on agriculture and water across the country, from California to the Great Lakes.
There’s a lot to see at the Detroit Zoo: polar bears, giraffes, and crocodiles. But there’s also a lot that you don’t see, like all the poop from those animals. So, what happens to the animal waste from those lions and tigers and bears? At the Detroit Zoo, it could soon be turned into electricity.
All sorts of migratory birds that winter in the southern United States are returning to their northern breeding grounds. Many birds that live in Canada and Alaska are passing through Michigan. Bird watchers are keeping a close eye out for one particular subspecies whose numbers have plummeted over a period of decades.
Pandas, with their distinctive markings and decidedly cuddly appearance, are an international symbol for conservation. But because wild pandas are incredibly elusive, little research has been done on their behaviors in the wild. For a long time, the Chinese government outlawed using radio collars to track pandas. Now, a team of MSU researchers are among the first to be allowed to use GPS to track wild pandas in China, and they found out some surprising things about these elusive creatures.
A new study out of MSU finds that some additives that supposedly help plastic bags biodegrade really aren’t effective. Issues of biodegradation and recycling are a lot more complicated than “good plastic vs. bad plastic".
At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we look at the latest developments in Flint’s drinking water problems, hear about a conference on toxic algae blooms, and look at what the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case could mean for Michigan’s energy policy.
For decades, first time visitors to the Natural Resources building on the MSU campus have been startled by the guard keeping watch by the north doors. Standing nine feet tall and weighing 300 pounds, a huge polar bear stands frozen in time, in a menacing pose. Polar bears have been on the Endangered Species list since 2008, and though long dead, the MSU bear is once again in danger. The bear was killed in Barrow, Alaska in 1957. It’s showing some wear and needs to be repaired soon.
Scientists are noting increased numbers of a zooplankton in some inland lakes that are just plain slimy. Holopedium glacialis is a mucus-coated microorganism that, in groups, makes a ball of slime something like clear tapioca pudding. The slime can clog water pipes and disrupt the food web.
Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder announced the creation of a new state entity: the Michigan Agency for Energy. The action comes less than a week after the governor called on the state to increase its reliance on clean energy. Snyder has set a goal for the state to draw up to 40-percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. He also wants to see the state become more energy efficient and reduce waste.
Nitrogen plays an essential role in plant growth, but it’s a scarce resource in nature. Farmers used to have to use beans or legumes to fix the nutrient into their fields. But with the advent of artificial fertilizers, agriculture has been able to bypass that step and put the nitrogen directly into the soil. While this has allowed farmers to increase production of nutrient intensive crops like corn, it’s had some other, not so great, side effects.
In the natural world, it’s fair to say that if amphibians aren’t happy, then nobody’s happy. Frogs and toads are incredibly sensitive to water quality, and an upcoming volunteer survey in Michigan aims to check on amphibian well-being in the state.
Hector Moreno (center) instructs Lansing-area assessors on the types of environmental and health hazards they may encounter in their work in the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. Moreno is an environmental assessor with the national GHHI office in Baltimore, Maryland.
Anyone who’s ever bought or lived in an older home knows there is always something to fix. In an ideal situation, it’s a patch here, some paint there, but older homes are sometimes plagued with environmental problems that can threaten the health of their occupants. These issues run the gamut from lead paint chips to mold to leaky stoves and furnaces. A new program in Lansing is now training assessors to not only document those defects, but to help improve residents’ health.
Take a look in your medicine cabinet or your shower and you’re likely to find microbeads. Those are the small plastic spheres used as exfoliants in products like face wash or toothpaste. The tiny beads have been big news since scientists found them showing up in the Great Lakes several years ago. Last week, Michigan became the latest state to introduce legislation that would ban products containing microbeads.
At the end of each month, we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin.
For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we hear about progress on pet coke in Chicago, what’s next for fracking in Michigan, and how budget cuts could impact the fight against Asian carp in the basin.
Machines that suck carbon out of the air. Fertilizing the ocean with iron to stimulate phytoplankton. Spraying sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect the sun and cool the earth. These scenarios might sound like science fiction, but they are increasingly being considered by scientists as a potentially necessary tool in the fight against climate change.
Madelyn Armstrong (left) and Chloe Hypes are among a group of students from Stockbridge High School who spent 24 hours in a submersible chamber in Key Largo, Florida. They spoke with students back in Stockbridge via Skype.
Back in October, we told you on this program about a team of students at Stockbridge High School in rural Ingham County who build robots. The Stockbridge students build underwater robots that search for downed World War Two aircraft in the South Pacific. Now, some of the kids are off on another expedition where it’s considerably warmer than it is here.