Environment

Detroit Zoo

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.

Flickr - Don Faulkner

All over North America, bird watchers are looking to spot an elusive species. The rusty blackbird has experienced huge population declines, and scientists aren’t quite sure why. Current State’s Kevin Lavery goes on a “Rusty Blackbird Blitz” in northern Clinton County.

New MSU research offers rare glimpse into panda life

Apr 13, 2015
Wolong Nature Preserve

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.

MSU study raises doubts about biodegradable plastics

Mar 31, 2015
Flickr - Public Affairs

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".

Satellite image of Great Lakes
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

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.

Slimy microorganism increasing in northern Michigan lakes

Mar 24, 2015
Courtesy - Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

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.

Flickr - Dr. Farnsworth

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.

WKAR file photo

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.

Volunteers lend an ear to track Michigan toads and frogs

Mar 12, 2015

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.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

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.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/

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.

WKAR File Photo

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.

US scientists urge more research on climate engineering

Feb 17, 2015
http://aoss.engin.umich.edu/

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.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

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.

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