CMU Studies Freshwater Contaminants, Michigan Gains Solar Jobs

For Feb. 10, 2017

1 – Contaminants of emerging concern are in everyday products from soap to pharmaceuticals.

But their environmental impact is largely unknown. A Central Michigan University biologist is studying how these contaminants in the water and sediment affect the ecosystems and life cycles of freshwater mussels.

Biologist Daelyn Woolnough is looking at freshwater mussels and largemouth bass, which act as hosts for mussel larvae.

Of the more than 40 freshwater mussel species in the Great Lakes, more than 70 percent are endangered or threatened. Their populations have been impacted by invasive species like the zebra mussel, and may be impacted by contaminants of emerging concern, which also include agricultural products.

Freshwater mussels filter water from the basins in which they reside, and they don’t move around like fish. So testing mussel tissue or contaminants will tell researchers what’s happening at the bottom of rivers.

The results may help inform management and conservation decisions.

2 – Michigan gained 1,339 solar industry jobs in 2016, representing a 48 percent increase in the state’s solar workforce.

A new National Solar Jobs Census from the nonprofit Solar Foundation says Michigan now has a total of 4,118 solar workers, up from 2,779 in 2015.

One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2 percent of all new jobs.

Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10 percent.

In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.

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– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

State of Great Lakes Research, Lighthouse Keepers, Smart Meters

For Jan. 6, 2017

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/l27jv46zb34by51/mrgreatlakes-environment-report-1-6-17.mp3]


1 – Universities in the Saginaw Bay region are helping tackle complex issues facing the Great Lakes.

tawas point lighthouse keepers michigan dnr

Tawas Point Lighthouse. Credit: Michigan DNR

A State of the Great Lakes report released this week notes work by the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute, part of Saginaw Valley State University, and the Institute for Great Lakes Research, part of Central Michigan University (see page 32).

SVSU researchers are using drones for water quality monitoring. The unmanned drones can travel to remote places to collect water samples. They can bore through ice, which is faster, more efficient and safer than sending researchers out onto the frozen Great Lakes.

CMU is using the Beaver Island Ferry to collect data on Lake Michigan. The boat moves people to and from Beaver Island and also uses equipment to measure water chemistry and temperature. 

2 – The Tawas Point Lighthouse is looking for tour guides.

Those selected can spend the summer as volunteer lighthouse keepers, and live on site in exchange for conducting the tours. The program runs from May 17 through Oct. 17.

The lighthouse, located in Tawas Point State Park, has been in operation since 1876.

Keeper tasks include giving tours, greeting visitors, providing information about the lighthouse and the area, and light maintenance duties.

The minimum commitment for staying at the lighthouse is two consecutive weeks.

Applications are available online at michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

3 – New meters will allow Consumers Energy customers to track usage and save money, the company says.

Consumers Energy plans to complete a five-year statewide project by the end of this year, installing 1.8 million meters for electricity and natural gas.

Midland and Bay counties will begin receiving upgrades in the spring. Clare and Gladwin counties are scheduled for the summer.

Customers can use the new meters to choose their billing date, sign up and receive alerts when their energy use is trending higher than usual, and review their energy use by hour, day or month.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkarton Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Tripling Renewables, Raising Rates, Rebuilding Reef

For Friday, Dec. 11, 2015

1 – Michigan electric cooperatives are going above and beyond a state renewable energy standard.

According to Electric Co-op Today, electric cooperatives in Michigan plan to triple the state’s 10 percent requirement.

One deal is between Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative and Exelon Generation.

Exelon plans to break ground in the spring on a wind project in Sanilac County. When it begins delivering electricity in 2016, Wolverine expects to have more than 350 megawatts of wind in its portfolio, putting Michigan cooperatives at a 30 percent renewable level.

Michigan’s renewable energy standard was signed into law in 2008. It requires electric providers to draw at least 10 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2015.

– via GLREA

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2 – Consumers Energy is raising its electric rates, in part to focus on environmental protection.

Beginning Dec. 1, Consumers is increasing its electric rates by $130 million annually.

The utility plans to purchase an existing natural gas plant in Jackson and retire seven coal-fired units across the state.

Residential customers using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will see an increase of $1.88 on their monthly bill after the natural gas plant is acquired, according to state regulators.

In April 2016, the rate increase will be reduced by about 60 cents a month for residential customers when Consumers retires the seven coal plants.

The seven include two units at the J.C. Weadock plant in Bay County.

3 – Scientists from Central Michigan University are helping rebuild a reef for native fish.

They’re working with others from The Nature Conservancy and Michigan Department of Natural Resources to lower about 450 tons of limestone into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

The reef is intended to help populations of lake herring, lake whitefish and lake trout.

(VIDEO)

An old reef was degraded by a dock built more than 130 years ago for the iron ore industry.

The project aims to mimic healthy reefs to encourage fish to spawn there, according to a CMU professor.

Rocks were selected from a local quarry to match the size, shape, and composition of cobble in two nearby healthy reefs.

Besides rebuilding the reef, the team also is working to control invasive species such as round goby and rusty crayfish, which prey on eggs spawned by native fish.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Saginaw Part of Nationwide ‘Livability’ Project, Invasives Sold at Bait Shops

For Sept. 5, 2014

1 – The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County has been picked for a national Livability Initiative.

shiawassee refuge livability map

The four communities selected for the initiative. Via The Conservation Fund.

It’s an effort to help Gateway Communities assess and improve natural assets that make them appealing places in which to live, work and play.

Gateway Communities are those adjacent to wildlife refuges and other public lands. In this case, the initiative will look at the cities of Saginaw, Frankenmuth and Birch Run, along with Spaulding, James and Bridgeport townships.

The Livability Initiative is a two-year project by the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other organizations.

From Sept. 9-11, the refuge and its Gateway Communities will take part in an assessment to evaluate key livability factors, including transportation options, affordable housing, employment and business opportunities, and community character.

Another partner, The Conservation Fund, will develop a livability report that outlines key recommendations. A local workshop will follow on ways to advance the proposals.

The Saginaw County refuge and its Gateway Communities are one of only four in the nation chosen for the project.

The others are in Oregon, South Carolina, and Colorado.

2A scientific paper says the bait fish trade represents a serious threat for spreading invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Researchers from Central Michigan University and the University of Notre Dame tested water samples from tanks containing small fish for sale as bait at more than 500 shops around the eight-state region.

Twenty-seven of the samples tested positive for DNA of invasive fish, such as Asian carp.

Andrew Mahon of CMU says the findings suggest that at least some invaders are being spread by anglers who dump unused bait into the water.

A Notre Dame scientist says more consistent bait fish regulation among Michigan and other Great Lakes states is needed.

The scientists say the study is the first systematic effort to document the presence of invasive species in bait supplies using a tool known as “environmental DNA,” in which water samples are examined in a lab for signs of genetic fingerprints from particular fish.

The paper was published in a journal called Conservation Genetics Resources.

Via AP

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

 

Scooping up Dioxins and Mapping Coastal Wetlands

For Aug. 15, 2014

Update, Aug. 18: A comment link has been posted http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/pubcomment-201408.html

1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil in frequently flooded areas along the Tittabawassee River.

The floodplain includes about 4,500 acres and extends along 21 miles of the river below the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland.

The proposed plan calls for a combination of steps, according to EPA:

If tests show a high-enough contamination level in homeowners’ yards, workers will dig up and remove contaminated soil, replace it with clean soil, and restore grasses and plants.

In other areas, such as farms, parks, and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, contaminated soil will be trucked away for disposal or covered with clean material. Some areas will be replanted.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed cleanup plan through Oct. 14. (As of 2 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 15, a comment link was not available at www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/). A public meeting is planned for Sept. 24 in Freeland.

2- A Central Michigan University helicopter is on the job.

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The tiny, six-foot-long chopper is being used by Central Michigan University researchers to study Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

The craft is fitted with a high-resolution digital camera. It was recently in the sky at Wilderness State Park near Carp Lake, along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The ‘copter’s onboard camera took thousands of aerial photos that researchers will use to map locations of Pitcher’s thistle, a threatened native plant that grows on beaches and grassland dunes along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.

The CMU researchers hope data from the helicopter, along with ground sampling efforts, will allow scientists to cover larger areas and get a better understanding of how ecosystems around the Great Lakes are changing.

The project has research support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The helicopter’s aerial method of data collection and mapping is relatively new technology.

Pitcher’s thistle, an important food source for certain birds and small mammals, was once fairly common in sand dune ecosystems of Michigan. Its numbers have declined in recent decades due to habitat destruction associated with shoreline development, recreational use, and  invasive plant species.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Mystery Genes in Great Lakes Beach Sand & Fixing Fishing Guides

As heard at 9 a.m. Eastern, Fridays on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

Speak Up on DNR Fishing and Hunting Guides

photo e coli bacteria petri dish great lakes beach sand

Photo by Anthony D'Onofrio

The state Department of Natural Resources is working on improved fishing guides and hunting digests for 2013.

But first, they’re asking for public input in an effort to make the guides more useful.

So if you’ve ever struggled to understand or make sense of a fishing or hunting guide from the DNR, here’s your chance to speak up.

Feedback is being gathered over the next several months from focus groups and surveys, according to Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

The surveys must be completed by Feb. 3.

The results will help identify discussion topics for focus groups to be held in late February and March.

For more information, see the Hunting and Trapping Digest survey, and the Fishing Guide survey.

This E. Coli Attaches to Your Intestines

Central Michigan University researchers have found mysterious genes in the sands of Great Lakes beaches.

The genes are from disease-causing E. coli bacteria, which can make people sick and lead to beach closings.

E. coli is a common indicator bacteria used by health departments to test beach waters.

But here’s something more uncommon: The E. coli pathogens found at seven beaches contained genes that can attach to a person’s intestinal wall and secrete toxins.

Those were found in sand at public beaches along Lake St. Clair, and Lake Huron. Researchers speculate that the bacteria could be using these “attachment genes” to survive in the sand.

The scientists say more study is needed to assess the health implications of these findings.

You can read more in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

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