Tag Archives: Great Lakes

Kildee optimistic new Canadian government will reconsider location of nuclear waste storage facility

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint)

Canada recently announced it was delaying the approval process for a new nuclear waste storage facility near the shore of Lake Huron.

Rep. Dan Kildee has been one of the most outspoken American critics of the facility. He is optimistic the newly-elected government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reconsider placing such a facility so close to the shore of Lake Huron. Continue reading

Saginaw Bay Conservation and Development awarded federal grant to work on Great Lakes restoration

saginaw bay conA central Michigan organization has been awarded a federal grant to help restore the Great Lakes and its watersheds.

The Saginaw Bay Conservation and Development Center was awarded a $30,000 grant to work on the Cass River. Work will focus on things like streambank stabilization, fish habitat restoration and sediment reduction.
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The DEQ awards several grants to protect Michigan’s Great Lakes coastal wetlands

The state on Monday, August 7th, announced more than $700,000 in grants aimed at supporting coastal projects across Michigan.coastal-wetland-tobico_marsh

Central Michigan University received the largest single amount at $100,000.
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U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow visits CMU for symposium

Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow delivered the keynote address at today’s “Great Lakes Science in Action” symposium at Central Michigan University.
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CMU receives nearly 400K for invasive species research

European Frogbit

European Frogbit

CMU has been awarded nearly $400,000 to expand its work on controlling invasive species in Michigan, which was the second highest grant amount received among 19 other organizations.

According to the DNR, the grant aims to evaluate and expand management tools for invasive species in the Great Lakes.
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New Great Lakes cruise liner to embark this summer

Above is the M.S. Saint Laurent's expected travel route from Montreal to Chicago. Graphic courtesy of the Great Lakes Cruise Company.

Above is the M.S. Saint Laurent’s expected travel route from Montreal to Chicago. Graphic courtesy of the Great Lakes Cruise Company.

Cruises across the Great Lakes are slowly becoming a part of the region’s culture, and new offerings are promising travelers a journey not just across the lakes, but also through time.
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Tracing human impacts to the Great Lakes miles from the shore

As PhD student Neil Schock stood next to what looks like a ditch to the untrained eye, he recorded water data with another CMU student.

They’re actually near a wetland, and Schock is working on what will eventually be his dissertation.

He wants to create a mathematical tool that the Department of Environmental Quality will use to determine whether or not a wetland has a ground water connection. If so, the DEQ has jurisdiction over that ecosystem and is able to protect it from being repurposed.

So what does Neil do with these readings?

“All this data that were collecting will go into multivariate ordinal statistics to kinda generate out what we’re seeing in those environments. Taking all those parameters with multiple dimensions and kinda boil them down into a few dimensions so we can visualize what’s happening in those areas.”

This is no small undertaking, and Schock is building this research from the ground up.

You may wonder, ‘what does a wetland have to do with climate change?’ Experts like Don Uzarski, the director of CMU’s Institute for the Great Lakes Restoration, say the answer is a lot.

“Were just starting to realize in the past probably 20 years just how important these small systems are, small or large, to the overall ecosystem and the Great Lakes in particular.”

Uzarski says this murky, unglamorous area is imperative to the health of Michigan’s water system, explaining that wetlands act as the kidneys of Michigan’s larger waterways.

“So anything that we put on the agricultural field or even a dry precipitation or dust that falls on to the field, theres going to be nutrients, theres going to be some level of toxicants associated with that. In this case its going to come through this wetland. Even though its in the center of Michigan its still acting as a filter and processing that material before it makes it down to that drainage ditch eventually makes it to a stream, that will eventually make its way to the Great Lakes.”

Uzarski says Schock’s work is crucial to the health of the United State’s waterways. He says America is essentially running on a single kidney at this point.

“50 percent of wetlands nationwide have been lost. In some regions though, like the Saginaw Bay region we’ve lost 95 percent of the coastal wetlands already. Other states are in much worse shape than we are.”

Back in the field, Schock explains that although he’s pioneering this kind of wetland experimentation, he never feels lost.

“For the most part we’ll let the data lead us, Ya know, data doesn’t lie. Ya just kinda go with what ya got and with the resources that you have, and with sound statistical analysis it will lead you where you wanna go.”

There’s one quality I’ve found in every scientist I talked to for this series. Pride in the Great Lakes, and the state of Michigan.

Schock, says he wants to protect the Great Lakes with his research by stopping potential negative impacts at their source.

“It’s easy to lose sight of where certain things are impacting the Great Lakes. I’ve always been interested in the Great Lakes ecosystem and the health of the Great Lakes, so you gotta get down to where are these impacts coming from. And this is a big part of that.”

Schock says if things continues to run smoothly, his wetland tool should be ready for statewide use in two to three years.

He says the best part of his job is the office he works in. Michigan’s outdoors, the trees, the wildlife and the clean water is one of the defining features of the Great Lakes state. Schock and Uzarski ‘clock in’ every day to ensure those features will still be there when the rest of us ‘clock out’.

CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research receives nearly quarter million in funding

wet leaf Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research, or IGLR, has recently received $274,157 to enhance its research of coastal wetlands.

The funding comes by grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Dr. Don Uzarski, Director of the IGLR, says this research is crucial to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“Imagine a coastal wetland just along the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes. That coastal wetland is somewhere between a truly aquatic system and something upland. It’s essentially the last line of defence of anything coming off the landscape has to go through that coastal wetland, and that coastal wetland has the function of removing that material before it makes it into the great lakes.”

Uzarski says over time, the U.S. has lost half of its native wetlands.

In certain areas, like the Saginaw Bay region, up to 95 percent of the coastal wetlands have been repurposed or severely impacted by invasive species.

The newly announced funding comes on top of a five-year $10-million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that IGLR researchers are already receiving.

State library to host Michigan Nautical Gathering


Michigan is home to 3,000 miles of coastline and surrounded by the largest freshwater source in the world. The Michigan Nautical Gathering, being held next month in Lansing, will show our appreciation for it.
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Effects of climate change on the food web of the Great Lakes


Recently I talked to scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, or GLERL, in Ann Arbor to learn more about the specific ways climate change is effecting the Great Lakes.

Dr. Ed Rutherford is a biologist at GLERL. He wasted no time in surprising me with a prediction about the future of the Great Lakes State.
“The trend is that the temperatures will rise, and since really 1998 they’ve generally been going up. So predictions are, this is by the International Panel of Climate Change and scientists from our region, predicted based on climate models that our climate will be like Arkansas or Kentucky’s in the next 40-50 years.”

Rutherford says this would have a dramatic effect on wildlife in Michigan.

Some people argue that the recent record breaking winter Michigan experienced couldn’t occur in the midst of a warming period. But, Dr. Brent Lofgren, another GLERL scientist, says; daily weather patterns and historic climate models are two very different things.

“One of the main things that I think people should know about climate change is not to just judge it by what they’re experiencing right now, but that we have very strong reasons to expect that it will continue in the future. Even though there’s variability in both time and space that can mask it on the local level as you’re looking out the window, it’s really inevitable that it will continue to creep forward if you keep putting more and more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.”

Lofgren says warmer temperatures are making the Great Lakes increasingly habitable for invasive species. These unwanted creatures abuse the natural food web of the Great Lakes Ecosystem. Invasives lock up potential energy and often outcompete natural species in the process.

Dr. Ashley Baldridge is a Benthic Ecologist at GLERL.

She says she has found a dramatic change to a very important part of the Great Lakes food web.

“The most profound change has been reduction of phytoplankton after the widespread proliferation of quagga mussels around the lake. The whole base of the food chain is now severely reduced, so less food for phytoplankton, less food for the smaller prey fish like alewife, and then for the larger predatory fish. So its just taking out productivity at the very basic of base levels.”

Scientists say one of the most significant organisms in the Great Lakes food web, Diporeia, is severely at risk. This tiny shrimp-like critter provides food for nearly every animal in the Lakes. Their position at the bottom of the food web is what makes them so pivotal.

Dr. Rutherford says he is skeptical as to whether or not this crucial crustacean will remain a viable source of energy for the Lakes.

“Well the diporeia decline has been so dramatic in four of the five great lakes that I would be surprised if they came back.”

Rutherford and his colleagues say diporeia’s decline is likely due to a virus that was introduced into the Great Lakes by quagga mussels.

Although invasives like the quagga mussel and round goby have hurt the Great Lakes ecosystem, Rutherford says the native species are not going down without a fight.

“There is a silver lining in some of these large food web changes. They’re not all drastic. The members of the food web seem to adapt in pretty unpredictable ways. The top predators in the great lakes, many have switched to eating those round gobies. The good side of this story is that were seeing reproduction of species that haven’t been able to reproduce successfully in decades.”

If animals can adapt, so can we. Dr. Baldridge says she believes people who live in the Great Lakes region will inevitably begin to make a more positive impact on their environment.

“Well theres so much regional pride, around here, and theres so much pride in the Great Lakes. Just the more people can connect their personal actions and decisions they make, what products they support, what activities they partake in, what they allow to happen in their area. . .that all impacts the Great Lakes. So hopefully that Great Lakes pride can translate into very conscientious activities.”

In the next and final portion of our three part feature on the Great Lakes and climate change, we will turn our gaze further inland: Focusing on how things we do miles away from the shore can still impact the Lakes.