Earth Day, Crane Count, and Freshwater Turtles: this week in environmental news

Earth Day – April 22 (Earth Day Network): Happy Earth Day! We are now entering the 46th year of a movement that continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action. In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues.

Annual Midwest Crane Count (International Crane Foundation): The Annual Midwest Crane Count is one of the largest citizen-based wildlife surveys in the world. One of the primary purposes of the Count is to monitor the abundance and distribution of cranes in the Upper Midwest. Each year in mid-April, over 2,000 volunteers travel to their local wetlands and favorite birding locations to participate in the Crane Count. This annual survey of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes spans over 90 counties in six states of the upper Midwest (Wisconsin and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota).

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Sandhill Cranes, United States. Photo: John Ford

National Wildlife Refuges Help to Recover Threatened, Endangered Species in Michigan and Wisconsin (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Newsroom): The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative is working with the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge to help recover the threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid in Michigan. They will establish a population of threatened eastern prairie fringed orchid using plant orchid plugs in suitable habitat at the refuge. Staff will also manage an orchid population on private land near the refuge to harvest seed to supplement the planted plugs. Monitoring of the plugs and hand pollination of orchids on the private land will occur for three years, and results will be assessed to focus future recovery actions.

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Karner blue butterfly and eastern prairie fringed orchid. Photos: USFWS.

Metal heads and body burdens: Lake Michigan turtles can’t get the lead out (Great Lakes Echo): Painted and snapping turtles accumulate heavy metals in their tissues, according to a recent study in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Some of these medals come from local industries. Bearing the burdens of these metals could shorten turtle life spans and make them less fertile, although these impacts on painted and snapping turtles have not yet been measured. In fact, freshwater turtles have been a bit neglected by research. More research is needed before an ongoing metal monitoring program can be instilled.

Brockway Mountain, Butterflies, and Natural Shorelines: this week in environmental news

Residents split over approved cell phone tower (ABC 10 News): The view of the majestic Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor will soon be changed forever. The FCC gave its stamp of approval for a new cell phone tower to be placed on top of the Mountain. Supporters say the 199 foot tower will provide Verizon customers in the area with cell phone service and most importantly, access to 911 service on a cell phone. Though the addition of cell service is welcomed by many residents of the area, a group opposed to the tower has been fighting to have it placed anywhere but on Brockway. They claim that Brockway Mountain belongs to everyone, and its purpose is to give people access to a beautiful, unspoiled view.

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A black swallowtail. Photo: Creative Commons

Buffs boost black swallowtail as best bet for state butterfly (Great Lakes Echo): The black swallowtail would flit over Michigan as the official butterfly of the state if recently proposed legislation is approved. The black swallowtail was picked since it is a fulltime Michigan resident. Designating the swallowtail as the state butterfly can lead to teaching opportunities. Butterflies are part of the nature food chain, they’re beautiful and pleasing to the eye, and they’re pollinators.

Workshop teaches about the importance of natural shorelines on inland lakes (MSU Extension): The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership (MNSP), a diverse group of statewide partners including MSU Extension, MDEQ, and Michigan Lake & Stream Associations whose goals are to train contractors and landscape professionals who work at the water’s edge and educate lake residents about the importance of natural shorelines. They also provide demonstrations of shoreline landscapes that people can visit and encourage local and state policies that continue to promote local natural shoreline management. The Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners offers three separate trainings in April and May.

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Monarch butterfly with the Minneapolis skyline in the background. Photo: Kyle Daly/USFWS.

The Twin Cities of Minnesota Pledge to Help Monarch Butterflies (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Newsroom): The Twin Cities of Minnesota, and its communities, have recognized the importance of the monarch butterfly and all it stands for. Mayor Chris Coleman, of St. Paul, and Mayor Betsy Hodges, of Minneapolis, have joined forces to sign the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, making the Twin Cities the 100th locale nationwide to take the Pledge. The Pledge is a National Wildlife Federation campaign working to empower mayors and local government chief executives to help save the declining monarch butterfly.

Summer Stewardship Internships Open!

Stewardship Assistant
Volunteer Internship
Michigan Nature Association

Location: Variable by day – work will take place at numerous MNA sanctuaries across southeast Michigan.

Duration: Negotiable, May–September is preferred

Time Commitment:  Applicants should be available a minimum of one full day – can be up to 10 hours (including drive time) – per week and arrange for their own transportation to the day’s meeting location. Options to carpool with staff or other interns may be available.  Internship will be considered fulfilled when the Stewardship Assistant has completed 18 full days of volunteer service with MNA.

Required Experience: Some previous experience in the environmental field – can be through education, volunteering, past internships or jobs, etc.  Ability to perform physically demanding work outside, in a wide range of weather conditions, while maintaining a positive attitude.  Ability to communicate professionally and politely is a must as there is a high level of interaction involved with staff, stewards, and volunteers.

Responsibilities:  The Stewardship Assistant’s primary responsibility will be to assist MNA staff, stewards, and volunteers in the management of sanctuaries through various forms of field activity, which may include: removal of invasive species, trail and boundary maintenance, participating in controlled burns, conducting species surveys, site monitoring, etc.

This volunteer internship will include opportunities to:

  • Gain valuable insight into the diverse and often hidden natural environment of Michigan.  With 170+ sanctuaries that are spread across both peninsulas, interns will be exposed to a wide variety of Michigan’s animals and plants, some that are exclusive to the state.
  • Work outdoors in an academic setting that also involves getting one’s hands dirty.  You will learn basic plant identification skills, become familiar with high quality examples of many of the natural communities that occur in southeast Michigan, and gain experience with a range of common management techniques used in the restoration field.
  • Work with experts in the various fields that share a common goal in protecting and preserving our environment.  Botanists, wildlife biologists, ecologists, etc. are working directly at MNA or are closely affiliated with our organization.
  • Learn how to deal with multiple parties across different levels of involvement in the organization, along with gaining excellent communication skills.
  • Become part of an energetic and highly motivated non-profit land protection organization.

*Please Note: This is an unpaid volunteer internship.

Background Information on MNA:

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), the state’s first land preservation organization, manages and maintains over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state, totaling over 11,000 acres, through ownership and conservation easement.  Most of the sanctuaries house rare habitats and species and are managed to protect their viability.

For More Information or to Apply:

For more information on this position or to apply, please contact MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Rachel Maranto, at rmaranto@michigannature.org or 517-525-2627.  Application materials should include resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references.  For more information on MNA, please see our web site at www.michigannature.org.

Upcoming Stewardship Workshops & More

Looking to get more involved? The Michigan State University Extension offers many workshops, volunteer, and educational opportunities in spring to make a difference in your community. Sign up today! Then bring those new skills to Michigan Nature Association as a volunteer!

Free Saginaw Bay Phragmites workshop series set (MSU Extension): A new series of free public workshops planned in the region will provide information on current efforts to control Phragmites across Saginaw Bay, as well as give practical information for landowners on how to treat Phragmites on their property and how to enroll in larger group treatment programs. The workshops are free and no registration is required.

Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch helps volunteers detect invasive species in Michigan inland lakes (MSU Extension): Recently, during National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant featured aquatic invasive plants of special interest to Michigan. If you want to help detect invasive plants in your favorite lake, enroll in the Exotic Aquatic Plant Watch by April 1.

Register now to get students on board with the Great Lakes Education Program (MSU Extension): An excellent way for teachers to introduce their students to the Great Lakes is by participating in the Great Lakes Education Program, which will soon begin its 26th year of classroom and vessel-based education in southeast Michigan. Registration is now open for the spring 2016 season, which runs from mid-April through mid-June. The program allows students to understand the value of combined classroom and out-of-classroom learning, while understanding the shared ownership and stewardship responsibility we all have for the Great Lakes.

Water Quality Partnerships, Poweshiek Skipperling, and Dragonflies: this week in environmental news

Local land conservancies, Watershed Council partner up to safeguard water quality (The Livingston Post): Local land conservancies, including the Michigan Nature Association, and the Huron River Watershed Council joined forces in 2014, to help private land owners protect natural areas with the potential to impact water quality. This month, the partnership will hold information sessions throughout the Huron River’s watershed so that land owners can learn about the land protection process and register for free land assessment tools. The Huron River is considered Michigan’s cleanest urban river. It owes this designation both to historic land conservation efforts and to the watershed’s remaining natural areas.

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Reared Poweshiek skipperling. Photo: Erik Runquist/Minnesota Zoo.

Stopping Extinction of a Prairie Butterfly – Poweshiek Skipperling (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service): The Poweshiek skipperling was listed as endangered in 2014. Prairie loss and degradation led to the initial decline of the species, but causes of the recent sharp decline remain a mystery. It is suspected that several threats may be responsible, such as an unknown disease or parasite, climate change, or use of pesticides. Research has begun in an effort to narrow down the cause or causes of the decline.

Superheroes build homes for bats (Great Lakes Echo): The Organization for Bat Conservation in Bloomfield, Michigan teamed up with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and crew to raise funds and awareness for bat conservation. The set from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is getting recycled wood to auction off in the form of bat houses. The auction will be held on EBay and the money from the sales will go to the Save the Bat campaign.

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This Pantala dragonfly is a male from Japan. Photo: Alpsdake/Wikipedia

Tiny dragonfly species crushes long-distance migration record by riding high-altitude winds (Mother Nature Network): Barely an inch and a half long, the Pantala flavescens dragonfly flies across continents and oceans. Pantala dragonflies are found all over the world. Biologists recently discovered that it’s not just that some Pantala dragonflies migrate long-distance from here to there, but rather that the worldwide Pantala population is one giant gene pool, and individuals from all corners of the world are freely interbreeding. More research will be needed to gather the evidence necessary to fully prove this new hypothesis about travel via high-altitude winds, but the dragonfly’s roughly 4,400-mile migration range puts it well ahead of any other migratory insect.

U.P. Land Protection, Dark Skies Preserves, and Forests: this week in environmental news

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The Upper Peninsula’s Pilgrim River passing through Houghton County. Photo: Joe Kaplan

1,300 acres of wild Michigan land protected from development (mlive): A new state conservation easement is putting nearly 1,300 acres of copper country land and 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula under protection from development. In addition to protecting the recreational values of the land, this project also protects wildlife habitat and ensures sustainable timber management continues on the property. The forested land provides habitat for wildlife like black bears, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, fisher, pine marten, mink, and otter. It also functions as a stopover for migrating raptors and songbirds crossing Lake Superior in the spring and fall.

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Dark sky parks offer premium stargazing opportunities. Photo: Beth Anne Eckerle

Michigan expands dark skies preserves (Great Lakes Echo): A new law was created to protect northern Michigan state parks from artificial light pollution. The law specifies Rockport State Recreation Area, in Alpena and Presque Isle counties, Negwegon State Park in Alpena and Alcona counties, and Thompson’s Harbor State Park in Presque Isle County, among a few other State Parks. The designation promotes stargazing and night photography in the parks, while giving an edge to Michigan tourism. People travel all over the world, like birders, to see dark sky parks.

Invasive species threaten Michigan forests (Great Lakes Echo): The Department of Natural Resources forest report has some forestry experts worried about Michigan’s future ecological well-being. Pests such as the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid bug and the spruce budworm, combined with the warming climate, threaten several tree and animal species. Many efforts are in place to combat hemlock wooly adelgid, such as the state performing aerial surveys of 20 million forested acres and numerous ground surveys to detect disease and insect infestations.

Private companies operate at Sleeping Bear (Record Eagle): Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s landscapes and waterways call out to the inner explorer – and also to private commercial companies. From yoga classes to scattering ashes, 21 businesses use the park to offer experiences and services that the park cannot. Businesses promote the park – the more people interested in nature, the more support natural areas will get.

Michigan Historic Places, North Trail Hikes, and Wildlife Inventions: this week in environmental news

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Rice Bay on Lac Vieux Desert. Photo: National Register of Historic Places

National Register adds Michigan’s Rice Bay, historic Ishpeming building (Great Lakes Echo): The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Two sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have been added to the National Register of Historic Places – one culturally important to members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and the other related to a strike important to labor and women’s history. The first site is Rice Bay in Gogebic County, which is a wild rice-growing area covering a square quarter-mile on northeastern Lac Vieux Desert. Wild rice is an aquatic grass that is culturally important to the tribe. The second site is the 128-year-old Brasstad-Gossard Building in downtown Ishpeming, which started as a factory and later renovated into an interior mall and offices.

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Snowshoeing the North Country National Scenic Trail near Petoskey, Michigan. Photo: Dove Day

North Trail hikers set 100-mile centennial goal (Great Lakes Echo): Veteran hiker, Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan, has prepared to commemorate the National Park Service centennial in a 100-mile hike challenge sponsored by the North Country Trail Association, headquartered in Lowell, Michigan. The longest of 11 nationally designated scenic trails, North Country wanders between North Dakota and New York, following the Great Lakes through 12 national forests. The challenge is 100 miles for the 100 years of national parks. It’s a way to celebrate an important anniversary and to prepare a new generation for the next 100 years of national parks.

Secret MSU location is site of world’s longest running scientific experiment (Great Lakes Echo): The world’s longest running scientific experiment has been in operation for the past 137 years, and it’s been happening on a secret spot on the MSU campus. 137 years ago, MSU botany professor William J. Beal filled 20 bottles with seeds from common plants covered by sandy soil. Then he buried them all in a secret spot on campus. That was the beginning of what would become the world’s longest running scientific experiment and W.J. Botanical Garden. They only dig up one of the bottles every 20 years.

5 student inventions that help wildlife (Mother Nature Network): Wildlife conservation is an equal-opportunity field. With a little ingenuity and technical know-how, a person of any age and educational level can make a valuable contribution. Thanks to these five impressive student creations, many endangered species will be getting a much needed leg up on survival. The creations include an electronic scent dispenser, mushroom water filter, drones to keep an eye in the sky on poachers, squid-jet, and a hoglodge: a hedgehog haven.