Snapping turtles, wildfire smoke and Michigan recycling rates: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Snapping turtle. Photo from MNA archives

Snapping turtle. Photo from MNA archives

Snapping turtles finding refuge in urban areas while habitats are being polluted (Science Daily): Snapping turtles’ habitats are being destroyed by pollution and land development, which is causing them to move into urban areas. Many people are hesitant to encounter a snapping turtle. Bill Peterman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Missouri, assures that the animal will only bite when provoked. Peterman also suggest that the way to get snapping turtles back to their habitat is for people to use fewer chemicals that eventually end up in waterways. Using fewer chemicals would also benefit the habitat as a whole as it would restore the snapping turtles to their rightful place, which would put the ecosystem back in balance.

New insights on wildfire smoke could improve climate change models (Michigan Tech News): Michigan Technological University researchers have discovered components of smoke that can impact climate change. Previously, components of smoke had been missing from climate change models. The researchers are unsure whether these components warm or cool the earth. However, they should be considered in more models of climate change to determine just what impact smoke components have on climate change.

Michigan’s recycling rate is lowest in Great Lakes region (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s recycling rate is 10 percent lower than the regional average. Governor Rick Snyder said in 2012 that increasing recycling is one of his top priorities. Kerrin O’Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, believes part of the problem is that people in Michigan have limited access to recycling sites and find it inconvenient. She also said Michigan needs a significant culture shift to start participating in more recycling programs.

Otters aid seagrass recovery (Conservation Magazine): The harmful effects of fertilizer pollution on seagrass are offset by otters. Runoff from farms enters the water and damages seagrass, which is important to the marine ecosystem. Otters contribute to the recovery of seagrass by feeding on crabs. In turn, not as many crabs feed on sea slugs. The abundance of sea slugs graze on algae, which helps the seagrass grow.

Great Lakes Week 2013 (Great Lakes Now): Great Lakes Week will run from September 9-12. All organizations that govern the Great Lakes will meet in Milwaukee to discuss key topics including who will be able to draw water from the Great Lakes, threatening algae bloom and record low water levels. Also, the overall health of the lakes will be assessed and new plans for the Great Lakes will be set. Some sessions will be broadcast on public television and streamed online.

Asian carp, algae blooms and the Kirtland’s warbler: this week in environmental news

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

The Kirtland's warbler. Photo by Cindy Mead.

The Kirtland’s warbler. Photo by Cindy Mead.

Asian carp spawning moves closer to Lake Michigan (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): New evidence shows that spawning Asian carp have been found nearly 100 miles upstream from their previous spawning sites, putting them closer to Lake Michigan. Last month, President Obama introduced efforts to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp, including upgrading electronic barriers.

Huron Pines receives grant to help fund Kirtland warbler efforts (Alpena News): Huron Pines has received a $171,000 grant to continue its work building a support network for the Kirtland’s warbler. The organization will use the funds to continue to build relationships between federal, state, regional and private partners to support the bird when it’s removed from the Endangered Species List.

Lake Erie algae bloom intensifying (ABC 13): A new report shows that the algae bloom in Lake Erie is intensifying. At Ohio’s Maumee Bay State Park, a health advisory posted at the beach indicates there are unsafe levels of bacteria in the water. This bloom is not as large as Lake Erie’s 2011 bloom, but it is larger than last year.

Speed limits affect birds’ behavior (Conservation Magazine): A new study shows that European birds fly away from cars sooner on roads with higher speed limits. The study, conducted on roads in France, observed 134 flights by birds from 21 species, mainly carrion crows, house sparrows, and common blackbirds. It was noted that the actual speed of the vehicle did not affect the birds’ flights.

Catch a close view of some iconic fish (Up North Live): On Friday, August 30, the Black River sturgeon hatchery will be offering public tours from 9 a.m. to noon. During the tours, researchers from the DNR and Michigan State University will discuss lake sturgeon biology, reproductive ecology, and research. The hatchery is located in Cheboygan County on the Upper Black River. Tours are free of charge.


MNA’s Fall Adventure to Explore the Irish Hills

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Tens of thousands of years ago, glacial debris formed rolling gravel hills and out wash plains across southern Michigan. Today, these landforms are still present, drawing tourists to see what is now known as Michigan’s Irish Hills. The area will be featured on MNA’s 2013 Fall Adventure, a weekend-long trip exploring sanctuaries in southeast Michigan. The Irish Hills include a combination of unique history, picturesque landscapes and over 50 lakes that have entertained and amused guests for centuries.


The Old Sauk Trail.

Located roughly in southeastern Jackson County and northwest Lenawee County, the Irish Hills land was settled by Irish immigrants from 1830 to 1850 and eventually became a popular stopping point for travelers along Old Sauk Trail. The trail itself has a very interesting background, as paleontologists have found evidence suggesting that it was a game trail running along the southern edge of forest line. The road had once been used by Native Americans and was later converted into a stagecoach road between Detroit and Chicago. The Irish Hills became a popular stopping point for travelers along this five-day journey, making it one of the state’s first tourist attractions in the 1920s.


Historic Walker Tavern.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Along the Old Sauk Trail sits Walker Tavern, a historic site that was once a small restaurant for passing travelers. The tavern is one of twelve sites in the State of Michigan Historic Museum system, and it is open for touring. Though never proven true, it is believed that early American statesman Daniel Webster once stayed in the tavern. On MNA’s Fall Adventure, participants will be able to visit Walker Tavern.

In addition to its unique history, the natural geology of the Irish Hills keeps visitors coming back year after year. The Irish Hills area is the highest elevated area in southern Michigan, with its rolling hills still showing evidence of early glacial activity. The hills are vibrant green in the summer and display shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall, providing visitors with great photo opportunities during these seasons. MNA’s Columbia Nature Sanctuary offers a spectacular example of the hills’ colors, which participants will be able to visit during the Fall Adventure. The Irish Hills area also includes some interesting waterways, as many of Michigan’s rivers have their headwaters in this area and eventually flow to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.


The beautiful fall colors at Columbia Nature Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Ganley.

In addition to its beautiful geological features, the Irish Hills area includes a variety of habitats, including prairie fen, wet prairie and oak savanna-barrens-woodlands. Because of their rarity and diminishing nature in the Midwest, the area’s prairie habitats are especially important. Many rare plant and animal species can be found in the area’s prairies, offering a significant contribution to Michigan’s special diversity. Sand Creek Prairie Plant Preserve, one of six MNA preserves featured on the Fall Adventure, is home to many scarce and threatened plant species.

For decades, people have continued to visit the Irish Hills for its large lakes, beautiful scenery and unique attractions. Explore this beautiful and historic area by attending MNA’s 2013 Fall Adventure, Sep. 20-22. In addition to exploring the area’s geography and habitats, visitors will get to hear about research conducted at MNA sanctuaries and enjoy food from local eateries. To reserve your spot on the trip, contact Danielle Cooke at (517)-655-5655 or We hope you’ll join us in witnessing the scenic Irish Hills!

Wolf hunt, recycling rates and ‘metabarcoding’: this week in environmental news

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A grey wolf. Photo from MNA Archives

A grey wolf. Photo from MNA Archives

Animal rights advocates launch new petition to drive halt to wolf hunting (Detroit Free Press): Animal rights advocates launched a petition drive on Monday to repeal the law that would give control over setting wolf hunts to the Natural Resources Commission. Passed in May, the law bypassed a petition drive mounted by activists last year that would have put a halt to a hunt of grey wolves in the Upper Peninsula. If the petition drive is successful, voters will face two ballot issues on wolves in November.

Michigan’s recycling rate is lowest in Great Lakes region (WKAR):Michigan’s recycling rate is just 20 percent, 10 percent lower than the regional average. Governor Rick Snyder is hoping to change that. In 2012, he identified increasing recycling rates as a priority for his administration.

How ‘insect soup’ DNA could help conservation efforts (Mother Nature Network): Researchers are turning to a method known as “metabarcoding” for identifying endangered insect species across the globe. The process involves identifying species from fragments of DNA in a single bulk sample, such as an “insect soup” or various crushed bugs. Though it may seem strange, researchers believe metabarcoding could allow could enable scientists to identify endangered insects that would otherwise go unnoticed across various regions and continents.

Vigilant residents take on lake invaders with hot water (Great Lakes Echo): The Glen Lake Association is doing its part to fight against invasive species with its boat-wash program in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. The boat wash station uses a warm-water spray to clean the hull and flush the engine of boats that have been in another lake. The program began in 1994 and efforts seem to be paying off; Big and Little Glen lakes are nearly invasives-free.

Climate change alters apples’ flavor (Conservation Magazine): A new study reports that Fuji apples are becoming softer and sweeter as a result of global warming. Scientists studied the apples from 1970 to 2010 and found that the annual average air temperature at the site increased by 0.31 to 0.34 degrees Celsius. Over that same time period, the apples’ acid level and firmness dropped.