Celebrate Earth Day with MNA

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Before Earth Day, protecting the planet’s natural resources and the environment was not part of the national agenda. Factories spewed pollutants into the air and dumped toxins into lakes and rivers without any ramifications. Something had to be done to protect the environment and the inhabitants that rely on it.

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day is on Tuesday, April 22. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, which Americans had become more aware of since the 1960s. The idea came to the founder of the movement, Gaylord Nelson, who was a Senator from Wisconsin at the time. He had witnessed the detrimental effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, which inspired him to do something. After seeing an anti-Vietnam war movement by college students, he realized that he could use that passion and energy that students had to bring public awareness to air and water pollution. He hoped that bringing these two things together would push environmental protection on to the national political agenda.

As a result, on April 22, millions of Americans banned together coast to coast in rallies to demonstrate for a clean and healthy environment. Public opinion polls indicate that there was a permanent change in national priorities following the first Earth Day. it was seen as an important goal to protect the environment. During the 1970s, the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, the Surface Mining Control Act and Reclamation Act were all passed. The Environmental Protection Agency, which was tasked with protecting the human health and the environment, was also created.

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Helping to clean trash from lakes and rivers will help the wildlife that live there and can be harmed by trash. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today, Earth Day is a globally celebrated event and is even sometimes extended to Earth Week. Earth Day was successful because it organized itself. There was a huge response that led to millions of people organizing and participating in a short amount of time with little direction. The fight for a clean environment continues year to year to help protect our environment to keep it beautiful and healthy for generations to come.

There are many things that we can do to help celebrate Earth Day and better the environment. By planting trees, recycling and cleaning up trash from lakes, rivers and parks, we are protecting the plants and animals that thrive on a clean environment. MNA has many opportunities to get involved so be sure to check out their volunteer days!

  • Tuesday, April 22: Celebrate Earth Day at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Hudson, Lenawee County) to help pull invasive garlic mustard from this wooded paradise!
  • Wednesday, April 23: Help pull invasive garlic at Phillips Family Memorial Nature Sanctuary (near Decatur, Van Buren County) to help keep these woods beautiful and thriving.
  • Friday, April 25: Help pull invasive garlic mustard and dame’s rocket in the floodplain forest at Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve (near Saline, Washtenaw County).

Get involved! Visit www.michigannature.org/events for a complete list of events and details. If you’d like more information about volunteer opportunities at MNA, call (866) 223-2231.

Oil Spill Effects, Michigan Trail Networks and a Deadly Bat Fungus: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to conservation and the environment that has happened throughout the state and country. Here are a few highlights of what happened this week in environmental news:

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Little brown bats have been found to carry white-nose syndrome in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Deadly bat fungus found in Michigan may lead to mass die-off, crop damage and mosquito bites (mlive): A deadly bat fungus has been identified for the first time in Michigan. It could dramatically reduce the state’s bat population and have an effect on the agricultural industry. The fungus, called white-nose syndrome, causes skin lesions that can interrupt hibernation patterns. Scientists have predicted up to 90 percent of the bats susceptible to the disease may die off in the next three to five years. A large bat die-off could lead to more mosquito bites for Michigan residents and the loss of a natural pesticide service for farmers.

State officials launch tourism initiative to promote trail network (Great Lakes Echo): In order to make trails in Michigan easier to find for tourists, the Department of Natural Resources wants to provide information for all trails in Michigan at the click of a button. A package of five bills was introduced that would label all trails as Pure Michigan trails. Cities hope that this will help increase tourism in their towns.

Michigan Mercury Collection Program keeps potentially hazardous mercury from reaching Michigan landfills and waterways (mlive): The Environmental Quality Company and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Mercury Collection project have teamed together to provide free mercury collection services to residents and businesses in Michigan. If the mercury enters landfills, it can reach the water and the air and cause mercury pollution.

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still affects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still has detrimental effects marine life living there. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife in Gulf of Mexico still suffering four years after BP oil spill: report (the guardian): Four years after the oil spill, the report from the National Wildlife Federation found that some 14 species still showed symptoms of oil exposure. The oil is sitting at the bottom of the gulf and washes up on the beaches. There is also some oil still residing in marshes. There has been a high report of animal deaths, with more than 900 bottlenose dolphins being found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. NWF scientists said it could take years before the full effects of the oil spill were understood.

Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest (The New York Times): Woodland salamanders are a large asset to forests; on an average day, a single salamander eats 20 ants, two fly or beetle larvae, one adult beetle and half of an insect. Collectively, salamanders affect the course of life in the forests in which they live. They play a significant role in the global carbon cycle by eating the invertebrates that spend their lives ripping leaves to bits and eating them, which consists of about 47.5 percent carbon.

How Will This Harsh Winter Affect Wildlife?

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA  intern

The polar vortex may be finally past us, but cold temperatures are still prevalent throughout Michigan. We all know it made for a miserable winter for us, but how was wildlife affected?

Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly lays it’s eggs near the ground so the snow can help insulate them through the winter. Photo from MNA Archives.

Many wildlife species are well adapted to thrive in cold temperatures. This winter proved to be beneficial for some endangered species here in Michigan. The Karner blue butterfly will hopefully see a spike in population from the excessive amounts of snow this winter brought. The butterfly’s eggs, which are laid on leaf litter near the ground over the winter, do best when there is deep snow cover on the ground over the course of the entire winter. The snow keeps them from drying out and provides extra insulation from air temperatures which can be colder than the ground temperatures.

Cisco fish are another endangered species that will benefit from the cold. They lay their eggs under the ice of the Great Lakes which protects them from getting thrashed around too much by waves. When there is little to no ice coverage, the waves cause the eggs to break. The heavy and vast ice coverage that the Great Lakes has had this winter will help provide a great barrier for the eggs and hopefully lead to more of them surviving.

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When temperatures get cold, honeybees cluster and vibrate their wings to create heat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Honeybees continue to thrive in the hive during extreme cold streaks. They gather in massive amounts to form a dense cluster around the outside of the hive when the temperature drops. As it gets colder, the cluster of bees becomes tighter and they move closer inside the hive. In order to stay warm and keep the queen warm, they exercise by rapidly vibrating their wings. It also creates air currents that expel carbon dioxide and moisture.

Not every species benefits from the extreme cold. Many invasive species are unable to handle the sub zero temperatures. Although it is unfortunate for the insects, it is good news for the plants affected by them and it could help solve issues with some invasive species in Michigan.

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The emerald ash borer larvae can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 degrees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Temperatures were cold enough in certain areas to freeze and kill many invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer. They are able to withstand several degrees below zero, but if temperatures hit 20 or 30 degrees below zero, they may not be able to survive.

Other invasive species do not fair as well as the emerald ash borer. The gypsy moth begins to freeze when temperatures hit below 17 degrees and the wooly adelgis, which has killed thousands of hemlock trees in the Northwest, dies when temperatures fall just below zero.

 

 

Chemicals in the Great Lakes, starving waterfowl and sand dune development: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news stories relating to conservation and the environment from around the state and country. Check out some of what happened this week in environmental news:

Common mergansers are just one species of waterfowl that have been found dead due to starvation from the harsh winter. Photo by Andrea Westmoreland via Wikimedia Commons

Common mergansers are just one species of waterfowl that have been found dead due to starvation from the harsh winter. Photo by Andrea Westmoreland via Wikimedia Commons

DNR: Harsh winter leads to starvation, death for waterfowl (mlive): A large number of waterfowl have been found dead across the state due to harsh winter conditions. The die off can be attributed to the large amount of ice coverage on lakes throughout Michigan, preventing the birds from getting food.

Chemicals take various routes to Great Lakes (Environmental Health News): Flame retardants and combustion pollutants from PCBs that Toranto exports to Lake Ontario reach the lake even though they is transported by air. The routes that these chemicals take are important to understand in order to help regulators determine where specific chemicals come from.

Michigan’s DEQ issues permit in controversial dune project near Saugatuck (The Detroit News): Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to allow the company Singapore Dunes LLC to build a road and 18 housing sites through a sand dune that lies near Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan. They are avoiding the steep slopes, internal wetlands and endangered species. Those opposed to the project are concerned that this could destroy features of Michigan that make it stand apart from other states.

Extreme precipitation closes beaches, may endanger human health (Great Lakes Echo): Due to runoff from agriculture caused by intense precipitation, officials may close beaches due to E. Coli and other bacteria in the water. Due to high levels of snow and a potentially warmer spring, there could be implications of increased runoff and overflow sewer systems, increasing the transport of bacterium, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms.

Rattlesnake hunters commonly use the controversial method of gassing rattlesnakes out of their holes. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Rattlesnake hunters commonly use the controversial method of gassing rattlesnakes out of their holes. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Rattlesnake Wranglers, Armed With Gasoline (The New York Times): To encourage rattlesnakes to come out, gasoline is often used to pump fumes into their hole to draw them out. The state of Texas’s wildlife agency is considering banning the use of gas fumes to capture rattlesnakes, adding Texas to the list of more than two dozen states that have outlawed the practice.