Fishing for plastic, algae threats and California’s drought policies: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

A University of Michigan research scientist and her research assistant sift through debris from the water. Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Researchers troll for plastic on Great Lakes fishing boat (Great Lakes Echo): Captain David Brooks of the Nancy K boat headed out to Lake St. Clair in pursuit of catching bits of plastic in the water. His curiosity was piqued by the fact that a sweater he owned was made of plastic and bits of plastic washed down the drain when he cleaned it. His intention with the plastic hunt in the water was to find out how harmful these bits of plastic can really be to the environment.

Bracing for Lake Erie algae threats to drinking water (Great Lakes Echo): The 2011 all-time high record of the algae blooms in Lake Erie was followed up by a close second high in 2013. Scientists and government organizations are becoming more concerned about the dangers posed by the toxic algae crowding the lake. Researchers take a closer look at the water, algae and problems surrounding it.

California approves forceful steps amid drought (New York Times): State officials have moved forward with implementing harsh repercussions for over-using water. Citizens could be fined $500 per day for simply washing a car or watering a garden. Still, convincing urban residents of the seriousness of the drought has been a difficult task.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

3-D images captured with help from a panda, California condor pair and a dugong,.

Animals live in 3-D, now scientists do, too (Conservation Magazine): Finding animals’ home ranges have been part of recent studies. These home ranges would help scientists study animals and their habitats and employing 3-D mechanisms has helped them to get a closer look at animal life.

Still poison: Lead bullets remain a big problem for birds (Conservation Magazine): The Bipartisan Sportsman Act of 2014 may have given different parties a chance to unite in support, but would have had other implications for birds during hunting season. The bill would have called for an exemption for lead ammunition and fishing tackle from “longstanding regulations.” Recent studies have shown a growing issue with lead poisoning leading to the death of birds.

 

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Protecting the sturgeon, transforming agriculture and a grey wolf shot dead: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Kids with a sturgeon fish. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Children holding a sturgeon. Photo by Michigan State University, courtesy of The Great Lakes Echo

Volunteers guard Michigan’s spawning sturgeon (Great Lakes Echo): The lake sturgeon, a threatened fish species in Michigan, will have several guardians ensuring its safety at the Black River in Northern Michigan. Volunteers will stand watch on the banks through June to ensure no fish are illegally snatched and are able to leave the Black Lake and reproduce in the Black River.

Grey wolf appears in Iowa for the first time in 89 years — and is shot dead (The Guardian): It was just recently confirmed that an animal shot dead in February in Iowa was a grey wolf, an animal which hadn’t been seen in the area since 1925. Because the hunter who shot the animal believed it to be a coyote and cooperated with the authorities, he has not been cited even though grey wolves are protected in that area.

California’s thirst shapes debate over fracking (The New York Times): Opponents of fracking have a new argument on their side. A drought that was declared early this year in California may have an impact on decisions made about fracking. Last year, fracking one oil well took 87 percent of water which would normally consumed by a family of four in one year.

Smart soil: transforming american agriculture one class at a time: (The Huffington Post Blog):

John Reganold, soil scientist and professor at Washington State University speaks of his study and success with creating sustainable agriculture in the United States. Reganold advocates for organic soil systems as a more sustainable way of growing and producing better crops.

 

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

A fish swimming near the reef. Photo courtesy of Conservation Magazine

Reef fish don’t care where conservation lines are drawn (Conservation Magazine): Over the years there have been increasing amounts of established marine protected areas, or MPAs, particularly near the Caribbean. Despite establishing these areas, fish often tend to migrate in and out, swimming outside of the bounds of protection. A research group of the Marine Institute of the United Kingdom tracked several different reef species and determined that conservation efforts must take this migration into account.

Hope for the honey bees? Experts pitch plans to curb deaths (NBC News): Honey bees throughout the world have been suffering from colony collapse disorder and scientists think they may have found a way to lower the death rate. It was found that certain types of pesticides played a role in largely killing the bees — some of the world’s largest contributors to the food and crop industry because of their pollinating role in nature.

Christmas trees, global warming and tar sands: 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:

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For U.S. Christmas trees, a festival of blights (Mother Nature Network): Christmas trees across the U.S. are suffering from a deadly soil disease, flooding, heat waves and other severe weather caused by climate change. North Carolina, the number 2 Christmas tree state, is losing $6 million every year because of a deadly water mold called Phytophthora root rot. Plant pathologist Gary A. Chastagner calls it a “national problem.” Oregon could lost $304 million due to the outbreak.

Panel says global warming carries risk of deep changes (New York Times): A scientific panel said continued global warming may lead to the possible collapse of polar sea ice, mass extinction of plants and animals, and vast dead zones in oceans. The panel wants to create an early warning system because they believe people have done little to prepare for the changing climate. James W.C. White, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, said the change is inevitable and the hope is that the change will happen gradually so society has time to adapt.

Report: Great Lakes ill-equipped to ship tar sands safely (WKAR): The Alliance for the Great Lakes released a report that said there are gaps in Enbridge’s oil spill response and prevention methods. The group is concerned because tar sands crude oil is extremely difficult to clean up, according to Lyman Welch, the water quality program director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Enbridge is still trying to clean up the tar sands crude oil in the Kalamazoo watershed from three years ago.

Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion (Great Lakes Echo): According to the Michigan Sea Grant, fish farms could bring in $1 billion a year with better sustainability. Michigan’s abundant lakes and fresh groundwater give it the potential for growth in the industry. Dan Vogler, the president of Michigan Aquaculture Association, said we could see a $1 billion industry by 2025. Fish farms are still relatively new, making them mismatched with Michigan’s environmental regulations.

Rising ocean acidification leads to anxiety in fish (Science Daily): Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and MacEwan University have shown that the rising acidity levels in the ocean are causing anxiety among rockfish. This species is an important commercial species in California. Martin Tresguerres, a Scripps marine biologist, said the anxious behavior is a concern because rockfish will not be able to adapt to their dynamic environment and will spend less time foraging for food.

Mountain lions, a wildlife council and invasive stink bugs: 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:

Mountain lion. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mountain lion. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Are mountain lions going urban? (Mother Nature Network): Due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction, mountain lions are now making their home in urban areas of the United States, such as Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Researchers say the mountain lions are traveling long distances across the U.S. to find homes. Mountain lions are on the endangered list and were all but extinct in 2011. Since then, they have made a slight comeback.

Michigan lawmakers propose wildlife council to promote hunting, fishing (Great Lakes Echo): Lawmakers want to create a bill that would finance a new wildlife council, headed by the Michigan Wildlife Management Public Education Fund. This council would educate the public on the importance of wildlife management and licensed hunters. The Department of Natural Resources estimates $1.6 million will be collected from hunting and fishing license increases, which will cover the cost to create the council.

Invasive stink bugs swarm across the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): The brown marmorated stink bugs, arriving from Asia, are overshadowing stink bugs native to the U.S. The bug that once bred in only southern Pennsylvania now breeds in 15 states and exists in about 25 more. Chuck Ingels of the Cooperative Extension office in Sacramento calls them the “worst invasive pests we’ve ever had in California.” Besides their stench, the brown marmorated stink bug destroys commercial crops. In 2010 alone, they caused $37 million in damage to Mid-Atlantic apple farms.

Lyons Dam on borrowed time: Endangered species discovery complicates removal project (MLive): The Lyons Dam was set to be removed until biologists from Central Michigan University discovered an endangered species downstream of the dam, the snuffbox mussel. These mussels were added to the endangered species list in 2012 when there was a 62% population decrease. They must be relocated before the dam can be removed. State and federal officials will have to decide where to relocate the mussels, and they would likely not begin this process until next summer.

No cure in sight for loon-killing botulism (Great Lakes Echo): An avian botulism outbreak in northern Michigan has killed more than 1,000 loons. Tom Cooley, a Department of Natural Resources disease lab biologist and pathologist said there is an estimated loon population of 2,000. Conditions in the water make a breeding ground for the bacteria. Scientists believe the loon’s predation on infected fish is causing a rise in deaths. There are no known solutions to stop the botulism from infecting loons.

The Kirtland’s warbler, Portage Creek cleanup and melting glaciers: 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:

The Kirtland's warbler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Kirtland’s warbler. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kirtland’s warbler grant boosts effort to end endangerment (Great Lakes Echo): A federal grant of $170,000 is going toward planting two million jack pine seedlings in Northeast Michigan. This is the only habitat the Kirtland’s warbler can nest in. The effort to save the Kirtland’s warbler has been going on for 40 years. The habitat in Northeast Michigan contains 98% of the species’ population, spanning across the top of the Lower Peninsula and into the Upper Peninsula. There is even a possibility that the bird will be taken off the endangered species list.

PCB cleanup in Portage Creek near Kalamazoo River done, ahead of schedule and millions under budget (MLive): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has worked to remove all the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from Portage Creek. The project ended earlier than anticipated and way under budget. Other areas of the Kalamazoo River Superfund will begin to be cleaned up with the extra time and money. The EPA removed almost 19,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment.

Yosemite’s largest ice mass is melting fast (LA Times): Scientists believe Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park will be gone in 20 years. This glacier is a key source of water in the park and has shrunk 62% over the past 10 years. Lyell has also lost 120 vertical feet of ice. The big question is what will happen to ecological systems surrounding the shrinking and vanishing glaciers. Ken MacLeod, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Missouri, said the earth will eventually become ice-free if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

Extend California’s new earthquake early warning system, says scientist (Mother Nature Network): California will be the first state to get an earthquake early warning system, which is designed to detect the first strong pulse of an earthquake. This new system will cost about $80 million to build in California and run for five years. If the system was extended north to Oregon and Washington, it would cost an additional $120 million. These west coast states are in danger of magnitude-9.0 earthquakes from the Cascadia subduction zone.

Mercury will rise in Pacific fish, study finds (Mother Nature Network): Researchers from Michigan and Hawaii have studied how mercury ends up in species of North Pacific fish for years. They have discovered that mercury levels in these fish is likely to continue rising for decades. Researchers found that the mercury first traveled by air, and then entered the oceans when it rained. These findings could help efforts to curb mercury emissions.

Legless lizards, outdoor classrooms and floods: 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:

A legless lizard. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A legless lizard. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Legless lizard discovered near LAX (and no, it’s not a snake) (LA Times): A new species of lizard has been discovered in California. It does not have legs, and lives beneath sand dunes. Scientists discovered this legless lizard by spreading wet cardboard throughout California, and coming back months later to see if the lizards were hiding under the cardboard. There are five different legless lizards in California, and scientists are hoping to uncover even more species.

Blandford Nature Center launches program to help schools turn yards into outdoor classrooms (MLive): Blandford Nature Center introduced its new plan to turn outdoor areas into school classrooms. In Grand Rapids, West Side Christian School students experience the change as part of their educational program now involves outdoor science classes. The school is part of the year-long pilot of the program.

Colorado floods: What happens to all that water? (Mother Nature Network): Excess water from the severe flooding in Colorado is now threatening to cause flooding in Nebraska. The South Platte River in Colorado runs into Nebraska, and is carrying the majority of the water from the flood that has not already soaked into the ground. The flooding is expected to be less severe in Nebraska, but the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for southwest Nebraska.

Contaminants may cause birds to sing a different tune (Science Daily): Researchers at Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology have stated that inconsistency in songbird’s songs may be caused by contaminants in the Hudson River. This river is highly polluted as a result of years of electronics manufacturing nearby. The songbirds capture aquatic insects to feed their young. These insects are contaminated, and the birds will continue to eat these throughout their lives.

Tackling environmental issues crucial for Detroit’s success (Great Lakes Echo): The Detroit Environmental Agenda was released this summer and involves plans to improve the environment around Detroit. The agenda involves a two-year plan, as discussed by Guy Williams, president of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. This organization encourages Detroit residents to improve their quality of living and improve the environmental health of communities.