Class pets, migratory birds and a mysterious oily substance: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, 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:

Release of classroom pets bring more invasive species here (Great Lakes Echo): The results of recent surveys show that released classroom pets may be a significant contribution to Michigan’s invasive species issue. Sea Grant researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 teachers from the United States and Canada and found that 27 percent of those who have class pets release the species they raise. While these animals can help to connect students with the natural world, their release into the wild is a concern among scientists, who are initiating multiple public awareness efforts on the topic.


Canadian geese flying over Lake Michigan.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Report: Climate change threatening migratory birds (Michigan Radio): In regard to the hundreds of migratory birds that pass through the Great Lakes region, climate change is a main concern. Studies show that increased global temperatures reduce the range these birds can travel and affect where they can feed and raise their young. According to the National Wildlife Federation, some migratory birds could face extinction if climate change is not slowed.

USGS: Asian carp eggs can incubate in more areas (Southtown Star): A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that Asian carp may be able to spawn in more Great Lake tributaries than previously believed. The survey data shows that the Asian carp’s fertilized eggs can incubate in waterways only 16 miles long, a much shorter distance than the 62 miles researchers once thought the eggs needed. Though this reveals that more areas are susceptible to the invasive species, researchers hope the data will help authorities initiate more effective defensive measures.

‘Oily substance’ in lake baffles investigators (Chicago Tribune): The U.S. Coast Guard and Indiana environmental officials are investigating a silvery substance that was found in Lake Michigan Monday afternoon. Some beaches evacuated swimmers from the water after noticing an oily layer on the skin of bathers and a silver tint to the lake in the Michigan City, Indiana area. Tests show that the substance included a mild acid used to clean metals, D-gluconic acid, as well as an additive found in fertilizers and food, tricalcium orthophosphate. Though Monday night’s rains dissipated the sheen from the water and no ill health effects have been reported, officials continue to investigate the issue.


Rye windstrips between carrot rows in Newaygo County.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Research shows planting cover crops protects Michigan’s environment (mlive): Research shows that crops grown for protection and enrichment of the soil can provide substantial environmental benefits. By absorbing residual post-harvest nitrogen, cover crops help protect Michigan’s groundwater while reducing the impact of erosion and runoff. Cover crop research serves as an example of one of the many ways agriculture can be used to protect the state’s soil, water and air quality.

How Cities Compost Mountains of Food Waste (National Geographic): New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg recently expressed plans to increase food composting in the city, following movements in many other cities across the nation. Recycled food scraps will be used as fertilizer or energy sources for the city, conserving space in landfills and saving money for taxpayers. A similar composting movement in San Francisco has proved effective, reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to roughly 12 percent below its 1990 emission levels.