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.


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.