Bee Restoration, Lake Trout, and Birding Apps: this week in environmental news

To save bees, city plans 1,000 acres of prairie (mother nature network): It’s generally a bad time to be a bee in the United States. Populations of the pollinating insects have been declining for more than a decade, including managed honeybee colonies as well as various species of native wild bees. Of course, this isn’t just bad news for bees. Not only do honeybees give us honey and wax, but bees of all stripes play a pivotal role in our food supply. This spring, the city of Cedar Rapids will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers, part of a broader plan to create a diffuse, 1,000-acre haven for bees and other pollinators. This should help local ecosystems as well as local farms, and if it works as intended, it could become a model for similar projects elsewhere. The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative in Cedar Rapids is hoping to create a movement to build oases for pollinators across the country.

bee

A bee forages among purple flowers near Iowa City. Photo: Geoffrey Fairchild/Flickr.

Searching for bee veterinarians (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan State University is searching for veterinarians willing to treat bees. The Pollinator Initiative at Michigan State launched the search after a recent FDA decision outlawed over-the-counter antibiotics for all food-producing animals. That means a veterinarian has to give beekeepers a prescription for antibiotics. Meghan Milbrath, a beekeeper of 23 years, has a list of 22 Michigan veterinarians who are willing to work with beekeepers, and it is online for beekeepers to find and pick from, depending on their location. In the meantime, Milbrath will train the veterinarians on how to write bee prescriptions. She is teaching online courses and hosting monthly webinars. Eventually, she hopes to create a bee health elective in the College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU.

Unique lake trout could help restore Lake Michigan population (Great Lakes Echo): Scientists have found a potential new ally in the fight to restore lake trout in Lake Michigan. Elk Lake in Northwest Michigan is home to a strain of that fish that researchers believe can contribute uniquely to restoring it. Elk Lake trout have been self-sustaining and reproducing for years. Scientists have been attempting for decades to reintroduce strains from Lake Superior and other areas in the basin–with mixed success. Stocking from Elk Lake may be more successful. Diversity benefits reintroduction efforts because different strains survive in different habitats. Improving lake trout stocking has broad public support.

It’s like Shazam for birds: Song Sleuth app IDs birds by their song (treehugger): The Song Sleuth app was just released for iOS, with an Android version in the works for this fall, and it not only helps people become better birders by helping them identify birds by their songs, but it also includes access to The David Sibley Bird Reference, which offers additional details about the birds, including the birds’ seasonal range maps, song samples, and illustrations of their appearance. Song Sleuth users need merely open the app, push the record button, and allow the app to listen in and record the bird’s song, after which the users are presented with the three most probable birds that the song belongs to. Users can geotag their recordings, add custom notes to them, download the audio files for future reference, or even send their recordings to others via email of messaging apps, further adding to the social nature of the birding community (or used to attract more people to the art and science of birding).

song-sleuth-app

Song Sleuth App. © Wildlife Acoustics.

Migratory Birds, Invasive Plants, and Citizen Science Projects: this week in environmental news

bird-radar

A radar image shows a large migration event that occurred recently. Bubble size indicates the relative bird density; arrow direction and length indicate the migration direction and speed. This image represents about 25-50 million birds aloft. Image: Birdcast

How our unseasonably warm fall is affecting migratory birds (Interlochen Public Radio): 2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south? Andrew Farnsworth, research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says how weather patterns affect birds varies by species. Some birds are dramatically affected. Some species may stay around for quite a lot longer than they might otherwise if temperatures are warmer. This effects waterfall: common loon and ducks on the Great Lakes, for example. On the other hand, some species are less affected by temperature, and instead time their trips south based on changes in the amount of daylight, such as warblers known as calendar migrants. Farnsworth says that while in general, birds are able to respond quickly to changes, they might not be able to keep up with the pace of human-caused climate change.

New research shows invasive plants can feed farms, power homes (Interlochen Public Radio): Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they’re harvesting them. They say these plants are a threat to biodiversity, but they can benefit farmers and even power homes. Scientists are working in the middle of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10,000 acres of marshes and bogs, forest and farmland. Their team is removing invasive cattails from the area. Once these nutrients have been harvested, they are then put to good use. Working with local farmers, the harvested cattails are shredded and applied directly to crop fields where the biomass breaks down, providing organic material, as well as recycled chemical fertilizer. The invasive plants may have other economic uses as well.

shiawassee

Scientists are experimenting with new uses for invasive cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

Interactive map helps bridge science-citizen divide (Great Lakes Echo): People can help keep their local lakes, rivers and streams healthier with a new app. The non-profit Ontario Water Rangers won the event put on by the Great Lakes Observing System to encourage the use of open source data either from GLOS or other water data collection services. The app functions like a Google Map. Clicking on a dot zooms in to display small magnifying glasses. Users can then contribute observations including but not limited to wind speed, algae growth or invasive species and read a summary of past observations.

Lake Superior gates to be automated, improving fish spawning (Newstimes): A set of gates that helps control water flow out of Lake Superior is being automated. An 80-acre area of rapids just downstream is one of the Great Lakes’ most productive fish spawning areas. Officials say the project will give the Corps more flexibility to operate the gates in ways that will improve conditions for fish.

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.

 

Peregrine Falcons, a resolution against drilling, and sustainable options: 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:

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Mid-Michigan Peregrine Falcons expecting (Great Lakes Echo): Peregrine Falcons are expecting this season in Michigan and although they have been taken off the federal endangered species list, are still considered an endangered species under Michigan law. The falcons have been spotted nesting at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s Eckert electric generating plant.

Proposed drilling doesn’t sit well with Washtenaw County officials (MLive): Officials went on the record Wednesday night stating their opposition to any local oil drilling. In a 6-1 vote, the opposing vote from commissioner Dan Smith R-Northfield Township, they approved a resolution that would advocate against any future drilling in the area, similar to a resolution passed by Ann Arbor City Council. 

Walmart: the corporate empire’s big step for sustainability (The Guardian): Rob Walton, the chairman of Walmart and now chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee, has had his hand in trying new ways to get Walmart to be a more sustainable business. The journey toward sustainability started a decade ago, and Walmart looks for ways to reduce waste such as reducing water consumption and packaging. Walmart officials have been negotiating with their suppliers on new methods of sustainability

Rep. Don Young calls rules on oil drilling in wildlife refuges a ‘hare-brained idea’ (Huffington Post): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services opened the forum for comments earlier this year to learn how to update regulations on oil and gas development on areas which are protected under the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has expressed his opposition to these new ideas for rules at a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

The big melt accelerates (The New York Times): As glaciers continue to melt, scientists have declared that some have shrunk to the point of no return — a risk that could set off a “chain reaction” bringing the remainder of the ice sheet to its demise. This research of the glaciers reaching the “point of no return” has signaled to many scientists that even if climate change came to an immediate halt, it may already be too late.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

Beavers, Ducks Unlimited, sea lamprey, disappearing ice: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

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

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary

Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Charlie Eshbach.

Unfinished business: skis and a sanctuary (Mining Gazette): Outdoors columnist Dan Schneider paid a visit to MNA’s Black Creek Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County. He wasn’t able to use his cross-country skis during his entire hike along Black Creek’s narrow, winding trails and varied terrain, but he called the sanctuary “a worthwhile hike in any season.”

Yes, beaver making a comeback along Detroit, Rouge rivers (Detroit Free Press): Beavers, once native to Michigan before they were nearly wiped out by fur trading, are making a comeback. A beaver was spotted at the DTE Conners Creek power plant in Detroit in 2009—roughly a century since the last beaver was seen in the state—and evidence suggests beavers are multiplying along several points of the Detroit and Rouge rivers and might be making a sustained comeback to the area.

Michigan Legislature OKs Ducks Unlimited license plate bills (MLive): Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that allows the state to create specialty vehicle license plates to raise money for Ducks Unlimited and wetland conservation efforts. According to Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, “This bill will help continue Ducks Unlimited’s conservation mission by enabling the organization to raise funds to help with education and increase awareness regarding wetland habitat conservation in Michigan.”

Genetic mapping of sea lamprey may control invader and improve human health (Great Lakes Echo): A team of scientists are attempting to find another way to control the sea lamprey, an invasive species that has terrorized the Great Lakes since the 1800s. Sea lampreys are harmless during the early years of their life cycle, but as they mature, they turn into parasites that prey on large species of Great Lakes fish. By studying the sea lamprey genome, scientists are hoping to control the sea lamprey’s life cycle and prevent the lampreys from transforming into their harmful states. This research has potential benefits for humans, as well: it may also include a cure for biliary atresia, a rare disease in which affected human newborns are born without a bile duct.

Disappearing ice spells uncertain future for Lake Superior (Great Lakes Echo): A new study found that ice on Lake Superior has decreased by 79 percent since 1973, and overall ice on the Great Lakes has fallen by 71 percent in the last 40 years. Ice loss can contribute to lower lake levels, more lake-effect snow, higher shoreline erosion rates, and an overall increase in lake water temperature. There is no clear cause for this decline, but a variety of factors—such as global climate change—are considered likely.

Great Lakes cleanup plans, loon deaths, and The Biggest Week in American Birding: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA highlights recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are six articles you might’ve missed during the past two weeks:

Gray Wolf

Wolf management is one of the natural resource policy issues Michigan faces this year. Photo by the Seney Natural History Association. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Outdoors: Key issues to keep an eye on (Detroit Free Press): Michigan faces some stormy natural resource policy issues this year. The state must answer questions on who should pay for Michigan’s natural resources and how these funds can be supplemented; whether legislators, private citizens or biologists should dictate wildlife decisions; wolf management in general; and if quality deer management principles will be applied to the state’s herd.

Bill removing biodiversity, restoration as DNR goals clears Michigan Senate (Detroit Free Press): A bill that would remove biodiversity and restoration from Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ forest management goals passed the state Senate on March 5 on a 26-11 party-line vote. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives and will likely first be considered in the House Natural Resources Committee. Environmental groups believe the bill would hurt Michigan’s wildlife and natural resources and diminish the value of the state’s public lands in the future.

Feds making long-range Great Lakes cleanup plans (MLive): The Obama administration is planning to continue a long-range Great Lakes cleanup program and will begin work this summer on a new five-year blueprint for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. According to the Associated Press, “the program is designed to make progress on some of the Great Lakes’ biggest ecological problems, such as invasive species and toxic hot spots.” The government will make decisions about paying for the cleanup program on a year-by-year basis.

Scientists blame invasive species in loon deaths (Traverse City Record-Eagle): Roughly 900 loons died while migrating south across Lake Michigan last summer, and scientists think invasive zebra and quagga mussels are to blame. Zebra and quagga mussels filter the water so it’s very clear, allowing algae to grow and eventually creating an oxygen-free environment and ideal home for bacteria that produce toxic botulism. This toxin is ingested by worms and freshwater shrimp, which are eaten by the fish that are then eaten by loons. Scientists are searching for ways to break this link before more loons are killed.

Lake Erie shoreline shapes up as test for birds and energy (Great Lakes Echo): Businesses along the western Lake Erie shoreline are getting ready for The Biggest Week in American Birding, 10-day birding festival scheduled for May 3-12. Tom Henry, the author of the column, says birding plays a part in the future of energy production and the environment. He adds that The Biggest Week in American Birding is “a showcase for how educational and business programs can be more effective working in combination with each other, from ferry shuttles to guest lectures.”

Northern Leopard Frog

The Northern Leopard Frog is one of 13 frog and toad species in Michigan. Photo by Douglas Wilhelm Harder. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: Frogs & Toads Leaping Toward Spring (MyNorth): As winter turns into spring, Michigan residents can hear springtime birds chirping, watch the snow melting, and listen for frogs and toads trilling. Frogs and toads are good indicators of environmental quality and are monitored by the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division each spring. The surveys are conducted by a mix of professional and non-professional volunteers, who learn to identify calls for Michigan’s 13 frog and toad species. Each survey spot is examined three times in the spring and early summer.

Hummingbirds, black bears, warmer lakes: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA is starting a new weekly blog series! Each Friday, we are going to highlight news stories from the week to help you stay up-to-date on environmental news around the state and country.

Here are six articles you might’ve missed this week:

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by Cindy Mead.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds arriving earlier (Michigan Radio): Ruby-throated hummingbirds are migrating north from Mexico earlier than ever. Last winter was one of the warmest in Michigan history, and hummingbirds arrived to the state as early as March 17—before a major cold stretch in April. Hummingbirds can survive in the cold for a day, but die quickly if the weather stays cold. The ruby-throated hummingbird population is stable for now, but Pamela Rasmussen, an associate zoology professor at Michigan State University, is concerned about what will happen if hummingbirds continue to migrate early.

From the Mouths of Babes (Conservation Magazine): Parents normally pass on knowledge to their children, but when it comes to the environment, it might be the other way around. Environmental education programs tend to be aimed at children because environmental attitudes are often formed at a young age, and a new study suggests that children can teach their parents about environmental issues and even influence their families to behave in “greener ways.”

Warming Lake Superior stresses wildlife, observers say (CBC News): Lake Superior broke its previous high-temperature records last year. This means bad news for the lake’s native trout, which thrives in cold water, as well as some of the lake’s other species. As water temperatures rise, sea lamprey are getting bigger, living longer, and having a negative impact on native fish. Increases in temperature don’t only harm fish—some land-based wildlife, like moose, are poorly suited to warmer climates. Wildlife Federation spokesperson Melinda Koslow said reducing greenhouse gases and protecting habitats will help prevent future harm to species.

Northern Michigan Outdoors: DNR Discusses the Latest on Black Bears (MyNorth): In February, Northern Michigan’s black bears are hibernating in their dens—except for new moms of the Ursus americanus variety. These bears are busy giving birth, nursing their young, and keeping the cubs and den clean. DNR wildlife biologist Mark Boersen has been checking up on bear families for more than 10 years and shared what he’s learned about the species.

West Michigan women come together to educate and inspire women to take action to protect our environment and natural resources (mlive): On February 15, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council met in Grand Rapids to honor women environmentalists at the second Women and the Environment Symposium. The symposium honored women who are inspiring others, protecting the environment and leading change.

Scientists seeks solutions to Lake Erie algae (mlive): Toxic algae blooms may form more often in Lake Erie unless farms and cities do a better job of controlling phosphorous runoff, scientists say. A team of 40 scientists met in Windsor, Ontario, this week to compare research findings about Lake Erie’s algae blooms and work on a report for government policymakers. The team is putting together a series of papers that study where the phosphorous comes from, which management practices best cut down on runoff, and how climate change affects algae blooms. A draft will be released for public comment in May.