Great Lakes, Robot Cleanup, and Cormorants: this week in environmental news

Water levels and surface temperatures up for Lakes Michigan/Huron in 2016 (MSU Extension): Visitors to the beaches and boat launch ramps will notice both higher lake levels and earlier seasonal warming of the Great Lakes than in the past several years. The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory shows that Lakes Michigan and Huron are the highest they have been since August 1998. What about the water temperatures? Again, they are well ahead of 2015 and well ahead of long-term average of Lake Michigan.

cleaning shoreline robot

Robot collecting a tennis ball. Image: Robot Missions

Robot is on a mission to clean up Great Lakes shorelines (Great Lakes Echo): A robot designed by a maker in Toronto could soon be clearing up trash strewn across shorelines everywhere. The next step involves many more field tests throughout the summer and small revisions to the robot’s design. After those tests are complete, the robot will be deployed in August on Toronto Island in Lake Ontario to clean up the shoreline. There’s a lot of interest in the project because it combines robotics with environmentalism, creating a robot with a social impact.

The dirty eight: Great Lakes pollutants targeted by U.S. and Canada (Great Lakes Echo): Canada and the U.S. recently announced they will develop and coordinate strategies to reduce exposure to eight contaminants they have designated as Chemicals of Mutual Concern in the Great Lakes. The designation made under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement also requires the countries to develop where needed the water quality standards for the pollutants.

Cormorants

Cormorants at an East Chicago colony. Image: Patrick Madura

Can cormorants help control Great Lakes invaders? (Great Lakes Echo): Cormorants’ fish-stealing rep may be a bum rap – and the truth is more complex, as the first dietary study of cormorants in southern Lake Michigan shows. Researchers found the cormorants are chowing down on invasive species – mainly alewife, round goby and white perch – which together accounted for 80-90% of their diet. No studies to date have demonstrated that cormorants have a consistently negative effect on fisheries over broad geographic regions.

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Dolphin deaths, tiny plastic pollutants, and a predator for the emerald ash borer: this week in environmental news

Each Friday, MNA rounds up news stories focused on nature and the environment. Here is what happened this week in environmental news:

The BP oil spill as seen from space by NASA’s Terra satellite in May 2010. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Study links BP oil spill to dolphin deaths (The Guardian):  A study led by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found lung disease, hormonal abnormalities and other health effects among dolphins at Barataria Bay in Louisiana, an area heavily oiled during the April 2010 BP spill. The diseases and elevated mortality rates have raised concerns about the short-term and long-term impacts on the Barataria Bay dolphin population.

Emerald ash border may have met its match (Science Daily): A study has found a native predator that is able to detect and respond to the invasive emerald ash border. Bark-foraging birds, including woodpeckers and nuthatches, were found to be feeding on the emerald ash borer, an invader responsible for the death of 30 million trees in the U.S. and Canada. The native birds are more efficient than other methods to slow the spread of the invasive.

Scientists turn their gaze toward tiny threats to Great Lakes (The New York Times): Tiny plastic beads used in facial scrubs and toothpastes are turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes, where fish and other aquatic life eat them and the pollutants they carry. Scientists fear that the pollutants may be working their way back up the food chains to humans. Recent studies have found that there may be greater concentrations of plastic particles in the Great Lakes than in the oceans.

Chemistry getting greener at Michigan companies, universities (Great Lakes Echo):  Michigan companies are leading the way in a movement to make chemical manufacturing more environmentally friendly. Created under Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order in 2006, the Green Chemistry Program has brought together government agencies and businesses. Companies involved are making strides in using chemistry that is benign toward people and the environment.

As wolves die out on remote national park in Michigan, debate brews over whether to intervene (The Republic):  The gray wolf population on Isle Royale National Park has dropped steadily in recent years. Eight wolves remained last winter, the lowest rate since the 1950s. Park managers are now trying to determine whether they should intervene to preserve the wolf population in the park. The situation could set a precedent for other parks and wilderness areas dealing with threats to species as climate change alters the environment.