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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Wolf hunt, lionfish and protecting butterflies: 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 gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With Michigan wolf hunt less than a month away, debate rages onward (Great Lakes Echo): Wolf hunting in Michigan will be legal for the first time on November 15. The hunt will end on December 31, or once 43 wolves have been killed. Supporters argue the hunt will curb the threat wolves pose to livestock and pets. The conservation group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is collecting signatures to put the Natural Resources Commission’s authority to put the hunt to a vote. If the group collects enough signatures, there will be a statewide vote in November 2014 regarding the hunt.

Lionfish wreaking havoc on Atlantic Ocean (Yahoo): The population of lionfish along the U.S. east coast is growing out of control. The lionfish is a venomous predator that has no natural predators of its own in the Atlantic Ocean. The Christian Science Monitor estimates that at least 40 native species have suffered because of the invasive lionfish. Scientists believe that introducing only six lionfish into the area caused the boom. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association suggests the only way to control the population is to capture and eat the lionfish.

Wildlife officials seek protection for Dakota, Poweshiek butterflies (Holland Sentinel): Federal wildlife officials believe two types of butterflies should be classified as threatened or endangered. The proposal to protect the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling will be published in the Federal Register. The Fish and Wildlife service wants to designate different sized tracts in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to protect the Dakota skipper, while designating tracts in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota to protect the Poweshiek skipperling.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions drop 3.8 percent (Mother Nature Network): The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Monday, October 21 that there was a 3.8 percent drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from 2011 to 2012. Although the population increased in 2012, the country released 208 million metric tons less than it did the year before. A milder winter, new car efficiency standards and a continuing switch from power plants run by coal to power plants run by natural gas contributed to the decrease.

Up or down? Which way are Great Lakes water levels headed? (MLive): Officials have considered closing Leland Harbor in Lake Michigan because of record-low water levels that could damage boats and freighters. Although significant rainfall from April to August caused a rise in water levels in the Great Lakes, climate change and manmade alterations have greatly affected the makeup of the lakes. Most studies conclude lake levels will go down in the future, due to climate change. Scientists also predict climate change will cause a continued increase in water temperatures, less ice cover and more evaporation from the lakes.

Asian carp, rising water levels, and a pet deer: 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:

Great Lakes event seeks more data on Asian carp (Journal and Courier): Asian carp and other invasive species were one of the main topics of discussion last Monday at the Conference on Great Lakes Research at Purdue University. Presenters emphasized the Asian carp’s negative impact on the Great Lakes and focused on better understanding the species. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also suggested a separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems as a possible solution to eliminate Asian carp.

Lake Superior level jumps 9 inches in May (The Daily News): Though Lake Superior usually only rises about four inches each May, its water level jumped nine inches last month. The rise is a result of cold spring temperatures and late snow, which held back runoff until melting. Lakes Michigan and Huron are also quickly rising from near record-setting low water levels last winter and these higher lake levels could have positive outcomes for both recreational boaters and the Great Lakes shipping industry.

Plastic bags harm Duluth streams, Lake Superior (Great Lakes Echo): Duluth city councilor Emily Larson has teamed up with the organization Bag It Duluth to decrease plastic bag use across Minnesota. Because they are unable to fully decompose, grocery store plastic bags often clog drainage pipes, causing backflows. Bag It Duluth hopes to combat this by spreading public awareness and encouraging shoppers to recycle or reuse bags. Though the project is still in its first stages of development, it has begun to generate community interest as both citizens and businesses are looking to get involved.

Belle Isle project improves fish habitat, opportunities for anglers (Detroit Free Press): The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has offered $2 million in grants to Belle Isle park in hopes of improving fish habitat in the area. The majority of this money supports the Blue Heron Lagoon, a 41-acre wetland on the east side of the island, in hopes of improving the fishing experience at the park. Workers are expanding fish spawning areas and planting both submerged and emerged plants to diversify the lagoon’s biosystem and promote a healthy community of wildlife.

ImageLake Erie’s Record Breaking Algae Bloom of 2011 May Be a Sign of Things to Come (Great Lakes Now): A recent study from the University of Michigan revealed what may have been the cause of the harmful algae bloom on Lake Erie that occurred in 2011. In October of that year, algae covered approximately 2,000 square miles of the lake, negatively impacting its water quality and biodiversity. By using computerized climate models, researchers found that high levels of spring precipitation combined with an abundance of dissolved phosphorus from no-till farming contributed to the bloom, and the team is looking into ways to avoid the issue in the future.

Pet Deer, Lilly, Sparks Legal Battle For Michigan Family (Huffington Post): A Genesee County couple is facing controversy over their pet deer, Lilly. The couple acquired Lilly when the deer’s mother was hit by a car five years ago, and they have kept her in their home ever since. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently notified the owners that the deer must be released into the wild, complying with laws regarding the use of wild animals as private property. The couple has hired a lawyer in an attempt to keep the deer.