Threatened loons, a bus tour and ‘frankenfish’: 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:

The Common Loon. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Common Loon.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Great Lakes loons dying in record numbers from botulism outbreak spurred by ecological disturbance ( Common Loons, Great Lakes birds roughly the size of small geese, are disappearing at an alarming rate as a result of a surprising source: Botulism E., arguably the most poisonous substance known to man. According to the Great Lakes Science Center, the toxin is transferred from rotting algae to algae-eating Gobies, eventually infecting Goby-eating birds such as Loons. The consequences are significant, as scientists estimate that 3,000 Lake Michigan Loons were killed from botulism in 2012 alone.

Photosharing websites aid study of insect biodiversity (Conservation Magazine): Technology has enabled everyday people help identify insect species across the globe. Scientists are examining the thousands of snapshots on various photosharing websites to learn more about special distribution and conservation statuses among insects. For example, a photo of an American species of assassin bug which was taken in Europe, revealing that the species has spread out of the continent. These photos can reveal where a particular species may be currently located or whether that species still exists, creating what naturalists consider a “democratic revolution in the study of biodiversity.”

Should Canada Geese be killed off instead of mute swans? DNR, readers weigh in (mlive): Opinions are buzzing around Barry County’s approved plans to eradicate its mute swan population. According to wildlife officials, the swans are an invasive species which can harm ecosystems by depriving native wildlife of food. However, many individuals voiced concerns in response to this movement, believing that Canada Geese are actually more problematic than mute swans. Still, DNR officials point out that, while the geese are a pervasive presence across the state, mute swans are still more ecologically harmful.

“I Will Act On Climate” 27-state bus tour arriving in Michigan Monday (CBS Detroit): Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will join a group of community members Monday morning to host the “I Will Act on Climate” bus tour at its Muskegon stop. The bus tour is a step toward creating a national energy policy, traveling from state to state and rallying communities to act on climate change. The movement comes as a result of President Obama’s first-ever carbon limit announcement roughly two months ago. In addition to Muskegon, the bus will stop at Peoples Community Services in Detroit Monday afternoon.

Wild rice mounts a comeback for culture and ecology (Great Lakes Echo): Native Americans and ecologists across the state are working to restore native wild rice, a crop that had nearly disappeared from Michigan’s waters. Though the plant was once common in streams and rivers across the state, invasive species, raised water levels and property owners clearing waterways have limited sizable beds of the tall grass to less than one dozen. The Native Wild Rice Coalition, a group working to restore wild rice for its ecological and cultural significance, has implemented plans to educate individuals about the plant in hopes of eventually changing state regulations.

The northern snakehead. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The northern snakehead.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Predatory ‘frankenfish’ caught in Virginia nets world record (Mother Nature Network): A Virginia fisherman has caught the world’s largest northern snakehead at 17 pounds 4 ounces, confirmed by the International Game Fish Association. The northern snakehead is an invasive, carnivorous predator with razor sharp teeth. Adding to its Frankenstein-like qualities, the creature can breathe air and survive out of water for up to four days. Northern snakeheads were first spotted in a Maryland pond after their release from a fish market, and the species has since spread into rivers across the nation.