Invasive species gang up on native crayfish

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Invasive species in the Great Lakes are ganging up against native species.

A new study looking into invasive zebra and quagga mussels’ relationship with invasive rusty crayfish illustrates how the harm they cause together can be greater than either of them alone.

“What we found was that these invasive crayfish are really good at exploiting the resources provided by the (invasive) mussels,” said Mael Glon, who worked on this research while pursuing a master’s degree at Central Michigan University. “I don’t just mean eating them, because they are eating them, but they’re also eating what grows from what’s filtered from the mussels.”

The study was a collaboration between Central Michigan University (CMU) and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. It tested how the presence of the invasive mussels affected the growth and activity of both the invasive rusty crayfish and the native virile crayfish. The study funded by Michigan Sea Grant found that the mussels’ presence led to increased growth and activity of the invasive crayfish, but not the native ones. Continue reading

Two species – one to preserve, one to control – challenge dam removal

By IAN WENDROW

Capital News Service

LANSING — A proposed dam removal along the Grand River faces significant delays due to its potential to disrupt river ecosystems. The environmental risks involve the fate of two species: sea lamprey and snuffbox mussels.

One needs to be kept out while the other needs to be protected.

The Sixth Street Dam in downtown Grand Rapids was installed in the mid-1800s to help ship milled logs downstream by controlling the water’s height and flow. It drowned the river’s naturally occurring rapids, allowing logs to float over them.

Eventually log transportation no longer relied on the river, but the dam remained.

Years of inadequate maintenance began to pose a hazard to kayakers and swimmers. In 2013, firefighters rescued two kayakers after the bumped against the dam and capsized. This and other accidents motivated city and state agencies to get the removal process going in earnest. Continue reading

May 30, 2017 CNS Budget

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From: Eric Freedman & Dave Poulson

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CLIMATE CHANGE PACKAGE: CNS, in partnership with Great Lakes Echo, is providing a special six-story package of Michigan-focused stories about climate change. Each story can stand alone, be run as a series or be run as a package.

1st REGULAR SUMMER ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS PACKAGE AHEAD: Our first package of Michigan environmental stories for CNS members in partnership with Great Lakes Echo will move in early June.

Here is your file:

CLIMATEPACKAGE1MICHIGANIMPACT. Is Michigan the place to weather the climate? Tough call. On average, the Great Lakes region is 2 two degrees warmer than in 1912, according to MSU- U of M’s Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessment. “You’re literally looking at an ecological experiment taking place in front of our eyes,” the state climatologist says. By Jack Nissen & Karen Hopper Usher. FOR ALL POINTS. Continue reading

Will the whole country descend on Michigan?

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Some Michiganders smirked when a Popular Science video suggested the state would be a good place to live in 2100 to escape the consequences of climate change.

As if it isn’t already!

But the magazine’s broader point was climate change. Between oceans flooding coasts, wildfires torching the West, mosquitoes spreading disease and nasty storms leveling cities, the continental U.S. will be in rough shape by 2100. But Michigan and northern Wisconsin and Minnesota are going to be relatively unburdened by climate change.

Or so the magazine says.

A little warmer, sure, but not on fire or underwater, unlike those other places. Continue reading

What to expect from climate change

By JACK NISSEN & KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — The planet got hot, fast. Each of the last three years set records in terms of mean global temperature over the past 150 years.

On average, the Great Lakes region is 2 two degrees warmer than it was in 1912, according to the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessment, which is produced by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. By 2100, average temperatures could increase by 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s rare, but the planet’s overall climate has changed rapidly in the past. Volcanic explosions and meteor impacts did the trick then. This time around it’s us. We’re using too many fossil fuels, which puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and heats up the planet faster than before, according to the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Continue reading

Farmers uninterested in renting land for bioenergy crops

By JACK NISSEN

Capital News Service

LANSING — When Scott Swinton, an agriculture, food and resource economics professor at Michigan State University, asked landowners if they’d be interested in renting their land for bioenergy crops, the initial response was unexpected.

“The first thing we found was that a number of people that we sent questionnaires to were hoping MSU was secretly trying to find people they could rent land from to grow bioenergy crops,” Swinton said.

“I got scores of phone calls from people telling me they would love to rent their land to MSU if we were interested.”

But that wasn’t what Swinton was looking for. Instead, he was trying to study the willingness of farmers to rent land that isn’t used for crops. Continue reading

Stay away from algae decay

By LUCY SCHROEDER

Capital News Service

LANSING — As if you needed another reason not to play with stinky piles of algae: Decaying algae can promote the growth of bacteria that could make people and animals sick, according to recent research.

Scientists tracked the changes in bacterial communities while Cladophora algae decays. Bacteria harmful to humans and wildlife were among the many microbes they found, according to their study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

It is possible when people come in contact with the algae or water around it, they may be exposed to harmful bacteria, said Murulee Byappanahalli, a microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center and one of the authors of the study.

No solid cause-and-effect evidence links human illness to Cladophora, as those types of studies are difficult to conduct, Byappanahalli said. Continue reading

‘Saving Arcadia’ tells conservation success story

By IAN WENDROW

Capital News Service

LANSING — For Michiganders, going “Up North” is a common answer to questions about upcoming vacation plans – and for good reason.

That region holds Michigan’s dunes—landforms integral to the state’s history and tourism. They also hold stories of grassroots advocates and volunteers who successfully preserve these pristine landscapes.

Heather Shumaker, the author of “Saving Arcadia: A Story of Conservation and Community in the Great Lakes” (Wayne State University Press, $22.99), explores the near 40-year battle between Arcadia Dune conservationists and CMS Energy, the holding company of Consumers Energy, a natural gas and electric public utility.

Located along Lake Michigan’s coastline and almost directly across from Wisconsin’s Green Bay, the Arcadia Dunes’ conservation story begins in 1969. Elaine Putney, an orchard farmer, received a knock on her door from a sharply dressed man. The man, Gerald Derks, was offering to buy land from Benzie County residents on behalf of Viking Land Co., which — as it would later turn out — represented Consumers Power Co. Continue reading

Giving new life to road kill

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Taxidermy is about movement.

Dead animals will never again do so much as twitch a tail feather. But it’s up to the taxidermist to make it look like an animal is suspended in action, frozen as it turns or soars or strikes.

Jonathan Wright is pretty good at it.

The 32-year-old native of Mesick is a past world champion of taxidermy and is the go-to taxidermist for the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon.

“I can’t say enough good things about Jonathan Wright,” said Krista Menacher, the museum’s exhibit curator.

That relationship between Wright and the museum started in 2014 with a snowy owl road kill.

Wings of Wonder, a raptor sanctuary and rehabilitation program in Empire, and the museum sprang into action to extend the dead bird’s life in another way: through taxidermy. Continue reading

Prehistoric hunting grounds found deep in Lake Huron

 

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Deep below the chill waters of Lake Huron, scientists have found long-submerged physical evidence that prehistoric peoples systematically and strategically hunted caribou thousands of years ago.

Searching 50 miles offshore from Alpena, researchers discovered “drive lanes” — in effect, runways of death that channeled unwitting caribou into the clutches of hidden hunters — and stone hunting blinds where hunters awaited their prey.

“Caribou have a thing for linear features. They like following lines,” said scientific researcher Lisa Sonnenburg of the environmental consulting firm Stantec Consulting Inc. in Hamilton, Ontario. “Line stones up in a row and caribou will follow them. It’s something about how their brains work.”

Today, scientists and shoreline property owners pay close attention to annual fluctuations of Great Lakes water levels, but water levels between 8,350 and 9,000 years ago were unusually low, according to a newly published study by Sonnenburg and John O’Shea, the curator of Great Lakes archaeology at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. Continue reading