News and Events

Great Lakes net-pen aquaculture—real and perceived risks to the environment

Michigan Sea Grant addresses environmental issues surrounding net-pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes at recent Annual No-Spills Conference.

Great Lakes net-pen aquaculture—real and perceived risks to the environment

In the last several years there has been a great deal of discussion about net-pen aquaculture in the Michigan waters of the Great Lakes. Much of the attention about Great Lakes net-pen aquaculture is the generation of large quantities of fish waste from these fish production operations as well as the consequences if these fish escape into the environment. The main issue with fish waste is the release of phosphorus which is the growth limiting nutrient for primary production in freshwater ecosystems. Although some phosphorus is necessary to drive the freshwater food chain, concern arises when excess amounts of phosphorus are available which can result in significant algal blooms and other aquatic plant growth. In addition there is a concern about fish diseases and genetics, which may be the consequence of the interaction of fish raised in Great Lakes net pens and native fish in the surrounding environment.

Discussing environmental issues

To address these concerns Michigan Sea Grant was invited to speak at the 28th Annual No-Spills Conference in January 2018, to discuss environmental issues surrounding net-pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes. Currently there are seven net-pen aquaculture operations that exist in northern Lake Huron on the Canadian side of the lake. These operations are sustainably producing more than 5,000 tons of rainbow trout per year with some being sold in retail markets in Michigan. They provide 340 direct and indirect jobs with a $100 million contribution to the Canadian economy. These net-pen aquaculture operations take up a small footprint in the environment; one of these operations that produces 500,000 pounds of rainbow trout per year would fit into an average size Michigan marina.

Fish disease risks and genetic dilution can be minimized

For Great Lakes net-pen aquaculture to be environmentally sound it must have practices that prevent disease transmission and escapement of fish into the wild, as escapees could affect the genetic integrity of surrounding fish populations. These operations must also be non-polluting with minimal and recoverable impacts. With regards to fish diseases, the commercial aquaculture industry is highly regulated and is held to the same standards as state and federal hatchery programs. Fish disease risks are minimized and prevented through regulation, biosecurity, and best management practices.

In 2014 the state of Michigan stocked more than 20 million fish, produced from gametes collected from wild fish. This equated to 325 tons of fish stocked, 9 different species, 370 stocking trips, 732 stocking sites, with 100,000 miles of travel from several fish hatcheries. In comparison Canadian net-pen operations in Lake Huron typically stock one cohort, certified as specific pathogen free, then raise the fish to harvest and truck them one way to a fish processing facility. The net results are that Michigan hatcheries have a much higher risk of disease transmission than the current system for growing trout in Canadian net pens.

The Great Lakes already have rainbow trout which are non-native to the region. They were introduced by fishery management agencies years ago and many of these fish are now naturalized, spawning on their own in local rivers, with additional enhancement from government fish hatcheries. Rainbow trout produced in Great Lakes net-pen operations can be female triploids which are sterile and will not reproduce should they escape into the environment. So the risk of genetic dilution can be eliminated by use of these female triploid rainbow trout.

Low phosphorus, digestible fish diets help minimize phosphorus waste

During the height of the Great Lakes net-pen aquaculture discussion there were media reports that a typical net-pen operation with 200,000 fish would produce as much waste as a city of 65,000 people. In reality a city of 65,000 people would produce 21 times more fecal matter than a 200,000 fish net-pen operation. This same city would produce 5 times more phosphorus compared to the net-pen aquaculture operation. The city would also generate 24 kg/yr of E. coli with none coming from the net-pen operation.

Canadians have had net-pen aquaculture operations in their northern waters of Lake Huron since 1982. To help address the issue of excess phosphorus discharge from freshwater net pens, Fisheries and Oceans Canada completed a study on Freshwater Cage Aquaculture: Ecosystems Impacts from Dissolved and Particulate Waste Phosphorus. Fish receiving digestible phosphorus in specific amounts to meet their growth requirements excrete only small amounts of dissolved phosphorus. Dissolved phosphorus is most often the form of concern in impaired waters. The other form of phosphorus excreted from fish is particulate phosphorus which settles to the bottom sediments. The particulate phosphorus which accounts for the majority of the waste from net-pen operations is transported to the bottom sediments and is not immediately available for uptake into the ecosystem. In sediments it can be consumed by the benthic organisms and enter the aquatic food chain. Both dissolved and particulate phosphorus wastes produced by fish are the results of the diets they consume. The development of low phosphorus, highly digestible diets has been a tool to help minimize phosphorus waste by aquaculture operations.

The Fisheries and Oceans Canada study found that based on net-pen aquaculture production in northern Lake Huron in 2006 contributed about 5 percent of the annual total phosphorus loading to the North Channel. The study concluded that the likelihood of phosphorus additions to the environment from net-pen aquaculture operations resulting in eutrophication to Canadian freshwater environments under the current level of fish production can generally be characterized as “low.” The greatest concerns for phosphorus are in the nearshore areas where excess aquatic plant growth can foul the shorelines. In contrast, offshore phosphorus loading is of less concern and higher phosphorus concentrations may be considered a means to help mitigate declining populations of forage fish and the poor condition of sport and commercial fish species.

Youth voices on Great Lakes, marine sanctuaries and more shared through film

Event Date: 1/24/2018
End Date: 1/28/2018

Thunder Bay International Film Festival explores Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage and more.

The 2018 Thunder Bay International Film Festival features films about Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage, and more.

The 2018 Thunder Bay International Film Festival features films about Great Lakes issues, ocean exploration, maritime heritage, and more.

Film lovers, filmmakers, proud parents and students will be flocking to Alpena, Mich., this next week for the sixth annual Thunder Bay International Film Festival (TBIFF). The festival takes place Wednesday through Sunday (Jan. 24-28, 2018), at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center and is hosted by Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with the International Ocean Film Festival. Films will be featured from around the world exploring ocean and Great Lakes issues, and much more. Student films will be featured during the TBIFF’s 3rd Annual Student Film Competition.

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network and partnership, the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine SanctuaryMichigan Sea Grant, and others partner sponsor this student competition to inspire young filmmakers – and to promote deeper understanding of Great Lakes and ocean issues. The 2018 stewardship theme and film challenge for students was #SanctuariesAre, and 9 student films (grades K-12) explore our National Marine Sanctuaries – and other creative interpretations of sanctuaries – through the lens of these talented youth. Student films will be shown 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, followed a filmmakers’ panel discussion. This portion of the festival is free and open to the public.

The entire TBIFF will screen nearly fifty films, ranging in length from one minute to feature-length at the NOAA Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. This is an opportunity for many to view films from the International Ocean Film Festival, a long-running, global festival of ocean-themed films, but which are largely unavailable to the general public. Films also will be shown at the Rogers City Theatre in Rogers City, Mich. (Jan. 24) and the Alcona County Library in Harrisville, Mich. (Jan. 25).

listing of times and locations of filmsOne festival film featured this year is “Immiscible: The Fight Over Line 5,” a film produced by Dan Stephens, a Michigan StateUniversity alumni. Stephens studied documentary production at MSU, but has an interest in natural resources leadership. In middle and high school, Dan was both a past camper and counselor at the statewide 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp sponsored by Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant. Stephens hopes to speak with and inspire this year’s student film competitors to continue their journey to foster Great Lakes stewardship and educational opportunities through film.

In addition, a Michigan Sea Grant film titled “Fish Guts,” created by MSUstudent Zachary Barnes and Extension educator Dan O’Keefe describes a Great Lakes predator fish diet study involving a citizen science effort where anglers help scientists better understand foodweb interactions among fisheries in Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Tickets are $30 for the Friday reception and films, $6 per program for films aired on Saturday and Sunday. The filmmakers panel and student films taking place 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday are free and open to the public. A full festival pass (Thunder Pass) can be purchased at a discount. Call (989) 356-8805, visit thunderbayfriends.org, or come into the Sanctuary Store (500 West Fletcher, Alpena) to buy your tickets. For more information about the Thunder Bay International Film Festival or the Student Film Competition, call 989-884-6212 or email Stephanie Gandulla.

National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium

Event Date: 5/14/2018
End Date: 5/17/2018

May 14-17, 2018, Grand Rapids, MI

The National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium is the crown jewel of the National Working Waterfront Network. People from across the United States attend the symposium to connect with one another and showcase (and initiate) innovative solutions to their waterfront issues. The ultimate goal of the symposium, and the Network, is to increase the capacity of saltwater- and freshwater-based coastal communities and for stakeholders to make informed decisions, balance diverse uses, ensure access, and plan for the future of their working waterfronts. Working waterfronts include waterfront lands, waterfront infrastructure, and waterways that are used for water-dependent activities, such as ports, marinas, small recreational boat harbors, fishing docks, and hundreds of other places across the country where people use and access the water.

Michigan Sea Grant is hosting the 5th National Symposium. By design, the triennial symposium moves around the country to highlight the diversity of our nation’s working waterfronts; to foster a cross-fertilization of ideas, knowledge, and solutions; and to generate strategic partnerships.

Purpose of the Symposium

  • To connect and unite stakeholders from across the U.S., and to showcase (and initiate) innovative, successful, and timely solutions to waterfront and waterway issues.
  • To provide attendees an opportunity to network with others who are involved in the same types of professional issues and, together, develop strategies, timelines, funding sources, and regional alliances to address them.

The 2018 Symposium will use several presentation formats to create an educational and interactive forum where emerging ideas, best practices, and information may be shared.

Program Structure

The symposium will consist of:

  • Plenary Sessions, which will feature leaders and keynote presenters from the working waterfronts and waterways community.
  • Traditional Concurrent Sessions, which will be comprised of 15-20-minute speaker talks accompanied by PowerPoint presentations. Concurrent sessions will be arranged from individual abstracts submitted on similar topics.
  • Formal Poster Session, which will feature all NWWW Symposium poster presentations.
  • Strategic Planning Meeting, which will take advantage of our time together to collaborate and develop strategic plans for the working waterfronts and waterways community moving forward.

Learn more about the symposium

About NWWN

The National Working Waterfront Network (NWWN) is a nationwide network of businesses, industry associations, nonprofits, local governments and communities, state and federal agencies, universities, Sea Grant programs, and individuals dedicated to supporting, preserving, and enhancing our nation’s working waterfronts and waterways. Participation in the NWWN is open to all individuals and organizations involved in working waterfront issues at the federal, state, and local level. Our mission is to increase the capacity of coastal communities and stakeholders to make informed decisions, balance diverse uses, ensure access, and plan for the future of their working waterfronts and waterways.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension welcomes new educator to Saginaw Bay region

Meaghan Gass excited to help build capacity, collaboration among groups in area.

Meaghan Gass works with students from Ella White Elementary School in Alpena, Mich. Gass will join Michigan Sea Grant as its Saginaw Bay region educator. Courtesy photo.

Meaghan Gass works with students from Ella White Elementary School in Alpena, Mich. Gass will join Michigan Sea Grant as its Saginaw Bay region educator. Courtesy photo.

Meaghan Gass will join Michigan Sea Grant as an educator located in the Saginaw Bay region. She is no stranger to Michigan, having spent the last three years with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI), first as a Huron Pines AmeriCorps member and then on staff as the network coordinator based in Alpena. Through her position there she often worked closely with both Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant staff and programs.

“Through my work with the NEMIGLSI network, I partnered closely with Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant. Seeing what they are able to accomplish in Michigan is exciting,” said Gass. “I also learned more about what the Sea Grant network is doing across the Great Lakes. Engaging a variety of stakeholders and connecting Great Lakes research with communities are huge passions of mine, and I am excited these strategies are at the heart of Sea Grant’s mission.”

Gass will begin her new position on Feb. 5, 2018, and will divide her time between MSU Extension offices in Arenac and Bay counties. She will provide services in five counties including Arenac, Bay, Tuscola, Huron and Sanilac.

“Meaghan will be an excellent addition to our Sea Grant team,” said Dr. Heather Triezenberg, program coordinator. “We’re excited that she will continue the work we’ve been doing in that region to address Great Lakes, Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay issues.”

meaghan gass

Gass grew up in southern Illinois but loves living in northeast Michigan. “With all of opportunities for outdoor recreation, living close to Lake Huron has been fantastic. In the Saginaw Bay region, I look forward to collaborating with partners on water and coastal community resiliency issues that are key for the area.”

Mischelle Warner, MSU Extension district coordinator for seven counties in northeast Michigan, said having Gass located in Arenac County, as well as Bay, offers more accessibility for residents and communities. “We’re looking forward to having Meaghan with us in Arenac County. We know there are so many opportunities for programming and collaboration, plus, the county commissioners specifically requested support from MSU Extension in her expertise area for 2018 and beyond.”

Gass received her bachelor of arts degree from Illinois State University and her masters in political science from St. Louis University. Her research focused on water and river basin governance. As an undergrad she majored in political science and French and minored in Spanish.

While living in the Alpena area, Gass has quickly become a part of the community and served in several volunteer roles, including as a board member for Huron Pines, a 4-H Club Leader, and co-president of the Alpena County League of Women Voters. “It’s important to become part of the greater community,” she said.

“Meaghan’s work experience in northeast Michigan partnering with so many different organizations will lead to great connections, collaborations in the Saginaw Bay area,” said Dave Ivan, director of the MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute. “We are happy to have her join MSU Extension.”

Gass is looking forward to her upcoming move to Bay City and to begin building connections with individuals and groups in the area. “We need to work together to ensure protection of the Great Lakes. Collaboration is key. I’m really excited to have this opportunity and look forward to what we can achieve in the Bay area.

Project-Based Learning Meets Place-Based Stewardship Education

Event Date: 2/15/2018

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Your school, your community organization, and YOU are invited to join and participate in the annual, youth education-focused Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) Regional Network Meeting on Thursday, February 15, 2018 hosted in Alpena, Michigan. 

Program Expectations/Objectives

  • Learn about the NEMIGLSI network and gain educational updates, information and resources in support of your stewardship education programs and efforts.
  • Network, share, and trade lessons learned with participating NEMIGLSI partners and projects; a chance to connect with educators and community partners from around our region.
  • Contribute in planning the future direction for your regional NEMIGLSI, a focus this year on linking project-based and place-based stewardship education! Your opportunity to provide input and guidance about how GLSI can better support place-based efforts in northeast Michigan!

Registration

Please share with those who may be interested in participating and benefit from the day, and we hope you will plan to join yourself!

  • Register online no later than Friday, February 9th.
  • No cost to participate and lunch is provided. We only request you please pre-register, as this helps us plan for meals and educational materials provided (if you have any food allergies, please contact Meaghan Gass, meaghan.nemiglsi@gmail.com)
  • NEMIGLSI School participation stipends. $100/teacher 

Questions or need additional information? Please feel free to contact us by e-mail at northeastmichiganGLSI@gmail.com or phone: (989) 884-6216. 

In good tradition, we anticipate a wonderful day of networking and sharing information, resources, and new ideas among schools, educators and community partners engaged in youth development and environmental stewardship across northeast Michigan.

Aplex (Alpena Events Complex)
Huron Conference Room
701 Woodward Avenue
Alpena, MI 49707
www.aplex.org

Students find winter is a perfect time to prepare for spring pollinator garden project

Alcona first-grade students spend day learning and preparing for their part in creating library garden.

Alcona elementary students enjoy creating their own caterpillars. Photo: Alcona Community Schools

Alcona elementary students enjoy creating their own caterpillars. Photo: Alcona Community Schools

Bees and butterflies, exploring native wildflowers, planting seed balls, and a painted caterpillar art project – all this adds up to a fun-filled morning learning about pollinators and native wildflowers with Alcona Community Schools. Students were not only applying their science and math, reading and art skills but also were preparing for a pollinator garden project they are creating in spring with their local library.

The Alcona County Library recently received a grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to create a community reading garden and book trail at their main branch in Harrisville, Mich. The library team has been planning the design with Alcona Community School educators, Michigan State University Extension staff, and other community partners – and at the center will be local students helping to accomplish this exciting project.

Alcona students from pre-school to high school will eventually contribute to the reading garden and trail. First-graders will begin by planting a pollinator garden in the shape of a colorful caterpillar to inspire an educational connection between native wildflowers and pollinators such as bees and butterflies. This shape was strategically chosen to complement the existing pollinator garden, which is in the shape of a butterfly. The original garden also was developed by teachers and students several years ago as a schoolyard habitat demonstration project at Alcona Elementary.

While planting the library garden won’t happen until spring, there are plenty of tasks to be accomplished in preparation. Recently student exploration included five simple yet purposeful (and fun) learning stations.

  • Art inspired: a painting project involved egg cartons cut into strips and turned upside down to look like caterpillars. Student art inspired their ideas about colors and creation of the soon to be caterpillar-shaped garden.
  • A science lesson: students learned in a hands-on way about pollinators such as bees and butterflies, along with a variety of native wildflowers that benefit pollinators.
  • Story problem solved by math: knowing six circle planters would be arranged to make their caterpillar garden, students used feed sacks filled with leaves to visually figure out how many bags of soil they would need to fill one circle. Applying their math and counting skills allowed them to figure a total amount of soil needed for their entire garden project.
  • A reason for reading: students read through a handful of nature books, picking a few of their favorites. Book titles and quotes from these favorites may be highlighted in signage created as part of the library project.
  • Hands-in-the-dirt learning: The class also explored a variety of native wildflowers (and colors of flowers) for their project; and got their hands dirty making ‘seed balls’ (moist soil balled up with a mix of native seeds). They planted these in their own local schoolyard habitats currently, while looking forward to planting more of seeds at the library this spring.

Part of a year-long place-based education effort, this fun-filled day represented was just one educational step toward creating their caterpillar-shaped pollinator garden. At the start of the school year, students launched their pollinator studies by raising, tagging, and releasing monarch butterflies as part of a Monarch Watch project. They also explored biodiversity of schoolyard habitats using tablets and the online iNaturalist citizen science project to document life found in their schoolyard pollinator garden and milkweed habitats. They also visited coastal Lake Huron habitats (important migratory habitats for monarchs) at DNR Harrisville State Park where they helped pick up litter and pull invasive spotted knapweed plants. Finally they made a quick visit to the library to see the site where their project would develop.

These native wildflower and pollinator habitat projects – both at the elementary school and soon to be at the library – are the result of place-based education learning effort led by Alcona educators with community partners supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI). This project represents a fantastic school-community partnership where students and their stewardship project are relevant and valued by their community. Of equal value, lead educator Gail Gombos notes this project offers multiple learning values and hands-on experiences and gives her students an opportunity to expand learning in connection to the stewardship project throughout the entire school year.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension help provide leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI), a larger, statewide partnership. Professional development and project support for this project was also provided through the regional Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy.

What happens to my lake water quality monitoring data in a world of big data?

Citizen scientists collect valuable information to be used by researchers, policy-makers and natural resources managers.

Iowa State University student field technicians sample a lake in Iowa for the state's water quality monitoring program. Photo: Daniel Kendall, Iowa State University, Agriculture Communications

Iowa State University student field technicians sample a lake in Iowa for the state’s water quality monitoring program. Photo: Daniel Kendall, Iowa State University, Agriculture Communications

Michigan has a lot of inland lakes: 6,531 lakes 10 acres or larger, 2,649 are isolated with no streams flowing into or out of them, and the rest have some kind of stream flowing out or in, with all of them draining to the Great Lakes basin (Soranno et al. 2017). Residents of Michigan, especially those who live on lakes, are curious about the quality of water and food webs of their inland lakes. Because of their interest, residents often participate in opportunities such as Michigan State University Extension’s Introduction to Lakes Online educational program, volunteer water quality monitoring programs such as MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, or aquatic habitat improvement projects using Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ inland lake habitat viewer.

With all this lake monitoring data, one might ask…what happens to it? The data are used in a variety of ways. A team of researchers led by MSU professors Patricia Soranno and Kendra Spence Cheruvelil recently published findings from a big data project funded by the National Science Foundation that combined lake water quality monitoring data from 17 Midwestern and Northeastern states. This effort produced the lake multi-scaled geospatial and temporal database called LAGOS-NE, and is the first effort so far to combine water quality data from thousands of lakes and their surrounding landscapes. Large-scale data on a variety of lake water quality and landscape parameters helps advance freshwater conservation in an era of rapidly changing conditions. A large percentage of the data in this database was collected by citizen volunteers who play a critical role in ensuring our important freshwater resources are monitored.

LAGOS-NE is a publically accessible database that is available for informing research, policy, and management. Researchers might use the database to explore shifting patterns in species distribution or drivers of lake change. Policy-makers might use results from the database to inform lake specific nutrient standards or a dashboard of ecosystem services. Natural resource managers might use the database to prioritize areas for habitat conservation initiatives. 

The next time you enjoy fishing, swimming, or boating on any of the 50,000 mid-western or northeastern inland lakes, think about how big data and citizens have joined forces with computer sciences and aquatic ecology. If you do not already participate in a volunteer monitoring programs, consider making 2018 your year to contribute local water quality data. In addition to providing information about the local waterways important to Michigan, these data are also important for global freshwater sciences.

Registration is open for MSU Extension’s next Introduction to Lakes Online session. The class will be held Jan. 23–March 9, 2018. Registration deadline is Jan. 16, 2018. 

National Parks of the Great Lakes – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on mighty Lake Superior provides incredible recreational opportunities.

Kayakers paddle in Lake Superior near a sandstone cliff of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. Photo: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

Kayakers paddle in Lake Superior near a sandstone cliff of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. Photo: Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

The United States National Park Service not only administers parks, it also is responsible for designated lakeshores, historic sites, battlefields, and memorials. In addition, it oversees historic and scenic trails located in the Great Lakes watershed. One of the most unique National lakeshores – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – is the focus of this second article in this series on the National Parks of the Great Lakes.

If you’ve ever visited Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between Munising to the west and Grand Marais to the east, you’ve probably seen the famous cliffs and formations for which this park is named. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore includes 42 miles of Lake Superior coast, with colorful sandstone cliffs – some reaching 200 feet in height – extending along 15 miles of shoreline. Impressive in themselves, you can also find where they have been sculpted by nature into arches, caves – both above and below the water’s surface.

Lots to do

But there is much more to this lakeshore than just colorful cliffs. Miles of lovely beaches and huge sand dunes, forest trails, shipwrecks, and waterfalls are also along this part of the Lake Superior coast. Campers and hikers will enjoy the 100 miles of hiking trails. The park’s website can direct hikers to short day jaunts or longer treks. Backcountry camping is available but permits are required. Also, it is important to be prepared so visit the website for many good suggestions on what equipment and safety precautions you should take while visiting the park as well as a calendar of events and how to plan your trip.

Interested in maritime history? You can learn about the U.S. Lifesaving Service, the U.S. Lighthouse Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard at multiple sites along the shore, such as the Au Sable Light Station. And don’t miss the Alger Underwater Preserve in Munising, which features shipwrecks, educational glass bottom boat tours, interpretive underwater trails, and sea caves (see Michigan’s underwater preserves offer unique views of Great Lakes maritime heritage for more on Michigan’s underwater preserve system).

Artwork by Todd Marsee a watercolor landscape inspired by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Art in the park

One of the unique opportunities offered at many National Parks, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, is the Artist-in-Residence program. Residencies usually last 2-4 weeks and artists share their art with park visitors. This past summer Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant’s senior graphic designer, served as artist-in-residence at Pictured Rocks. Todd shared his thoughts about his experience:

“Being chosen from a pool of applicants to be the Artist in Residence (AIR) at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was a huge honor. I was fortunate to have this time to focus on my painting – off the grid. In these days of constant digital chatter, I found it extremely rewarding, as I produced 20 paintings at the cabin, and 6 additional in the works. My camera was with me all the time, capturing the many moods of Lake Superior. These photos helped inspire many paintings and are also being used here at Michigan Sea Grant. I was able to experience the shoreline when the Lake was smooth as glass and when there were waves nearing 10 feet in the open water. I saw the juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and awesome power all in one place.

The North Country Trail is literally right on the edge of the Lake in many places. It meanders into the woods for parts of the hike, but you are rewarded with an amazing Lake vista every time the path meets back up to the water. Color was a big inspiration in the work produced during the AIR. When the lighting is just right, the Lake is a brilliant blend of greens and blues. Rock hunting also brings all sorts of bright colors.”

If you’re an artist, check into the artist-in-residence program at many of the National Parks. And even if you’re not an artist, you’ll find that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers an incredible experience for you and your entire family.  Contact the Munising Falls Visitor Center, 1505 Sand Point Road, Munising, MI (phone 906-387-4310) for more information.

Read the National Parks of the Great Lakes series

Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous

Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.

Waves on Lake Michigan crash over nearshore structures.  Photo: Justin Selden, Michigan State University Extension

Waves on Lake Michigan crash over nearshore structures. Photo: Justin Selden, Michigan State University Extension

Winter is a spectacular time to visit Great Lakes shorelines. Intense storms lead to massive waves crashing over breakwaters and lighthouses with stunning dark skies as backdrops. While these waves and weather make for interesting viewing, they can also be life threatening.

Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.

The months of October, November and December are when extremely windy days will kick up massive waves across all five of the Great Lakes. On Oct. 24, 2017, one such storm swept across the northern Great Lakes. Buoys run by the Great Lakes Observation System (GLOS), a critical Great Lakes information-collecting network, recorded record wave height on Lake Superior with waves reaching an incredible 28.8 feet in height. With the waves came many sightseers eager to witness the display of force by the lake. Unfortunately, two people observing from a popular cliff-like rock formation near Marquette were swept into the lake and lost their lives.

Lake Superior isn’t the only lake where high winds and crashing waves have resulted in the loss of life. Fishermen on Lake Michigan standing on local breakwaters have been swept away or fallen into the water under high wind and icy conditions. Some folks walking or jogging along shorelines near Chicago have also fallen into the lake when large waves washed over them. The mix of high waves, strong winds, and often icy conditions can make piers, nearshore cliffs and breakwalls all dangerous structures.

Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.

Sea Grant Seeks Proposals for Aquaculture Research

Event Date: 12/15/2017
End Date: 3/30/2018

The NOAA National Sea Grant College Program 2018 Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes National Aquaculture Initiative federal funding opportunity is now open. 

Depending on appropriations, NOAA Sea Grant expects to have available a total of $7,000,000 to $11,500,000 across fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020 as part of the Sea Grant National Aquaculture Initiative (NAI). This federal funding competition is designed to foster the expansion of a sustainable U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes aquaculture sector by addressing one or more of the following priorities:

  • Supporting the development of emerging systems or technologies that will advance aquaculture in the U.S., including projects that will help stimulate aquaculture production by nascent industries.
  • Developing and implementing actionable methods of communicating accurate, science-based messages and information about the benefits and risks of U.S. marine aquaculture to the public. And
  • Increasing the resiliency of aquaculture systems to natural hazards and changing conditions.
Complete proposals are due from eligible parties to Sea Grant programs on March 2, 2018 at 5 p.m. local time. 
 
Applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out to their Sea Grant Program one to two months prior to the Sea Grant program application deadline to receive guidance regarding proposal development and discuss their proposed project(s). 
 
Proposals from Sea Grant programs are due in grants.gov by March 30, 2018
 
Please refer to the FFO for all planning and formal guidance.