News and Events

Steve Hernek, Dangerous Current Outreach Supporter, Passed Away

Mr. Steve Hernek passed away recently. Mr. Hernek and his family have owned the Dunes Shores Resort along Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula since 1960. The resort is located along US-2 on the shores of upper Lake Michigan where extremely dangerous currents are present. When the Mackinac County Water Safety Review Team was established, Mr. Hernek became an active member.

Ron Kinnunen, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator, said:
“(Mr. Hernek) had a great deal to add with his observations of dangerous currents over many years. Steve was involved with the research on dangerous currents in northern Lake Michigan and hosted the research team led by Guy Meadows at the Dunes Resort. Anyone who knew Steve could feel the enthusiasm that he projected. He will be sorely missed.”

Mr. Hernek also conducted dye studies and documented the movement of dangerous currents during storm events that were conducive to rip current formation.

See the obituary for Mr. Hernek online at the Dodson Funeral Home website.

Public Notice: Michigan Sea Grant Program Invites Comments

The Michigan Sea Grant College Program will undergo a program site visit and program review by a federally appointed Site Review Team October 28-29, 2014. Congress has mandated that Sea Grant College programs be regularly reviewed.

The National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) will review Sea Grant programs on three criteria:

  1. Program Management and Organization — leadership, organization, program team approach and support.
  2. Stakeholder Engagement — relevance, advisory services and relationships.
  3. Collaborative Network Activities — coordinated planning and cooperative work with other Sea Grant programs and other local, state and federal agencies and organizations.

Submit Comments By Oct. 21, 2014

If you would like to submit comments to the Site Review Team about Michigan Sea Grant, please send your written comments via email to


Questions may be directed to Mike Liffmann, NOAA Sea Grant Extension Leader and Program Officer,


About Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan Sea Grant supports research, outreach and education to enhance sustainable use of Great Lakes resources, benefiting the environment, the quality of life, and the Michigan, Great Lakes and national economy. Our vision is healthy and sustainable Great Lakes resources achieved through an integrated program that engages universities, as well as public and private sectors.

Michigan Sea Grant College Program, a cooperative effort of the University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU), is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program. Michigan Sea Grant receives support from NOAA, the UM School of Natural Resources and Environment and the MSU Extension – Greening Michigan Institute to carry out programs in Michigan. Also, additional Michigan universities, state agencies and other non-federal sources provide support.



Introduction to FieldScope Webinar

Event Date: 9/24/2014

Join the National Geographic Education team for an introduction to FieldScope, a tool for sharing, mapping and graphing data collected in citizen science projects. You’ll see a demonstration of basic FieldScope functions including photo and data uploads, graphing and mapping.

The FieldScope team will also highlight existing projects you and your students can participate in, such as Great Lakes FieldScope and others.

See: More Details and Registration Information

Aquaponics Workshop: Growing Your Dream

Event Date: 10/10/2014
End Date: 10/12/2014

Aqua Growers will host a three-day workshop Oct. 10-12 at the Aqua Growers teaching facility in Livonia, Mich.  Guest speakers will include Charlie Shultz of Lethbridge College, Alberta, Canada and Jim Gill and Ken Chio, both with Aqua Growers.

Schult will address the critical aspects of aquaponic food production systems. He is a world renowned speaker traveling to many countries to lecturing, and has authored or co-authored over 20 papers on the subject of aquaponics.

This workshop is specifically geared toward those who:

  • have a desire to learn more about aquaponics and healthier food
  • want to start and build a home system
  • want to start a commercial system or a k-12 school system
  • want to learn more about sustainable food systems

For more information on how to register, fees and more, see the Event Flyer (PDF)

Avian Botulism Confirmed in Grand Traverse Bay

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed on August 12, 2014 that about 24 mallard ducks died from type C avian botulism along the southern shore of East Grand Traverse Bay. The ducks were found in a localized, small area near the Acme Township/East Bay Township shoreline in Grand Traverse County. Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator based in northwest Michigan, Mark Breederland, put together the following article to address avian botulism in the Great Lakes.

What is Avian Botulism and Should we be Concerned?

Avian botulism is a food poisoning whereby waterfowl ingest a toxin which is produced by the naturally occurring rod-shaped bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Typically, these native bacteria live in a highly resistant spore stage and are of no impact to fish and wildlife; however, under the right circumstances (usually anaerobic conditions), the bacteria will germinate, produce and make bio-available one of nature’s most potent toxicants. The toxin causes muscular paralysis. Often the birds are unable to hold their head up and may drown or die from respiratory failure.  Avian botulism is also known as limberneck, due to the bird’s inability to hold up its head.

While small invertebrates (often maggots) are not impacted by the toxin, they often serve to pass the toxin up the food chain. A rotting carcass that has the botulism toxin in it and is decomposing along the shore can often be a source for maggots, and other scavenging birds such as gulls can possibly get botulism. This maggot-cycle is particularly important for type C botulism.

What is Type C Botulism vs. Type E Botulism?

Type C avian botulism is the neuromuscular disease which typically affects dabbler ducks, and possibly other shorebirds, that forage in the mud in both inland and Great Lake coastlines (see the poster from Michigan Sea Grant – Dabblers & Divers: Great Lakes Waterfowl) and eat invertebrates directly.  Type C impacts are felt in both inland lake and pond environments as well as in the Great Lakes shorelines.

Type E avian botulism usually impacts diver ducks in the Great Lakes where they dive deep and eat fish/mussels. Avian botulism outbreaks (type E) have occurred, with increased frequency in Lake Michigan along the northwest Michigan region since 2006, typically during the September-October-November time frame.

The mallard dabbler duck is the most abundant local duck in the Grand Traverse Bay region with strong population numbers and is the single species that was affected in the recent outbreak confirmed by the DNR. It is doubtful that a significant type C botulism outbreak would seriously impact population numbers of this species.

However, diving duck species such as common loons are a noteworthy species that have been impacted by type E botulism over a recent number of years. Common loons are a species of special concern in Michigan, and the full impact of the botulism kills are not known and a possible concern for loon population impacts in North America.


Additional Resources and Q & A

Michigan Sea Grant has published information and frequently asked questions concerning botulism which is applicable to both Type C and Type E, including:

  • Is it safe to walk dogs on the beach after a bird kill? 

If you bring pets to the shore, keep them away from dead animals on the beach. Dead wildlife may contain potentially harmful bacteria or toxins. In cases where you think your pet may have ingested a contaminated carcass, monitor them for signs of sickness and contact a veterinarian if you suspect they are falling ill.

  • Do I have to wash my hands after I touch a dead bird?
    Yes, you should always wash your hands after handling any wildlife. Ideally, you should also wear gloves to handle any dead animal.
  • Can I swim in the water?
    You are not at risk for botulism poisoning by swimming in Great Lakes waters. Botulism is only contracted by ingesting fish or birds contaminated with the toxin. If you have concerns about water quality, contact your local health department or swim in a regulated beach area.
  • How can people who want to help clean up the beach after a bird kill best protect themselves?
    People who handle dead wildlife should wear protective gear, such as disposable rubber gloves or an inverted plastic bag over their hands. In cases where a diseased or dead bird is handled without gloves, hands should be thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water or an anti-bacterial cleaner.
  • What is the best way to dispose of dead fish/birds in my area, especially after a botulism outbreak?
    Be sure to follow local wildlife agency (e.g., Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, etc.) recommendations in handling dead fish and wildlife. Wear disposable, rubber or plastic gloves or invert a plastic bag over your hands when handling sick, dead, or dying fish, birds or other animals. In certain areas, burying of the carcasses is allowed, while in other areas incineration may be recommended. If birds are to be collected, they should be placed in heavy plastic bags to avoid the spread of botulism-containing maggots.  The major goal should be to protect yourself, while also ensuring that the dead birds or fish are not available for consumption by other wildlife.


What to do if You Find Dead or Dying Birds

Any dead or dying birds that are found along the south shore of Grand Traverse Bay should be reported to the local Traverse City DNR office at (231) 922-5280, ext. 6832.

MSG’s Mark Breederland has been involved in providing educational programs on avian botulism for several years. If you would like a presentation for your work, social and school group, contact Mark at (231) 922.4628 or

Job Opportunity: Water Resources Extension Educator

Michigan State University and the Greening Michigan Institute are looking for an Extension Educator to focus on water resource issues in the Saginaw Bay area.

The person in this position will address issues such as localized water scarcity and conflict; water management in land use and economic development planning; water conservation and reuse by individual water users and communities; community capacity for comprehensive watershed planning; water policy education; and on-stream, off-stream and groundwater use conflicts.

For more details, visit and search for posting number 9823. The deadline to apply is September 14, 2014.

Harmful Algal Blooms and Drinking Water Problems

10-742 Harmful Algal Bloom illustration-1579px

Click to enlarge.

Tests at a water treatment plant found elevated levels of the toxin microcystin, which is produced by blue-green algae, in the drinking water for Toledo, Ohio as well as communities in southeast Michigan. The toxin was part of the Harmful Algal Bloom, or HAB, that was found in the western basin of Lake Erie.

The City of Toledo leadership cautioned residents and the several hundred thousand people served by its water utility not to drink tap water, even if they boil it.

Exposure to high levels of microcystin can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, liver inflammation, pneumonia and other health problems, some of which can be life-threatening.

The all clear was given on Aug. 4 and residents were advised that the drinking water was once again safe for bathing, cooking and consumption.

However, HABs are a large and ongoing issue in the Great Lakes, particularly the bay regions (Green Bay, Saginaw Bay, Maumee Bay, etc.), that we will likely hear more about as the season progresses.

Learn more about this issue:

 Explore recent research on this issue:

Speak with an expert on Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs):

  • Sonia Joseph Joshi: Michigan Sea Grant Regional Extension Outreach Specialist at the NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health based at the Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory in Ann Arbor. Focus area: Water quality and human health.
  • Steve Stewart: Michigan Sea Grant Senior Extension Educator, Southeast District and Education Co-leader. Focus area: Western Lake Erie and southern Lake Huron issues. Has lead educational cruises on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair for more than 20 years.
  • Don Scavia: Leading specialist on Harmful Algal Blooms and hypoxia in fresh and marine environments. Based at the University of Michigan at the Graham Center for Sustainability. Has performed extensive research on Lake Erie’s Dead Zones and, by proxy, HABs.

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trails Conference

Event Date: 9/8/2014
End Date: 9/9/2014

This two-day conference will help you discover how our valuable Great Lakes fisheries (past, present and future) can benefit local museum programs, enhance coastal tourism development opportunities and support community development efforts. Learn more about Michigan’s Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Consortium projects and partnerships, including current opportunities toward designating a statewide fisheries heritage tourism trail.

Sponsored by the Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Consortium, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Online Registration: Michigan Maritime Museum

More Details:

Happy Birthday Detroit: The 313 Turns 313 Years Old!

The city of Detroit and the Detroit River have experienced a great deal of environmental change in the last 313 years. Then, like now, it’s impassioned citizens and groups that work to help make the city and the river great.

Early Detroit

On July 24, 1701, Antoine Laumet de LaMothe Cadillac established the City of Detroit with permission from French King Louis XIV. When first established, the French trading outpost was called Fort-Pontchartrain du Détroit. Today, some of us who live in metro Detroit often refer to the city by its area code, 313. While much has changed in the last 313 years, some things are still very similar. Detroit is still a place with impassioned people who are working hard to make Detroit a great place to live, work and play.

Read Full Article

Marinas and Harbors Workshop: Spring Lake/Grand Haven

Event Date: 8/5/2014

Changing Water Levels, Stormwater Volumes and Updates to Clean Marina Program


Because the Great Lakes are important to you and your business, you are invited to learn more about current issues for marinas and harbors in Michigan.

Join us for a workshop among peers to discuss fluctuating water levels and increased stormwater volumes and to learn about the Michigan Clean Marina Program. The meeting is set for the Spring Lake District Library in Spring Lake, Michigan near the lovely shores of Lake Michigan.

Michigan Sea Grant-hosted workshop — open and free to anyone interested in learning more about coastal resilience and sustainability practices from a harbor/marina point of view.

3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 5

Spring Lake District Library
123 E. Exchange Street
Spring Lake, MI 49456

Free, but registration requested. REGISTER HERE


  • Lows, Runoff and Rebound in 2013/14: Great Lakes Levels Update
  • Stormwater Management at your Facility (best practices and peer-to-peer discussion)
  • Best practices to Increase Resiliency to Changing Environmental Conditions (infrastructure, dredging, planning)
  • Overview of the Clean Marina program
  • Discussion

Refreshments will be provided.

Join the MBIA meeting:
The marinas and harbors workshop will be followed by the southwest regional Michigan Boating Industries Association meeting at 6 p.m. at Bil-Mar Restaurant
1223 S. Harbor Dr.
Grand Haven, Mich. 49417
4 miles/10-minute drive from the Spring Lake District Library.

The workshop is free, but we do ask that you register in advance. If you have any questions, contact Amy Samples at (734) 647-0766 or

Workshop Series

This event is part of the 2014 Michigan Clean Marina Workshop Series, a collaboration of Michigan Sea Grant and the MBIA. Workshops are currently being scheduled in coastal communities around the state.

The series is supported by the Michigan Coastal Management Program and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Office of the Great Lakes.

All events are free and open to the public.