News and Events

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.

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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.

Take a Great Lakes Class at the U-M Biological Station

Event Date: 8/20/2014
End Date: 8/24/2014

The University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) offers adults the chance to be students again! Participants may sign up for one of three mini-courses: Art in Nature, Fungi or Great Lakes Oceanography. Each class runs from Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 20-24.

  • Great Lakes Oceanography is a rare opportunity to learn about water quality, invasive species and Great Lakes ecology from three entertaining and enthusiastic experts. Gary Fahnenstiel, Tom Nalepa and Dave Schwab will teach the class on board NOAA Research Vessel Laurentian. All three men are Scientists Emeriti from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who are currently staff at the University of Michigan Water Center. Their respective areas of study are aquatic biology, invasive species, and hydrodynamics. Class participants will visit several locations in Lake Huron and the Mackinaw Straits. Along the way, they will use equipment and presentations from Fahnenstiel, Nalepa and Schwab to study the health of our region’s most vital natural resource.
  • Art in Nature is for visual artists at any skill level. Instructor Ann Singsaas will provide demonstrations and inspiration in plein-air sketching, simple watercolor painting techniques, and the elements of design. Students will learn to keep a field sketchbook, take visual notes and capture both the detail and the broader essence of the natural world on paper. Working on location and in the studio, students will learn to sketch or paint with minimal equipment, providing a new way to document travels. Singsaas has degrees in both biology and art and advanced study in painting. She shows her artwork in the Midwest is represented by several galleries in Wisconsin.
  • Fungi provides an in-depth look at nature’s recyclers. Local teacher and guide Marilynn Smith will use lectures and field trips to teach the structure, reproduction and ecology of fungi. Participants will also learn about the many uses humans have for fungi, beyond food. Smith has used her graduate training in mycology in the education and medical fields.

Course participants may commute or live at the Station, located on Douglas Lake, and eat in the  dining hall.

“Our mini-courses provide people from across age groups wonderful opportunities to experience ‘North Woods’ environments and biota from new and interesting perspectives,” says UMBS Director Knute Nadelhoffer.

More details and registration available on the UMBS website.

Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast for 2014

NOAA and its research partners predict that western Lake Erie will have a significant bloom of cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green algae, during the 2014 bloom season in late summer. However, the predicted bloom is expected to be smaller than last year’s intense bloom, and considerably less than the record-setting 2011 bloom. Bloom impacts will vary across the lake’s western basin and are classified by an estimate of both its concentration and how far it spreads.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) were common in western Lake Erie between the 1960s and 1980s. After a lapse of nearly 20 years, blooms have been steadily increasing over the past decade. Since 2008, NOAA has issued weekly HAB bulletins for western Lake Erie through the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to give warnings of bloom development. Also, this marks the third time NOAA has issued an annual outlook for western Lake Erie.

Learn More: