Downriver Linked Greenways Celebration

You’re invited to the Downriver Linked Greenway Celebration. Bring your bicycle or walking shoes and join us for the Stroll and Roll Meet-up following the festivities.

When: Thursday, June 8, at 4pm
Where: Trenton City Hall, 2800 Third St., Trenton, MI
RSVP: Trenton Parks and Recreation by June 7, please call (734) 675-7300

2017 Summer Discovery Cruises

Do you want to learn about the Great Lakes by being on the Great Lakes? If so, you will want to learn more about our 2017 Summer Discovery Cruises season!

For the 16th summer, Michigan Sea Grant Extension will provide Michiganders (and visitors to Michigan) with the opportunity to learn about the Great Lakes by being on the Great Lakes. Cruises depart from Lake Erie Metropark, with cruises on the lower Detroit River and Lake Erie, and Lake St. Clair Metropark, cruising Lake St. Clair.

The 2017 season offers more than 20 educational cruises around themes such as Fisheries, Wildlife, Wetlands, Shipwrecks, Lighthouses, Weather, Shipping and more. Cruises for educators wanting to enhance the use of Great Lakes content in their teaching are also provided, with stipends.

Some of the exciting cruises for the 2017 season include:

Lake St. Clair Fisheries – This is not a fishing cruise, but it definitely is a “fishy” cruise! Learn first-hand about the fish that are found in Lake St. Clair, many of which are available for hands-on examination during the cruise. We will be joined by a Michigan DNR Fisheries Biologist and rendezvous with their research vessel while out on the lake to observe fish tagging, measuring and other research operations.

Warfare on the Waterfront – The War of 1812, World War II, and even the American Civil War have all shaped the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Long after the end of hostilities, remnants of this military presence can still be found. Join an Interpreter for an in-depth look at these conflicts, their sites and stories, and see how they impacted the region and the world.

Shipwreck at Sugar – Just under the waves off a crumbling Sugar Island dock lie the remains of a vessel sank in 1945. Travel with our resident historian to the wreck site to learn about the S.S. Seabreeze, the story of how it got there and the circumstances surrounding its mysterious sinking.

Birds, Boats & Booze (4 hour history cruise) – Many things brought people to the St. Clair River Delta Flats area. The abundant wetlands brought duck hunters and fishing. Wood boats and passenger steamers brought tourism and recreation, and Prohibition brought rumrunners and speakeasies to the region. Spend a little more time in “the flats” with us as we cruise farther up the South Channel and share a little of the past including stories of the big hotels, Tashmoo Park, Chris Craft boat building and more.

Great Lakes Science for Kids – Learn about the ecology of Lake St. Clair or Lake Erie, by using the tools a Great Lakes Scientist uses to determine water quality by studying the plants and animals of the lakes. Try your hand at using a plankton net, bottom dredge, water testing kit, underwater camera, and binoculars to discover the exciting nature of the lake and become a Great Lakes Scientist!

To learn about the Great Lakes by being on the Great Lakes, visit the Summer Discovery Cruises web site at www.discoverycruises.org for complete cruise descriptions, locations, dates and times, as well as directions on how to register for your 2017 Summer Discovery Cruises. Don’t miss the boat!

2017 John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Award

The Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario, and their connecting channels – form the largest surface fresh water system on earth. Michigan is at the heart of that system, surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes. Through research, education and outreach, Michigan Sea Grant is dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes and coastal resources.

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU). It is also part of a national network of more than 30 university-based Sea Grant programs in coastal states across the country, administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each Sea Grant program has three components: research, education and outreach.

Nearly 110,000 students and adults have learned more about the Great Lakes since 1991 by participating in the Great Lakes Education Program. Designed though a collaboration involving Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the program provides students, their teachers and adult chaperones with an unforgettable on-the-water learning experience. The school ship Clinton will soon provide this on-the-water experience from the newly constructed fishing pier in the Refuge Gateway allowing thousands who share a common ownership of, and stewardship responsibility for, our great lakes.

Michigan Sea Grant staff has been involved in the DRIWR and IWRA since their inception in variety of ways. Today we recognize Michigan Sea Grant for their continued efforts in providing 26 years of classroom and vessel-based education in southeast Michigan and their commitment to furthering the mission of IWRA and the Refuge.

How much do lake trout and Chinook salmon really eat?

Chinook salmon have been the most important predator in Lake Michigan for decades. With baitfish on the decline, some anglers believe that lake trout are now eating more than salmon.

It takes a lot of food for a lake trout to grow this big, but a Chinook salmon eats much more on an annual basis.

It takes a lot of food for a lake trout to grow this big, but a Chinook salmon eats much more on an annual basis. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The food supply in Lake Michigan is not what it used to be. Invasive species like quagga mussels, nutrient reductions in open waters, and high numbers of predatory fish to feed all play a role in “squeezing” baitfish like alewife. The result can be an imbalance of predators and prey. In other words: too many mouths to feed for the amount of food available in open water.

Of course, this is a simplistic way of looking at things. Different species of fish are not the same in terms of the energy they consume and use. They grow at different rates, prefer different water temperatures, and utilize food more or less efficiently.

These factors become important when considering the total number (or biomass) of baitfish being consumed by predatory salmon and trout in Lake Michigan. Many anglers are particularly concerned about the impact of native lake trout versus introduced Chinook salmon. Both species are currently stocked in Lake Michigan, but both species also reproduce naturally.

Chinook salmon are prized gamefish with a very high growth rate and a short lifespan — they typically spawn and die at age 2.5 or 3.5 with a very few surviving to age 4. Lake trout are also a good gamefish, but they do not draw anglers to the lake in the same way that the spectacular fighting ability of the Chinook salmon does. Mid-sized trout are excellent table fare, but large, old lake trout tend to accumulate more contaminants than salmon. Lake trout can also live much longer than salmon (over 20 years), but they grow much more slowly.

Since there is a limited number of baitfish in the lake, there is a limited amount of energy (calories) available to trout and salmon. How does this all play out in terms of the amount and types of prey fish being eaten by lake trout and Chinook salmon?  To find out, I relayed some questions on the topic to two people who have been studying Lake Michigan fish for a combined total of over sixty years: Chuck Madenjian (USGS) and Jory Jonas (MDNR).

How would a lake trout and Chinook salmon compare in terms of the energy they consume each year?

C.M.: For the period of time from age 1 through age 12, annual food consumption by a lake trout in Lake Michigan averages 13 lbs. This estimate is based on the assumption that the annual food consumption for age-10 and age-11 lake trout is similar to that for lake trout of ages 7-9. For the period of time from age 0 through age 3.5, annual food consumption by a Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan averages 42.5 lbs. Thus, Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan are feeding at a rate more than three times higher than that of lake trout.

J.J.: I agree with Chuck’s summary above, but would also add that Chinook salmon grow faster, inhabit warmer waters than lake trout on average, and are much more active. All of these factors lead to increased demand for energy (food) relative to lake trout.

So, on an annual basis a Chinook salmon eats more than a lake trout of the same size. We know that lake trout live longer than Chinook salmon, though. How much does an average lake trout eat over its entire lifetime as opposed to an average Chinook salmon?

C.M.: The answer to this question partly depends on the definition of an entire lifetime for a lake trout. Based on the bioenergetics modeling by Don Stewart and others, an average lake trout consumes 143.3 lbs. of food between the time of stocking as a yearling into Lake Michigan and age 12. A Chinook salmon consumes 147.7 lbs. of food between the time of stocking as an age-0 fingerling into Lake Michigan and age 3.5, when a Chinook salmon is ready to spawn.   

J.J.: Chuck did a nice job of summarizing lifetime consumption of the two species above. When asking a question like this, it is important to consider why it is being asked. Total lifetime consumption of prey does not equate to information valuable in determining sustainability of the system. New year-classes of fish are always being produced and individual species have different life-spans and life-histories. Several generations of alewife and Chinook salmon will have cycled during the life-span of a lake trout. For example, during the lifespan of a lake trout age 12 which consumed 143.3 lbs. of prey there will have been four generations of Chinook salmon each consuming 147.7 lbs. of prey (590.8 total lbs.). Because of fluctuations in births and deaths and the lack of life-span synchrony among species, we typically summarize population levels of predators and prey on an annual basis in order to monitor for changes over time.

Fish are cold-blooded animals, so water temperature must affect how often they eat and how quickly they digest food. Do temperature preferences play a big role when comparing bioenergetics of lake trout and Chinook salmon?

C.M.: Temperature does play a role when comparing bioenergetics of lake trout and Chinook salmon. However, the main driver of the difference in consumption rates between lake trout and Chinook salmon is the difference in growth rates between the two species. In other words, the main reason for the much higher rate of food consumption by Chinook salmon compared with that by lake trout is that Chinook salmon grow substantially faster than lake trout. Average summer temperatures experienced by lake trout in Lake Michigan range from 46.4 to 50°F, whereas average summer temperature experienced by Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan ranges between 53.6 and 55.4°F. Metabolic costs typically increase with increasing temperature, and so Chinook salmon would be expected to have higher metabolic rates than lake trout. Nonetheless, the primary reason for the higher food consumption rate for Chinook salmon compared with that for lake trout is the higher growth rate by Chinook salmon compared with that for lake trout.

J.J.: Chinook salmon are also more active than lake trout, travelling large distances and generally moving around more. Combine higher activity levels with the factors mentioned by Chuck above, including higher temperature occupancy, and you have a higher demand for calories to support Chinook salmon.

Fish need energy to maintain basic body functions, chase down prey, and reproduce. Additional energy can be used for growth. How do lake trout and Chinook salmon compare in terms of their ability to use food energy for growth?

C.M.: Gross growth efficiency (GGE) is equal to growth (increase in weight) divided by the amount of food consumed to attain that growth. Thus, GGE is a measure of the efficiency with which a fish converts food consumption into its growth. According to the bioenergetics modeling by Don Stewart and others, the GGE for a 3.5-year-old Chinook salmon is 13.3%. That is, the 3.5-year-old Chinook salmon converted its food into its growth with a 13.3% efficiency. The GGE for a 12-year-old lake trout is estimated to be 8.0%. Thus, a Chinook salmon is considerably more efficient at converting food into growth than a lake trout in Lake Michigan.

Large, old lake trout are a common catch in central and southern Lake Michigan. These fish might weigh over 20 pounds and be 20 years old or older. Computer models that calculate how many baitfish are being eaten in Lake Michigan treat a 20-year-old lake trout the same as a six-year-old. Does a 20-year-old lake trout really eat only as much as a six-year-old?

C.M.: To answer this question, a growth trajectory for lake trout from ages 1 through 20 would be needed. Stewart et al. (1983) estimated mean weight at age for ages 1 through 10 only, so information on mean weight at age for ages 11 through 20 would be needed to answer this question. According to Stewart et al. (1983), annual consumption of food by an average lake trout in Lake Michigan remained relatively constant at a value of about 17.6 lbs. between the ages of 6 and 10. In other words, annual feeding rate of lake trout did not increase as lake trout age increased from 6 to 10. Mean weight at age 6 was 6.6 lbs., and mean weight at age 10 was 10.6 lbs. Thus, even though the weight of an average lake trout increased by 4 lbs. between ages 6 and 10, annual rate of food consumption by lake trout did not increase between ages 6 and 10 (Stewart et al. 1983). Note that annual weight gain by lake trout decreased between ages 6 and 10. If the annual weight gain (annual growth) continued to decrease between ages 10 and 20, a large increase in annual consumption over ages 10-20 would not be expected.

J.J.: It is true that larger fish on average require more energy than smaller fish, all else being equal. As lake trout age, the annual growth rate is much less, reducing energy demands, as mentioned by Chuck above. In more recent catch-at-age modelling efforts in eastern Lake Michigan, the mean weight of a lake trout at age 6 was 5.7 lbs., at age 10 was 9.7 lbs. (a change of 4 lbs. in 4 years) and was 11.2 lbs. at age 15 (an increase of 1.5 lbs in 5 years). By age 7 most lake trout are spawning so fish age 7-15 should be experiencing similar energy demands for spawning. Despite this, growth rate (body weight added per year) continues to decline as the fish ages.

Studies on Great Lakes salmon and trout bioenergetics were conducted back in the 1980s. Do they still hold true today with so many invasive species in the food web and changes to the strains of lake trout being stocked?

C.M.: Bioenergetics models for Chinook salmon and lake trout are sufficiently flexible such that they can accommodate changes in the Lake Michigan food web and changes in lake trout strains being stocked. Inputs to the bioenergetics models include growth of the fish (predator), temperature regime experienced by the fish, diet schedule for the fish, energy density of the prey, and energy density of the fish (predator). All of these inputs can be adjusted to more accurately reflect changes in the food web or changes in lake trout strains stocked. Bioenergetics model estimates of food consumption by Chinook salmon and lake trout are especially sensitive to estimates of growth by Chinook salmon and lake trout, so changes in growth over time would need to be taken into account when estimating food consumption by these fishes over decades of time. In the laboratory, the lake trout bioenergetics model performed equally well for both Marquette and Seneca Lake strains of lake trout, so lake trout bioenergetics was very similar among strains of lake trout. The Seneca Lake strain does inhabit slightly cooler water than the Great Lakes strains of lake trout, but this slight difference in temperatures between strains had only a small effect on food consumption. Laboratory performances of both the Chinook salmon bioenergetics and the lake trout bioenergetics model are reasonably good. On average, the model estimates of food consumption are within 5% of observed consumption.           

Now we know how much individual trout and salmon eat, but how many baitfish are eaten annually by all predators in Lake Michigan? How did estimated lake trout consumption compare to estimated Chinook salmon consumption on a lakewide basis in 2016?

J.J.: In 2016, lake trout consumed 13.7 kt of prey and Chinook salmon consumed 38.4 kt. Even though numbers of Chinook salmon in 2016 were at all time low levels lake-wide, they consumed nearly 3 times as much forage as lake trout. In 2016, the biomass of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan was estimated to be 5.0 kt and lake trout 5.9 kt. Just four years’ prior, in 2013, Chinook salmon biomass was substantially higher at 15.7 kt and lake trout were 7.0 kt.

Until now we have only been discussing how many baitfish are being eaten, but we know that Chinook salmon depend almost entirely on alewife while lake trout can eat a variety of prey including round gobies. Have lake trout moved away from eating alewife in Lake Michigan?

J.J.: Lake trout tend to be opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of a variety of prey items, whereas Chinook salmon are more specialized preferring almost exclusively alewife as prey. Since about 2003, lake trout have been taking advantage of a relatively new prey source in Lake Michigan, the round goby. Because of increased public interest in understanding the role of lake trout as predators in Lake Michigan, a variety of new initiatives have begun to better understand this more complex predator. For the last few years, diet collections have been occurring outside of the standard spring assessments which conclude in mid-June, and on broader spatial scales. Preliminary comparisons indicate that there is a seasonal component to lake trout feeding whereby they consume larger numbers of round goby in the spring and increased dependence on alewife as the year progresses. Smelt and bloater have been abundant in the diets of lake trout in the past, but for the recent 5 years over 75% of lake trout diets have been comprised of alewife and round goby. We continue to explore new and more robust methods for keeping up with the changing trends in lake trout consumption. Some of these include evaluation of fatty acid or isotopic signatures which can represent a longer period of lake trout consumption (in the case of isotopes up to one-year). We are seeking funding to conduct broader data collection efforts to better understand changing patterns throughout the lake and in different seasons.

So, we don’t yet know exactly what percentage of Lake Michigan lake trout diet is alewife, but what was the realistic range of possible alewife consumption by lake trout in 2016?

J.J.: It’s still early, but most of us are comfortable with an average alewife diet proportion of around 50% for lake trout, which we currently use in consumption models. Preliminary investigations indicate that in the spring (April to mid-June) alewife comprise between 7% to 20% of the diet of lake trout, and from mid-June to August alewife can represent from 50% to 80% of the diet. We continue to pursue improvements to describe feeding patterns of this more complex predator in the Lake Michigan basin.

Thanks Jory and Chuck for providing detailed answers to these questions.

In summary, when anglers point out that lake trout need more food to reach a given weight they are correct. A lake trout needs about 125 pounds of food to reach a weight of ten pounds while a Chinook salmon needs around 75 pounds of food (based on differences in gross growth efficiency). However, the Chinook salmon consumes this amount of food over a very short period of time when compared to a lake trout.

In fact, a typical Chinook salmon consumes roughly three times as much food in a given year as a typical lake trout does. This is critically important because alewife (and other prey fish) reproduce and grow each year. The absolute amount of food consumed by a salmon or trout in its lifetime is therefore less important to maintaining a good predator-prey balance than its annual demand for prey.

Chinook salmon do burn through alewife much more quickly than lake trout, but that does not mean that lake trout consumption is completely insignificant. Science is always improving, and the upcoming study on predator diets is one example of an effort to better understand what lake trout are eating at different times and in different parts of Lake Michigan.

Despite the never-ending quest for better information, fishery managers must make decisions in real time based on the best available scientific information. We know that an individual Chinook salmon consumes more alewife than a lake trout does, but we also know that Chinook salmon are no longer the only important species to consider when looking at predator-prey balance in Lake Michigan. In the future, scientists will be taking a harder look at diet and consumption of other predators like lake trout, coho salmon, and steelhead.

More information:

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

References

Bergstedt, R.A., Argyle, R.L., Krueger, C.C., and Taylor, W.W. 2012. Bathythermal habitat use by strains of Great Lakes- and Finger Lakes-origin lake trout in Lake Huron after a change in prey fish abundance and composition. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141(2): 263-274.

Madenjian, C. P., D. V. O’Connor, S. M. Chernyak, R. R. Rediske, and J. P. O’Keefe. 2004. Evaluation of a chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus  tshawytscha) bioenergetics model. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  61:627-635.

Madenjian, C. P., S. R. David, and S. A. Pothoven. 2012. Effects of activity and energy budget balancing algorithm on laboratory performance of a fish bioenergetics model. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141:1328-1337.

Madenjian, C. P., S. A. Pothoven, and Y.-C. Kao. 2013. Reevaluation of lake trout and lake whitefish bioenergetics models. Journal of Great Lakes Research 39:358-364.

Stewart, D.J., and Ibarra, M. 1991. Predation and production by salmonine fishes in Lake Michigan, 1978-88. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48: 909-922.

Stewart, D.J., Kitchell, J.F., and Crowder, L.B. 1981. Forage fishes and their salmonid predators in Lake Michigan. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 110: 751-763.

Stewart, D.J., Weininger, D., Rottiers, D.V., and Edsall, T.A. 1983. An energetics model for lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush:  application to the Lake Michigan population. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  40: 681-698.

Hiring On-Call Sea Grant Support Staff

Position Description

Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension are pleased to announce the availability of an on-call position beginning July 1, 2017.

The successful applicant will work as part of a team planning, organizing, implementing, and evaluating Sea Grant Extension Programming in coastal and Great Lakes communities. This position will include work on citizen science programs such as the Great Lakes Angler Diary, assistance planning for events including Regional Fisheries Workshops and the National Working Waterfronts Symposium, and work on educational materials including the Introduction to the Great Lakes online course. The successful applicant will interact with Sea Grant partners at the federal, state and local levels including anglers who volunteer for citizen science programs and natural resource professionals specializing in Great Lakes and coastal issues.

This position is located in West Olive in the Ottawa County MSU Extension office. 

Major Responsibilities

  • Assist three Sea Grant Extension Educators with secretarial support, data entry, management of e-mail lists, development of educational materials, and other duties related to program coordination, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Communicate with volunteers, natural resource professionals, and other stakeholders by phone, e-mail, and social media.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications

Required

  • Strong writing, editing, data entry, and communication skills.
  • Proficiency with Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.
  • Demonstrated interest in Great Lakes issues, fisheries management, or coastal communities.
  • Ability to work independently and budget time efficiently.

Desired

  • Experience working with software including but not limited to Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp, Adobe Creative Suite, Excel, Word and social media platforms.
  • Undergraduate coursework in fisheries management.
  • Ability to travel throughout the state.

Hours & Compensation

  • Approximately 12 hours/week on average and no more than 19 hours in any given week.
  • Some evenings and weekends required; occasional travel.
  • $13-15/hour depending on qualifications.
  • Travel expenses provided when required to perform work duties.

To Apply:  Send cover letter, unofficial transcripts, and resume to Dr. Dan O’Keefe, okeefed@msu.edu, by June 1, 2017.

About Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension

Michigan Sea Grant is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU) and is part of the National Sea Grant College Program. Michigan Sea Grant supports research, education and outreach projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of Great Lakes resources. Sea Grant also supports extension educators located in coastal communities. These extension educators work within the MSU Extension system which includes offices and staff across the state dedicated to bringing the knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities, and businesses.  

Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop

This May 24 workshop is a chance for anglers, and others to network, get updates from researchers, and agencies on Lake Superior Fisheries.

Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop planned for May 24 in Central Upper Peninsula

Do you like to fish on Lake Superior and want to know what others are catching on the lake? Are you curious how lake trout are being managed? Do you want to understand more about what invasive species are present and how they impact the Great Lakes? If the answer was yes to any of these questions, then the Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop is for you!

Michigan Sea Grant hosts a number of workshops across the Great Lakes that help inform the angling community and general public about fish populations and management. This year Michigan Sea Grant in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) will host a Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop in Harvey, Mich., just outside of Marquette. The workshop will feature a variety of talks from managing agencies such as the MDNR, US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. The talks will help anglers and the general public understand what research is taking place on the lake and how it is informing fisheries management decisions. There will also be plenty of time for question and answers allowing anglers to give valuable input.

The workshop takes place 6 p.m.-9 p.m. May 24, 2017, at Chocolay Township Hall, 5010 US-41 Harvey, MI 49855. Parking is available at the Township Hall and overflow parking is available at the nearby Silver Creek Church just northwest of the facility.

Presentations will include:

  • Lake Superior Nearshore Sampling, Troy Zorn –  MDNR: Fisheries Research
  • Aquatic Invasive Species Sampling and Update, Jared Myers – US Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • Lake Superior Prey Fish Updates, Dan Yule –  US Geological Survey)
  • Lake Trout Status and Updates, Shawn Sitar – MDNR: Fisheries Research)
  • Sea Lamprey Control Status, Jessica Barber – US Fish and Wildlife Services)
  • Fishing Enforcement in 1836 Treaty Waters, Marvin Gerlach – MDNR-Law Enforcement Division
  • Fishing Enforcement in 1842 Treaty Waters, Steven Amsler and Matt Kinskern – Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • Lake Superior Angler Creel Data, Cory Kovacs – MDNR: Fisheries Management)

The Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop is free and open to any and all interested participants.

Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to learn about what is happening with the Lake Superior Fisheries!

Deployment of water safety equipment in the Great Lakes has saved lives

Multi-year project has placed rescue and safety kits at more than 50 Great Lakes beaches.

Water Rescue Station is shown at Northern Lake Michigan

Water Rescue Station is shown at Northern Lake Michigan. Photo: Ron Kinnunen – Michigan Sea Grant

Recently, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium brought together water safety organizations and advocates committed to ending drowning in the Great Lakes through education, collaboration, and action at their annual conference in Sheboygan, Wis. Michigan Sea Grant presented on beach safety equipment distribution and use on high risk beaches in the Great Lakes region. The beach safety equipment was secured through a NOAA Coastal Storms Program grant.

In 2014 Michigan Sea Grant working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network conducted a beach equipment needs assessment, chose equipment to go in beach safety kits, and developed an equipment survey. In 2015 beach safety equipment was distributed throughout the Great Lakes region, a follow-up survey was completed, a social media messaging campaign was implemented, and assistance was provided with the formation of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium. Additional beach safety equipment was distributed in 2016 and emergency instructional placards were developed and distributed for use on rescue stations.

Water safety equipment provided to these high risk dangerous currents Great Lakes coastal communities included youth and adult life vests, rescue throw-ring buoys and throw bags, and rescue boards and tubes. These products were specified based on safety ratings, recommendations by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Life Saving Association, and first responders in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Deployment of this water safety equipment occurred at over 50 Great Lakes beaches.

Some of the 2015 Beach Safety Equipment Survey responses included:

  • “Michigan Sea Grant supported the City of Evanston’s, Illinois efforts to save 26 swimmers during the 2015 beach season.”
  • “Life-ring and throw bag were instrumental in saving the life of a 30 year old male. He jumped into Lake Michigan from the big pier in Whiting Park, Illinois. He became distressed and went into an active drowning phase. Had first responders not been armed with the life-ring and throw bag, we more than likely would have had a submerged recovery.”

The survey results showed the ranked importance of different types of water safety equipment with the rescue throw rings and bags being the most important, followed by youth and adult life jackets. There was overwhelming satisfaction with most of the equipment distributed to these high risk coastal communities. The majority of the survey respondents indicated the water safety equipment has made their beaches safer.

Student video promotes awareness of Great Lakes marine debris

While plastic monsters invade Michigan’s Great Lakes and inland waterways, Alpena Elementary students create video to foster awareness of this issue among their local community.

Alpena Public Schools students get ready for action while filming their video

Alpena Public Schools students get ready for action while filming their video “Plastics 101.” Photo: RC Laugal

What is marine debris? It’s essentially human-made trash – large and small – that finds its way to oceans, our Great Lakes and inland waterways. A group of fifth-grade students from Alpena, Mich., want to help everyone understand what it is and what can be done to fight this problem. They created a movie and offer ideas about how everyone can contribute toward solutions. Watch their student-created film at: http://bit.ly/Plastics101.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has championed an initiative to foster awareness, understanding, and citizen engagement in a growing issue of marine debris in our oceans and inland waterways. Through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are partnering with schools, educators, and youth leaders to raise local awareness about this Great Lakes problem.

How did these students get involved?

In fall 2016, Bob Thomson’s Ella M. White Elementary fifth-grade students visited Thunder Bay River, where they used nets to trawl for plastics, and were shocked to find microplastics in our Northeast Michigan watershed. After analyzing samples from the river, fifth-grader Tucker Bright said, “If there are this many microplastics in this little sample, just imagine how many there are in the Great Lakes!” To raise awareness about finding plastics in the river and finding solutions to this problem, these Alpena Public Schools students developed a film, “Plastics 101.”

Through the NEMIGLSI network, they worked with community partners, including Huron Pines AmeriCorps, Michigan Sea Grant, and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, to complete the film. The effort also was supported by DonorsChoose.org through Tom’s of Maine Green Your School Campaign.

Before filmmaking, the students researched the topic of marine debris and found that microplastics are a problem in both our Great Lakes and oceans. The students consulted with fisheries expert, Brandon Schroeder (Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant Educator), and microplastics expert, Dr. Sherri Mason (Professor of Chemistry, The State University of New York at Fredonia), to verify their research. Next, the students outlined the films’ goals and began creating a storyboard. The students also crafted props, recorded audio, captured video footage while having fun and learning.

‘Plastics 101’

The film “Plastics 101” emerged with entertaining insights into the troubles of a throwaway culture and the effects on the Great Lakes and oceans. Students also learned about potential career options while applying classroom learning goals. Thomson said, “The video provided a perfect opportunity to develop a cross-curriculum project that focused on targets from English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies.” Thomson recently was named 2017 Michigan Science Teacher Association Elementary Science Teacher of the Year.

Students also learned more about how their actions impact their community and ultimately the world. When plastics are improperly disposed, they could end up in a local stream, river, or the Great Lakes by the wind, rain, and through storm drains. Students were surprised to learn plastics absorb toxins, such as DDT, PAH and PCBs, and that these toxins can enter our food web through plastics. Since plastics don’t biodegrade, they don’t go away; they simply photodegrade into tiny pieces that can be consumed by plankton or small fish and then move up the food chain. To showcase solutions to this problem, the students highlight how to take action and protect our Great Lakes and ocean.

“Plastics 101” now will serve as an educational tool through the Northeast Michigan Earth Day Bag Project, an effort where third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders learn about the harms of single-use plastics to our Great Lakes and ocean and solutions to this growing problem. After watching a series of short films and discussing the information, students across northeast Michigan will decorate paper bags with conservation messages (e.g. Refuse to Single Use; Protect our Great Lakes), which will then be distributed to customers at local grocery stores on Earth Day, April 22, 2017.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension serve in providing leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of a larger, statewide network and partnership, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Established in 2007 with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the GLSI supports place-based stewardship education in schools and communities across Michigan. Partnerships are invaluable in our endeavor to support stewardship of our Great Lakes and natural resources.  Through the NEMIGLSI network, and applied place-based education strategies, our students may perhaps prove the most inspirational educators of all in addressing important Great Lakes issue such as marine debris.

Sustainable Small Harbors Webinar

Michigan Sea Grant to host webinar about Sustainable Small Harbors project findings and next steps

On May 8 at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT, Michigan Sea Grant will host a webinar titled, “The Sustainable Small Harbors Project: Helping coastal communities re-imagine their waterfront.”

This webinar will provide an overview of the Sustainable Small Harbors project, an initiative to boost the long-term well-being of Michigan’s coastal communities. All people involved in coastal communities, both in and outside of Michigan, are invited to participate.

The Sustainable Small Harbors project arose in 2014 when many of Michigan’s small coastal communities were struggling to cope with fluctuating water levels, declining populations, and economic instability. The project research team (consisting of Lawrence Technological University, Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., Veritas Economic Consulting, LLC, and David Larkin Knight, LLC) has assessed barriers preventing small harbor communities from becoming socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Members of the project research team along with personnel from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension facilitated in-depth visioning workshops in six coastal communities to help community members identify potential growth areas for their waterfronts. By May 2017, the team will publish a guidebook to help other coastal communities analyze their own waterfront assets and develop strategies to bolster their long-term economic, social, and environmental stability.

“This effort empowers communities to overcome the burdens of their historic legacies,” says Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes. “The process engaged community members in constructive conversations to create a shared vision.”

The 90-minute webinar will provide an overview of the project’s history, major findings and outcomes, and future directions. Representatives from the cities of New Baltimore and Ontonagon will speak about their experiences with the project. The webinar will conclude with an open question-and-answer session.

Registration is required to participate in this webinar, scheduled for May 8, 2017, at 2–3:30 p.m. EDT. Please register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8474664373942398467

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the webinar. Learn more about the project at: www.sustainablesmallharbors.org

Contact: Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant; (734) 647-0767, rregist@umich.edu 

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Dan O’Keefe receives Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award

Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association honors O’Keefe’s contributions to sport fishery.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Dr. Dan O’Keefe (right) recently received the Dr. Howard Tanner Award from the Michigan Steelheaders and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. Dr. Tanner is shown at left.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Dr. Dan O’Keefe (right) recently received the Dr. Howard Tanner Award from the Michigan Steelheaders and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. Dr. Tanner is shown at left. Courtesy photo

The Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisherman’s Association recently awarded Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Dr. Daniel O’Keefe with the Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award for his contributions to Michigan’s sport fishery.

“Dan O’Keefe believes education is a critical component of natural resource management and the importance of knowledge in making sound decisions has been the cornerstone of his contributions to our anadromous sport fishery,” said Dennis Eade, Michigan Steelheaders executive director.

O’Keefe, a Michigan State University Extension educator who serves seven counties along the coast of Lake Michigan, graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s of science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. He received his master’s in biology at Central Michigan University and his doctorate in Wildlife and Fisheries from Mississippi State University. He has been with Michigan Sea Grant for nine years.

O’Keefe has developed many education and outreach programs, including:

  • Citizen science programs such as the Salmon Ambassadors and the Great Lakes Angler Diary.
  • Organizes fishery workshops and brings together fisheries managers, biologists, scientists, state and federal agency personnel, charter fishing captains and sport fishers alike to consider what is occurring in the ecosystem and what will impact the sustainability of the Great Lakes fishery.
  • Completed study of charter and tournament fishing economic impacts and post-study evaluation that indicated results led to greater appreciation for the value of a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem.
  • Compiled public input on controversial issues. Coordinated with Michigan DNR regarding fisheries issues in preparation for basin-wide management plans, a governor-appointed council regarding development of offshore wind energy legislation, and a Michigan House of Representatives committee regarding Asian carp and other invasive species.

“Dr. Howard Tanner is an icon in the fisheries world and I’m honored to be receiving an award named after him,” O’Keefe said. “It’s important to me that citizens receive the best available scientific information and get involved in Great Lakes fisheries management.”

Tanner served as Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division chief during the 1960s and was key in bringing about salmon stocking in the Great Lakes. He was then director of Natural Resource at MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and eventually returned to the state as MDNR director.

The Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association is the largest sport fishing association in the Great Lakes Basin and has 14 chapters throughout Michigan which protect, promote and enhance sport fishing in the Great Lakes and connecting waterways.