Fisheries science creates connections with northeast Michigan educators and youth

Teachers team up with scientists to explore how fisheries science experiences and Great Lakes stewardship opportunities can enhance student learning.

By: Brandon Schroeder and Dan O’Keefe

Three teachers assist a scientist in pulling a net out of lake as they experience fisheries science during two-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan teachers experience fisheries science during two-day Lake Huron Place-Based Education Summer Teacher Institute. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Great Lakes, fish and fishing are a common thread in conversations among residents in northeast Michigan coastal communities – and also in school learning opportunities with students. This fall, fifth-grade students from Ella White Elementary (Alpena Public Schools) welcomed a juvenile Lake Sturgeon into their classroom as part of a Lake Huron and biodiversity conservation learning experience supported by one of their many community partners, Sturgeon for Tomorrow.

One week later, these same students were in waders (and in the water)  investigating watershed issues as part of their Thunder Bay Watershed Project. Working alongside scientists from Michigan Sea GrantMichigan State University ExtensionNOAA Thunder Bay National Marine SanctuaryU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Huron Pines AmeriCorps students collected data on invasive species like rusty crayfish and zebra mussels found in the river, sampled for microplastics (very small plastic particles or fibers) in the river, among other water quality explorations. Another class of Ella White Elementary students similarly monitored Thunder Bay River water quality and explored marine debris issues at their local Sytek Park.

Other school programs explore fisheries science, too

This is far from the only fisheries science and watershed explorations with schools across northeast Michigan this year. This past spring, Onaway High School visited the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, exploring underwater robotics, and learning about fisheries science careers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alpena, Mich. These students also are hosting Lake Sturgeon in their classroom, and plan to visit with local fisheries scientists from the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife working locally at the Black River Sturgeon Streamside Research Station. Besser Elementary (Alpena Public Schools)Oscoda Area Schools, and Alcona Community School students are participating in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Salmon in the Classroom program this year. These classes will be receiving salmon eggs in the fall, and Alcona Elementary students have visited their local stream (near the local marina) to kick-off some watershed studies and lead a litter pickup with several local community partners.

In common, these projects are all supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, a school-community place-based education partnership. NEMIGLSI recently received a Great Lakes NOAA B-WET program grant to expand watershed studies and fisheries stewardship opportunities among schools in this region. Led by Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, this NOAA B-WET strives to provide support for educators and meaningful watershed education experiences for students – experiences framed in our valuable Great Lakes fisheries. Supporting the teachers behind these student experiences, the regional Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) serves to foster Great Lakes science connections with education.

Teachers explore watersheds, ways to expand student learning

This past summer, the NEMIGLSI network, CGLL, and this Great Lakes NOAA B-WET project collaborated to offer the 2018 Lake Huron Summer Place-Based Stewardship Education Summer Institute. Fifteen teachers from across the Lake Huron watershed (and beyond) convened in Alcona County, Mich., and worked alongside Great Lakes scientists and community partners with a goal of expanding their students’ learning experiences through watershed studies and fisheries stewardship experiences. Framed in place-based education practices, educators explored local watersheds, interacted with fisheries science and stakeholders, and considered many ways in which fisheries benefit our community.

As part of this Summer Institute experience, teachers also considered the many values in fish beyond their roles in the ecosystem – for example, fish are fun to catch, provide a local food source, and contribute social and economic values. Teachers experienced this first hand when meeting with Lake Huron commercial fisherman bringing in their catch of Lake Whitefish and visiting Cedar Brook Trout Farm where they learned about the aquaculture industry, had fun fishing, and explored math and science learning values in the fish they caught.

Engaging teachers in a fisheries science experience, Huron Pines, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Sea Grant, and MSU Extension led a variety of fisheries science sessions in local waterways investigating water habitats and watershed issues, fish biology and ecosystem sciences, and fisheries research and management techniques. Teachers learned about gear used by scientists to sample fish (including an underwater look and video of their fyke net deployed), collect data on fish from identification to measurements, and how to apply science and math skills (and a variety of other skills, including art) to help students analyze data and answer science questions.

The end goal for educators participating in this Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute was to explore opportunities for expanding student learning – and connections with community – by engaging their students in local Great Lakes watershed explorations and fisheries stewardship projects. It was an exciting week for teachers, exploring Great Lakes literacy and learning through place-based education stewardship practices. Already, these teachers are translating their experiences into meaningful watershed education experiences and place-based fisheries stewardship education opportunities with their students across northeast Michigan.

Huron-Michigan Predator Diet Study gears up for summer

Student researchers at MSU are busy analyzing the contents of fish stomachs collected by Great Lakes anglers.

The fish diet study team gathers in the MSU fish research lab, including (back from left) Nick Green, Mark Hamlyn, Nick Yeager, Dr. Dan O’Keefe, Dr, Brian Roth, Brok Lamorandier, (front from left) Katie Kierczynski, Jasmine Czajka. Photo: Katelyn Brolick

The fish diet study team gathers in the MSU fish research lab, including (back from left) Nick Green, Mark Hamlyn, Nick Yeager, Dr. Dan O’Keefe, Dr, Brian Roth, Brok Lamorandier, (front from left) Katie Kierczynski, Jasmine Czajka. Photo: Katelyn Brolick

Get ready to celebrate Earth Day

Saginaw Bay region hosting hands-on activities on April 21, 2018 to celebrate Earth Day.

Litter cleanups are an easy way to protect our Great Lakes, promote healthy ecosystems and celebrate Earth Day. Photo: Stephanie Gandulla

Litter cleanups are an easy way to protect our Great Lakes, promote healthy ecosystems and celebrate Earth Day. Photo: Stephanie Gandulla

Earth Day celebrates our planet’s natural resources each year on April 22. First celebrated in 1970 with the support of Gaylord Nelson, former U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day signals the launch of the modern environmental movement. From hosting events to raise community awareness about environmental issues to leading stewardship efforts, there are many ways to celebrate. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has a list of Earth Day activities around the state, and in the Saginaw Bay region, community members have many opportunities.

  • At 8:30 a.m. April 21, 2018, Bay City residents can participate in Ed Golson’s 24th Annual Compost Event, where they can pick up compost at a site under Vet’s Bridge. Compost has many gardening benefits and is an efficient way to break down organic waste. Participants must bring their own shovel and container for this self-serve event. At 9 a.m., there will be two litter cleanups hosted at Golson Park (Boat Launch) and the River Walk & Rail Trail (800 John F. Kennedy Dr.). For more information on these opportunities, please visit Bay City’s Earth Day event page.
  • Bay County Extension 4-H Tech Wizards also have an event this year in partnership with the City Market. Participating the Earth Day Bag Project, 4-H members will learn about the impact of single-use plastics on our Great Lakes and ocean and will share the information with the public by decorating paper grocery bags. The decorated bags will be given to customers April 21 at the City Market to raise awareness about the importance of refusing to single use. 
  • Volunteers also are welcome to join U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 21, in Saginaw for an Earth Day Clean-up. Participants will tally litter found, and by removing the debris, they will help improve habitat for the migratory waterfowl.
  • The Children’s Zoo in Saginaw is also hosting an Earth Day event as their season opener from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21. There will be games and activities with the support of the Mid Michigan Waste Authority. The first 400 people with a recyclable beverage container will receive free admission.
  • In Midland, the 13th Annual Earth Day Expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 at the Midland Center for the Arts. Co-sponsored by the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art, the American Chemical Society – Midland Section and Midland Recyclers, this free event offers hands-on activities connecting to the theme, “Dive into Water Chemistry.”

Celebrating our Earth and its natural resources does not need to be limited to just Earth Day. Here are some daily practices that reduce waste and also protect our Great Lakes and oceans. Using the NOAA Marine Debris Tracker Application or the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program, community members can organize their own litter cleanups, where they also collect citizen science data. Communities can help reduce marine debris by raising awareness about the common types of litter found locally.

Four years of fishing data from Salmon Ambassadors show trends for wild, stocked salmon catch

New report details results from information volunteer anglers provide.

Four years of fishing data from Salmon Ambassadors show trends for wild, stocked salmon catch.

Anglers are keen observers of the aquatic environment. The Salmon Ambassadors program provides Lake Michigan and Lake Huron anglers with a way to share their observations on wild and stocked salmon. Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Mass Marking Program, Chinook salmon stocked in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have been marked with an adipose clip since 2011. This means that anglers can identify stocked fish by looking for a clipped adipose fin. The contribution of wild fish to the catch (% Wild) can then be calculated.

Volunteers with the Salmon Ambassadors program measured each and every Chinook salmon caught during the course of the fishing season and checked for fin clips. At the end of each season, volunteers provided their data to Michigan Sea Grant along with answering a few questions about their season. Since 2014, 81 volunteers have provided a complete data set for at least one season.

A new fact sheet details results from the past four years. Here are a few highlights:

  • Volunteers provided useful data on 8,474 Chinook salmon.
  • Fishing satisfaction has been on the rise since 2015.
  • % Wild was consistently higher in Michigan than in Wisconsin.
  • % Wild increased each month from May to September in northern Michigan ports on Lake Michigan due to the return of wild fish to natal streams.
  • In southern Wisconsin and northern Lake Huron, % Wild was lowest in September due to the return of mature stocked fish to stocking sites.
  • Southern Michigan ports did not seem to benefit from a large run of mature stocked fish in September, as we had originally expected.

In 2013, a 46 percent reduction in Lake Michigan stocking and a corresponding 84 percent drop in natural reproduction (according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) made for a very weak year-class. This translated into tough fishing in 2015 and 2016, when these fish would have been two and three years old, respectively. Salmon Ambassadors saw big changes in the size structure of their catches as a result. Although anglers felt the pain of tough salmon fishing, the reduction in predation was important for improving predator-prey balance and preventing the collapse of the alewife population.

The Salmon Ambassadors program is a Michigan Sea Grant initiative developed in coordination with Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This program would not be possible without the effort of dedicated volunteers from organizations including Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association and Michigan Charter Boat Association. Special thanks go out to Detroit Area Steelheaders, who provided generous donations to support this program.

The incredible snowy owl has shown up this winter in large numbers across the Great Lakes

A unique project, called SNOWStorm, was started to help learn more about these majestic birds by placing transmitters on the birds.

Recently, seasoned bird banders Chris Neri and Nova Mackentley banded a coastal snowy owl on the shores of Lake Superior. Photo: Chris Neri

Recently, seasoned bird banders Chris Neri and Nova Mackentley banded a coastal snowy owl on the shores of Lake Superior. Photo: Chris Neri

The snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a most striking bird. With a stark white body accented by black or brown markings and piercing yellow eyes it makes for a visually stunning bird. Female snowy owls are slightly larger than males and have a wingspan of 4.25 feet to 4.75ft and a weight of 4.5-5 pounds making them the heaviest owl in all of north America, and one of the largest owls in the world.

The snowy owl spends its summers far north in the arctic tundra. They build nests on the ground (one of only a few ground nesting owls) as there are little to no trees at these latitudes. They raise their young on a diet made up almost exclusively of small mammals called lemmings. They are adapted well to diurnal (daytime) hunting as there is almost 24 hours of daylight in the summer of these far northern locations.

Irruption years

Some snowy owls won’t migrate and will spend the winter in the same territory they summer in, while others migrate short to mid-distances finding open fields throughout Canada or the northern United States. In some winters snowy owls will show up in large numbers throughout a large portion of the lower 48 states. These years are known as irruption years, and while it is not entirely clear why irruptions happen, it is thought it may happen when lemming populations are high equating to lots of healthy baby snowy owls.

While many snowy owls eat mostly small mammals and hunt in open fields, a fair number of snowy owls become coastal in the winter months. The owls will set up territories on sandy beaches, rocky seawalls and even ice pack and ice shelves. These birds will subsist on a diet that is made up much more of waterfowl like ducks and grebes. Some snowy owls in coastal areas of Canada have even been documented diving into water and catching fish in similar ways to osprey. Some of the best coastal areas to find snowy owls are in the Great Lakes. Lake St. Clair, Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan are many locations where you can find coastal snowy owls along the beach or edge of the ice.

Project SNOWStorm

The last massive irruption year was in the winter of 2013-2014. Not much was known about snowy owl irruptions or their life cycle in general, and so a unique project was started to help learn more about these majestic birds. The project is called project SNOWStorm, and involves trained experts placing transmitters on the birds. These special locators are solar powered and use cell towers to transmit the exact location of the birds. Even when out of cell range, the transmitters store location information and will transmit once the bird is back in cell range. It appears that 2017-2018 is another sizable irruption year. Recently, seasoned bird banders Chris Neri and Nova Mackentley banded a coastal snowy owl on the shores of Lake Superior. The bird was banded right on the shores of Whitefish Point Michigan and you can track the progress of this bird, nicknamed Gichigami, on the project SNOWStorm website.  Hopefully this and other birds banded will help us learn more about these majestic creatures so they can be protected for many years to come.

If you want to see a snowy owl in Michigan in typical open field habitat, there’s no better place then Chippewa county in the eastern Upper Peninsula.  Explore the winter birding map at www.northhuronbirding.com to learn about some of their favorite habitats. This map was made by Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension and describes how you can find the best winter birding in all of Michigan including snowy owls, pine grosbeaks, snow buntings and many other winter specialties. To find the most recent sightings of snowy owls in your area you can check out eBird, a citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Anyone can create an account and upload their bird sightings. And anyone can access their data explore tools, like this map of snowy owl sightings

If you see a snowy…

If you are lucky enough to find a snowy owl, it is very important to enjoy these birds without disturbing them. Keep a safe distance from the bird and don’t do anything to disrupt them. If you are in your car when you find one, stay in it as it will act as a blind. If you are on foot take note of the owl raises its head or body or swivels, it’s head towards you. These are signs the bird is nervous, and you should back away slowly and keep your hands lowered. Learn more about snowy owl etiquette and what you can do to help protect these special creatures.

GLANSIS: A ‘one-stop shop’ for information on aquatic invaders

National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Part 2: The Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System provides profiles, maps, and further reading for scientists and citizens alike.

Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) map shows the number of nonindigenous species by Great Lakes watershed.

Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) map shows the number of nonindigenous species by Great Lakes watershed.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week this year is Feb. 26 to March 2, 2018. The goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread and introduction of them. This effort is sponsored by a diverse set of partners from across the country. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues.

This article features the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) which provides profiles, maps, and further reading for scientists and citizens alike.

Aquatic invasive species have been a serious problem for the Great Lakes since the 1800s. By the mid-1990s, the Great Lakes were facing an invasion rate of nearly two new species every year. Across the globe, hundreds of species seemed to be on the move, and information about them was changing on a daily basis. In late 2002, Dr. Dave Reid of NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) realized the need for a “one-stop” comprehensive database on aquatic nonindigenous species in the Great Lakes. Funding was secured, Dr. David Raikow was brought on to develop and manage the fledgling database, and in 2005, GLANSIS—the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System—was launched with basic information and bibliographies on 139 established nonindigenous species.

Numbers keep growing

As of 2018, 187 aquatic nonindigenous species are established in the Great Lakes, where many of them negatively impact environmental, economic, and human health. These introduced animals, plants, and microorganisms can disrupt food webs, outcompete native species, clog waterways, and even transmit parasites and disease. The ability to accurately identify these species, track their spread, and access information about how to control them is a necessity for environmental researchers and resource managers.

GLANSIS is designed to meet these needs and more. Hosted by GLERL and currently funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the database provides identification and management information, maps of sightings, and reference material for more than 250 nonindigenous and watchlist species in the Great Lakes basin. A partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database enables GLANSIS to provide a seamless interface with their database of reports for the inland lakes. The list generator search feature allows users to look up information by scientific and common names, taxonomic groups, and specific lakes and their drainages to generate species lists and access information about each species. Another tool, the map explorer, displays all sightings of a chosen species on habitat map layers provided by the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF). The map explorer also allows users to quickly map sightings of selected “hot button” species like grass carp and rusty crayfish with a single click.

Who can use GLANSIS?

While GLANSIS was originally designed for use by scientists and environmental managers, this publicly-accessible tool can be used by teachers, students, anglers, property owners, and anyone who wants to learn more about invasive species in the Great Lakes. Citizens and stakeholders can help protect their local waterways by learning how to recognize, report, and stop the spread of aquatic invaders.

  • Are you a science teacher building a lesson plan on invasive species? Use the GLANSIS search portal to generate a list of species in your local waterway.
  • A student researching a chosen species for a class assignment? Check out the non-technical profiles produced by Indiana-Illinois Sea Grant to learn more about your species in plain language or access our glossary to help you understand technical reports.
  • A lake association member? Download the list of invasives for your lake (and nearby lakes, so you know what to watch for.) 
  • A researcher interested in how habitat type affects patterns of invasion? Use the map explorer to find species sightings, download them to your own GIS or use GLAHF’s habitat layers for better insight on how environmental conditions might influence their spread.
  • A property owner, fisherman or beachgoer who has found something unusual? Report your finding to us.
  • An undergraduate or graduate student looking for a project idea? Check profiles for what we don’t know or where there are gaps in the current state of the science.

To use GLANSIS and learn more about nonindigenous aquatic species in waterways near you, explore the website at https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/glansis/.

For assistance in using the database or suggestions for additional information that GLANSIS should provide, contact Rochelle.Sturtevant@noaa.gov or Erika.Lower@noaa.gov.

Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series

Additional Invasive Species Resources

2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Part 1: Learn more about invasive species and what you can do to help fight this problem in Michigan.

The claws of the invasive red swamp crayfish have bright red spiky bumps. Photo Credit: Mike MurphyPhoto Credit: Mike Murphy

The claws of the invasive red swamp crayfish have bright red spiky bumps. Photo Credit: Mike MurphyPhoto Credit: Mike Murphy

 

National Invasive Species Awareness Week this year is Feb. 26 to March 2, 2018. The goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread and introduction of them. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grantare publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues. Also, we will update previous information on the red swamp crayfish – a species we had hoped wasn’t in Michigan but was confirmed here in 2017.

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are a threat to Michigan’s native diversity and are found everywhere in the state. Invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources defines invasive species as non-native, rapidly reproducing species which threaten the integrity of natural areas. They can have devastating effects and often out-compete native species for limited resources including food and habitat. Invasive species sometimes alter and damage existing habitat, displace native species, and even prey on native species. Many invasive species are spread from place to place by human activity.

How can I help?

Here are 9 ways to help in the fight against invasive species from the National Invasive Species Awareness Week toolkit:

  1. Learn about invasive species, especially those found in your region. Your county extension office and the National Invasive Species Information Center are both trusted resources.
  2. Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location. Learn more at PlayCleanGo.org
  3. Avoid dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways. Learn more at Habitattitude.org
  4. Don’t move firewood – instead, buy it where you’ll burn it, or gather on site when permitted. Learn more at DontMoveFirewood.org
  5. Use forage, hay, mulch and soil that are certified as “weed free.”
  6. Plant only non-invasive plants in your garden, and remove any known invaders.
  7. Report new or expanded invasive species outbreaks to authorities. Here is a state-by-state list of contacts.
  8. Volunteer to help remove invasive species from public lands and natural areas.
  9. Ask your political representatives at the state, local and national level to support invasive species control efforts.

Learn more

The National Association of Invasive Plant Council is one of the sponsors of the National Invasive Species Awareness Week. The organization will be holding several free webinars this week about invasive species:

  • 3 p.m. today (Feb. 26, 2018): SIIPA Model: Webmap on Early Detection and Rapid Response
    (The Spatial Invasive Infestation and Priority Analysis (SIIPA) model (built in ESRI ArcGIS software) was built to be a customizable tool for rapid application of a prioritization framework to known invasive populations within a preserve, management area, or region.)
  • 3 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 27, 2018): Legal Issues Surrounding Invasive Species Management
  • 4 p.m. Wed. (Feb. 28): Climate Change and Invasive Species
    (This seminar will review how climate change influences invasive species and how those changes might affect invasive species management.)
  • 3 p.m. (March 1, 2018): The Indiana CISMA Project|
    (The details an agreement that provides funding for a 5-year project aimed at developing a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) in each of Indiana’s 92 counties will be discussed.)

Additional resources

Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series

Additional Invasive Species Resources

MSU grad’s work in Northeast Michigan will support place-based stewardship education

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps, and Ranger Rick magazines helped Hannah Hazewinkel choose her career path early on.

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI), a place-based stewardship education network and partnership, has gained a new set of helping hands through the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program. Hannah Hazewinkel, a Michigan State University graduate, joins as one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan this year. Hannah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology and Zoology in May 2017.

As part of the NEMIGLSI network, Hannah will be supporting place-based stewardship education activities that facilitate school-community partnerships and support educators through sustained professional development. Most of all, her service will help engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship issues and projects that make a difference in communities across northern Michigan.

In collaboration with MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, Huron Pines is a leadership partner to the NEMIGLSI network and since 2009 they have placed AmeriCorps members annually in service of this education initiative. These members have been crucial in establishing and expanding this educational network of school and community partners in northeast Michigan communities.

So what do we have to look forward to in Hannah’s expertise and service in the coming year? Let’s meet and learn more about Hannah in her own words.

Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in environmental or conservation stewardship?

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps and Ranger Rick magazines had me convinced at the age of 9 or 10 that working in environmental conservation was the life path for me. For years I plastered my room in nature photos and articles and I dedicated myself to the study of natural science. In July of 2015, I realized the incredible power of environmental stewardship when I helped facilitate a tree planting event as an intern with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. That day changed my life. I spent the following two years volunteering/interning/working at Fenner Nature Center, engaging with the educational programs and volunteer coordination, as well as becoming a Staff Naturalist. The support team and the experiences I had there taught me so much about nature and community relationships and inspired me to pursue stewardship and education as a career path.

What do you most look forward to in your upcoming service with the NEMIGLSI network and partnership?

I’m really looking forward to working with the youth and providing them with opportunities to engage with the land and the lakes and be touched by these encounters as I was. I love being able to witness these interactions firsthand and watch students and community members learn and grow in their connection to nature. I’m also excited to get out to these natural places in Northern Michigan and have as much of an engagement and learning experience as the students.

Looking forward and after nearly a year of service – what would you like to have accomplished?

I hope to gain a breadth of experience with place-based education and a better understanding of how we can integrate it into our educational systems to foster good student-community interactions and raise good environmental stewards. I want to build a good skills portfolio but also have my service mean something to the communities and the natural areas that I interact with. If I can change the life and perspective of at least one student and create a more sustainable future for at least one natural region, then at the end of the day I can be assured that I have made at least a small contribution to the Earth and reciprocated a fraction of the gifts that I have been given. For me, service is not about getting myself ahead, but rather showing humility and gratitude for the human and natural communities that have blessed and supported me throughout my life. 

How has your experience at MSU prepared you for this role and opportunity?

MSU and Lyman Briggs College provided me with a great natural science education, and diverse opportunities to explore different career paths, countries, cultures and activities. Their partnership with Massey University in New Zealand allowed me to have a life-changing study abroad and internship experience. Through the science and humanities-based curriculum in LBC, I was able to gain a better comprehension of how science is integrated in society, and how we need a well-rounded and open perspective to understand and solve the world’s problems.

What are some of your favorite Great Lakes and natural resources hobbies or memories? What Great Lakes and natural resources experience are you most looking forward to experiencing?

I’ve always been an avid beach-goer and paddler. One of my favorite stories from my parents is the time they took me down the Lower Platte River in a raft when I was less than two years old. I enjoy kayaking adventures and trips to Lake Michigan every summer and fall, and last year I completed my first Great Lakes tour, swimming in every Lake over the course of the summer. Fond memories from that trip include swimming in Lake Huron when the solar eclipse peaked and almost being denied entry into Canada because the immigration officers didn’t believe that anyone would be traveling just for the sake of seeing the Lakes. I’m looking forward to spending more time in Lake Huron, hiking, and paddling northeast Michigan rivers, particularly the Au Sable of which I am very fond.

Project-Based Learning Meets Place-Based Stewardship Education

Event Date: 2/15/2018

please_join_us_for_our_.jpg

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

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.