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.

Clean Marina Classroom Live: Harrison Township

Event Date: 3/27/2018

When: March 27, 2018
Where: Thomas Welsh Activity Center, Lake St. Clair Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045
Workshop Host: Joe Hall and Sue Knapp

The Clean Marina Classroom is going on the road! In spring 2018, the Michigan Clean Marina Program will offer several in-person workshops. Michigan Sea Grant staff and Clean Marina certification specialists will cover important lessons from the online classroom tied to mandatory and recommended best practices for becoming a Clean Marina. Pledged marinas, as well as marinas due for re-certification in 2018, are invited to attend.

For the Classroom Live workshop to be effective, participants must take the following steps before the workshop:

    • Register for the workshop (dates and locations below).
    • Sign the Clean Marina pledge form (new and re-certifying marinas) and pay the required pledge fee (new marinas only).
    • Log in to the online classroom and complete the marina self-assessment (also called the certification checklist).
    • Bring your self-assessment, a notebook (paper and pencil or laptop) and your calendar to the workshop.

In return, each marina will leave with:

  • Clean Marina Classroom certificate
  • Scheduled certification site visit date
  • Prize for completing the workshop evaluation and survey

Other Locations

Petoskey

When: March 14, 2018
Where: City of Petoskey Winer Sports Park, 1100 Winter Park Lane Petoskey, MI 49770
Workshop Host: Kendall Klingelsmith, City of Petoskey Marina

Clean Marina Classroom Live: Petoskey

Event Date: 3/14/2018

When: March 14, 2018
Where: City of Petoskey Winer Sports Park, 1100 Winter Park Lane Petoskey, MI 49770
Workshop Host: Kendall Klingelsmith, City of Petoskey Marina

The Clean Marina Classroom is going on the road! In spring 2018, the Michigan Clean Marina Program will offer several in-person workshops. Michigan Sea Grant staff and Clean Marina certification specialists will cover important lessons from the online classroom tied to mandatory and recommended best practices for becoming a Clean Marina. Pledged marinas, as well as marinas due for re-certification in 2018, are invited to attend.

For the Classroom Live workshop to be effective, participants must take the following steps before the workshop:

    • Register for the workshop (dates and locations below).
    • Sign the Clean Marina pledge form (new and re-certifying marinas) and pay the required pledge fee (new marinas only).
    • Log in to the online classroom and complete the marina self-assessment (also called the certification checklist).
    • Bring your self-assessment, a notebook (paper and pencil or laptop) and your calendar to the workshop.

In return, each marina will leave with:

  • Clean Marina Classroom certificate
  • Scheduled certification site visit date
  • Prize for completing the workshop evaluation and survey

Other Locations

Harrison Township

When: March 27, 2018
Where: Thomas Welsh Activity Center, Lake St. Clair Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045
Workshop Host: Joe Hall and Sue Knapp

Great Lakes Conference, ANR Week

Event Date: 3/6/2018

The annual Great Lakes Conference held on March 6 will investigate the opportunities and challenges our Great Lakes face. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The annual Great Lakes Conference held on March 6 will investigate the opportunities and challenges our Great Lakes face. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes are one of Michigan’s most valuable resources, providing countless benefits in the present and offering tremendous opportunities for the future. Learn more about the opportunities and also the challenges facing the lakes during the annual Great Lakes Conference at Michigan State University.

The 28th Great Lakes Conference is an important part of MSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Week. The conference will be presented 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 6, 2018, at the MSU Kellogg Center auditorium on the East Lansing campus. The conference is sponsored by the MSU Institute of Water Research, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife; Michigan Sea Grant; and the Office of the Great Lakes.

Workshop presentations

This year the Great Lakes Conference will focus on topics including beach monitoring, autonomous vehicles used in research, ice cover, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS), and more:

  • The Geomorphology and Evolution of Coastal Dunes along Lake Michigan – Dr. Alan F. Arbogast, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
  • Seasonal, Interannual and Decadal Variability of Great Lakes Ice Cover – Dr. Jia Wang, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Ann Arbor.
  • Beach Monitoring using “Poop Sniffing” Dogs – Dr. Laura Symonds, Environmental Canine Services LLC, East Lansing.
  • New Aquatic Invasive Watch List Species – Sarah LeSage, Water Resources Division, MDEQ, Lansing.
  • Autonomous Vehicles in the Great Lakes for Exploration, Mapping and Environmental Monitoring – Dr. Guy Meadows, Michigan Tech Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech University, Houghton.
  • Forecasting Harmful Algal Blooms to Help Lake Erie Stakeholders – Devin Gill, Outreach Specialist, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, Ann Arbor.

Registration is open

The conference is open to the public. Registration is $10 through March 1; $12 at the door (students are free). If you are a K-12 or informal educator, you may be eligible to attend the Educator Luncheon and receive a stipend in support of your participation. Educators may contact Steve Stewart via email at stew@msu.edu.

Register online and don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about our present Great Lakes and planning for the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project-Based Learning Meets Place-Based Stewardship Education

Event Date: 2/15/2018

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

Program Expectations/Objectives

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

Registration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Parks of the Great Lakes – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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

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

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

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

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

Lots to do

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

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

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

Art in the park

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

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

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

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

Read the National Parks of the Great Lakes series

Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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