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.

Head to Houghton for a Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop on April 30, 2018

Event Date: 4/30/2018

Presentations include updates on several important fish issues, public encouraged to attend and provide input.

flyer describes locations and dates for annual fishery workshops

Michigan Sea Grant workshops are intended to inform the angling community and general public about fish populations and management. This year, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), our Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop will be held at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich. The workshop will feature a variety of talks from the university and management agencies of the MDNR and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 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 questions and answers allowing anglers to give valuable input.

The workshop will be 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 30, 2018, at the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University. The address 100 Phoenix Drive, Houghton, MI 49931. Parking is free after 4 p.m. at the adjacent lot 31.

Presentations (see agenda) this year will include:

  • Buffalo Reef and Stamp Sands Updates – MDEQ and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
  • Coaster Brook Trout Population State – MI Tech Great Lakes Research Center
  • Lake Trout Status, Updates, and Isle Royale Populations – MDNR Fisheries Division
  • Ghost Nets – WI Sea Grant
  • Lake Superior Angler Creel Data –  MDNR Fisheries Division
  • MI Tech Great Lakes Research and Facility Tour – Great Lakes Research Center

The Lake Superior Fisheries Workshop is free and open to all interested participants. Registration is requested, but walk-ins are welcome. Register online.

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

‘Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle’ is a must-see art exhibit for Great Lakes lovers

Paintings reveal the hidden life beneath the beautiful inland seas.

If you love the waters and creatures of the Great Lakes, you won’t want to miss the chance to see the Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. But don’t delay — the magnificent art exhibit is nearing the end of its three-month run and will only be in town through April 29, 2018. After that Michiganders will have to wait until 2020 for the paintings to return to the state.

The art museum commissioned the artist to research and create five mural-sized paintings depicting the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. Over the course of four years, Rockman traveled the Great Lakes region, met with scientists and other experts, and created this special display. Included in the exhibit are murals, watercolors, and field drawings.

Detail of a Lake Trout from Forces of Change panel

Rockman’s five mural-sized paintings are filled with information and detail. His paintings have been described as “visual essays” and indeed tell a story which invokes wonder, appreciation, and also apprehension for the future of these critical waters. It’s an important story for all of us to learn and know.

A critical resource

The Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and their connecting channels — form the largest surface fresh water system on earth. Environmental stewardship, sustainable economic development, and responsible use of the Great Lakes are crucial components of keeping the lakes and the region vibrant. Rockman’s exhibit challenges viewers to remember how actions and decisions often have ripple effects on the lakes. Several of the large panels can be “read” from left to right, telling the evolutionary story and showing scientific and cultural timelines. Reading these paintings, one can’t help but wonder what’s next for these important waters and be challenged to be a better steward of them for future generations.

For the museum visitor, drawing keys help tell the story and identify each element contained in the large panels. The museum has also created a Great Lakes bingo game to capture the imagination of children and adults, but also impart facts and knowledge. Playing the game encourages real study of the individual elements of the panels.

watercolor of wood duck with sand embelishments

The watercolors and field study drawings are magnificent as well. In the field studies, Rockman has included sand, dirt, and other elements he collected during his travels around the region. For example, his Common Snapping Turtle includes sand from Pictured Rocks, and his rendering of a wood duck includes sand from the Cuyahoga River.

Book a bonus you won’t want to miss

To add to the experience of viewing Rockman’s paintings, be sure to pick up a copy of the exhibition catalogue, which was published by the art museum in association with Michigan State University Press. The book’s essays, descriptions, and beautiful photographs make it a perfect way to enhance — and remember — the experience of standing in front of one of Rockman’s beautiful paintings. The catalogue was written by Dana Friis-Hansen, director of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, with contributions by Jeff Alexander and Thyrza Nichols Goodeve. One suggestion would be to order and read the book first, then see the exhibit. At the very least, grab one at the museum store to study at leisure. The book also includes the detailed keys that explain each element of the large panels.

After leaving Grand Rapids, the exhibit will tour the Great Lakes region. The tour schedule will wrap up back in Michigan in 2020 with its visit to the Flint Institute of Arts. For more information, visit the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s website at www.artmuseumgr.org or contact Visitor Services at (616) 831-1000 or info@artmuseumgr.org.

Exhibition Touring Schedule:

Town Hall on Aquatic Invasive Species

Event Date: 4/26/2018

University of Toledo/NOAA Research Team Host Town Hall on invasive species prevention in the Great Lakes

The public is invited to a town hall meeting 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26 at the WGTE studio, 1270 S. Detroit Ave. in Toledo, OH. 

The town-hall panel of experts includes representatives from the Toledo Zoo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maumee Bait and Tackle and Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. 

Rochelle Sturtevant, Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) Program Manager is a panelist.

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.

Rare fish on rebound in northern Lake Michigan as pros, cons of stocking debated

Anglers and conservationists around Lake Michigan are now weighing in on options for cisco management. New videos and Sea Grant workshops provide a chance to learn more.

To confuse matters, not all cisco (Coregonus artedi) look and act the same. According to a recent monograph, there are different “minor forms” of the cisco species. Body depth and mouth shape vary somewhat from one minor form to the next, but the reasons for this variability are poorly understood. It comes down to a classic question of “nature vs. nurture.”  At this point, we are unsure if different minor forms of cisco are different because of their genetic code (DNA) or because of the influence of their changing environment and ecological niche.

After all, Lake Michigan has changed dramatically since cisco crashed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, exotic alewife were taking over and native predators (lake trout) had been wiped out by invasive sea lamprey. With no predators to keep them in check, the small, silvery alewife boomed. Another invader, rainbow smelt, was also in the mix. Cisco populations suffered as alewife and rainbow smelt likely competed for food resources and preyed on the tiny pelagic cisco larvae.

Now Lake Michigan cisco are making a comeback. Populations are on the rise in Grand Traverse Bay and surrounding areas. Anglers are catching more cisco every year, and they are beginning to show up in unexpected places. Cisco have been present in seasonally fishable numbers in Charlevoix, Portage Lake, and Manistee in recent years. Occasional catches have been reported even farther south.

These cisco are not behaving like historic Lake Michigan cisco, though. Most notably, their diet now includes other fish such as alewife and round goby. Historically, Lake Michigan cisco mostly ate zooplankton and other small invertebrates. Cisco in present-day Lake Superior and Lake Ontario do the same, but for some reason our recovering Lake Michigan cisco population is different.

This has sparked an active debate among biologists and fishery managers over the past several years, and Great Lakes anglers and conservationists are now beginning to consider the issue, as well. At the recent Ludington Regional Fisheries Workshop hosted by Michigan Sea Grant, Chuck Bronte of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gave an overview of the issue and management options that are now being considered. Possible options included stocking cisco in Lake Michigan using spawners from Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, or multiple sources. Details on all management options being considered are provided in the video below.

VIDEO:  Opportunities and challenges to cisco restoration in Lake Michigan

Jory Jonas of Michigan DNR also presented, providing an overview of the current status of Lake Michigan cisco. She highlighted research on cisco diet, habitat, and harvest trends along with pointing out how much we have to learn about these fascinating fish.

VIDEO:  Status of recovering cisco populations in Lake Michigan

Anglers and Great Lakes conservationists in the audience at Ludington were given a chance to make statements regarding their thoughts on cisco. In case you missed that opportunity, cisco will be on the agenda again at the free Southern Lake Michigan Regional Fisheries Workshop, held at 7 p.m. April 19, 2018 at the Moose Lodge, 1025 Wells St., (see agenda,no registration necessary).

At the workshop, organizations and individuals will be given the opportunity to read prepared statements expressing their views, suggestions, or questions on cisco before a question and answer session with cisco experts.

The future for cisco in Lake Michigan is looking much brighter than it did a decade ago. Remnant fish are successfully reproducing, researchers are devoting time and energy to enhance our understanding, and managers are carefully weighing whether to take a more active role in restoration. Great Lakes stakeholders are also learning more about how important this fish once was to Lake Michigan’s ecology and fisheries.

The cisco is an amazingly adaptable, and useful, fish. It can feed on zooplankton, bottom-dwelling invertebrates, emerging insects, or small fish. It can be an excellent food source for a variety of predatory gamefish and also grows large enough to interest recreational anglers and commercial fishers. Cisco can be caught by ice fishing, fly casting, jigging, or trolling. Fresh cisco makes a memorable meal when baked, grilled, or sautéed. Commercial fishers often market smoked cisco, and Lake Superior cisco eggs (roe) are exported to Scandinavian countries where they are considered a delicacy.

Above all, the cisco is versatile. It can be many different things in many different circumstances. Attend the workshop on April 19 to learn more about the complex history and ecology of this unique fish.

IPPSR Forum: Great Lakes Health

Event Date: 3/28/2018

Major threats to the world’s largest freshwater resource – the Great Lakes – will be on topic at the next Michigan State University Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s Public Policy Forum.

The Forum is set for Wednesday, March 28 at 11:30 a.m. It is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

“The Great Lakes have long come under financial and environmental pressure,” said IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann. Forum panelists will explore the lakes’ connections to human and economic health and look at recommendations for continued restoration efforts, he said.

Threats to continued funding have sparked major questions about the region’s ability to battle toxic and nutrient pollution, invasive species and habitat decline.

Panelists include:

  • Rick Hobrla, Program Manager for Areas of Concern and Great Lakes Coordination, Office of Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Anthony Kendall, Assistant Professor, Landscape Hydrology, MSU College of Natural Science.
  • Rochelle Sturtevant, AIS Outreach – Michigan Sea Grant, GLANSIS Program Manager – NOAA.
  • Ron Kinnunen, Senior District Extension Educator, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

All IPPSR Forums take place in the Mackinac Room, 5th floor of the Cora B. Anderson House Office Building (HOB) at 124 N. Capitol Avenue in downtown Lansing. A light luncheon is served, making reservations necessary. Reserve online or call 517-355-6672 to register.

IPPSR’s spring 2018 lineup of Public Policy Forums stretches to five this year. Upcoming topics yet this spring are:

  • Career and Technical Education, Wednesday, April 18, 2018.
  • Michigan Foster Care and Group Homes, Wednesday,  May 2, 2018.

IPPSR is part of MSU’s College of Social Science and is the home for the Michigan Political Leadership Program, the Office for Survey Research, the State of the State SurveyState of the State Podcast , Michigan Policy Insiders Panel and the Correlates of State Policy.

CONTACT: AnnMarie Schneider, Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, annmarie@msu.edu517-353-1738; Cindy Kyle, IPPSR, kylec@msu.edu517-355-6672

Lake HuronFisheries Workshops

Event Date: 4/10/2018
End Date: 5/3/2018

Register for any of 4 free workshops held in April and May and keep up-to-date on Lake Huron fisheries.

The annual fisheries workshops provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals, and interested community members. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The annual fisheries workshops provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals, and interested community members. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Lake Huron fisheries have witnessed numerous ecosystem changes resulting from invasive species, yet this changing fishery continues to offer a diverse and vibrant fishing opportunities.

Native species such as lake trout in offshore waters and walleye in Saginaw Bay and nearshore waters have rebounded and drive growing fishing opportunities. An Atlantic salmon program supported by Lake Superior State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division shows expanding promise for Lake Huron anglers. Concerns remain over issue of aquatic invasive species, and communities have questions about the future of cormorant control efforts as they relate to fisheries management activities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to expand efforts toward native Cisco restoration efforts, and a Lake Huron-Michigan predator diet studyled by Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and USGS Great Lakes Science Center  (with support from Michigan Sea Grant) continues to track food web interactions in these Great Lakes ecosystems.

How might you keep current on all these issues and topics? The 2018 Lake Huron Regional Fisheries workshop series offers an educational opportunity to keep current on the status and health, trends and fishing opportunities on Lake Huron. These annual educational workshops also offer opportunity to directly learn and ask questions with a diversity of university and agency scientists and experts who work on Lake Huron fisheries.

2018 Lake Huron Regional Fisheries Workshops

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries DivisionUSGS Great Lakes Science Center, and local fishery organizations will host four evening workshops across Lake Huron’s coastline.

Workshops will include information and status updates on topics such as fish populations and angler catch data, forage or prey fish surveys, offshore fisheries and native lake trout, and the status of Saginaw Bay yellow perch and walleye. In addition there will be information shared on fisheries management activities, citizen science opportunities for anglers, and a variety of other Lake Huron topics of local interest. These workshops provide valuable information for anglers, charter captains, resource professionals, and interested community members.

Workshops are free and open to the public. Locations and dates include:

  • Standish (Saginaw Bay): April 10, 2018, (Tuesday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Saganing Tribal Center, 5447 Sturman Rd., Standish, MI  48658.
  • Ubly/Bad Axe: April 19, 2018, (Thursday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Ubly Fox Hunter’s Club, 2351 Ubly Rd., Bad Axe, MI 48413.
  • Rogers City: April 24, 2014, (Tuesday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Rogers City Area Seniors and Community Center, 131 Superior St., Rogers City, MI  49779.
  • Cedarville: May 3, 2018, (Thursday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) at Clark Township Community Center, 133 E. M-134, Cedarville, MI  49719.

Registration requested

Please register online to participate in any (or all) of these educational opportunities.

For program information or questions, contact Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant by email or at (989) 354-9885. Workshop details for these and other Great Lakes fisheries workshops are also available online the Michigan Sea Grant website.

New video features Michigan’s largest fully aquatic salamander – the mudpuppy

Mudpuppies act as an early warning system for environmental problems but are often misunderstood.

New video features Michigan’s largest fully aquatic salamander - the mudpuppy

Michigan Sea Grant in partnership with Herpetological Resource and ManagementEastern Michigan UniversityUnited States Geological SurveyUnited States Fish and Wildlife ServiceDepartment of Natural Resources Fisheries DivisionBelle Isle Aquarium, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has produced a new video featuring mudpuppies.

Mudpuppies are Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander. Often referred to as ‘bio-indicators’ because they are sensitive to pollutants and water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems but are often misunderstood.

Some common myths that the video seeks to dispel are noted below: 

                                    FICTION         VS.            FACT

Mudpuppies are a type of  fish. Mudpuppies are actually an amphibian and although they have lungs and can gulp air they rely on their feathery red external gills for oxygen.
Mudpuppies that are thrown on the ice by anglers will revive in the spring when the ice melts. Unfortunately if a mudpuppy freezes it will die. When thrown on the ice mudpuppies will eventually suffocate or freeze to death.
Mudpuppies eat so many fish eggs that they decrease sport fish populations. Their diet is mostly crayfish, insect larvae, snails and small fish (including invasive round gobies). There is no evidence that they impact fish populations, and they more likely benefit them by helping control non-native species.
Mudpuppies are not protected in Michigan and can be collected all year round. In 2016, the mudpuppy was elevated to a species of special concern and is now protected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. When you catch them, please put them back.
Mudpuppies compete with game species for food. While mudpuppies do eat some of the same species as game fish, they also play an important role in controlling invasive species such as the round goby and they help keep water clean by feeding on sick or dead animals.
Anglers who hook them should cut the line because they are poisonous. Although slimy, mudpuppies are not poisonous. Anglers should gently remove the hook and return them to the water.

Other interesting facts about mudpuppies

  • Mudpuppies mate in late fall but the females do not lay their eggs until the following spring.
  • Mudpuppies have no scales and their skin is very slimy.
  • Females usually lay 50-100 eggs in cavities or under rocks.
  • Eggs hatch 1-2 months after being laid.
  • Mudpuppies can live for more than 20 years and can take up to 10 years to reach sexual maturity.
  • Mudpuppies are also called waterdogs because of the barking sound they sometimes make.

Video viewers are also encouraged to help conserve mudpuppies and other amphibians and reptiles by reporting sightings in the Michigan Herp Atlas to help better protect and conserve Michigan’s biodiversity! You can also learn more about Mudpuppies and their conservation at the Mudpuppy Conservation page on Facebook.

Bay Mills Community College to partner with MSU Extension to perform Great Lakes research

College to use $216K grant to study contaminants, biodiversity in their local waters.

Bay Mills Community College was awarded $216K to help fund research of Waishkey Bay. Photo: Bay Mills Community College

Bay Mills Community College was awarded $216K to help fund research of Waishkey Bay. Photo: Bay Mills Community College

Looking out over the pristine headwaters of the Upper Saint Mary’s River, the main campus of the Bay Mills Community College (BMCC) is located between the sole outlet of Lake Superior and Waishkey (Waiska) Bay in the heart of the Bay Mills Indian Community. The Bay is an important recreational and cultural resource for members of the Bay Mills Indian Community and its neighbors, as well as for the many tourists who visit the area.

BMCC recently was awarded $216K to help fund research of Waishkey Bay. BMCC’s project will study contaminants in the Bay, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and micro plastics. The project will also study the biodiversity of the bay including surveying all mussel species present. Mussels, like clams and oysters, are good indicators of a water bodies health and many mussels in Michigan are threatened or endangered. ­­­

The project will engage the students at BMCC in assisting with the research as well as several partner organizations. These partners include Lake Superior State University’s Environmental Analysis Lab and Wayne State University’s Lumigen Instrument Center, which will be performing chemical analysis on samples collected. Bay Mills Indian Community’s Biological Services Department will assist with training and sample collection and Michigan Sea Grant, a program of Michigan State University Extension and the University of Michigan will serve as coordinators for education and outreach to the local community.