Bird Counts across Michigan

Event Date: 12/14/2017
End Date: 1/5/2018

The longest running citizen science project in the world celebrates its 118th year.

Birders are all bundled up at Tahquamenon Falls in the winter. Photo: Elliot Nelson | Michigan Sea Grant

Birders are all bundled up at Tahquamenon Falls in the winter. Photo: Elliot Nelson | Michigan Sea Grant

In 1900, an ornithologist (aka bird scientist) named Frank Chapman proposed a new holiday tradition, to count birds across the entire country. Conservation was in its early days, and Chapman was concerned about the decline in many of the bird species he loved. Frank Chapman’s idea was to collect data across the country on what birds were present and in what numbers to provide information on how bird populations were changing. Over the years this count, became known as the Christmas Bird Count. The count, which is organized by the National Audubon Society, has gained in popularity. In 1900, there were 24 counts from California to New York. Now there are over 2,500 counts ranging from Antarctica to Brazil to the farthest reaches of Alaska each year.

Fun and serious science

While counting the birds is a fun holiday tradition, the data collected is serious business. The data stored by the National Audubon Society is being used by ornithologists around the world for important research. The information collected in the counts can be used to track how bird populations are changing over time and how habitat changes can effect bird populations.

What is particularly unique about the Christmas Bird Counts is that they are run by volunteers with data collected by ordinary citizens from across the country. Anyone can volunteer to assist a particular count regardless of skill level.

Volunteers still needed

In Michigan there are around 65 counts that take place. Each count is organized on the local level by passionate volunteers or organizations such as Michigan AudubonThe Nature Conservancy and Michigan Sea Grant/Michigan State University Extension.

Each count is held on one day between December 14 and January 5. Many surveys take place during the weekend to attract the most participants and many counts are still looking for volunteers. If you are interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count you can check out this interactive map to find the count closes to you. You can also contact the Michigan Audubon or one of their local chapters and they can help point you towards a count close to you. For more information on participating in a count read this Michigan Audubon article.

The holidays are a great time of year to get out and experience the outdoors. Why not contribute to science while you are at it?

MSU prof seeks crowdfunding support for Great Lakes fish diet research

You can be a part of this important study by donating to support student researchers analyzing stomach samples from Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

As we all know, the Great Lakes have changed a lot in the last decade or so. Alewife have declined, round goby are increasing, and lake trout and walleye continue to recover. Chinook salmon, the heart of Lake Michigan’s fishery, have fluctuated in numbers in the past few years, and have collapsed in Lake Huron. Our fisheries agencies must make informed decisions regarding stocking and levels to support both fisheries and conservation goals. These decisions are based in part on what those predators are eating. What predators eat is an excellent indicator of ecosystem health, and can help tell us how sustainable the fishery is.

With the tremendous help of recreational anglers, MSU together with state, federal, and tribal agencies have collected nearly 2,000 predator stomachs from around Lake Michigan and Huron. We need help to be able to analyze all of them, particularly those from Lake Michigan. MSU has a wealth of potential help in terms of undergraduate students eager to gain valuable research experience. However, funding is needed to pay these students for their work.

Would you help by contributing to this research effort?

With the help of MSU CrowdPower, any donations made at the website will go directly to the predator diet study. Any donation will help, and all donations are tax deductible.

Want to stay up-to-date on the project? 

We have several other ways to connect including:

Alpena students’ project yields more than 1,000 pounds of invasive frogbit

First- and fifth-grade students remove invasive species from Great Lakes watershed, clean up along the Thunder Bay River — and captured it all on film.

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

More than 100 first- and fifth-graders from Alpena Public Schools got their feet wet this fall contributing to an invasive species removal effort in their local watershed. Visiting the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and the Maritime Heritage Trail along the shores of Thunder Bay River these students removed more than 1,000 pounds of invasive European frogbit, conducted litter cleanups, and did a little filmmaking to raise public awareness about their project.

Removal of European frogbit, newly found in the Thunder Bay watershed, took center stage as the primary stewardship project for participating students. This invasive plant grows in large, thick mats that block sunlight to the aquatic plants beneath it; therein threatening the health of surrounding plants and aquatic wildlife. Community and conservation leaders – with helping hands from these students – have prioritized removal efforts to help reduce and prevent the spread of this new invader to the local watershed. Student efforts contributed in accomplishing the Huron Pines frogbit challenge, where the collective community (with students) worked together to remove close to 3,500 pounds in 2017.

To get the ball rolling, fifth-graders from Hinks Elementary visited Duck Park where they donned waders and life jackets, grabbed rakes and buckets, and after learning to identify frogbit, started pulling the plant. Two hours later, they had pulled close to 500 pounds of frogbit from the river. Arriving later in the afternoon that same day, fifth-graders from Besser Elementary removed more frogbit, and also conducted an Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-A-Beach litter clean up along the Thunder Bay River. Over the course of three hours they picked up more than 12 pounds of trash and removed more than 700 pounds of frogbit. Meanwhile, on the Maritime Heritage trail, first-graders from Lincoln Elementary removed nearly 20 pounds of frogbit and eight pounds of trash along the river.

a picture of European frogbit that grows in thick mats in water

Throughout the day students shared their experience with local media – but also collected their own photos, video footage and interviews using iPads provided through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) in order to share their stories. Students provided a public service by removing invasive species and they also learned the importance of raising community awareness on these issues. They hope to produce a short film highlighting the dedication of their class, teachers and community partners to keeping our Great Lakes clean and free of invasive species.

A great example of place-based stewardship education in action, this experience offered opportunity to expand students’ learning beyond the four walls of the classroom while partnering with their community to accomplish this river habitat improvement goal. These enthusiastic students from three different schools collectively engaged in a fun-filled, hands-on learning experience while enhancing the Thunder Bay watershed and Lake Huron habitats within their own local Alpena community.

Teachers from Besser, Hinks and Lincoln Elementary schools facilitated this effort through the NEMIGLSI network and partnership.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension help provide leadership for the network, which is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI), a larger, statewide partnership. Other NEMIGLSI network partners collaborating with the schools and providing leadership for this project included: Huron PinesHuron Pines AmeriCorpsAlpena Wildlife Sanctuary, and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/13/2018

January 13, 2018

West Shore Community College
3000 North Stiles Road
Scottville, MI 49454

Details

Lodging

There is a block of room secured at the Ludington Holiday Inn Express for the night of January 12th. Double rooms are $75/night and are first come first serve. 

Group Code: MSU
Group Block Name: Fisheries Workshop
Reservations: (231) 845-7311

Michigan Fish Producers Association Annual Conference

Event Date: 1/27/2018

Michigan Sea Grant will be coordinating a daylong, educational program on current issues affecting the Great Lakes commercial fishing industry.

The program will run from 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, 2018 as part of the Michigan Fish Producers Association Annual Conference at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City.

There is no charge for attending this event. For additional information please contact Ron Kinnunen at (906)-226-3687 or kinnune1@msu.edu.

See: MFPA Agenda

Recreational Boating Educational Conference (RBEC)

Event Date: 12/6/2017
End Date: 12/7/2017

On December 6-7, come visit the Michigan Clean Marina Program at the 2017 Recreational Boating Educational Conference (RBEC) in Lansing! RBEC is produced annually by the Michigan Boating Industries Association, bringing in nationally renowned speakers with expertise and information specific to the marine industry. It’s an opportunity for marine business people to come together for education, networking, and fun. 

The 2017 conference, “Raising the Bar,” will feature a customer service training track by the renowned Disney Institute. Other sessions will cover OSHA inspections, small business fraud, electric shock awareness, and more. 

Michigan Sea Grant’s Mark Breederland and Erin De Vries will present “Promoting and Improving Michigan Clean Marinas in 2018 and Beyond.” Come join us for discussions about Clean Marinas and sustainable boating as we prepare for the 2018 boating season!

Learn more about RBEC.

Conference location:

Radisson Hotel at the Capitol
111 N. Grand Avenue
Lansing, MI 48933

Reservations:

Radisson reservations: (800) 333-3333
Hotel direct line: (517) 482-0188
Online: www.Radisson.com/lansingmi
Promo code: RBEC17 (NOTE: Deadline for hotel reservations passed on November 21. Call to check availability)

DNR seeks comments on Lake Michigan management plan

Event Date: 11/28/2017
End Date: 11/30/2017

November meetings in Manistique, Traverse City, and Grand Haven to share details and solicit input on proposed plan.

DNR seeks comments on Lake Michigan management plan

Fishing in Lake Michigan has had its share of ups and downs. A steady stream of invasive species led to several big changes in the lake. Sea lamprey destroyed the lake trout fishery in the late 1940s, leaving the door open for an explosion of alewife that died off en masse and became the plague of beachgoers in the early 1960s. Stocking of non-native Chinook and coho salmon created a world-class recreational fishery in the late 1960s. Fishery managers have been trying to maintain an optimal balance of predators and prey since salmon declines due to bacterial kidney disease (BKD) in the 1980s. With the explosion of new exotics like quagga mussel and round goby and decreases in open water nutrients over the past twenty years, old assumptions about the lake’s productivity are being revised.

All of this makes management a difficult proposition. States and tribes around Lake Michigan serve on the Lake Michigan Committee, which adopted Fish Community Objectives (FCOs) in 1995. The lake has changed a lot since then, and some key objectives (like total harvest of all salmon and trout species) have fallen below target levels in recent years.

Individual states have worked within the framework of the FCOs. In the past, states have accomplished this on a species-by-species basis. Now Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to develop a more comprehensive and holistic approach to managing the lake.

Visit the Lake Michigan Management plan website to view the draft plan and submit comments online.

What to expect

The agenda for the public meetings includes:

  • Brief overview of management plan and how to comment.
  • Brief overview of zonal management.
  • Describe and discuss stocking options.
  • Have participants pick their most preferred option.

Meeting times and locations

Three meetings are planned:

  • November 28, 2017: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Comfort Inn Conference Room, 617 E. Lake Shore Dr., Manistique, MI 49854
  • November 29, 2017: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, MI 49685
  • November 30, 2017: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Loutit District Library, 407 Columbus Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417

Are Great Lakes water levels headed up in 2018?

November forecast suggest higher levels heading into next year.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fall of 2017 was a very wet season in the Great Lakes region. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, basin-wide precipitation was well above normal for all of the Great Lakes during October 2017. In fact, these estimates put the monthly precipitation at 118 percent of average for Lake Superior, 161 percent of average for Lakes Michigan/Huron, 107 percent of average for Lake Erie, and 170 percent  of average for Lake Ontario. Accordingly, while the lakes generally continue seasonal decline into winter, the rate of this decline has been much more gradual.

What impact has this high precipitation had in various lakes? In late October all the Great Lakes rose slightly from the typical pattern (that is lower at the end of the month than at the beginning). Currently in mid-November, Lake Superior is hovering around its October average when it typically is a bit lower in November. Lake Michigan and Huron showed over an inch bump up around Oct. 24, 2017 – over 780 billion gallons of water across this 45,300 square mile surface area of the earth. Net basin supply estimates (the net result of precipitation falling on the lake, runoff from precipitation falling on the land which flows to the lake, and evaporation from the lake [negative net basin supply denotes evaporation exceeded runoff and precipitation]) and the outflow from the upstream lake were all above average during October.

Evaporation a factor

We know evaporation is a huge factor in lake level prediction and yet it is extremely hard to measure. The NOAA Great Lakes Research Lab and The Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research hosted a recent webinar, “Ten Years of the Great Lakes Evaporation Network: Progress Made and Opportunities for the Future” by Dr. Christopher Spence, research hydrologist from Environment and Climate Change Canada. The work done over the past decade is helpful to try to understand big and smaller years of evaporation and yet recognizes significant complexity in locating instruments on the Great Lakes. Some research-based information confirms that typically, the largest evaporation over the lakes occurs in November and December, when the lakes are still warm and the cold arctic air blasts come over the lakes.

Graphic showing lake level monthly mean averages

Graphic showing lake level monthly mean averages. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The main coordinated model for Great Lakes water levels used by the US Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t project out beyond 6 months. However, a newer product The Great Lakes Water Level Outlook, details that the high water levels of this year were accompanied by a strong seasonal rise due to wet spring conditions and high net basin supplies to the lakes. It also compares to some years when there were periods of positive net basin supply during the years 1972-1973, 1985-1986, and 1996-1997 – three scenarios representing periods of high water levels and high net basin supply throughout the year across the Great Lakes basin.

Snowpack key

Considering these scenarios, it is quite possible 2018 may be a high water year in several of the Great Lakes. One thing to watch for over the winter is the amount of system snowpack over the Lake Superior basin. Lake-effect snows are considered net-system losses (they come back long-term) but system snow pack is usually measured in March by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.  NOAA is trying to determine how much liquid water is “locked up” in the frozen snowpack, technically called snow-water equivalent. Fixed wing aircraft flying with remote sensing gamma radiation sensors at about 500 feet above the ground around the Lake Superior basin can give good estimates of snowpack. Naturally occurring gamma radiation is released from the soil under snowcover and can indicate snowdepth.

Higher lake levels impacts shoreline erosion; fall is typically the time of year for sustained storms. In fact, a Lake Superior buoy north of Marquette, Mich., measured a 28.8 foot wave at Granite Island on Oct. 24, 2017 – the highest wave ever recorded by modern buoy records (10-30 years). Significant erosion has been reported near Whitefish Point. Yet the rise and fall of the Great Lakes is still normal and key for nearshore wetland ecological health and nearshore habitat.

Here’s an overall lake level synopsis – higher levels but not all time highs. Lake Superior is 13” above its long-term average for October and 7” higher than 2016. Lake Michigan/Huron is 19” above its long term average for October and 9” above 2016. Let’s keep an eye on system snow in 2017-2018 and see what evaporative losses show – but it appears we might well be in for a higher season in 2018.

Please contact Extension educator Mark Breederland, breederl@msu.edu, for more information on living with the ever-changing dynamic coastlines of the Great Lakes.

Sea Grant report on Asian carp includes educational resources

Great Lakes conservation groups will find a wealth of resources in this new publication.

By Dan O’Keefe

The Silver Carp is one of four Asian carp species that threaten Great Lakes waters.

The Silver Carp is one of four Asian carp species that threaten Great Lakes waters.

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, in support of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, just released a report that contains a variety of resources for anyone working on education and outreach related to Asian carp. The report contains sections that provide basic information in addition to helping readers sift through the large amount of information available to find the best outreach products for their audience.

the cover of the report is shown

Understanding the threat

The new report details the four species of Asian carp that pose a threat to Great Lakes waters: Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Black Carp, and Grass Carp. Each species is a concern, but Bighead Carp and Silver Carp get the most attention because they are filter feeders that eat plankton. This could result in direct competition with native gamefish or indirect effects if baitfish populations are harmed. Scientists are now employing a variety of techniques to learn more about these fish, and the report explains some of the headline-grabbing methods like eDNA monitoring and DIDSON sonar imaging.

Educational resources

The Sea Grant report includes a state-by-state list of fact sheets, articles, brochures, posters, online videos, and other materials related to Asian carp outreach. This is a great place to start if you are looking for materials to distribute at a boat show, club meeting, or other event. In the “Analysis of Education and Outreach” section, the report provides a quick reference chart that organizes materials by audience and message.

PowerPoint Presentation

In addition to a list of available materials, the report includes a set of slides that can be downloaded and used by educators around the Great Lakes region. Slides include basic life history information for each species, potential for economic and ecological harm, control attempts, and an overview of existing research and research gaps. Each slide contains comprehensive presenter notes, and the slide set can be modified to suit your audience.

New partnership will update, enhance important Great Lakes non-native species database

By Heather Triezenberg

Michigan Sea Grant is pleased to announce a new partnership with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) for management of the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS). This regional Great Lakes-specific database of aquatic nonindigenous species is a one-stop-shop for information on non-native species within the basin. Making data accessible to researchers, managers, educators, and other stakeholders is an important part of the joint missions of NOAA’s GLERL, CIGLR, and Sea Grant programs.   

With this new partnership, Rochelle Sturtevant, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Program’s regional outreach specialist, will become program manager for GLANSIS and will work within the CIGLR Regional Consortium. Planned enhancements to GLANSIS database programming will improve information extraction capabilities, and data updates will ensure the most current state of aquatic nonindigenous species knowledge is being delivered to the public. “GLANSIS is a very important database and resource for the Great Lakes region,” said Deborah Lee, GLERL director. “We are very happy to have Dr. Sturtevant use her expertise in order to update and expand the program and serve even more stakeholders.”

Rochelle Sturtevant has been involved with GLANSIS since its inception.

Sturtevant played a key role in the conceptualization and development of GLANSIS, which has become a signature product of GLERL, while she served as the Great Lakes Sea Grant and NOAA GLERL Regional Liaison. “Aquatic invasive species are a major focus within the Great Lakes basin. Updating and expanding the GLANSIS database will help managers make informed decisions when devising and implementing strategies to prevent, control, and mitigate the introduction and impacts of aquatic invasive species and help protect the natural resources and economic well-being of the Great Lakes,” said Sturtevant.

“The NOAA and Sea Grant partners in the Great Lakes Region have been leaders on regional collaboration, and we are excited to see this collaboration focus on invasive species within the basin,” said Jonathan Pennock, director of NOAA’s National Sea Grant. “NOAA and its Great Lakes partners will continue to work together closely to facilitate communication and information exchange.” Helping to coordinate communication between the groups will be Heather Triezenberg, Michigan Sea Grant program leader; Jennifer Day, NOAA Great Lakes Regional Coordinator; Margaret Lansing, GLERL’s Information Services branch chief; and Jill Jentes, Great Lakes Sea Grant communication chairperson.

For questions, please contact Heather Triezenberg, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Program Leader (vanden64@msu.edu) or 517-353-5508.