Michigan Water School: Traverse City

Event Date: 9/17/2018
End Date: 9/18/2018


September 17 & 18, 2018, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Local, State and Tribal elected and appointed officials and staff wanting to gain access to resources and knowledge about water management are encouraged to attend this workshop!


  • Factors that impact Michigan water
  • The Blue Economy
  • Fiscal benefits of water management
  • Incorporating water into local planning and placemaking
  • Risk assessment approaches n Resources to help address water problems
  • Water policy at the federal, tribal, state, and local levels

Certificate upon completion of two-day session. Partial scholarships available thanks to funding from the Erb Family Foundation.

LOCATION: Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station
6686 S Center Hwy, Traverse City, MI

REGISTER: https://events.anr.msu.edu/waterschool09172018
$175 (Includes materials and lunch each day)


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 Fisheries Heritage Consortium Conference

Event Date: 10/12/2017
End Date: 10/13/2017

Boardman River Selective Fish Passage National Demonstration

Event Date: 4/11/2017

Keeping out the bad and encouraging the good!

April 11, 2017

ISEA Education Center, 100 Dame St., Suttons Bay, MI, 6:30–8 pm (Free to public)

This seminar will discuss a broad overview of the project and the preliminary ideas of the recently announced Selective Fish Passage Demonstration on the Boardman River. Announced by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in Fall 2016, The Boardman River Union Street Dam site was chosen to implement a state-of-the-art system to keep adult sea lamprey upstream of the project site while allowing self-sustaining populations of various fish species to migrate to and from Lake Michigan and all the way up the Boardman River watershed. The project is in its very initial stages of a possible 10 year experiment to be followed with a long-term operational mode allowing such selective fish passage.

Mark Breederland works with Great Lakes coastal communities and has done so for over 25 years. He is a field-based educator with the Michigan Sea Grant College Program, Michigan State University Extension serving the Northwest Lower Michigan area from his base in Traverse City. He is collaborating with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission on the Boardman River Selective Fish Passage Project as part of the education and outreach team.

2017 Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/14/2017

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant invite you to attend the 2017 Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop. The workshop will include presentations on Lake Michigan’s plankton problems, tribal fishing, salmon and trout tagging program and more. Presentations by MSU’s Quantitative Fisheries Center will include “Lake Michigan Fisheries Models: Where are we going, where have we been,” and “Should we treat Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as one lake?” An interactive computer modeling exercise will help the audience see how computer simulation works and provide feedback. See the full workshop agenda.

The workshop is $30 and includes lunch.

To register by phone, contact Cara at (231) 843-5825 or via email at cemitchell@westshore.edu.
Payment can be made the day of the event, reservations are required. Deadline to register has been extended to January 7, 2017.

Date: January 14, 2017
Time: 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Location: West Shore Community College, Administration and Conference Building, 3000 North Stiles Road, Scottville, MI 49454
Contact: Cara at (231) 843-5825 or via email at cemitchell@westshore.edu

Waterfowl die-off on Lake Michigan shores linked to type E botulism

Disease confirmed in Michigan’s Leelanau, Delta, Schoolcraft counties affecting loons, other migrating fowl.

These dead birds were located on the beach at Good Harbor Bay, Leelanau County. Photo: Dan Ray, National Park Service

These dead birds were located on the beach at Good Harbor Bay, Leelanau County. Photo: Dan Ray, National Park Service

Several species of waterfowl carcasses have recently washed ashore in Lake Michigan’s Leelanau, Emmet, Charlevoix, Delta and Schoolcraft counties. A team of volunteers has been monitoring places such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Northern Leelanau County region, the Garden Peninsula region and other stretches near the City of Manistique. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Lab has confirmed type E botulism as the cause of death for these dozens and dozens of diving ducks and loons. Type E botulism causes a paralysis from the toxin released from the germination of the spore-like natural bacterium Closteridium botulinum; it is a recurring disease impacted by the changing Lake Michigan food web.

Since 2006, type E botulism has impacted some local and mostly migrating waterfowl passing through northern Michigan on their way to winter habitats. The recently killed birds include common loons, long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, red breasted mergansers, grebes and gulls. In Schoolcraft County alone, an estimate of 600 birds total were found along an 8 mile stretch of shoreline. Leelanau County estimates of around 250 birds, primarily long-tailed ducks, have come in during the last week of October 2016, and lesser amounts in Emmet and Charlevoix counties.

Many groups have loosely organized over the years to help gather data and bury carcasses so no other animals might be impacted. Researchers and volunteers from federal agencies such as the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., and National Park Service; academic institutions; state agencies such as the Michigan DNR and nonprofits have assisted in monitoring the hundreds of miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Sleeping Bear Dunes volunteers are nicknamed the “Bot. Squad VIPs” team: fighting type e botulism since 2006. Information from summer beach volunteers showed a low dieoff until the recent kills. However, in Sleeping Bear Dunes a yearly high total was around 1500 birds during 2012 and so far this year the count is moderate.

Trained staff and volunteers are helping bury the carcasses after counting and noting location and species. The National Park does not collect or rehabilitate sick birds. People are encouraged to not touch the birds because of other possible diseases that might be present on the carcasses. In general follow these guidelines along the shore:

  • Do not handle dead fish or birds with your bare hands.
  • Properly dispose of carcasses by double bagging and placing them in the trash.
  • Beware of fish that are floating – if they are not fighting, they are likely not healthy and should not be consumed.
  • Do not eat undercooked or improperly prepared fish or waterfowl.
  • Hunters should never harvest birds that appear to be sick or are dying.
  • Do not let your pets eat dead fish or birds.
  • Look for carcasses at two peak times: in mid-late summer and in the fall and follow proper disposal methods.

If you are able to enjoy some fall beach walks in Northern Lake Michigan, recognize that there is a possibility of some waterfowl carcasses. Hopefully, the waterfowl will migrate through the region soon and the fall impact of type E botulism soon will be over for 2016.

Michigan Sea Grant maintains a web page with a variety of information on type E botulism outbreaks:  http://bit.ly/2e20DZU

Sea Grant 50th Anniversary: Celebrating the work of our Extension educators

Urban and rural communities, Michigan Sea Grant educator Mark Breederland is proud to serve them all.

Sea Grant 50 Breederland IMG_4991

In 2016, the National Sea Grant College Program celebrates 50 years of putting science to work for America’s coastal communities.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators live and work in coastal communities around the state. We celebrate their hard work and take this opportunity to introduce each of them during this anniversary year.

Mark Breederland enjoys fishing, especially when he's successful.

Mark Breederland enjoys fishing, especially when he’s successful.

Mark Breederland, located in Traverse City, Mich., loves to work with Great Lakes coastal communities and has done so for more than 29 years. He has been a field educator with Michigan Sea Grant Extension for the last 21 years. Prior to his work for Sea Grant, Mark served for six years on water and environment programs with local governments at the Northwest Michigan regional planning commission office in Traverse City. Beside this grounding in local realities, Mark had the pleasure of learning the broad bi-national context of Great Lakes science and policy issues while serving  for three years at the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes office (Windsor, Ontario), where he traveled to many of the communities where Great Lakes Areas of Concern were located.

Within Michigan Sea Grant, he’s served diverse geographies—working both the Southeast Michigan region (Ohio state line to the tip of the Thumb) and, currently, the Northwest Lower region, as well as special programs and projects in many other places.

Mark learned to fish on Lake St. Clair. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Taylor University (Upland, Ind.), and a master of environmental science from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio). He enjoys outdoor family activities with his wife and 2 teenage daughters and he likes smallmouth fishing but concedes he’s better at fishing than catching most of the time!

What made you decide to be an extension educator?

I was able to work with some great folks with MSU Extension early in my career in various local projects – I saw first hand the value of an honest broker of information at the local level. Then, while I was at the International Joint Commission, I got a chance to meet various Sea Grant Extension folks in other Great Lakes states – Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc. I was impressed with how involved and effective the Sea Grant extension programs were in communities across the Great Lakes. While I learned much Great Lakes information in the international-policy level arena and was able to contribute at that level, I felt my heart and passion best matched up at the local level.

How has Michigan Sea Grant made a difference in our state?

We’ve helped make a difference in the urban coast. I was able to work with a tremendous coalition in the mid- to late 1990s to draw attention to the Detroit River coastline – one of our Great Lakes Connecting Channels. And attention was garnered in a big way as we led a nomination process to the White House. In September 1997, the president declared the Detroit River one of 14 American Heritage Rivers. I chaired the steering committee for this initiative – prior to designation and for several years afterwards. This designation didn’t have millions of government dollars attached to it – but the spotlight and the timing for Detroit were tremendous. The private sector, led by General Motors, Peter Stroh and the Stroh Companies, and others had reinvested in the Riverfront and later formed the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The Riverfront Conservancy did take in multi-million dollars from various foundations and organizations, and today the Detroit Riverfront has been transformed and is endowed to be maintained in the future. Go visit the new Michigan DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, hike the RiverWalk from the Renaissance Center to Belle Isle, and take in this beautiful part of the Great Lakes urban coast for yourself.

We’ve also made a difference in many more rural coastal communities. The lifeblood of these communities is jobs and tourism – and the waterfront provides an advantage from non-coastal areas. Boating and marinas, commercial and recreational fishing, lake level dynamics and information – all areas Michigan Sea Grant has brought research-based information out to real-world people and working waterfront communities.

What challenges does your area of the state face as you look to the future?

Mark Breederland demonstrates how a throw ring works. Credit: Play It Safe In The Water

Mark Breederland demonstrates how a throw ring works. Credit: Play It Safe In The Water

Northwest Lower Peninsula coastal areas are a beautiful draw to many, particularly in summer. But looking below the surface, many communities struggle for sustainability and prosperity on a twelve-month basis and there are some nagging and challenging problems from being located in a dynamic coastal area. Sand is constantly moving on our sandy shores, choking harbor-mouths and funding from the federal government has been non-available for maintenance dredging. How does a small community such as Leland come up with $200,000 on an annual basis just to move this harbor sand to allow boaters safe harbor in a big Lake Michigan blow and ingress/egress for boaters, charter and commercial fisherman? There is a broken system at the federal/state/local level for funding and dealing with this complicated issue, and not just in Leland but many other communities as well.

There could well be a changing Lake Michigan fishery. Communities will have to educate and adjust to new fisheries – perhaps a change away from such a big focus on chinook salmon to enjoying / promoting more diverse fishing – lake trout, steelhead, brown trout, etc.

And we’re all about water safety – swimming in the Great Lakes is not like swimming in inland lakes. Sand bars, wave dynamics, dangerous currents and unprepared people – a potential tragic recipe. We’re trying to educate and inform people to have floatation and yes, enjoy … but please respect these freshwater seas.

How will you and Michigan Sea Grant help?

We’ll continue to bring education to the front doors of these communities. Sea Grant will ensure scientists who study the new ecosystem and food web with all these permanent invasives such as round gobies and quagga mussels, will come share possible or probable impacts on fisheries and learn from local people on their observations as active Great Lakes users; folks who research lake levels fluctuations will update on range of impacts to plan for and deal with; and share information on dangerous currents among other things.

Do you have any advice for students who might want to pursue a career with an environmental focus?

I’d recommend getting a broad-based liberal arts education before specializing too much. I think today’s problems are all connected – and people and local decisions are directly in the midst of these. Problems won’t just be solved with developing an app on a smart phone alone. After a good broad education, later narrow and specialize in your interest areas. Remember a deep and broad foundation can support a large building – and similarly I think this is true in complex coastal issues –  with good logic, multi-disciplinary efforts and understandings, people and environmental problems can come together for practical solutions.

If you could get people to follow just one piece of conservation advice what would it be?

Use, enjoy and keep learning in your coastal (or non-coastal) geography in order to steward this incredible freshwater area. Interestingly, I’ve found some folks who are expert at bird identification couldn’t identify a fish if their life depended on it. Alternatively, some expert fishers can tell you nuances of fish and fish life history, but are ignorant of waterfowl, shoreline birds, plants, etc. If you are a life-long learner, you’ll be able to share this information with neighbors, families, grand-kids, etc. and you’ll make a difference in the next generation!

Sea Grant is a federal-state partnership that turns research into action by supporting science-based, environmentally sustainable practices that ensure coastal communities remain engines of economic growth in a rapidly changing world. There are 33 programs across the country working to help build and grow innovative businesses along America’s oceans and Great Lakes, protect against environmental destruction and natural disasters, and train the next generation of leaders.

Established in 1969, Michigan Sea Grant, is a collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We offer research, education and community outreach on topics such as aquatic invasive species, coastal development, commercial and sports fishing, and environmental stewardship for youth.

Join National Geographic for BioBlitz

Event Date: 7/25/2015



Rhett Register, Michigan Sea Grant Communications Program Leader, (734) 647-0767
Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator, Northeast District, (989) 354-9885

Adults and children of all ages are invited to BioBlitz, a special one-day nature event, to be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 25 at Treetops Project Nature in Gaylord. Part of National Geographic’s Great Nature Project, participants help scientists collect plant and animal information and photos from the area’s old growth forest, ponds and the Sturgeon River. Photos and information will be added to a database accessible to scientists and decision makers around the world.

Special activity stations with hands-on displays and resources will be offered by Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension and other organizations.

“Michigan Sea Grant will present Great Lakes fisheries and aquaculture resources,” says Brandon Schroeder, a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator. “The exhibit will especially emphasize the issue of aquatic invasive species.”

Schroeder also will be seeking people to continue the biodiversity assessment effort as part of the Northeast Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative. This regional network of education and community partners promotes hands-on, place-based education as a method for developing knowledgeable and active stewards of the environment.

“We hope to find people who want to translate this exciting one-day event into a longer-term project that can help with a local school,” he adds.

BioBliz participants who complete each of the activity stations will receive a pin and the title “Citizen Scientist.”

Join for an hour or two, or spend the entire day exploring Project Nature. Registration is $10 per person, $35 per family and free for children age 4 and under. Box lunches also can be ordered.

The event is hosted by the University Center Gaylord. To learn more and to register, visit www.ucgaylord.org.


Avian Botulism Confirmed in Grand Traverse Bay

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed on August 12, 2014 that about 24 mallard ducks died from type C avian botulism along the southern shore of East Grand Traverse Bay. The ducks were found in a localized, small area near the Acme Township/East Bay Township shoreline in Grand Traverse County. Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator based in northwest Michigan, Mark Breederland, put together the following article to address avian botulism in the Great Lakes.

What is Avian Botulism and Should we be Concerned?

Avian botulism is a food poisoning whereby waterfowl ingest a toxin which is produced by the naturally occurring rod-shaped bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Typically, these native bacteria live in a highly resistant spore stage and are of no impact to fish and wildlife; however, under the right circumstances (usually anaerobic conditions), the bacteria will germinate, produce and make bio-available one of nature’s most potent toxicants. The toxin causes muscular paralysis. Often the birds are unable to hold their head up and may drown or die from respiratory failure.  Avian botulism is also known as limberneck, due to the bird’s inability to hold up its head.

While small invertebrates (often maggots) are not impacted by the toxin, they often serve to pass the toxin up the food chain. A rotting carcass that has the botulism toxin in it and is decomposing along the shore can often be a source for maggots, and other scavenging birds such as gulls can possibly get botulism. This maggot-cycle is particularly important for type C botulism.

What is Type C Botulism vs. Type E Botulism?

Type C avian botulism is the neuromuscular disease which typically affects dabbler ducks, and possibly other shorebirds, that forage in the mud in both inland and Great Lake coastlines (see the poster from Michigan Sea Grant – Dabblers & Divers: Great Lakes Waterfowl) and eat invertebrates directly.  Type C impacts are felt in both inland lake and pond environments as well as in the Great Lakes shorelines.

Type E avian botulism usually impacts diver ducks in the Great Lakes where they dive deep and eat fish/mussels. Avian botulism outbreaks (type E) have occurred, with increased frequency in Lake Michigan along the northwest Michigan region since 2006, typically during the September-October-November time frame.

The mallard dabbler duck is the most abundant local duck in the Grand Traverse Bay region with strong population numbers and is the single species that was affected in the recent outbreak confirmed by the DNR. It is doubtful that a significant type C botulism outbreak would seriously impact population numbers of this species.

However, diving duck species such as common loons are a noteworthy species that have been impacted by type E botulism over a recent number of years. Common loons are a species of special concern in Michigan, and the full impact of the botulism kills are not known and a possible concern for loon population impacts in North America.


Additional Resources and Q & A

Michigan Sea Grant has published information and frequently asked questions concerning botulism which is applicable to both Type C and Type E, including:

  • Is it safe to walk dogs on the beach after a bird kill? 

If you bring pets to the shore, keep them away from dead animals on the beach. Dead wildlife may contain potentially harmful bacteria or toxins. In cases where you think your pet may have ingested a contaminated carcass, monitor them for signs of sickness and contact a veterinarian if you suspect they are falling ill.

  • Do I have to wash my hands after I touch a dead bird?
    Yes, you should always wash your hands after handling any wildlife. Ideally, you should also wear gloves to handle any dead animal.
  • Can I swim in the water?
    You are not at risk for botulism poisoning by swimming in Great Lakes waters. Botulism is only contracted by ingesting fish or birds contaminated with the toxin. If you have concerns about water quality, contact your local health department or swim in a regulated beach area.
  • How can people who want to help clean up the beach after a bird kill best protect themselves?
    People who handle dead wildlife should wear protective gear, such as disposable rubber gloves or an inverted plastic bag over their hands. In cases where a diseased or dead bird is handled without gloves, hands should be thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water or an anti-bacterial cleaner.
  • What is the best way to dispose of dead fish/birds in my area, especially after a botulism outbreak?
    Be sure to follow local wildlife agency (e.g., Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, etc.) recommendations in handling dead fish and wildlife. Wear disposable, rubber or plastic gloves or invert a plastic bag over your hands when handling sick, dead, or dying fish, birds or other animals. In certain areas, burying of the carcasses is allowed, while in other areas incineration may be recommended. If birds are to be collected, they should be placed in heavy plastic bags to avoid the spread of botulism-containing maggots.  The major goal should be to protect yourself, while also ensuring that the dead birds or fish are not available for consumption by other wildlife.


What to do if You Find Dead or Dying Birds

Any dead or dying birds that are found along the south shore of Grand Traverse Bay should be reported to the local Traverse City DNR office at (231) 922-5280, ext. 6832.

MSG’s Mark Breederland has been involved in providing educational programs on avian botulism for several years. If you would like a presentation for your work, social and school group, contact Mark at (231) 922.4628 or breederl@msu.edu.

Take a Great Lakes Class at the U-M Biological Station

Event Date: 8/20/2014
End Date: 8/24/2014

The University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) offers adults the chance to be students again! Participants may sign up for one of three mini-courses: Art in Nature, Fungi or Great Lakes Oceanography. Each class runs from Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 20-24.

  • Great Lakes Oceanography is a rare opportunity to learn about water quality, invasive species and Great Lakes ecology from three entertaining and enthusiastic experts. Gary Fahnenstiel, Tom Nalepa and Dave Schwab will teach the class on board NOAA Research Vessel Laurentian. All three men are Scientists Emeriti from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who are currently staff at the University of Michigan Water Center. Their respective areas of study are aquatic biology, invasive species, and hydrodynamics. Class participants will visit several locations in Lake Huron and the Mackinaw Straits. Along the way, they will use equipment and presentations from Fahnenstiel, Nalepa and Schwab to study the health of our region’s most vital natural resource.
  • Art in Nature is for visual artists at any skill level. Instructor Ann Singsaas will provide demonstrations and inspiration in plein-air sketching, simple watercolor painting techniques, and the elements of design. Students will learn to keep a field sketchbook, take visual notes and capture both the detail and the broader essence of the natural world on paper. Working on location and in the studio, students will learn to sketch or paint with minimal equipment, providing a new way to document travels. Singsaas has degrees in both biology and art and advanced study in painting. She shows her artwork in the Midwest is represented by several galleries in Wisconsin.
  • Fungi provides an in-depth look at nature’s recyclers. Local teacher and guide Marilynn Smith will use lectures and field trips to teach the structure, reproduction and ecology of fungi. Participants will also learn about the many uses humans have for fungi, beyond food. Smith has used her graduate training in mycology in the education and medical fields.

Course participants may commute or live at the Station, located on Douglas Lake, and eat in the  dining hall.

“Our mini-courses provide people from across age groups wonderful opportunities to experience ‘North Woods’ environments and biota from new and interesting perspectives,” says UMBS Director Knute Nadelhoffer.

More details and registration available on the UMBS website.