Reflections at year’s end
The year 2002 has been one of progress and change at Michigan Sea Grant. The one constant has been a continuing determination to conduct research, education and outreach to protect and enhance our Great Lakes resources.
In April, the program marked the 25th anniversary of our unique partnership between Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Michigan (UM). Many of our Great Lakes partners made the trip to Lansing to help us celebrate the event at the seat of state government. Several Michigan Sea Grant researchers briefed the large audience on research progress in the areas of coastal wetland protection, nutrient changes in the upper Great Lakes and fishery dynamics.
In September, Michigan Sea Grant management conducted the biennial research competition and selected five new projects for recommendation to the National Sea Grant Office for support over the next two years. The innovative projects take new approaches to advance our understanding of Great Lakes fisheries, exotic species—particularly zebra mussel control options—and the risk of contaminated sediments contained in wetlands. The projects will be described in the next issue of Upwellings.
While these events have been unfolding, negotiations of a different nature have been underway. For 15 years, the Michigan Sea Grant administrative offices at UM have been located in the College of Engineering. Next spring, Michigan Sea Grant and the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER) will formally become partners with the UM School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). The change will facilitate greater cooperation and information-sharing among the three like-minded entities. As part of the move, the University of Michigan will soon be implementing a nationwide search for a person to be a faculty member in SNRE and permanent director of Michigan Sea Grant.
These administrative changes were formally announced as part of UM’s first annual Great Lakes symposium held on campus November 5 and 6, 2002. The result of these events is more than purely academic. The MSU-UM Sea Grant Management Team is determined to expand the relevance and visibility of Michigan Sea Grant in the Great Lakes community. As 2003 approaches, we look forward to building on this momentum and continuing to improve the avenues of Great Lakes research and education that benefit all of Michigan’s citizens and provide the academic setting to educate future generations of Great Lakes stewards.
Michigan Sea Grant Interim Director
University of Michigan Re-invigorates Great Lakes Research and Initiates Director Search
University of Michigan (UM) President Mary Sue Coleman addressed a capacity crowd at a November 2002 symposium in Ann Arbor, stressing UM’s commitment to reclaim its once pre-eminent position in Great Lakes research.
Coleman highlighted the ecological and economic importance of the Great Lakes, which contain about one-fifth of the world’s surface supply of fresh water and virtually surround the state of Michigan.
“In a state that touches four of the five bodies of water and defines itself—geographically, historically and psychologically—by its coastlines, it’s hard to imagine a more pressing ecological research imperative,” said Coleman. “Elevating the energy and intellectual resources devoted to the Great Lakes at the University of Michigan is one of the most effective ways we can be of service to the State of Michigan.”
The two-day symposium featured presentations by UM faculty highlighting 10 priority issues. Among the most pressing topics covered were the damaging impacts of aquatic nuisance species and diversion and consumption of Great Lakes water. UM researchers noted that the rate of aquatic nuisance species introductions into the Great Lakes is increasing, leading to growing economic costs and a loss of aquatic biodiversity. Diversion and consumption of Great Lakes water will also increase with population growth and, according to UM researchers, may be magnified by the effects of global warming.
In closing comments, Rosina Bierbaum, Dean of UM’s School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), praised the symposium as “provocative and invigorating.” She announced that UM Office of Vice President for Research (OVPR) has committed $200,000 annually for four years to fund interdisciplinary Great Lakes research projects as part of its new Great Lakes Initiative.
The UM Great Lakes Initiative also calls for a national director search for the Michigan Sea Grant College Program, one of 30 Sea Grant programs in the nation. Michigan Sea Grant was instrumental in organizing the symposium in partnership with SNRE and in conjunction with the second annual Peter M. Wege Lecture. As part of the Great Lakes Initiative, Michigan Sea Grant will formally be transferred from the UM College of Engineering to the UM School of Natural Resources and Environment. This transfer will bring the academic and administrative arms of Great Lakes to a common program and will invigorate Sea Grant’s efforts in interdisciplinary studies and Great Lakes ecology.
In light of the symposium’s success, organizers plan to publish the papers presented in a peer-reviewed journal, coordinate a Great Lakes seminar series, and establish the Great Lakes symposium as an annual event.
Aquatic Nuisance Species: Threats to Great Lakes Fisheries
Asian Carp Dilemma
It sounds like science fiction: oversized carp with an alarming ability to leap in the air are making their way toward the Great Lakes.
Unfortunately the story is real.
Two species of Asian carp, the silver and bighead carp, are migrating northward up the Mississippi River. In 2002, the carp were spotted approximately 50 miles from Lake Michigan, according to natural resource agencies. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal connects the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes.
Natural resource managers fear that if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes they could become a dominant species due to their mobility, reproductive capacity and voracious appetites. They will compete with commercial and recreational fish species.
“As phytoplankton and zooplankton feeders, bighead and silver carp have the potential to significantly disrupt the food web of the Great Lakes ecosystem,” writes Mike Conlin of the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources in the Summer/Fall 2002 ANS Update.
“Also threatened is the commercial fishing industry, as invading Asian carp clog fishing nets and scare away commercial catch.”
Native to China, Asian carp can grow up to 100 pounds and reach lengths of four feet. The fish escaped from southern aquaculture facilities into the Mississippi River and spread rapidly during flooding in the 1990s. The carp have been steadily migrating northward, becoming the most abundant species in some portions of the river.
Currently, an electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is the only technology in place to prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes. In November 2002, three federal agencies, the International Joint Commission, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission joined forces to provide emergency funding for back-up power hardware to ensure continuous operation of the electric barrier.
Nuisance Species: To be or not to be?
Though Asian carp have not yet entered the Great Lakes, they’ve emerged recently as a visible symbol of why aquatic nuisance species pose such a threat to the Great Lakes and other waterways.
“When a species is introduced to an ecosystem outside of its native range, without its natural predators, it can have a profound impact,” says Michigan Sea Grant Extension Specialist Mike Klepinger, “whether that species is a microscopic organism or a three foot fish.”
Recently, scientists have developed a computer model to evaluate which species are likely to be the next Great Lakes invaders.
According to Notre Dame biologist David Lodge, if we know which species are likely to present problems in the future, we could focus efforts on preventing those particular species from taking hold.
“Introduced species that are successful have several traits in common,” says Lodge in a November 15th news release issued by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. “More so than unsuccessful invaders, they tolerate a wide range in temperature and salinity. These fishes are also smaller at maturity and have higher reproduction rates.” The research, published in the journal Science, identifies 22 species that one day may pose problems in the Great Lakes and other waterways.
Economics and Ecology
In the meantime, natural resource managers must deal with aquatic nuisance species that are already impacting the Great Lakes. In some cases, this means a concerted and costly effort to control population growth and spread.
Researchers have calculated that the zebra mussel invasion has cost the U.S. between $1.8 and $3.4 billion in control measures up to the year 2000. Meanwhile, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission reports that sea lamprey control, assessment and research cost $13.5 million in 2001.
These and other aquatic nuisance species warrant continued research to help scientists better understand the economic and ecological impacts on the Great Lakes.
American Heritage Rivers National Conference
More than 150 people representing 14 rivers designated as American Heritage Rivers (AHR) around the country met in Detroit Oct 8-10, 2002 for a National Conference on American Heritage Rivers.
Conference speakers highlighted successful waterfront revitalization projects and partnerships on the Detroit River and other AHR rivers around the nation. Following sessions, participants attended a reception in the new General Motors Global Headquarters Wintergarden overlooking the river and enjoyed a boat tour to Fighting Island, the second largest island in the Detroit River.
Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Agent and chair of the Detroit American Heritage River Steering Committee, moderated the Wednesday morning session of the conference.
“This conference focused on the need that local communities have to partner with local business and industry along rivers to leverage existing federal technical and agency resources that will assist river and waterfront revitalization,” said Breederland.
Breederland and Detroit River Navigator John Hartig were among several people recognized as “tireless advocates” of the Detroit River for their outstanding leadership and support.
Among the many speakers, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick emphasized that Detroit’s waterfront is a tremendous asset to the city tied to enhancing quality of life for both residents and visitors.
In all, more than $13 million has been leveraged for Detroit River projects in the last three years. Conference speakers noted that significant strides have been made in controlling water pollution and reducing phosphorus loading. On land, eighteen greenways projects, including promenades, trail projects and other amenities, are under construction or completed along the Detroit River waterfront. Wildlife, notably bald eagles and lake sturgeon, have returned in dramatic fashion to some areas of the river. In December 2001, the lower Detroit River was designated an International Wildlife Refuge by President Bush.
Detroit River accomplishments are summarized in the new report “Reconnecting to the Detroit River,” which was released at the conference. It is available on the web at http://www.mac-web.org/ReconnectingToDetroitRiver.pdf
National Ocean Sciences Bowl
6th Midwest Regional Competition
High school students from around Michigan will once again test their knowledge of ocean sciences at the upcoming regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB). The 6th Midwest Regional Competition will take place in Ann Arbor on Saturday, February 8, 2003 at the University of Michigan in the François-Xavier Bagnoud Building on North Campus.
The NOSB is an academic “quiz bowl” competition among high school teams testing knowledge of ocean science topics including physics, chemistry, biology, geology, social sciences and technology. The competition is designed to promote literacy in science and mathematics through improved understanding of the world’s oceans and Great Lakes.
The Midwest competition is one of 24 regional events held across the country. Teams of four students, one alternate and a coach compete in rapid-fire question and answer matches during the day-long competition. Winners of the regional competitions receive all-expense paid trips to the national competition to be held in LaJolla, California in April 2003.
This year the following teams will participate in the Midwest Regional Competition:
Berrien County Math and Science Center
Birmingham High School
Dexter High School
Harbor Beach High School
Huron High, Ann Arbor (2 teams)
Litchfield High School (2 teams)
Port Hope Community School (2 teams)
Mecosta-Osceola Math and Science Center
Troy High School
Okemos High School
Sterling Heights High School
Linworth Alternative Program (Worthington, Ohio)
The Midwest regional competition is coordinated by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) with support from Michigan Sea Grant and several other organizations.
For more information about the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, see: www.nosb.org.
Taylor To Be Appointed Great Lakes Fishery Commission Alternate Commissioner (U.S. Section)
The President intends to appoint William W. Taylor, Associate Director of Michigan Sea Grant College Program, to be the Alternate Commissioner of the United States Section of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission was established by the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries between Canada and the United States in 1955. The Commission develops coordinated programs of fisheries research on the Great Lakes.
Taylor is Professor and Chair of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University (MSU). He is also Chair of the Board of Directors for the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center and is a past-president of the American Fisheries Society.
Taylor has considerable experience working on fisheries issues in a diversity of aquatic ecosystems, including rivers, lakes and the Great Lakes. His research is often closely associated with management agencies and focuses on fisheries ecology, population dynamics, policy and management.
Taylor’s current research focuses on the following: North American salmon management, examining how social, economic, political, legal, and ecological issues are effectively integrated into policies and cooperative management systems that promote sustainable systems; examining the factors influencing development, growth, and survival of walleye in western Lake Erie (in collaboration with Dan Hayes, PhD, MSU); and examining differential growth rates of fish populations in inland lakes.
Taylor has edited several books, including most recently: Integrating Landscape Ecology into Natural Resource Management, by William W. Taylor and Jianguo Liu. Liu and Taylor (both of MSU) present 20 chapters that explore, across a range of landscapes, natural resource management on a broad scale.
Brenner Named Chair-elect of Sea Grant Web Specialists Network
Michigan Sea Grant Senior Graphic Artist Dave Brenner has been named Chair-elect of the National Sea Grant Web Specialists Network. Pat Kight of Oregon Sea Grant will serve as Chair for 2003.
The Sea Grant Web Specialists Network oversees web standards and consistency for the 30 Sea Grant programs. Brenner was an integral part of creating the look and feel for the Sea Grant regional web sites and responsible for the management of the Great Lakes region. In his role as Chair-elect, Brenner will assist in representing the Sea Grant Web community internally as well as enhancing Sea Grant’s overall Web presence. Brenner will serve a three-year term.