40 Years of Great Lakes Research, Education and Outreach
Michigan Sea Grant Looks Back Upon its History
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”
– Aldous Huxley
For some, approaching the 40-year mark is a dreaded event. With Michigan Sea Grant, turning 40 has been a celebration of where the organization has come from and where it can go. Since 1969, the program has covered a lot of ground. Michigan Sea Grant has provided money and resources for research and reached out to the public, laying a foundation for Great Lakes education.
“You have to remember,” said Tom Kelly, the first Michigan Sea Grant extension agent, “there were almost no organized environmental clubs then – there were no other water-based groups covering these topics. There was the Sierra Club and the Audubon – which were and still are very different from Sea Grant. But there was no model to follow. There’s been a huge growth in public awareness about the importance of water resources. There’s been a huge change in our efforts to take care of those resources. Sea Grant’s role in that has not been a small part.”
Oceanographer, inventor and writer Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus introduced the idea of a National Sea Grant College Program: “I have suggested the establishment of ‘sea-grant colleges’ in existing universities that wish to develop oceanic work… These would be modernized parallels of the great developments in agriculture and the mechanic arts which were occasioned by the Land-Grant Act of about a hundred years ago… Establishment of the land-grant colleges was one of the best investments this nation ever made. That same kind of imagination and foresight should be applied to exploitation of the sea.”
President Lyndon Johnson signs the bill, establishing the Sea Grant Program through The National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966.
Michigan Sea Grant is established at University of Michigan.
Sea Grant becomes part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Michigan Sea Grant becomes a cooperative program between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, bringing MSU extension services into Michigan Sea Grant.
Michigan Sea Grant achieves college status (highest level of program).
From Keeping the Great Lakes Great, 1983:
“Sea Grant scientists at Michigan universities study the lakes and shorelands, and the economic, sociological, and legal aspects of Great Lakes issues. The researchers’ findings are conveyed to the public through advisory programs, education, and communications. Then, state and local officials, business people, and citizens can use the findings to pinpoint and solve problems.”
Perhaps the most well-known Michigan Sea Grant research effort is the cold water near drowning project. In 1975, Dr. Martin Nemiroff, a University of Michigan pulmonary specialist and diving medicine expert, started noticing a pattern with seemingly miraculous recoveries of those who had been submerged in water for extensive periods. The general long-standing rule was: those submerged in water longer than 4-6 minutes have limited survival. He began collecting medical stories of children who had survived after being underwater for longer than the rule, building a theoretical case.
One day, an 18-year-old man drove off the road onto an ice-covered pond, where his car sank. The young man spent 38 minutes under water before rescuers began CPR. Ambulance attendants thought he was dead until they heard a gasp. They called Nemiroff.
“I had the theoretical basis for treatment worked out,” said Nemiroff in a Sea Grant publication about near cold water drowning (MICHU-80-316). “I advised them to maintain resuscitation efforts. I felt there was some chance for survival, although the man was desperately ill.”
Thirteen hours after the rescue, the young man woke up at the University of Michigan hospital. According to the report, he opened his eyes and made an obscene gesture with his finger – literally a rude awakening.
Nemiroff sought support from Michigan Sea Grant for more research. Michigan Sea Grant provided funding and later worked with Nemiroff on a campaign to spread the word, changing how rescue workers responded to what appeared to be cold water drownings.
The efforts provided tangible results. For example, in the year following the campaign, Minnesota reported a 25 percent drop in boating deaths. The new resuscitation procedures were incorporated by organizations like the Coast Guard, the British Navy and hospitals worldwide. The initial research also led to a publication series on diver education and further research on the use of hyperbaric chambers on near drowning cases and diver ailments.
Michigan Sea Grant research has also shaped life in the Great Lakes and beyond by:
- Supporting the restoration and sustainability of fisheries through research on fish reproduction, fishing methods and utilization of fish;
- Leading research on invasive species;
- Providing more information on toxics and pollutants in the Great Lakes;
- Affecting policy changes at all levels;
- Examining alternative energies in Michigan; and
- Connecting citizens of the Great Lakes with the surrounding natural resources.
From Keeping the Great Lakes Great, 1983:
Sea Grant programs help us learn about and wisely use the oceans and Great Lakes… Environmental Education specialists create courses and classroom materials about the Great Lakes…
Michigan Sea Grant has supported formal and non-formal learning by helping students of all ages increase their knowledge about the Great Lakes over the past 40 years. The program has made Great Lakes literacy a priority by developing and supporting a variety of print and online resources, teacher workshops, family-oriented educational cruises and events.
Steve Stewart, with Michigan Sea Grant since 1977, said he remembered the first big education effort in which he became involved in 1983.
“It was the Great Lakes 4-H camp. Myself and others from Michigan Sea Grant, specialists from MSU, 4-H leaders and I think a few others came together on Beaver Island to scope out some kind of an experiential classroom for students,” said Stewart, now the Education Co-leader and Southeast District Extension Educator. “It’s had legs. It’s still around and has been growing since 1983. It filled a niche for Great Lakes education.”
The camp is a way for students to experience nature; grow in awareness, appreciation and understanding of natural resources and related careers; and to take part in 4-H and other outdoor natural resource projects including community service.
Through programs like the Great Lakes Education Program and the Summer Discovery Cruises, Sea Grant educators have been teaching students and the public while cruising up and down the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair for 20 years.
Michigan Sea Grant is currently developing a set of online lesson plans for educators and others, focusing on using real data to teach broader concepts about the Great Lakes. For example, one lesson focuses on dissolved oxygen levels and temperature – by using data collected through the Great Lakes Observing System.
“Students like to use real data, because it’s real,” said Stewart. “They are more engaged if what they are studying is relevant – especially if it’s something they’re interested in or something that affects their life. In the Great Lakes State, if you live near the shore of Lake St. Clair or go to the beach with your family, studying information from the Great Lakes is more likely to grab you rather than studying some lake halfway across the world or an ocean you’ve never seen.”
Sea Grant specialists have worked with K-12 educators to develop and test online curriculum.
“From Fisheries Learning on the Web to the new Great Lakes Lessons, we are excited to be working with educators,” said Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant Communications Director and Education Co-leader. “Michigan educators have been so supportive of the development of these materials. We know that their feedback is very important in making sure these materials will be used in the classroom. And this is what it’s all about – Sea Grant supporting the effort to teach youth about the Great Lakes.”
From Keeping the Great Lakes Great, 1983:
“The knowledge we need to solve the complex problems connected with our multiple uses of the Great Lakes is not always available. Michigan Sea Grant seeks to discover more about the Great Lakes and their uses, and to relay this information to those who can utilize it.”
Outreach is the liaison between education and research – tying together the various ends of Michigan Sea Grant. Extension and communications specialists are in the field, communicating with the public, media, politicians, business owners, state agency resource managers and anyone else concerned with coastal resources, encouraging science-based decision-making.
“One of the most challenging, but important, parts of my job was getting people to understand that the Great Lakes is a dynamic, natural system,” said Tom Kelly, the first Michigan Sea Grant extension agent. “I didn’t really have a model to follow, so I figured it out as I went along. There were misconceptions about what Michigan Sea Grant was – but I think that’s getting to be less and less of the case.”
Kelly said there were some apprehensive times in the early days.
“Oh yeah, it was back when there was tension between the commercial fishing industry and the sport fishing industry,” he said. “But because I was on good terms with both of those groups, we were able to bridge that gap a little.”
Making those connections is at the core of Michigan Sea Grant outreach.
When Alfred Beeton first came on board as director in 1976, he said the national program was asking Michigan Sea Grant to extend coastal education, outreach and research efforts from the Traverse City area to the entire state. It was soon after that Beeton laid the groundwork to formalize a partnership with Michigan State University.
Beeton said he knew some of the people heading up the natural resources departments at MSU and he had a respect for the job the advisory services (now called extension) was doing. When he was given some discretionary funds he took them to MSU and said: “I’ll give you this money if we can partner up.”
“They were more than happy to take it and to dedicate the resources to the program,” said Beeton. “It was one of the best things that could have happened.”
With the program secured, Beeton and several other Sea Grant leaders turned their attention to securing funding from the national program.
“Money was always an issue – there was annual talk of cutting the funding,” Beeton said. “We had to make sure that didn’t happen.”
It was then that Beeton and directors from other programs around the country formed a Political Action Committee (now called the National Sea Grant Association) and began regularly visiting decision makers in Washington D.C. They formulated the plan to determine what kind of “return on investment” Sea Grant initiatives, programs and research were getting.
“We went back to all things funded and looked at how that contributed to things like the overall economic picture,” he said. “We looked at how much impact every dollar had. At that time, for every federal dollar spent (on Sea Grant), we were getting something like $10 in return in the surrounding community.”
A Glimpse Into the Future
In the past, Sea Grant’s ability to quickly address emerging issues has served the state and region well. For example, Michigan Sea Grant was the first organization to address invasive zebra mussels in the 1980s with important education and outreach activities. Since then, other agencies and organizations have incorporated invasive species education, allowing Sea Grant to re-direct program resources to other emerging issues such as working waterfronts.
“Sea Grant has really become more visible,” said Tom Kelly, the first Michigan Sea Grant extension agent. “Maybe I see it more because I’m still involved in the same industry, but the effort to make Sea Grant part of the lexicon seems to be working. When people see Sea Grant now, a light goes on.”
Over the past four years, Michigan Sea Grant has fully integrated the program’s primary functions – research, education and outreach. Integrated Assessment research projects provide a way of applying scientific knowledge to guide decision-making related to a resource management, environmental or sustainability issue. See: Details
As for the next 40 years? The hope is to continue to bring relevant, science-based information to decision makers, businesses, educators and the public.
Memories of Sea Grant: The Early Years
First Michigan Sea Grant Outreach Specialist
(Now director of Inland Seas Education Association)
“Researchers were always coming up here (Grand Traverse area) and they would need lab space or this or that. I remember one time, Dave Jude and some other folks, they wanted to go out on the ice and dive. They were looking at primary productivity under the ice. They showed up with these divers in dry suits, surface supply air, all packed into carryall with U of M seal. They loaded all this gear into the service truck. My job was to find a place for them to dive and drive out on the lake in this packed, heavy truck.
“We had to plow through a snow bank – really rammed through it – and then creep out onto the ice. It was touch and go – I had one hand on the open door, one foot hanging out. I thought if this thing starts going down, I’m out of here. It was truck 396 – I can’t believe I still remember the number on the truck – I could imagine making that call and letting the University know truck 396 was down at the bottom of the lake. Fortunately I didn’t have to do that.
“There are all kinds of things that happen out in the field – most of which are better left unsaid.”
Former Director of Michigan Sea Grant
“We had a great staff – worked hard but also had a lot of fun. Some of the staff who are still around get together for lunch every now and then. Anyway, I had gone on a sabbatical in 1982 and my first day back we were having a staff meeting. I heard all this music coming from down the hall. It was getting closer and closer so I went to see what was going on. Coming down the hallway is this belly dancer. They had hired a belly dancer to come to the staff meeting to celebrate my return from sabbatical. It was just one of the goofy things the staff did.”
Southeast District Extension Educator and Education Co-leader
“There was the time, way back when Chuck (Pistis, Extension leader) and I went to the University of Rhode Island for training. It was not long after the cold water near drowning research, so it had to do with rescue activities and cold water. One of the activities that was astounding to me – there was a pond out back. The whole deal was you had to jump on the ice in a survival suit until you broke through. It’s a mental picture I’ll carry with me forever – all of us in these suits, jumping on the ice and hoping it breaks. It was completely counterintuitive.
“The purpose was to emphasize the importance in value of the survival suit and to talk about hypothermia – it was a very direct way of driving home a point. Even with those suits on, the water is pretty darn chilly. Wow – here you are floating in water underneath the ice you just broke through. It was a great real world education. I don’t think they’d let anyone get away with that now – OSHA probably would have had something to say about it.”
Issues Through Time: Past vs. Present
Upwellings, the quarterly newsletter of Michigan Sea Grant, has been reporting on Great Lakes research and education since 1976. The topics have been wide and varied, but have alwaysbeen tied to the core of Michigan Sea Grant’s mission – research, education and outreach surrounding the Great Lakes.
It was surprising to see how, in some cases, the issues throughout the last 30-plus years are not all that different from the issues we’re dealing with today. For example, the upwellings edition about climate change in the Great Lakes – written in 1991 – reads like it could have been written in the past few years, not nearly 20 years ago.
Impact of Climate Change on the Great Lakes
If accelerated global warming occurs, as the majority of scientists predict, the impact on the Great Lakes could be substantial. Although still unclear how severe global warming will become, and exactly to what degree global warming will affect the Great Lakes, policy makers and researchers are anticipating changes.
Complex mathematical models are used in an attempt to unravel the mystery of global warming, and to determine the impact this warming will have on ecosystems and their inhabitants. Although these methods produce plausible explanations and predictions, they are not foolproof and sometimes result in conflicting theories. But although scientists’ predictions differ, one common element prevails – the earth’s natural processes are changing at accelerated rates.
Models indicate that global warming in the Great Lakes region would increase water and air temperatures, decrease snow and ice cover, increase precipitation and increase evaporation rates. These changes would result in lake levels lowering several meters.
Individuals are increasingly urged by governments, utilities, and private groups to switch to public transportation or carpools and to “dial down” the thermostat. As more citizens support organizations that lobby for passage of “green” legislation, and express opinions and concerns to government representatives and businesses, the likelihood of a temperature change that could alter our world drastically will begin to fade.
— Upwellings, Vol. 13 No. 4: Fall 1991 | See: Issue (PDF)
Great Lakes Water Levels: Adapting to Uncertainty
The Great Lakes are part of a dynamic system with many influences. Some of the many factors affecting lake levels include both human impacts and natural processes. Over the long term, however, some scientists predict the region may grow drier. They suggest that increases in rain or snow may be unable to compensate for the drying effects of increased evaporation and transpiration in a warmer climate. (See: Climate Change Impacts on the Great Lakes region)
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average global land temperature for March 2008 was the warmest on record. Ocean surface temperatures were the 13th warmest. (See: NOAA)
Similarly, higher evaporation draws water from the Great Lakes, which also causes levels to decline. In recent years, the rate of evaporation has increased as the duration of ice cover on the lakes has decreased.
As a coastal business owner for more than 40 years, marina owner Dave Irish has seen the highs and lows of fluctuating Great Lakes water levels. He said adapting to short-term water level fluctuations is part of life. But, he adds, it’s the long-term future of the lakes that’s most important.
— Upwellings, Vol. 31, No. 2: May 2008 | See: Full article
Fishing for a Market
Fish Dogs Not So Hot
Fish hot dogs… is the public ready? Michigan State University researchers found that while people like the idea of fish-dogs, they don’t particularly like eating them.
Professor Gilbert Harrell, Associate Professor at Michigan State’s Graduate School of Business at the time coordinated a study on consumer perceptions and responses to hot dogs made of underutilized fish species like freshwater mullet – aka suckers. Harrell reported that people found the fish dog to be more nutritious than the traditional pork or beef dog, but rated it lower in all taste attributes.
The report put out by Michigan Sea Grant concluded: “the fish hot dog, in its present form, is not a viable product to use in Michigan’s efforts to aid the commercial fishing industry.”
But researchers held out hope the fish dog would take off, once people adjusted to the idea. Dr. Robert Baker of the New York Sea Grant Program said to keep an eye on them.
“When we first started working on chicken dogs 20 years ago, everyone said they’d never sell. Now we have several commercial manufacturers producing and selling them. They have a pretty wide acceptance. So let’s not underestimate the sea dog.”
— Upwellings, Vol. 2, No. 1: Nov.-Dec. 1977 | See: Issue (PDF)
The Rise of the Great Lakes Whitefish
With concerted marketing efforts over the last three years, the whitefish may finally get recognition it deserves, making a name for itself across the Great Lakes and beyond. The marketing program has bolstered local fishing economies in Michigan and created a sustainable market for the fish.
The aim of the marketing program is to recognize the Great Lakes whitefish’s attributes as a nutritious and tasty fish from the deep waters of the Great Lakes. Many restaurants throughout Michigan and now the Midwest have chosen to use Great Lakes whitefish exclusively – for everything from fish fries to high-end, New American cuisine.
The economic impact was noticeable: Ron Kinnunen, Sea Grant Extension Educator, based in the Upper Peninsula, said fishermen were getting $.40-.45 cents a pound off the lake a few years ago. Since the effort launched, prices are up to $1-1.25 per pound.
— Upwellings Vol. 32, No. 1: Feb. 2009 | See: Full article
Aquaculture Plan for Michigan Being Developed
Increased interest in aquaculture in Michigan and a proposed state aquaculture plan are signs that the 1990s may be the decade of growth for the state’s fledgling industry.
Today (1992), Michigan is home to approximately 100 commercial aquaculture producers who generate fish products worth about $4.5 million annually. Michigan aquaculturists indicate that the two greatest constraints to expanding their businesses are marketing problems and lack of capital.
The Aquaculture Advisory Committee is pushing for legislation to encourage and promote aquaculture in the state.
— Upwellings, Vol. 14, No. 2: Spring 1992 | See: Issue (PDF)
Efforts to move the aquaculture industry forward over the past 15-20 years have had mixed results. According to the USDA census, in 2007 there were 87 aquaculture farms that generated total sales of $5.7 million.
Growing Fish in Michigan
Watching someone or something struggle to reach its potential can often be a maddening, but optimistic experience. For Russ Allen and other aquaculture supporters, that’s what it has been like watching the fledgling Michigan aquaculture industry attempt to get its legs – frustrating, but hopeful. Allen said the Michigan Aquaculture Association hopes to finish the statewide strategic plan sometime in 2009 or 2010.
“In reality, we have to bring together all of the parties, whether they agree with us or not,” said Allen. “That’s the only way this is going to work. We need everyone on board, we need money lined up and we need to create public awareness.”
— Upwellings Vol. 32, No. 2, June 2009 | See: Full article
And They Thought it was Bad Then…
Groan: More Paper
Why another newsletter? Surely, we already get too much mail, and more information than we can possibly absorb.
Here at Michigan Sea Grant, we noticed two communications problems for NOAA in the Great Lakes. First, many state and local policy-makers are unaware of what NOAA is, what its component agencies do, and what we can do for them. We felt that it was important for citizens in the Great Lakes to find out, so that they can make better use of the resources available. Secondly, we noted that while each component agency seems to have a newsletter of its own, there was no “messenger” which coordinated news of what was going on in the Great Lakes area specifically.
— Upwellings Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1976 | See: First Issue (PDF)
In 1986, Sea Grant staff considered doing away with upwellings in order to reduce costs and asked surveyed readers to determine if they still found the newsletter relevant. The answer was an overwhelming and resounding: yes. Readers said they wanted more articles about fisheries and environmental education. Since 1979, Sea Grant staff have developed hundreds of educational brochures, posters and booklets, in addition to publishing four issues of upwellings annually.
Communicating issues about Michigan’s coastal businesses and the Great Lakes ecosystem was and remains crucial to the mission of Michigan Sea Grant. As a result, Sea Grant staff continue to provide Great Lakes information through upwellings, in print, online and in downloadable PDF formats.
Sea Grant also supports a web-based searchable database that serves up research abstracts and more. The program website contains a wealth of information, from avian botulism to habitat for lake sturgeon. Since 2004, Sea Grant staff have developed award-winning web-based K-12 lessons, aligned to education content expectations and national benchmarks.
— Upwellings Vol. 32, No. 4, December 2009 (This Issue)
Digging for Answers
Notable Research funded through Michigan Sea Grant
Michigan Sea Grant has supported competitive, peer-reviewed research since the program’s inception, supporting projects that run the gamut from testing hyperbaric chamber effects on menstrual cycles to revitalizing the economies of coastal fishing towns.
The following are 10 examples of selected research projects Sea Grant has supported over the past 40 years.
Lakelab, an Underwater Laboratory
Lakelab was a hexagon-shaped chamber that was submerged 30-50 feet below the surface in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. It was designed to provide a location for extended underwater research. It was approximately seven feet by 10 feet and provided about 450 square feet for two people to live and work for up to two days. The chamber was connected via an “umbilical assembly” through air supply hoses connected to a van on shore. Lakelab provided a means to studying some of the effects of prolonged diving, helped investigate diving procedure and was used as a research base.
Lead researcher: Lee Somers, University of Michigan
Near Drowning in Cold Water Changes Rescue Efforts
Dr. Martin Nemiroff, a University of Michigan physician noticed a pattern with “miraculous” recoveries of those who had been submerged in water far longer than most drowning victims typically could survive. Nemiroff’s research uncovered what he called “a mammalian diving reflex.” He theorized that in cold water, blood vessels to the arms and legs shut down, moving all of the blood to the heart, lungs and brain. That, along with the decreased oxygen needs of the cooled brain helps protect victims from drowning. The colder the water and the younger the person, Nemiroff concluded, the more likely they are to survive. Realizing that many people who had been submerged in cold water may be mistakenly assumed beyond saving, Nemiroff and Sea Grant spearheaded a campaign to change how rescue workers respond to what appear to be cold water drownings.
Lead researcher: Martin Nemiroff, University of Michigan
Estimating the Economic Impact of Sport Fishing
The study grew out of a local conflict in Alcona County over whether the economic value of fall sport fishing and the associated influx of anglers to the county outweighed the drawbacks such as traffic jams, littering and trespassing. It was discovered that the economic impact far exceeded expectations. Michigan and out-of-state anglers contributed $1.3 million to the local economy during the 1980-81 fishing season. Most of the expenditures were made in establishments such as restaurants, motels, and grocery stores, rather than in bait and tackle shops, as was assumed before the study took place. The findings prompted similar studies in counties across the state. The results were used to develop business plans, to determine where public resources needed to go, added to the understanding of angler behavior and tourism, and also helped the Department of Natural Resources focus its fish stocking programs.
Lead researcher: Daniel Talhelm, Michigan State University
Pesticides in Salmon and Carp: How Preparing and Cooking Fish Affects Contamination
While eating fish has numerous health benefits, researchers wanted to evaluate the level of contaminants in Great Lakes fish and identify ways to reduce them during preparation. Researchers compared the level of pesticides and total PCBs in salmon and carp with different methods of preparation, including skin-on and skin-off baking, charbroiling, canning, pan and deep-fat frying. Raw, skin-off fillets had an average of less than 50 percent of the contaminants found in raw, skin-on fillets. Cooked, skin-off fillets were also found to have significantly lower contaminants than the cooked, skin-on fillets. Overall, cooking significantly reduced the contaminant level in fish. Few significant differences were found among cooking methods, though canning did significantly reduce DDE in salmon. The research helped determined how to best prepare fish in order to reduce contaminants.
Lead Researcher: Mary E. Zabik, Michigan State University
The Relationship Between Water Levels, Energies and Shoreline Damage
Storm damage along Great Lakes coastlines is a serious concern during periods of rising and high lake levels as seen in the mid-1980s. Researchers explored the link between periods of high water in the Great Lakes and coastal storm damage. Building on earlier work, researchers assembled and analyzed data on climate, water and wave conditions, drawing upon an additional decade of data collected from the National Data Buoy Center wave measurement program. Researchers also investigated the significance of a shift in wave pattern on the impact of large harbor structures in Lake Michigan. The results of this study have enhanced understanding of how lake levels and waves combine to impact coastlines, providing management tools for coastal resource policy. Results have been incorporated into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Michigan Potential Damages Study and used by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Shorelands Management Division to help manage coastal resources.
Lead researcher: Guy Meadows, University of Michigan
Round Goby Research Helps Explain Rapid Spread
Research supported by Michigan Sea Grant has revealed how the invasive Round Goby may have spread so rapidly throughout the Great Lakes. University of Michigan scientists documented that during the night, Round Gobies migrate from the lake bottom to surface waters. This movement is thought to increase the chances of larval Gobies getting drawn into commercial ships when they take on ballast water at night. The results of the project could influence how ballast water is managed in both domestic and foreign freighters in the Great Lakes.
Lead researcher: David Jude, University of Michigan
What allows Zebra Mussels to attach so tightly and quickly to hard surfaces?
Among their many traits, zebra mussels have a remarkable ability to attach quickly and tightly to underwater surfaces using fine hairs called byssal threads and a complex mixture of adhesive proteins. Researchers used DNA technology to identify the adhesion proteins and processes of zebra mussels, which may lead to innovative strategies to control zebra mussel populations. Control measures could have widespread application since the invasive mussels establish choking colonies on underwater surfaces and inside water intake pipes, filter nutrients, alter native habitat and contribute to harmful algal blooms and loss of native species.
Lead researcher: Mohamed Faisal, Michigan State University
Designing a Ballast-Free Ship
Most aquatic invasive species arrive from foreign ports, harbored in the ballast tanks of ocean-going vessels. To limit the spread of invasive species, professor of naval architecture and marine engineering Michael Parsons developed a new ship design that would eliminate the need to transport ballast water. The ballast-free ship concept replaces ballast tanks with a series of slow-flow ballast tubes, or trunks. When a ship carries no cargo, the structural tubes are opened to the sea and flooding lowers the ship to its required draft. The constant flow ensures that the ballast trunks are always filled with local water. Results of the research have international implications and could lead to a new ship design that provides improved environmental protection and long-term economic savings. A U.S. patent has been granted for the Ballast-Free Ship System.
Lead researcher: Michael Parsons, University of Michigan
Harvest Policies for Yellow Perch in Lake Michigan
To improve the management of Lake Michigan’s Yellow Perch population, Sea Grant-funded scientists at Michigan State University used a combination of fish stock assessment results and stakeholder input to develop a state-of-the-art decision analysis model. Results of the analyses are informing fisheries management decisions in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin as the states adopt Yellow Perch harvest management regulations. This work has also contributed to national and international fisheries harvest policy discussions.
Lead researchers: James Bence and Michael Jones, Michigan State University
Evaluating Potential Wind Energy Conflicts in Coastal West Michigan
Wind energy has the potential be an environmentally sensitive alternative to fossil fuels. Michigan’s coastal zones possess abundant wind resources. However, wind energy development might present challenges for tourism-dependent lakeshore communities. Poorly sited wind farms may interfere with other uses of the coast, such as recreation, commercial fishing, and nature preservation, and not all communities are prepared to manage these conflicts. This project will explore the potential conflicts with locating wind power facilities in coastal areas of Muskegon, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties. Researchers will examine different aspects, including environmental, social, economic, aesthetics and policy perspectives on the issue.
Lead researcher: Erik Nordman, Grand Valley State University
To learn more, see: Research
In the Field
Another Year of Clean Marinas
The year 2009 was another big one for the Michigan Clean Marina Program. In total, 13 marinas were awarded certification after completing the Clean Marina Program process. Seven marinas sought and were awarded recertification. An additional 42 marinas pledged to the program, but have not yet completed the process. The total number of marinas certified to date is 34, with many more to come.
A new way to seek certification is coming in the new year. Administrators have been crafting on an online Clean Marina Program course that is now in a pilot phase. Instead of requiring pledging marinas to incur travel costs and take time to attend one of the in-person workshops, the online course allows marina owners/operators to take the course at their own pace without leaving the marina. Those in the virtual classroom still have to work through the full steps to certification, including a self-evaluation and a site-visit from a Clean Marina consultant before the process can be completed.
All About Fellowships
Fellowship Opens Doors
Last January, Sean Ledwin, a graduate of U-M, began a one-year fellowship in Washington, DC. In the Sea Grant Fellow Blog he wrote: “Life in DC has been exciting and busy – lots of meetings, trainings, happy hours, Obama sightings (mostly imagined), tours of the Naval Observatory, Congress and State Department receptions (including one with a Saudi Prince), parties with Senators, outdoor excursions, and science briefings.”
However, the fellowship involved more than just dining with D.C.’s elite. Ledwin has been working in the Endangered Species Division within NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. He has worked on a range of high-profile topics like critical habitat designation for the leatherback sea turtle, a 5-year status review for stellar sea lions, and determining whether the large-tooth sawfish is a candidate for endangered species listing.
“It’s been quite an experience that I’d highly recommend for those interested in the science-policy interface and getting a job in the federal government,” he wrote. Ledwin took advantage of the experience and has been offered a job with NOAA. Next year he’ll be working with a grant program that supports endangered species conservation projects.
New Fellows Find their Matches
In November, two new fellows from Michigan successfully navigated the Knauss Fellowship placement week. Maggie Rabb, a sociology PhD student from Michigan State University and Joe Nohner, an aquatics student from the University of Michigan, were recommended for the fellowship through Michigan Sea Grant.
Each year the Knauss Fellowship program matches 45 graduate students with a wide range of backgrounds (biology, physical science, policy, law, etc.) with an equally diverse set of “hosts” in Washington D.C. Finding the right placement for each fellow requires a week of interviews, allowing fellows to get to know the available positions and the host offices.
Rabb said she enjoyed the whole placement process.
“I got to speak with people in so many different departments and I was surprised at how many were receptive to my sociology background,” she said.
Rabb was placed with the Department of State’s Marine Conservation International Affairs Office, her first choice position. As part of her new job, she will support international negotiations and the development of guidance for managing high seas bottom fisheries, work that requires secret-level security clearance.
Nohner described placement week as pretty intense.
“It reminded me a bit of when I went to Disneyland as a kid, a lot of excitement and expectations, pretty much never stopping all day, riding every ‘rollercoaster’ there, and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow,” he said. “I interviewed for 17 positions and in the end, my number one choice was with the Office of Science and Technology. I clicked well with the people there and everything worked out.”
Nohner’s new position will involve working on several high-profile projects. That includes work on the national fish habitat action plan, a program to evaluate and address declines in fish habitat, and a new marine spatial planning initiative that aims to assign specific activities (e.g. fishing, drilling, marine sanctuaries) to appropriate ocean areas.
Do the previous fellow experiences sound intriguing? Michigan Sea Grant is currently recruiting applicants for several fellowship programs that will start in summer 2010 or February 2011. We welcome applications from graduate students with a wide range of backgrounds (science, policy, law) and a strong interest in Great Lake, coastal or marine issues. Application deadlines are in late January and February.
As a fellow, you get:
- Real-time, in-the-field experience
- Terrific career-building opportunities
- Competitive compensation and benefits
- A chance to try out a job with a time limit
- A year away from school
- Unforgettable times
Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship – This one-year program matches graduate students with hosts in the legislative or executive branches or other institutions in Washington, D.C. Fellows focus on policy projects related to ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources.
NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship – Fellows work for two years with agency hosts around the U.S. in state coastal zone management programs. Projects will address coastal resource management issues such as climate change, coastal hazards or land use planning.
Great Lakes Commission–Sea Grant Fellowship – This one-year fellowship is based at the Great Lakes Commission, a non-profit, binational organization in Ann Arbor. The Commission works to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development of the Great Lakes region. Fellows contribute to research coordination and policy analysis activities.