Michigan Arctic Grayling habitat research

$117,175 grant from the

Recently completed work supported by this grant addressed two immediate needs for a successful Arctic grayling reintroduction. The first was to collect stream habitat and fish community data in the upper Manistee River. This data collection allowed for both the evaluation of current stream habitat conditions and the development of criteria to determine which other streams may provide suitable habitat for Arctic grayling.Arctic Grayling Fishing

Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative is a statewide partnership effort focused on restoring self-sustaining populations of this native fish and was founded by the DNR and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in June 2016. Interest in this initiative has grown rapidly since 2016, and the partnership now includes more than 40 organizations.

For more information on Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative, visit migrayling.org.

Could the sounds of spawning lure lake trout?

Lake trout make noise in bed, according to new research by Great Lakes scientists.

The species commonly growl, snap, quiver and thump while spawning, according to a study in the “Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.”

The report may cause a smirk, but researchers say the findings are serious.

“Peeping on spawning lake trout with a camera and microphone could be the premise of an interesting comedy skit, but also makes for interesting science that could help improve how fish populations are monitored,” said Nick Johnson, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists could potentially use the audio sounds to lure fish to spawning areas, Johnson said.

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

“If you walk down the street and hear a party going you might want to check it out,” he said. “There are historical reefs in the Great Lakes that are no longer being used for spawning . . . we may be able to play back the sounds of reproduction to lure in the trout and try to get them interested in spawning there.”

Johnson led a team that included researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Windsor and the University of Vermont, and that recorded spawning lake trout with cameras and hydrophones. Hydrophones are underwater microphones that detect the sounds of boats, waves and the quietest fish.

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New exhibit including live Lake Sturgeon

Grand River, Grand Fish explores how the Great Lakes region’s largest and oldest fish, the Lake Sturgeon, once found in great abundance, is now a threatened species in our watersheds. The exhibit takes visitors through the connections to Native Americans, fishing history in the region and current science. Using artifacts from the GRPM Collections, along with the two live sturgeon, it will tie together the cultural, historical and scientific connections and explore rehabilitation efforts for this species in the Grand River and throughout the Great Lakes region.sturgeon

On Saturday, January 23, the GRPM will celebrate the opening of this exhibit in conjunction of the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference taking place at the Amway Grand Hotel. This event at the Museum and will include special book signing of “The Great Lake Sturgeon” by author Dr. Nancy Auer. Grand River, Grand Fish will be free with general admission to the Museum. 

Lake Sturgeon live along the rocky bottoms of our lakes and rivers, and are an important environmental indicator for the health of our ecosystem. These fish have fossil ancestors that from the Early Jurassic Period – the age of the dinosaurs. Lake Sturgeon have affected the region historically and culturally and still do today.

This exhibit was made possibly by partnership with:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division, Tribal Coordination Unit
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division, Oden State Fish Hatchery
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

And by sponsorship with:

Aqua Blue Aquarium Solutions
Blue Fish Aquarium
Grand Rapids Steelheaders Foundation,
Great Lakes Fishery Trust
Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited



Get Involved in the World’s Largest Shoreline Cleanup on September 19!

The Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Ocean Conservancy invite you to join hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide in cleaning up beaches and shorelines on Saturday, September 19, during the 2015 Adopt-a-Beach™ event held in Michigan and other Great Lakes states. The annual Adopt-a-Beach™ event is part of the International Coastal Cleanup organized by the Ocean Conservancy. In last year’s clean-up, Michigan volunteers put in 11,304 hours and removed 9,207 pounds of trash. The Office of the Great Lakes, Coastal Zone Management Program is a long-time supporter of Michigan’s annual Adopt-a-Beach™ event, and we would love to see more volunteers removing more trash from our coasts in 2015.

Walking the beach, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow volunteers, and leaving the shoreline cleaner than you found it are some of the perks of pitching in on the clean-up event. Another important benefit is that the trash collected is tallied, and the resulting data on the types and quantities of trash items feed into research projects aiming to identify the origins of the trash and ways to curb it.


Piping Plovers will return to the Great Lakes soon

Piping Plovers, are expected to return to the dunes and shores of the Great Lakes in the coming weeks, according to Vince Cavalieri with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.
Typically the first pairs show up on the week of April 6, with the rest of the flock in a few weeks.
Known for their clear, bell-like chirps and rarity, pairs of Piping Plovers are coveted by researchers and birdwatchers alike, Cavalieri said.
The bird’s raise their young among large dunes and open waterways, the species has been threatened in recent decades by humans searching for summertime recreation. After being listed as an endangered species in 1985, the population of Piping Plovers in the region continued to decline until 1990, when scientists estimated there were only a dozen pairs left. In the subsequent decades, researchers, conservationists and volunteers have been working to protect the Piping Plover from both man-made and natural threats.

Piping Plover

Each year, staff and volunteers survey the bird’s nesting areas, which includes Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Ludington State Park. Upon finding the nests, staff put a protective covering in place allowing the relatively small birds room to come and go, while keeping other animals out of the nest. Signs announcing the presence of Piping Plovers are also placed in an area so any humans are made aware of the nests.
To keep track of which birds come from where, Cavalieri said color-coordinated bands are placed on the animal’s feet. Any birds found with orange tags are known to originate from the Great Lakes.
The efforts to conserve the Great Lakes species means there are now approximately 70 pairs of Piping Plovers nesting in the region. Cavalieri said conservationists would like to see about 150 pairs.
“When we place the enclosures to protect the bird’s eggs, we see about a 90 percent hatch rate compared to 30 percent without,” Cavalieri said.
As long as volunteers help and have an interest in preserving the Piping Plover, Cavalieri is hopeful for their future.
If you are interested in learning more about the Piping Plover or would like to volunteer, contact the East Lansing U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Services office at 517-351-2555.

Body wash is damaging the Great Lakes


Lake Erie micro beads

Lake Erie Micro beads

It can be a luxurious feeling to apply a good skin cleanser to your face and feel the accumulated dirt, grime and oils wash away. But it turns out such seemingly innocent indulgence carries an unexpected environmental cost, particularly for those of us who live near the Great Lakes.

The unexpected culprits are micro beads, tiny plastic particles, often less than a millimeter in size, that are found in a wide variety of personal hygiene products — soaps, facial scrubs, even toothpaste. They’re great for exfoliating your skin, but as is too often the case with wondrous artificial ingredients, they’re damaging to the natural environment. Because they’re so tiny, they pass through waste water treatment systems and end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. They easily soak up existing toxins in the water and are consumed by fish and other aquatic organisms that mistake them for food.

A single container of a personal hygiene product can contain 300,000 micro beads, so not surprisingly they are present in the Great Lakes in staggering quantities. Researchers at the State University of New York, Fredonia, estimate that an average of 17,000 of the plastic particles are found per square kilometer in Lake Michigan. The numbers are lower in Lakes Superior and Huron but higher in Erie and Ontario, where the researchers put the plastic concentration there as high as 1.1 million per square kilometer.

Thankfully, both industry and government recognize the need for change. Three consumer-products giants, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble and Unilever, have said they plan to stop using micro beads in their personal hygiene products. Meanwhile, Illinois became the first state to ban micro beads last year and Indiana is on the verge of doing so as well.

Killer Shrimp May Be the Next Major Invasive Species to Hit the Great Lakes

A species of shrimp native to Eastern Europe is now a cause for concern for biologists studying the Great Lakes. Its scientific name is Dikerogammarus villosus, but experts know this voracious crustacean simply as the killer shrimp. The shrimp itself is only about an inch long, but its large mandibles make it an aggressive predator and it is notable for its tendency to kill even when not hungry. Already a nuisance in Western European waters, researchers at McGill University said that the killer shrimp could pose a problem for the Great Lakes before 2063.

“Consequently, in 50 years, the Great Lakes would be populated with many new invaders, most of which may come from inland waterways where Europe and Asia meet—the region around the Black Sea,” stated a press release from the university. “This region is the source of some of the most disruptive invaders in the Great Lakes today, such as the zebra mussel, and still has many species at a high risk of invading the North American lakes and rivers, such as the killer shrimp or the monkey goby.”

Researchers said that the danger these invasive species pose to North American waterways depends upon what kind of legislation is in place to protect against them. More than 180 non-native species moved into the Great Lakes over the past two hundred years, but recent safeguards—such as rules on how ships can use ballast water—have dramatically lowered the chance for new species to get in. Researchers explained that additional policies, including regulation of live trade, is needed to protect the lakes.

“No new species have been recorded since 2006,” said Katie Pagnucco, PhD student at McGill and lead author of the study. “We may have closed the door on ballast water-mediated invasions. That remains to be seen. But other doors are still open.”

Last year Michigan took steps to prevent killer shrimp, as well as other invasive species, from establishing themselves in the region. In November, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) added killer shrimp to its prohibited species list, which made live specimens of the shrimp illegal to possess.

Researchers advised that other states should look into similar measures to ban the live trade of killer shrimp in case ballast water regulations prove ineffective. Killer shrimp are highly adaptable and are known to establish colonies in a number of environments, pushing native species—some vital to local food chains—out.





Lake Erie temperature at end of November was the coldest in decades

Lake Erie’s water temperature at the end of November fell to 40 degrees.

That’s the coldest Nov. 30 reading in Buffalo since 1976, when the lake temperature was 38 degrees.

Last winter, ice covered 92.5 percent of the Great Lakes – the most since 1979.

As of the middle of November, ice was already forming in some of the northern bays of Lake Superior. It’s the earliest the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan has on record for ice.

Water temperatures on Lake Erie right now are very similar to what they were a year ago today.

Last year, the Nov. 30 water temperature of Lake Erie in Buffalo was 41 degrees, and ice began forming on the lake during the second week in December. By Dec. 12 – after an arctic blast and round of lake-effect snow – about 10 percent of Lake Erie was already covered in ice.

Scientists said the temperature was at a lake-low 34 degrees in shallow areas near Toledo and 38 degrees near the islands off of Ohio’s shore. Surface temperatures on the deeper eastern end of the lake near Buffalo ranged from 42 degrees to 44 degrees with the lake’s deepest waters still at 46 degrees to 48 degrees.

So, there’s still a ways to go before the lake freezes.


Fertilizer limits needed to curb algae problems in Lake Erie

A United States-Canadian agency called on Wednesday for swift and sweeping limits on the use of fertilizer around Lake Erie to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the water and creating a vast blanket of algae each summer, threatening fisheries, tourism and even drinking water.

In a report on the algae problem, the agency, the International Joint Commission, said that fertilizer swept by rains from farms and lawns was a major source of phosphorus in the lake. It recommended that crop insurance be tied to farmers’ adoption of practices that limit fertilizer runoff, and that Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania ban most sales of phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers.

The commission, which studies and regulates water uses in streams and lakes along the border of the United States and Canada, urged Michigan and Ohio to invoke the Clean Water Act to limit phosphorus pollution from farmland as opposed to from factories and other places where pollution can be pinpointed and measured.

The proposals are likely to encounter strong opposition from the agricultural industry and fertilizer manufacturers. Both groups have already asked a federal appeals court to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating farm-related pollution from phosphorus and other chemicals along the Chesapeake Bay.

Phosphorus — and especially phosphorus in fertilizer, which is designed to be easily absorbed by plants — is the source of the algal blooms, some of which are so toxic that they have killed dogs and sickened swimmers. Beyond clotting the lake’s surface, decomposing algae consumes the oxygen in the lake’s deep center each summer, creating a dead zone where deepwater fish that are essential to the lake’s food chain cannot exist.

National and state governments rid the lake of algae in the 1980s, ordering big cuts in phosphorus pollution from factories and sewage plants. But the blooms returned in the late 1990s as farmers started applying fertilizer on frozen fields in the winter, and spreading or spraying it instead of injecting it into the ground.

In 2011, heavy spring rains washed so much phosphorus into the lake that the succeeding summer, algal bloom, at 1,920 square miles, was three times bigger than any previous one.

That and other large blooms have crippled tourism in a region where sport fishing and lake recreation are major industries, and they have forced towns and cities to filter and even shut off drinking water. The multibillion-dollar commercial fishing industry could be hit hard. The lake’s growing dead zone has prompted deepwater fish to move upward in search of oxygen, only to run into warmer waters that they find hard to tolerate. Deepwater fish such as perch — a favorite food of one big commercial fish, the walleye — could suffer if the dead zone continues to expand.

“The long-term potential impact on fisheries is something we’re really worried about,” said Donald Scavia, a scientist at the University of Michigan’s Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.

Although the sources of phosphorus range from leaky septic tanks to storm sewers to ordinary rainfall, the biggest contributor is farming, the report indicates — and the biggest farm source is the fields along the Maumee River watershed in Ohio and Indiana.

Both the United States and Canada have set targets for reducing Erie’s phosphorus load by 2018, but the commission’s report states that those targets are too low. To return the lake to the mostly algae-free state it enjoyed in the mid-1990s, it states, the Maumee’s phosphorus runoff must be cut by 39 percent.

Both governments and private organizations conduct programs that encourage farmers to voluntarily limit fertilizer runoff, but regulatory limits are mostly nonexistent. The commission’s report urges a mix of voluntary and legal programs to achieve large reductions by 2022, with a focus on dissolved reactive phosphorus, the sort used in fertilizers.

The report also states that farmers in lakeside states and provinces should prohibit spreading fertilizer on snowy or frozen ground, where it is most likely to be carried away by melting or rains, and should limit applications in the fall.

For homeowners, the report recommends that Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania ban the sale of phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers except during the first growing season of new lawns, or when soil tests show that the phosphorus content is too low. It also says that Michigan and Ontario should require inspections of septic tanks to ensure they do not leak.

Snyder Porposes New Spending for better water quality, sewer upgrades

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — Gov. Rick Snyder is asking legislators to approve more than $100 million to protect and restore Michigan’s waters through measures ranging from beach monitoring to upgrading sewage infrastructure, aides said Friday.

The fiscal 2015 budget Snyder presented this month heralds a yearlong emphasis on water — recognizing its importance to economic development and the advantage that Michigan’s vast aquatic resources provide over competing states, said Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

“Water will be the key reason why people will come to Michigan to live, work and play,” he said. “It’s going to be a catalyst for new technology and job creation.”

The administration’s “water strategy” will be released this spring that will lay out broad goals and strategies for achieving them over the next 30 years, Office of the Great Lakes director Jon Allan said. It will deal with long-standing issues such as invasive species, toxic pollution, large-scale water withdrawals for uses such as irrigation and manufacturing, and conflicts between users.

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