Author Archive: isp203student

Michigan’s Turtles; A Warning for Change

The Michigan turtle is a profound example of the influence contaminated and deteriorating water systems have on social and culture traditions.  The Great Lakes Woodland Indians have recognized and respected the turtle throughout their history.  Mackinac Island shows this reverence, for it means, “Great turtle” in Ottawa language.  Turtles, according to oral stories and traditions, represent peace, patience, and most often, long life.

But Michigan turtles, in recent years, have become endangered.  And the reasons are evident: increased development has allowed for runoff of contaminants into watersheds, increased traffic volumes, and predators.

But turtles only represent one of the smaller issues for Native American communities and culture.  Water deterioration continues to affect and destroy many sacred practices of Native American life.  Now the issues that remains is how to balance between respect for the Native American tribe’s cultural connection with water, with the mass use of water in the United States by industries, residences, and commercial enterprises alike.

What needs to be implemented in the future is an increased awareness and understanding of the cultural significance of water in native communities as well as more developed collaborations amongst tribal leaders and interested parties.  In recent years there has been such improvements in these matters.

One such example is National Geographic’s article on how climate change is linked to waterborne diseases in Inuit Communities.  The report found that as global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater.  The startling implications, however, is that native communities worldwide are disproportionately affected by climate change because of their intimate cultural and spiritual connections with water.  But the silver lining in the article is that a cultural-specific lens is now being applied to such areas of scientific research.  This blending of culture and science is making great strides in the ways marginalized communities are able to adapt and survive when such ecological problems are thrown at them.

Alex Krevitz

Sources:

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/…/climate-change-waterborne-diseases-inuit/

Here fishy fishy fishy…

I remember the early crisp mornings waking up grabbing my fishing pole and heading to Lake Michigan to try and catch that trophy fish I’ve always wanted to catch. As it turns out I never caught that fish but I am still trying to reel in that trophy fish from our natural beauty we call Lake Michigan. But my childhood dreams could end up being crushed by a flying fish that smacks me right in the face! I’m talking about the Asian carp, an evasive species that is a danger to the Great Lakes Region. The Asian carp was introduced into the U.S. in the 1970’s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas when a flood allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980’s. These evasive species originated in Arkansas and now have been found in 23 states and are currently in the Illinois River in the direction of the Great Lakes.

A lot of you might be thinking “what can a little fishy do that could harm our Lakes?” Well the problem with Asian carp is they are a voracious filter feeder, meaning they consume up to 20% of their body weight per day in plankton (small floating organisms that are food for fish and other organisms, essential to our native fish) and these carp can grow up to be 100 lbs. and will strip away all of our natural species food supply, starving them into dwindling numbers. These fish also are known for their jumping ability when a motor boat is running. The sound of the motor drives them hurling out of the water and at boaters causing injury to people. The carp have no natural predators in North America and they lay half a million eggs each time they spawn. The U.S. Geological survey found 22 rivers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes that would provide suitable spawning habitat for Asian carp and the temperature of the great lakes are within the fish’s native climate range making the great lakes a perfect home for them. If this evasive species destroys our native fish we lose a big portion of our food supply and tons of fisherman will go out of business because the asian carpet is an unwanted fish due to its horrible taste

These fish almost seem unstoppable, so how are we to stop them? Well a few proposals have emerged over the years but the U.S. Army Corps of engineers is working on a few solutions that may not be introduced till 2015, but currently have emplaced and maintain three electric barriers to prevent this evasive species from enter the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Council has been in a debate over closing the waterways but Chicago is against the idea due to the amount of business that travels through the waterways and the potential of flooding to occur. I feel that we should continue with the electric barriers for now, but we should add more barriers in tributaries of the Great Lakes and we should bump up the voltage to guarantee that they do not enter. At the same time we can have people set up charter fishing trips where they can hunt the carp with bow and arrows, harpoons, and nets while we wait until the U.S. Army of Engineers have discovered a more promising solution.

-Lance Gilbert
http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Conservation/Threats-to-Wildlife/Invasive-Species/Asian-Carp.aspx
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/us/in-great-lakes-states-a-divide-over-the-asian-carp.html

Conveinant Misinformation

We all watched An Inconvenient Truth in class a few weeks ago. For me it was the first time I had seen it. I’ve always heard great things about it, but was never really interested in it. Turns out I was right in feeling that way. I disagree with, and question nearly everything stated by Mr. Gore in that movie. Everything is just his word, with little more than “scientists” to back him up. Who are these scientists? We are never given any names or credentials. We never see them. We never hear what they actually have to say. The only thing this movie has convinced me of is that Al Gore has no idea what the scientific process is. This seemed little more than an exercise in fear mongering through sensationalism and a great vehicle for some political campaign.

Let’s start at the beginning. Mr. Gore states that one of his professors started measuring CO2 in 1957 in the middle of the pacific. After just a few years of taking these measurements it was concluded that levels were rising and we were in for some trouble. Hold on now, the Earth is hundreds of millions of years old. You really expect me to believe that with just 10 years of measurements you can tell whether or not this is out of the norm for our planet? 10 years for the Earth is less time than it takes to blink, relatively speaking. He goes on to say that by taking ice cores we can measure atmospheric gases going back 650,000 years. Well that’s better, but it’s still not enough. When looking at that timeline, yes, it would seem CO2 levels have risen. But if you look back 500 million years we’ve practically bottomed out. Currently we’re concerned about CO2 being at 300 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere. In the Cambrian period CO2 levels reached 7000 ppm. That is inconceivably higher than today’s levels. Think about it this way, the Earth’s current average temperature is roughly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on who you ask. How many reptiles do you see running around on a 60 degree day? Not many. And these ones are small, it doesn’t take nearly as much heat and energy to warm them up as it would a two ton reptile. So imagine a planet full of two ton reptiles running around. It would have to be pretty warm right? Well it was. The average temperature 500 – 600 million years ago, and actually throughout most of history, is about 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. I know that doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but spread across the entire globe, it really is. There’s one more thing I’d like to mention about his graph that showed the last 650,000 years. He said it was the first time anyone outside of a very small group of scientists had ever seen the image. So this image was never put under peer review? To be scrutinized and analyzed by the rest of the scientific community? Well then by definition it’s not yet proven. It’s still only a theory.

It was also stated that at some point recently relative to the development of the movie that many areas in the U.S. “broke all-time records with high temperatures and number of consecutive days with a 100 degree temperature or more.” That’s cute. I like those little bits when I watch the news. Then I can go around and point out to people that I ended up moving across town on the hottest day we’ve had in 15 years. Recorded temperatures only go back to about the early 1900’s. It’s really meaningless. Gore also points out the “drunken trees” of the north tundra. He claims that they lean every which way because the permafrost is melting and the roots are losing their hold. Wrong. That is absolutely, stupidly wrong. Tree roots never stop growing, it’s like hair. And if they happen to hit something hard, they keep pushing until they find a way to go, be it up or down or just straight through. If roots just stopped whenever they hit something hard we’d never have to repair our sidewalks. I guarantee once the permafrost began to soften those roots took off at a million miles an hour. If those trees are tilting, it’s not because of that. It’s also suspicious to me that he only showed the tops of the trees, not the base. Seems like you would want to show the ground and roots in question. Unless of course you know it’s not true.

And through all of this every time Gore is shown working in his car it’s a nice big Mercedes. I guess not even global warming is worth being seen in a Prius.

-Justin Bell

Sources:

http://www.usnews.com/…/scientist-carbon-dioxide-doesnt-cause-global-warming

http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/GlobalWarmingPrimer.pdf

Invasive Species in Novi, Michigan

According to the article “Environment Issues and Resources, “an invasive plant species is any species that has been introduced into an ecosystem to which the species is not indigenous and which has a tendency to spread rapidly.” These species, which fall outside of their natural habitat, can come from foreign countries and even people who  simply transport the organism within the same country, not being aware of the dangers it can actually cause.  Not only do these organisms pose a problem on the environment, but they can also become an issue with humans and the economy. Invasive species become dangerous as they spread quickly and overpopulate native species which do not recognize the omen.

Cities and countries throughout our entire world experience issues with invasive species. One specific area within the United States is Novi, Michigan, a city on the lower, east side of the state near Detroit. The main issue within this city deals with invasive plant species. Such devastating species in this area include the following: purple loosestrife, common reed (as shown in the picture above), tree of heaven, multiflora rose, English ivy, and garlic mustard. Often times, people fail to realize that these specific plants are considered to be invasive and fail to take the necessary precautions. Therefore, these species can have a negative impact on the biodiversity, water conditions, soil, native insects, etc. on the area.

Another location within/near Michigan in which invasive species have become an issue is the Great Lakes. According to the article “Ten Threats: Hidden Costs of Invasives” large foreign ocean-liners  have been responsible for carrying these invasive species into the area. Although nearly one hundred and sixty organisms have been accidentally transported into this area, zebra mussels are considered the most widely invasive species of the great lakes.

Since many places deal with the common issue of invasive species, it is important for people to understand the negative repercussions these organisms have on one’s ecosystem.

– Jennifer Klepser

Bibliography:

#1.  “Environmental Issues and Resources.” City of Novi Michigan. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.cityofnovi.org/services/commdev/environmentalissuesandresources.asp>.

#2.  “Ten Threats: Hidden Costs of Invasives.” The Environment Report. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://environmentreport.org/story.php?story_id=2795>.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Alright, yes, Christmas 2011 seems like a distant memory now that it is mid-April and the end of the school year and summer are within our grasps. Yet, in the same breath, it seems as though we never really left last summer. What I mean by this is that we had a very mild fall and winter that led into an unusually warm spring. In fact, some cities in Michigan have recorded some of the lowest amounts of snow falling in their history. Some places only saw an average of 5 inches in a given month.  This makes it seem like we did not really have a winter and it does not seem like another school year should be wrapping up yet.

So, I must ask the question: with the strange temperatures Michigan has experienced this past year, is this to be expected in the coming years?

Some Michiganders may be rejoicing over the fact that this past year has been fairly mild while others are quite upset at the lack of their snow. No matter which camp you fall in, one should be consciously questioning what could be causing this phenomenon. Some say that it is a naturally occurring cycle within the weather patterns that have been experienced over the past decades, while others argue that the lack of snow is due to greater environmental issues at hand, such as global warming. No matter the cause or the answer to these problems, the results of lack of snow will not only result in disappointed snow-enthusiasts, but by the actual environment.

Michigan will be particularly hurt by this in the matter of the crops it produces as well as the water it has. The lack of snow over the past year will have a deep affect on the water levels of the lakes, which will in turn impact further weather patterns and industries.

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/lack_of_december_snow_shatters.html

http://articles.boston.com/2012-01-18/news/30639917_1_snowfall-snowy-winter-snow-depth

http://thumbwind.com/2012/01/29/warm-temperatures-lack-of-snow-mean-lower-water-levels-for-great-lakes-in-months-ahead/

Breanne Zost

Global Warming; the next big World Crisis?

Global WarmingIt is clear that in politics and in the daily lives of just about everyone on the planet, global warming is an issue that could potentially effect us all. There seems to be a lot of evidence that shows our ice caps and glaciers are melting faster than we can control. This tends to scare a lot of people, and causes people to believe that global warming is happening faster than it should naturally. It goes without saying that man has greatly affected this process, with all of our pollution, manufacturing, and factories. When we think of these aspects, our first thoughts are to go to that of carbon dioxide and the burning of fossil fuels to be able to produce all that we do. Due to this, scientists and politicians are trying to find ways to mitigate the effects of global warming, and looking into different types of sustainable energy to counteract the effects before they start to get worse. A lot of times, this can be very expensive though, and some people are not always willing to fork over large amounts of money, and just want other people to pay the price, as they sometimes feel it won’t affect them in their lifetime.

For many, it is believed that Earth is going through a rapid warming period. Just like in the movie An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore, there are many different statistics, graphs, and some proof people believe. For right here in Michigan and in other areas in the Midwest near the Great Lakes, there has been recent proof that the temperature is slowly getting warmer. In fact, in the next century or so, nighttime temperatures are supposed to surpass that of daytime temperatures and extreme heat will become more common in this area. Although precipitation levels overall will not change, when precipitation happens and seasonal precipitation is said it will change drastically, changing how we view the weather in our region.

Sean Steinberg

http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2011/09/global_warming_the_campus_non-.html

An Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore

http://www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/glimpactmigrating.html

The Simple but Effective Truth

This winter was one of the warmest winters on record (actually, the second warmest).  The warm weather could be seen as a blessing in regards to heating bills. Warmer winters obviously mean less need to crank up the thermostat, and the less need for electric, oil, and wood fueled heat, the less carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere. So, warmer winters are good for saving money and they eliminate some release of carbon dioxide in the times of the year when there is typically more in the atmosphere. It can be agreed that those are some substantial positives.

 The above chart shows the impact of the emerald ash borer from the the heaviest hit areas (the darker areas) to the least hit area ( the lighter colors).

The destruction of trees leads to less sequestration of carbon dioxide as has been the case with other forms of deforestation. That makes the amount CO2 in the atmosphere as a whole rise, and that which once was a positive has pulled an Anakin Skywalker and joined the dark side. So, in short, warm winters are short term positive with a harsh long term negative.

The only mitigation that I see as potentially effective would be that which has already been stressed since the national awakening that has seemingly taken place in regards to global warming and greenhouse gases. We need to plant more trees, cut back consumption of nonrenewable resources, conserve whenever possible, and keep up ongoing research for cleaner energy (that which is, of course, feasible). In the end, the best mitigation strategy is not to switch or developing new ones, it is to escalate the concentration of them. Michigan specifically is in need of this escalation to counteract a possible, extreme threat: the ash borer. We are now left with a choice regarding this threat, and this choice carries much impact on us as Michiganders, Michigeese, and U.S. citizens in general. Pesticides (and the possible side effects that come with them) should be put on the wayside and, instead, conservation, alternative energy solutions, and planting trees are all options that must be seriously considered.

The news station I used
http://www.fox17online.com/news/fox17-second-warmest-winter-recorded-for-west-michigan-20120301,0,538

the newspaper I used
http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/2

this is the site for the chart i used
http://blog.mlive.com/advancenewspapers_news/2008/03/large_EmeraldAshBorerMap.jpg

Aric Ashby

Algal Growth in The Great Lakes

The outbreak in algae growth in the great lakes is a subject that is close to home for me. My Family has a cottage on Lake Charlevoix, which is directly connected to lake Michigan. Lake Charlevoix as well as many other lakes are also experiencing algal outbreaks. These outbreaks are not directly harmful to humans but show that the residential development and other human activity are altering the delicate ecosystem that we need to fight to preserve.

               The algae thrive on minerals washed into the lakes from multiple sources including, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, storm water runoff and sewage plant waste matter that has not been treated well enough.  This has been linked to higher water temperatures and lower lake levels. As well as greater water clarity caused by the invasive Zebra Mussels.

Many think the bigger culprits are the Zebra Mussels rather than the phosphorus pollution. Zebra Mussels are an invasive species that reached the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s. The mussels promote algae growth by filtering water and making it clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. Shoreline algae, known as cladophora, often fastens itself to the mussel shells and feeds on their waste.

The only mitigation that is known of is reducing the amount of phosphorous that enters the water from runoff. This is the only way people can help reduce future algae growth because attempts to curb the zebra mussels increasing populations has been extremely ineffective. There has been no safe way discovered to remove the mussels. Some ways citizens can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes by locating the source of the phosphorus and reduce the amount of lawn fertilizers they use or repair any possible septic field leakage. These are two things we have done to help curb the algae growth at my cottage. We recently replaced or septic tank and stopped using fertilizers on our lawn.

The algal blooms shows that we needed to attempt to prevent additional exotic species from entering the Great Lakes system as well as the need for continued research on the affects of phosphorous and Zebra Mussels and other possible mitigation techniques.

http://lakecharlevoix.org/Protecting/shoreline.htm
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/great-lakes-algae-outbreak-confounds-experts

– Austin Wertheimer

Global Warming and Agricultural Effects

One could go on and on talking about all of the natural hazards that pose a threat to our society, but there are many things that are often overlooked. While I’m sure that we all know about global warming, do we really understand why it is happening? The unfortunate truth is that as time passes, and our society becomes more and more modernized, our ozone layer becomes more “fogged up” with what are called green house gases. These gases trap the heat from the sun causing a “heat blanket” which is what causes what we know to be global warming. This kind of effect causes extreme weather patterns such as the ones recently seen, even here in Michigan. According to Jake Crouch, a Climate Scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Ashville NC, not only has this “warm weather been going on for several months, but that those types of extremes are supposed to get more frequent because of manmade climate change from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil”. It is essential that this matter is recognized not only as a state but as a whole nation.

WEB_Solar-panels.jpg            Here in Michigan, our state is greatly known for its agricultural aspects as well as our great lakes. Our state is the leading producer of fruits such as cherries and blueberries. The extreme weather fluctuations that our state has been experiencing in increasing amounts can and has been having a negative influence to our farmers and their business. Yes it may be better in the sense that the farmers can start their cropping sooner, and may be able to crop a larger variety of foods, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. According to the “Union of Concerned Scientists”: ” higher ozone concentrations can damage soybeans and horticultural crops, countering positive impacts of a warmer climate”. The warm weather also impacts in that we will have warmer summers which will cause more droughts which is also something that can damage much of our farming industries.

With the population increasing at a very fast rate, it is important for our farming industry to continue to be successful, and efforts need to be made so that our country does not have to face any more food insecurity and hunger. We need to teach people about how to be more “green” and introduce them to alternative energy so that we are not burning as much coal and contributing any more to the green house gases in our atmosphere. Something else that needs to be done is that farmers need to learn to adjust to the warmer weather so to yield the best results in this changing climate.

Sources:

http://www.ucsusa.org/greatlakes/glregionmic_agr.html

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304090032

Patricia Garza-Tamez

Michigan Farmers Fear Frost

Frozen leaves may look pretty, but farmers hate themIn the past two months, Michigan residents have been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures and many people been loving weather. Everyone except for one large part of the population, Michigan farmers, is embracing the warmth. This spring, farmers have been busy at work trying to plant crops for the upcoming season. Unfortunately the weather in Michigan has been even busier making the farmers’ job even harder. The recent slew of very warm weather followed by freezing temperatures has made deciding when to plant an issue for farmers. There have been overnight and early morning frosts on some days that can kill or damage plants that the farmers have planted. This means that farmers could lose part or all of their planted crops if the weather continues to be this unpredictable.

There is also another problem with the unseasonable warmth. Michigan farms rely heavily on the help of migrant workers to help hand-pick some crops such as asparagus, one of Michigan’s marquee crops. Unfortunately, the migrant workers are in other parts of the country right now and don’t arrive to Michigan for at least another month. This means that frost is an even bigger problem because without as much help, the crops are exposed to the elements for a longer time before being picked.

Even with the potential risks of frost killing or damaging a crop, many farmers went ahead and planted their crops during the heat wave. This is because some farmers saw the risk of a freeze outweighed by the potential for a longer growing season. A longer growing season would mean more crop production and higher profit from this summer and fall.  Some farmers have used precautions to protect against frost such as fans or heaters in order to keep their crops warm enough to resist freezing or frosting over. Despite precautions, no one knows how the weather will react in Michigan and farmers will not sleep well until Summer arrives.

Carter Ellwood

Sources:
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2012/04/weather_forecast_freezing_temp.html
http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y7223e/y7223e0e.htm