The Environment Report | Michigan Radio
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The Environment Report

Tuesdays & Thursdays at 8:50 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan.

Kerry Wixted / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Forests in our region are under attack from a shrub.

The culprit is an ornamental plant called Japanese barberry. It was introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It’s been in used in landscaping in Michigan for decades, but it’s considered invasive.

I just found out I have some in my front yard.

They’re pretty, with bright red berries that birds love to eat.

The Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Researchers find there could be more health effects lingering decades after a toxic contamination of Michigan’s food supply.

Map showing the land owned by the Huron Mountain Club as of 2006.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Well... it's not an absolute "no."

It's more of a "probably not," given what we've learned about the Huron Mountain Club in reporting this story.

We'll get to the downright practical ways you might get into the club below. In the meantime, we'll just say it doesn't hurt your chances if you’re Channing Tatum, or related to Henry Ford (and even Ford had trouble getting in).

Courtesy of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

The silky strands made by spiders are prized for their strength and suppleness. Now, scientists in the Great Lakes region are using technology to reproduce spider silk. And there's a wide range of users – from the Army to a famous British fashion designer.

Two beekeepers looking at a frame.
Rebecca Kruth / Michigan Radio

Most veterinarians probably don't picture themselves working with bees. But thanks to new federal regulations, more and more might soon find themselves with six-legged patients.

Courtesy photo / 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base

There’s a new guy running the drinking water division at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Eric Oswald served 12 years of active duty in the Air Force. He spent the last five years as a commander at the Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek.

Oswald is not a drinking water expert.

U.S. Supreme Court

The number of state and federal lawsuits related to climate change has been on the rise since 2006.

Sabrina McCormick is an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at The George Washington University Miliken Institute School of Public Health. She's the lead author of a study in the journal Science that finds the role of climate science in court is changing.

Smallmouth bass
micropterus_dolomieu / Wikimedia commons

Antidepressants that people take are building up in the brains of fish like walleye, bass, and perch. Researchers studied fish from the Niagara River, which connects lakes Erie and Ontario.

Sara Bird / Michigan Tech

Earthworms seem pretty harmless. But they’re causing problems for Michigan’s multi-million dollar sugar maple industry.

That’s the finding of a study by Tara Bal, a research assistant professor of forest resources and environmental science at Michigan Technological University.

The historic Whitney Mansion
Levin Energy Partners

The 123-year old Whitney Mansion wastes a lot of electricity. But now the Detroit icon is going green. Let's just hope the ghost living there is okay with it.

Bloody red shrimp under a dissecting scope
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

Around the Great Lakes, millions of dollars are spent to fight invasive species like Asian carp. But when scientists find a new animal or plant in the area, it’s not always clear if it’s harmful or helpful.

Flyfisherman Dave McCool casts to catch a common carp on Grand Traverse Bay.
Courtesy of Dave McCool

Common carp have been in Michigan since the late 1800s. They’re not considered an invasive species because they’ve been around so long. Many people consider them to be a “trash fish,” but flyfishing for carp is very popular in northern Michigan.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a green bloom of cyanobacteria on Lake Erie again. People who run water utilities and scientists are watching the bloom because the cyanobacteria can produce toxins called microcystins that are dangerous for people and pets. It's what made Toledo’s drinking water unsafe to drink in 2014.

Chris Winslow directs Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. He says the bloom’s covering about 10% of the western basin.

The blacklegged tick can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Experts tell us it’s important to treat Lyme disease early, and state officials say Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. 

But officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it can sometimes be confused with a similar condition that’s also transmitted by ticks, called Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI.

Varroa mites attached to honey bees.
Zachary Huang / MSU

Varroa mites are considered the worst pest of honey bees worldwide. The mites suck blood from the bees and transmit viruses to them.

Researchers have identified six genes in the mites that could be used to attack them.

Zachary Huang is an associate professor of entomology at Michigan State University.

“We found four genes that would reduce their reproduction and two genes that would kill them pretty fast, so those would be used for their control later, perhaps,” he says.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

One of the toughest things about being a parent in Flint right now is the uncertainty. If your kid gets diagnosed with ADHD, or struggles in school, there’s a part of you that wonders: is it because of the lead exposure?  

Asian carp
USGS

An Asian carp was caught this summer in a place where it shouldn’t be – beyond an electric barrier meant to keep the species out of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. Now, a researcher at Southern Illinois University is trying to figure out just how it got there.

Sea lamprey
Michigan State University

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

Asian longhorned beetle
USDA

Officials want you to help them look for a tree killer.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, really long antennae, and sometimes, blue feet.

It’s not in Michigan yet, as far as anyone knows. But there are infestations in Ohio.

Bottled water.
John McDonnell / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Back in January of this year, when I first decided to embark on reporting about bottled water in Michigan, I had literally no idea what I was in for. That’s probably a good thing, because I plowed ahead naively optimistic and enthusiastic.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Water filters that you attach to your faucet are known to be good for filtering out heavy metals like lead and disinfectants like chlorine. But they’re not designed to filter out bacteria that can grow in the filter itself.

Courtesy Seth Herbst

A couple weeks ago, this guy in Kalamazoo County sees something a little odd: what looks like a tiny lobster, trying to cross the road.

He takes a picture of it, and sends it to the man who’s been dreading this moment: Seth Herbst, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the fisheries division at the Department of Natural Resources.

“And as soon as I saw that photo, it was a clear as day that that was a red swamp crayfish,” Herbst sighs. But his day was only going to get worse. Later that very morning, he heard from another person in that same area – Sunset Lake in Vicksburg – who saw a red swamp crayfish walking around in their yard.

This was bad news.

Turning an old highway into a "pop-up forest"

Jul 25, 2017
Akron, OH
Ken Lund / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Many cities in the Rust Belt are still shrinking, because people continue to move away. Some have lost so many people, that highways are unneeded, and being removed.

In one Midwestern city, what’s being constructed (at least, temporarily) is giving some people hope for the future of its downtown.

American pika
Erik Beever

We talk a lot about how people can adapt to climate change, and scientists have found that some animals are changing their behavior, too. The ability to change rapidly because of environmental changes is called behavioral flexibility.

User dsleeter_2000 / Flickr

Remember how it was too hot for planes to fly in Phoenix last month?

That could happen more often as our climate warms.

Radley Horton is an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Horton is an author of a new study on this issue in the journal Climatic Change.

A map of the 13 trillion gallon plume of contaminated groundwater extending from Mancelona, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

When I arrive at Bethany Hawkins' home, the first thing she does is offer me a glass of her well water.
"Our water's always been really good," she says.

USFWS

Biologists say the sixth mass extinction episode on Earth is already happening. But researchers say if we only look at species extinctions, we miss a big part of the story.

Paul Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of biology at Stanford University, and an author of a new study about this published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joanna Paterson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

23 counties in Michigan have reported one or more unhealthy ozone days each year, on average. That’s from a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

An online map the group produced also shows where those high ozone days tend to overlap with high pollen days. That can make air unhealthy for people with respiratory problems.

Paul Cryan / USGS

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 31 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But clusters of bats that warm up together during hibernation might have an edge against the fungus. Researchers discovered this by putting temperature-sensing surveillance cameras in caves.

CDC

There’s a newly discovered kind of bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, Borrelia mayonii. Scientists have run tests to find out how long it takes to transmit the disease after a tick bites you.

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