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Great Lakes

Lake Michigan shoreline
Srikanth Peetha / Unsplash

More people have drowned in the Great Lakes so far in 2021 than were reported by this time last year, prompting officials to urge swimmers to practice water safety measures.

That’s as holiday beachgoers are warned today of dangerous swimming conditions along some portions of Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Canada is expanding its rules for ballast water in ships. The Canadian Minister of Transport outlined the new regulations intended to prevent the further spread of invasive species in Canada.

Ballast water helps keep ships level by pumping it in or out of the ship when loading and unloading. Doing that also can suck up invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels and then spread them to the next port.

Michigan’s climate-ready future: wetland parks, less cement, roomy shores

Jun 9, 2021
J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

What does Michigan’s future look like if we adequately prepare the state’s water resources for climate change? Goodbye to septics and shorehugging homes. Hello to more diversified crops on Michigan farms.

The year is 2050, and you’re visiting family in Detroit.

Arriving, you grab coffee on the ground floor of a nine-floor building filled with offices and apartments, designed to house a growing Great Lakes city without pushing out longtime residents.

Around the corner, people gather for walks and picnics in a wetland park, one of dozens constructed around the city. With their wet meadows, flowers and gently winding trails, the parks absorb rainwater from frequent storms, reduce water treatment costs and alleviate the basement backups of water and sewage that once plagued Detroit.

Great Lakes water diversions could be more numerous

May 11, 2021
J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

When Monica Evans gets together with her friends they talk economics, politics, the weather. They also discuss a subject that arises periodically in the news - the prospect that Great Lakes water could be diverted to other parts of the country. 

Evans, who is known in the Traverse City region as an effective environmental activist, has long worried that water could become in the 21st century what oil was in the 20th. As the global climate warms and water scarcity mounts, Great Lakes water is more valuable than ever before. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of news about the amount of plastic debris in the oceans. But plastic pollution is also affecting the Great Lakes. A study out of the Rochester Institute of Technology estimates 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes from the U.S. and Canada each year.

Kelly House / Bridge Michigan

Microplastic pollution has been building up in the Great Lakes for at least four decades, but our understanding of its impact on fish and other aquatic creatures is only just catching up.

Now new research from the University of Toronto shows the harm to wildlife is due to a wide range of factors that is not generally considered in toxicology testing – the plastics’ size, shape and chemical makeup.

Sturgeon for Tomorrow

If you've ever seen a lake sturgeon, you know that there's something really mystifying and beautiful about this ancient fish. They’ve been around for more than 100 million years, but their numbers have dwindled in the past century and they’re now considered a threatened species. But state officials and sturgeon enthusiasts are committed to helping the species bolster its numbers. 

Mark Edlund / St. Croix Watershed Research Station, Science Museum of MN

Right now, scientists are on a ship taking samples and measurements of the Great Lakes. They’re trying to determine how the lakes will fare this year and watching for trends.

One trend, the warming climate, could mean changes for the base of the food web in the lakes. But, the researchers are not yet sure what those changes might be.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-thru clinic.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, a small number of fully vaccinated people are still getting sick. That’s not necessarily cause for alarm. Plus, a conversation with poet Thomas Lynch about his new collection of poems and navigating the grief of his daughter’s death. And a citizen science project helps make data about Michigan’s lakes and aquatic wildlife more accessible.

Is the Line 5 tunnel a bridge to Michigan's energy future or a bad deal?

Apr 1, 2021
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Canadian officials lobbied a Michigan Senate committee in March to keep the Line 5 pipeline open, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) grew frustrated with a conversation that, up to that point, had focused mainly on the immediate economic and safety implications of a possible shutdown.

a table set up with people around it at the Ford Field vaccination site in Detroit
Vince Duffy / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, mass vaccination sites are opening in Michigan’s largest cities as the state races against another spike in COVID-19 cases. Also, we check in with two public health officials about the challenges of reaching herd immunity. Plus, the history of sea shanties sung by Black sailors on the Great Lakes.

In flooded Michigan neighborhoods, who should pay for sea walls?

Mar 30, 2021
Kelly House / Bridge Michigan

The floodwaters have receded from Jefferson Chalmers for now, but evidence of the neighborhood’s recent crisis is hard to miss:

Dried algae on the sidewalks. Appliances bolted to basement walls to keep them dry. Water lines on the sides of buildings. And massive orange “tiger dams” snaking through backyards, waiting for the water to rise again.

The neighborhood — a labyrinth of canals leading to the Detroit River on the city’s far east side — is often called Detroit’s version of Venice. But for the past two summers, as Great Lakes water levels reached record highs, it has looked more like a floodplain.

Tim Folkert / Saugatuck Center for the Arts

Today, on Stateside, we talk to an epidemiologist from the University of Michigan about what worries her about the state’s rising COVID-19 numbers. Plus, we hear from Jordan Hamilton—a Kalamazoo-based cellist—about live performance and making music during a year of pandemic.

Public Domain

Fisheries biologist David Jude has been studying a small prey fish called the deepwater sculpin for decades. And for years, there's been one question he couldn't stop thinking about. 

“I’ve always had this passion about trying to figure out where deepwater sculpin spawn because no one has ever documented it,” Jude said. 

a person holds a vaccine vial
Adobe Stock

Today on Stateside, nearly four million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state of Michigan. A pharmacist discusses how pharmacies can help get vaccines into communities. Also, a look at the history of something we’re all familiar with — mask fatigue. Plus, a deep dive on an elusive Great Lakes denizen: the deepwater sculpin.

The University of Michigan football stadium
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, two-thirds of Washtenaw County's COVID-19 cases are affiliated with the University of Michigan. A campus health official discusses efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Also, a look at Michigan’s possible future as a haven for those escaping the worst effects of climate change.

Invasive mussels now control key Great Lakes nutrients, threatening fish

Feb 16, 2021

The stunning beauty of Lake Michigan’s crystal clear water draws comparisons to the French Riviera. 

But to Dustin Van Orman, it’s a hideous sight.

Van Orman, whose family owns Mackinaw City’s Big Stone Bay Fishery, knows that the clearer the water gets, the scarcer whitefish and chubs become. 

Water could make Michigan a climate refuge. Are we prepared?

Feb 16, 2021
© J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Intrigued by warming winters, researchers from the University of Michigan set out in 1989 to formally measure changes in the geographical distribution of plants and animals in the dense pine and hardwood forests of northern Michigan. 

Their laboratory, the university’s 10,000-acre Biological Station east of Petoskey, had advanced forestry and natural sciences since the field station’s founding in 1909. Few projects, though, attracted the same level of attention as the migration research. 

charles mcgee
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, a Michigan state representative discusses easing the tragedy of Yemen’s civil war. Then, playwright and screenwriter Dominique Morisseau talks about deepening her connection with Detroit Public Theatre during a pandemic. And, safety tips on the Great Lakes. Just because ice is forming doesn’t mean it’s safe to walk on.

Linda Stephan


picture of an old ship
Public Domain


ice cover on the great lakes january 21 2021
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Great Lakes have been slow to freeze this year, compared to years past. Currently, around 2.4% of the Great Lakes are covered by ice, concentrated in the Green Bay region off Lake Michigan and Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron. That's lower than 11% cover at this time last year.

Jia Wang is an ice climatologist for NOAA. He says it's been a warm winter in the Great Lakes region.

"[Ice cover] is very very low, unusually low this year, compared to other years and compared to the average. This year, air temperatures are so warm. Air temperature has a negative correlation with ice cover. Of course, if it's warmer, there's less ice cover," he says.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump has signed legislation to update maps of environmentally sensitive areas of the Great Lakes.

The legislation prioritizes and updates federal maps used to respond to emergencies and protect habitats, species and structures along the Great Lakes that are most likely to be impacted by a potential oil spill or other major disaster.

The last time some of these maps were updated was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Keith Ladzinski / National Geographic

The cover story in this month’s issue of National Geographic takes a deep dive into the many major threats to the health of the Great Lakes. In the magazine you’ll find dramatic photos of massive algal blooms and surging floodwaters, as well as up-close portraits of invasive species that are disrupting the local ecosystems.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, Attorney General Dana Nessel joins us to talk about the recent threats made against a number of elected officials—including herself. Plus, a conversation with a University of Michigan senior who has received a Rhodes Scholarship. And, we'll talk to two journalists from National Geographic who have captured the damage and delight of Michigan’s Great Lakes.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If they choose to do so, the governors of the Great Lakes have less than three weeks to object to an Environmental Protection Agency proposal.

That proposal would exempt cargo ships that only travel in the Great Lakes from having to treat ballast water to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. For years, the Great Lakes shippers say they were not responsible for invasive species; it was the ocean-going cargo ships that were the problem.

DUSTIN DWYER / MICHIGAN RADIO

Applications for shoreline protection permits tripled this year compared to last, according to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The department granted 2,284 permits in the year ending September 30, compared to 730 permits the previous year. Most of those permits went to residential property owners wanting to protect their homes from rising water levels.

Often those permits allow the construction of rock walls as a barricade against encroaching waves.

Common tern holding a fish
Phylis Cooper / USFWS

Research shows chemicals banned years and even decades ago are showing up in some Great Lakes shorebirds. Scientists found P-C-Bs used as a coolant in electrical transformers, fire retardants called P-B-D-Es and derivatives of the insecticide D-D-T in terns. The pollutants were at levels high enough to potentially harm the health of the birds. 

JEFFREY PAUL

Storm chasers and meteorologists observed a record number of waterspouts over the Great Lakes this month, according to the Toronto-based International Centre for Waterspout Research. 

The group confirmed 240 of the spectacular weather events over the Great Lakes between September 28 and October 4. 

 

A waterspout can form on a cloudy day, when cold air passes over warmer waters. The resulting vortex sucks down condensation from the cloud cover, creating a phenomenon that looks like a tornado.

 

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