Round Goby

Round Goby, photo by Dave Brenner, Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Echo reports that although a study has found that invasive round goby are “one of the most successful aquatic invaders” ever in the Great Lakes, smallmouth bass appear to be feasting on gobies:

25 years after their discovery in the Great Lakes, “we’re not documenting specific harms from gobies,” Popoff said, referring to feared environmental, economic and human health concerns.

In fact, there are indications of possible benefits from their presence, he said. For example, “we are seeing amazing smallmouth bass,” as well as some “amazing walleye,” while lake trout have modified their diets from sculpin to round gobies.

One possible exception, according to Popoff, is a decline in sculpin population as documented in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay because they compete with round gobies for space and food. However, scientists haven’t determined whether the lake’s overall sculpin population is down or whether they’ve merely moved to deeper areas with fewer round gobies.

…However, the study found the round goby is now a widely available food source for many native fish because of its “extreme abundance, tolerance to a variety of habitat conditions and relatively small size.”

In lakes Erie and Ontario, round gobies accounted for 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet, Crane said. If all other species have maintained stable populations, that means the bass are putting less pressure on other food sources.

Nice to see the Great Lakes winning a battle – read on for lots more.

View the photo background big and see more in Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

Bad Ideas in Action

February 21, 2015

I need to provide a retraction of sorts for this post. While Enbridge Line 5 could carry the same corrosive tar sands of Keystone XL, it’s not a part of the XL network. It still most certainly could all the terrible impacts and remains a really bad idea.  More about Line 5 right here.

enbridge-pipeline-under-straits-of-mackinac

Broken Supports on the Straits Pipeline, photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation video

Here’s what we’re talking about when we talk about piping crude oil sludge under the Straits of Mackinac. It’s absolutely unfathomable to me how a politician could ever use “jobs” and “Keystone XL” in the same sentence except to say “Keystone XL could cost us tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Great Lakes if anything goes wrong.”

Eco Watch writes (in part):

This past July, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) conducted a diving expedition to obtain footage of aging oil pipelines strung across one of the most sensitive locations in the Great Lakes, and possibly the world: the Straits of Mackinac. Footage of these pipelines has never been released to the public until now.

The Straits of Mackinac pipelines, owned by Enbridge Energy, are 60-years-old and considered one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes because of their age, location and the hazardous products they transport—including tar sands derived oil.

Click above to read more and watch the video or click here to watch it on YouTube. The dive footage starts at about 3 minutes, and at about 4 minutes in you can see drop camera footage from 200′ deep that shows unsupported pipeline hanging over the lake bed.

I know that some folks get upset when I wander into “politics” but I don’t even think this falls under politics. This falls under “companies using lobbying money & influence to do things that are really dangerous without proper safety controls.” You can clearly see from the video that this pipeline is an outdated and unsafe piece of junk, and the Great Lakes don’t belong to any company. In my opinion (which may be different from yours) it is incumbent on our elected officials to safeguard the Great Lakes for the economic benefit and enjoyment of us ALL.

PS: If the name Enbridge Energy sounds familiar, they’re the company that brought Michigan the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010.

PPS: (edit) The Jobs, Economy and the Great Lakes report by Michigan Sea Grant found that in 2009, more than 1.5 million Great Lakes-related jobs generated $62 billion in wages for the Great Lakes region. (report is linked at the right)

Bald Eagle by Kevin Povenz

Bald Eagle, photo by Kevin Povenz

Sorry. I like to start the weekend on a better note usually, I hope you have a good one.

Environmental Health News recently ran a story bluntly titled Michigan’s bald eagles full of flame retardants. It says (in part):

Michigan’s bald eagles are among the most contaminated birds on the planet when it comes to phased-out flame retardant chemicals in their livers, according to new research.

The study, published last month in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, found that the top predators in the Great Lakes are highly exposed to banned flame retardants, still widespread in the environment.

Michigan’s population of bald eagles is stable, but the compounds have been linked in other birds to impaired reproduction, weird behavior and development, and hormone disruption.

“While the sensitivity of eagles to PBDEs has yet to be determined, there is a possibility that the exposures reported here may be associated with sub-clinical effects,” Nil Basu, an associate professor at McGill University who led study while at the University of Michigan, said in an email.

More than four decades ago, companies started putting polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, into furniture cushions, electronics and clothing in an effort to slow the spread of flames if they catch fire.

…The chemicals “are everywhere,” Basu said. “They build up in the food chains so that top predators – such as bald eagles – accumulate high levels.”

Flame retardants have been found in birds all over the world – from the United States to China.

Read on for lots more about a sad story for these amazing animals. Oh, and don’t forget. Humans are a “top predator” too!

About this photo from last November, Kevin wrote:

Went down by the Grand River to see if any eagles were around. Now the conditions were not the greatest, quite windy, grey overcast skies and light mist in the air. But I haven’t been out all day so I said to myself that I just got to do this. Well I got to see the Eagles and this one just looked at me with the expression like “why are you here on such a crappy day”

Kevin is far and away the master bald eagle photographer in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr – heck, I just featured one of his eagle photos a couple of weeks ago. View his photo bigger and see many more of his really great Michigan bald eagle photos on Flickr.

Lots more about bald eagles on Michigan in Pictures.

North Bar Lake

January 30, 2015

North Bar Lake by Sarah Hunt

North Bar Lake, photo by Sarah Hunt

Who’s ready for a break from snow & ice? The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the North Bar Lake Overlook says (in part):

The name describes how the lake formed: it is ponded behind a sand bar. At times, the sand bar builds up and separates North Bar Lake from Lake Michigan. At other times, a small connecting channel exists between the two lakes. North Bar Lake occupies part of a former bay on Lake Michigan. This ancient bay was flanked by headlands on both sides: Empire Bluffs on the south and Sleeping Bear Bluffs on the north. Shorelines have a natural tendency to become straighter with time. Wave action focuses on the headlands and wears them back, while shoreline currents carry sediment to the quiet bays and fill them in. Deeper parts of the bay are often left as lakes when sand fills in the shallower parts.

The same process that formed North Bar Lake also formed many of the other lakes in northern Michigan: Glen, Crystal, Elk and Torch Lakes, for example.

Here’s more about the geology of the Sleeping Bear and more about North Bar Lake, to which I’d add that the lake is a great place for skim boards because the channel between North Bar & Lake Michigan is only a few inches deep!

Sarah took this photo last summer. Click it to view background bigalicious and check out lots more of her incredible and adventurous photography at instagram.com/oni_one_.

PS: If you’re still not full-up on winter and ice, might I suggest this pic she took in this area of Sleeping Bear last week!

Shawns Comet

Comet Pan-Starrs over Headlands International Dark Sky Park, photo by Shawn Malone/Lake Superior Photo

Michigan in Pictures regular Shawn Malone of Lake Superior Photo is one of the best photographers of the Michigan night sky around, and on the evening of November 22nd , you have a chance to learn from her at a Night Sky Workshop. She writes:

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a wonderful place to discover the magic of night sky photography, due to the abundance of easily accessible dark sky locations. These night sky workshops are designed for those looking for a basic understanding of the equipment and technique necessary for capturing the night sky.

Photography workshops will take place at LakeSuperiorPhoto- gallery/studio on 211 S. Front, Marquette Mi. 49855. There will be an hour class at the studio where I will cover techniques for capturing night sky photos, from basic camera set up and settings, to a brief discussion of post processing to helpful websites and software to help you come away with great night sky photos.

During this workshop we will concentrate on the techniques necessary to capture low light and night sky photos. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we have a chance to photograph the stars or maybe even possibly the northern lights. No matter what weather conditon – we will conduct the workshop and you will come away with everything you need to know about capturing great night sky images.

She has 4 spaces left – click here to register!

You can purchase this photo of Comet Panstars at Lake Superior Photo. Be sure to follow her at Lake Superior Photo on Facebook and see more of Shawn’s photos on Michigan in Pictures.

Speaking of comets, NASA’s Rosetta Mission is going to go all Bruce Willis on a comet THIS MORNING! EarthSky reports:

The Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014 at 10:35 a.m. EST (15:35 UTC). We on Earth – 300 million miles (500 million km) away – won’t know the lander has set down successfully until a signal is received back at about 11:02 a.m. EST (16:02 UTC). Both NASA and ESA will provide live online coverage of this first-ever attempted landing on a comet.

Rosetta spacecraft will do the equivalent of transferring an object from one speeding bullet to another, when it tries to place its Philae lander on its comet. Read more about the mission’s dramatic attempt to land on a comet here.

After landing, Philae will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet’s surface. It also will drill into the surface to study the composition and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies.

Philae can remain active on the surface for approximately two-and-a-half days. Its “mothership” – the Rosetta spacecraft – will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun for its July 2015 perihelion (closest point), and then moves away.

Click through for more and follow it live from NASA right here!

Ludington State Park Ridge Trail

Ludington State Park, Ridge Trail, photo by otisourcat

If it seems to you that fall colors are more erratic this year than usual, it’s not all in your head! The Great Lakes Echo feature by Juliana Moxley titled Last winter’s cold legacy: Fall colors slower to peak explains (in part) that last winter’s extreme cold is the culprit:

The harsh 2014 winter is partly to blame, said Bert Cregg, a professor in the department of horticulture at Michigan State University.

We are still having a good fall color season in Michigan, but we are likely to see some trees in full color while others are just beginning to turn, he said.

“As you’ll recall, last winter was extremely cold — one of the coldest winters on record,” Cregg said. “The winter stress delayed leaf-out for many trees, and then the tree’s timing was further delayed by a cold rather than normal spring.”

A warming climate can also affect fall color, said Howard Neufeld, a professor in the department of biology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Higher temperatures, altered timing and/or amounts of precipitation, changes in humidity, changes in cloud cover, increases in the length of the growing season and higher levels of nitrogen inputs in the ecosystem can all affect fall color variance.

“Increased precipitation means that light levels are most likely lower, and trees will do less photosynthesis,” Neufeld said. “With less photosynthesis, there are fewer sugars in the leaves. Warmer temperatures mean higher respiration rates, and more sugars will be metabolized.”

You can read on for lots more including an explanation of the scientific processes that impact color change.

The photo above by otisourcat shows that patchy color well. See it bigger and see more in their slideshow. More about the trail and park in the Ludington State Park guide.

More Michigan trails and more science on Michigan in Pictures!

Foggy morning, photo by Jiqing Fan

Wikipedia says that Portage Lake is part of the Keweenaw Waterway, a partly natural, partly artificial waterway that cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula to provide access for shipping from Lake Superior. If you click the link you can get an aerial view.

View Jiqing Fan’s photo bigger and see more in his massive Houghton & UP MI slideshow. He writes:

Saw the fog on Lake Portage from my apartment window after I woke up today. I knew the potential this fog can bring so I darted down to the lake shore. But the fog was so heavy that the foliage on the other bank were completely blocked. Just when I was about to give up and head back for school, the fog started to break as the sun rises. And then the magic started to unfold before my eyes. Soon the fog lifted and fill the campus uphill, the entire campus was bathed in soft morning light and there were Tyndall effect everywhere! I can not think of a better way to start a day of work.

What’s the Tyndall effect you ask? The UC Davis ChemWiki explains that the Tyndall effect was identified by 19th Century Irish scientist John Tyndall.

Because a colloidal solution or substance (like fog) is made up of scattered particles (like dust and water in air), light cannot travel straight through. Rather, it collides with these micro-particles and scatters causing the effect of a visible light beam. This effect was observed and described by John Tyndall as the Tyndall Effect.

The Tyndall effect is an easy way of determining whether a mixture is colloidal or not. When light is shined through a true solution, the light passes cleanly through the solution, however when light is passed through a colloidal solution, the substance in the dispersed phases scatters the light in all directions, making it readily seen.

For example, light is not reflected when passing through water because it is not a colloid. It is however reflected in all directions when it passes through milk, which is colloidal. A second example is shining a flashlight into fog or smog; the beam of light can be easily seen because the fog is a colloid.

Yay science!

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