Agriculture

Earth Month, Day 4: Birds, Wolverines, and Genetic Mutation

The Earth Month Bonanza continues! For your Friday reading pleasure, we have avian gourmands, mutating critters, and wolverines in limbo. lauren sommerFrom Lauren Sommer, at KQED Radio:

Amid California Drought, Migrating Birds Enjoy Pop-Up Cuisine

Millions of birds migrate through California this time of year, but the waterways and wetlands they rely on for food and rest are largely dry due to the ongoing drought. So farmers are keeping their fields flooded to make temporary wetlands, providing a place for migrating birds to rest and eat.

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas is one of these farmers. On a recent morning some 3,000 snow geese float in his rice fields in California's Central Valley. He's watching a young bald eagle awkwardly dive at the flock.

"As soon as they start getting here, this is what I sit and do," he says. "I keep my binoculars in my truck."... Read more.

Rice farmer Douglas Thomas watches snow geese take flight over his rice fields in California's Central Valley. (Photo by Lauren Sommer/KQED)

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sharon oosthoekFrom Sharon Oosthoek, writing for CBC News:

Cities Causing Genetic Changes in Plants, Animals

A researcher holds an adult female tomcod taken from New York's Hudson River. Most of the river's tomcod now carry a genetic variant that makes them resistant to the ill effects of PCBs humans have dumped into the river. (Photo by Christopher Chambers, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA)

Plants and animals have a long history of acclimatizing to city living - think of raccoons and their expert pillaging of compost bins. But now biologists are beginning to see signs that something more fundamental is happening. They say wild things may be changing at a genetic level to survive cities and their polluting, habitat-fragmenting ways.

 Fish in New York's chemically-laden Hudson River have evolved a genetic variation that gives them resistance to PCBs, for example. Birds nesting under highway overpasses in Nebraska have developed shorter, more agile wings, allowing them to quickly swerve from oncoming traffic... Read more.

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Sarah KellerAnd, from Sarah Keller with High Country News:

Climate-Based Wolverine Listing Delayed by Scientific Disputes

With thick fur and snowshoe-like feet, wolverines are well-adapted to live in snow caves and run straight up mountains. Their high elevation lifestyles have helped them stay out of harm’s way in recent decades, and stage a slow comeback from the rampant carnivore persecution of the early 1900s. Though elusive and tenacious, they won’t be insulated from human impacts forever. They face a precarious future as climate change eats away at the snowpack they need.

 

Wolverines are already one of the rarest carnivores in North America. With their fates tied to snow they may become rarer still. Photo by Steve Kroschel. Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That’s why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to add them to the endangered species list, even as a handful of wide-ranging wolverines are venturing into states where they haven’t been seen for generations. The agency was slated to make a listing decision earlier this month as part of a legal settlement with environmental groups. But reputable wolverine biologists have criticized the scientific underpinnings of the agency’s proposed listing decision, especially the parts related to snowpack. Now, the FWS is delaying the decision for another six months so they can reconvene with scientists about wolverine habitat and climate impacts to it... Read more

 

Earth Month, Day 3: Mongolia and the Mekong

josh zaffosFor today's Earth Month installment, we bring you a two-fer: A pair of essays from Colorado-based writer Josh Zaffos, who traveled to the other side of the globe to report on some big stories from some beautiful places. An hour’s drive east of the city of Ulaanbaatar, a steel statue of Mongolia’s legendary warrior Genghis Khan rises 131 feet above the country’s 68 million-acre grassland steppe. © Nick Hall

Giant Steppes: Protecting Mongolia's Grasslands in the Face of a Mining Boom

 Amar Purev, a square-jawed ranger with a no-nonsense demeanor, peers through binoculars from the window of an SUV as it bounces along a double-track path through a green-and-golden sea of hip-high grass. He spots only a few gazelles in the distance, but when the vehicle crests a hill, it halts: Fifty yards away, hundreds of gazelles and their calves graze on stipa, or feather grass. Before Purev can open his door, the animals take off, coursing 40 miles per hour across the flat and boundless expanse that reaches to the horizon.

This grassy ocean is Mongolia’s Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve, a protected area of more than 1 million acres. It is part of a 68 million-acre expanse of grasslands that stretch from forests to desert across the country’s Eastern Steppe. The steppe is the largest intact temperate grassland on Earth, and this reserve protects calving habitat for the Mongolian gazelle, whose herds can eclipse the horizon with thousands of animals. Scientists estimate the gazelle population here at a million, rivaling the wildlife herds of Africa’s Serengeti... Read more.

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Life on Mekong Faces Threats as Major Dams Begin to Rise

A villager washes in the Mekong, with Xayaburi Dam construction in background. (Photo courtesy International Rivers)

In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.

The giant catfish, among the planet’s largest freshwater fish species, is now rare throughout the entire Mekong River Basin. While overfishing and past practices, such as dynamiting or electroshocking pools in the river, contributed to the species’ decline, a much larger threat now looms for aquatic life and human populations along the Lower Mekong River: dams... Read more.

Earth Month, Day 2: Tumbleweeds and Steelhead

Earth Month continues! sarah gilmanFirst, from Sarah Gilman with High Country News, an investigation of some pesky plants:

Troubleweeds: Russian thistle buries roads and homes in southeastern Colorado

J.D. Wright pauses to check in with his wife of 51 years. “Do you remember, Mama, when that wind was?” After a few minutes perusing her cellphone photos, she reports back: Tumbleweeds first buried the house on November 17. The gusts screamed up and there they were, piled so deep over the doors and windows that Wright, who has a ranch on the Crowley-Pueblo County line in southeastern Colorado, had to call his grandson to come dig the couple out with a front end loader and pitchfork... Read more.

For more on this story - including hilarious, reader-inspired suggestions about how to eliminate tumbleweeds - see here.

Gilman_tumbleweeds

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Ashley AhearnAshley Ahearn with EarthFix Radio learns how science can help save salmon:

Stalking Puget Sound steelhead with science

TACOMA, Wash. — You might call Barry Berejikian a steelhead stalker.

Ahearn_steelhead

The government scientist’s pursuit of these anadromous trout has brought him to the deck of the Chasina, a research vessel that’s motoring through choppy gray waters of southern Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

He’s here to lay the groundwork for an experiment that could explain why so few steelhead are completing their journey through Puget Sound and on to the Pacific Ocean.

Since 2007, Puget Sound steelhead have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Millions of dollars have been spent improving their habitat but the fish are not recovering.

And scientists can’t pinpoint why... Read more.

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Historic Colorado Flood - From Two Perspectives

We love it when we get to see two or more of our alumni (or, in this case, an alumna and a staff member) reporting on the same issue on the same day. Today, two great stories about an historic event on the Colorado River: adam hintFirst, from our own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for The Last Word on Nothing:

The Year of the Flood

Until last Sunday, the Colorado River ended in Yuma, Arizona, backed up against an unremarkable span of concrete called the Morelos Dam on the Mexican border. Every drop of water above the dam was already spoken for -– supplying water to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver as well as irrigating farm fields in both the U.S. and Mexico. Barely a trickle of the river that had carved the Grand Canyon continued past the dam. And all of that was headed toward Mexicali farmland, not the last seventy miles to the Gulf of California.

But, on March 23rd, the gates of the Morelos Dam lifted, sending a pulse of water downstream that will mimic the increased flow that used to be provided by spring rains and Rocky Mountain snowmelt. After the pulse, the gates will remain open for roughly two months, giving the lower Colorado enough flow to, perhaps, complete its run to the Sea of Cortez... Read more.

After being allocated for municipal needs in major American cities and irrigation in the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River runs no more south of the border. (Photo by Pete McBride, USGS)

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sarah gilmanAnd, from Sarah Gilman, writing in High Country News:

Four Women Joyride the Flood that will Revive the Colorado River

The guides warned us, of course. Or they sort of did.

It was sometime after the river outfitter’s shuttle van had passed through the latticework of gates and fences that guards the steep, hairpinned road to the boat-launch at the base of the Hoover Dam, and possibly right before we realized that we had left our two-burner stove back in Alison’s truck, in the parking lot of a casino hotel towering beigely over an otherwise nearly buildingless swath of desert around Lake Mead.

March 19 had dawned beautiful and bluebird in what we had dubbed Baja, Nevada – a 12-mile stretch of clear turquoise water with intermittent hotsprings through the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, where my three college lady friends and I planned to kayak at a luxuriantly sluggish pace for four days. Green rattlesnakes will chase you, the guides told us as we wound into the steep gorge. Scorpions will roost in your sandals. Brain-eating amoebas will Swiss-cheese your frontal lobes if you’re stupid enough to snort the hotspring water. And in the afternoon and at night, the water level can rise without warning as dam operators let more or less through Hoover’s hydroelectric turbines to feed fluctuating power demands in Arizona, Nevada and California. Make sure your gear is secure, the guides fingerwagged, and your kayaks well-tied overnight... Read more.

High and dry. Photo courtesy Sarah Gilman.

Fracking, Fish Hunger Games, and Toxic Algae

New Nooze for your Thursday reading pleasure! Jeremy RunnalsFirst, from Jeremy Runnalls with Corporate Knights magazine, a look at fracking regulation in the U.S.. This story is a result of our 2013 Mining Country Institute!

 

Illustration by Paul Blow

Testing the waters

IRON MOUNTAIN, Michigan – Wherever Jim Peters goes, a contingent from the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan follows. The operations manager at NorthStar Energy LLC and representative for the Michigan Oil and Gas Producers Education Foundation admires their perseverance, but says they’re not there to have a discussion. “They just poison the atmosphere for everyone else,” he complains to a group of journalists gathered on the shores of Lake Antoine. The fracking wars have touched down in “the Wolverine State.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process wherein rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid. Popularized by the discovery of horizontal drilling in the late 1990s, it has led to the natural gas and tight oil boom currently powering the ongoing energy revolution in North America. Thirty-one states now contain potentially viable shale gas plays, including Michigan... Read more. 

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adam hintFrom our very own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, a story about how climate change is altering habitat for fish - and not in the way you might think:

Fish forced into "Hunger Games" when lakes lose trees

Before and after: in a decade, Little Rock Lake’s water levels dropped more than 1.5 meters. Courtesy: Jereme Gaeta

In attempts to predict what climate change will mean for life in lakes, scientists have mainly focused on two things: the temperature of the water and the amount of oxygen dissolved in it. But a new study from University of Wisconsinresearchers is speaking for the trees – specifically, the dead ones that have toppled into a lake’s near-shore waters.

 For fish in northern Wisconsin lakes, at least, these trees can be the difference between pastures of plenty and the Hunger Games.Under ‘normal’ water-level situations, says Jereme Gaeta, a post-doctoral researcher at the UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology and lead author of the study, trees in the water provide “coarse woody habitat.” Not only do they offer a refuge for fishes that would otherwise be lunch, they also provide food for those fishes – serving as structure for algae to grow on and aquatic insects to live... Read more. 

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codi yeager kozacekAnd from Codi Yeager-Kozacek with Circle of Blue, a fantastic multimedia investigation of toxic algae in the Great Lakes:

Great Lakes drinking water fouled by toxic algae

OAK HARBOR, OH — On September 4, 2013, Henry Biggert, the superintendent of the Carroll Water and Sewer District, near Toledo, Ohio, got the first clue that he could have a public health crisis on his hands. An analysis of water samples taken from Lake Erie, the district’s only water source, showed that levels of a toxin released by algal blooms had spiked.

In five years of voluntarily testing for the toxin, Biggert and his staff had never seen anything like it. So they followed protocol and retested the water early the next morning. Unable to process the sample at their own facility, they sent it to another plant nearby and waited.

At 3 p.m. Biggert received the second set of results. They were alarming. Toxin levels in Lake Erie were greater than 50 parts per billion. Levels of the toxin in Carroll Township’s treated drinking water were 3.8 parts per billion—nearly four times the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organization... Read and see more.

Yeager-Kozacek_Sea Grant_algae

Now accepting applications for our 2014 North Carolina Institute!

Highway 12 on North Carolina's Outer Banks, washed out following Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo by Tom Mackenzie, USFWS IJNR invites applications for its North Carolina Institute, an expenses-paid learning expedition that will cover natural resource, economic and human health issues from the research triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Content of the fellowship program will not only be relevant to journalists along the Eastern seaboard but also throughout North America. Radio, television, print and online journalists of all ages and experience levels are eligible to apply.

On the North Carolina Institute, journalists will:

  • Observe the EPA’s ongoing clean up efforts at the Ward Transformer Superfund site, considered one of the first cases in the U.S. environmental justice movement.
  • Visit the lab of world-renowned toxicologists working to understand how industrial chemicals affect human health and the environment and how early life exposures may lead to later life consequences.
  • Tour large and small-scale farm operations to talk about the trade-offs involved in producing food and protecting freshwater resources.
  • Slog through the muck of a saltwater marsh at low-tide to observe cutting edge experiments in oyster reef conservation.
  • Stand where the eastern U.S. meets the Atlantic Ocean to discuss controversial infrastructure projects, including a billion-dollar bridge along NC Highway 12, as communities struggle to plan for rising seas in a state that prohibits them from using the latest climatological projection

These are just some of the stops planned on an Institute that will travel from the Raleigh/Durham area to the Outer Banks and back. The trip will also include programming on wetland restoration efforts, North Carolina’s struggling commercial fisheries and using digital media to tell environment stories better.

Curious to find out more? Click on this great interactive map to find out where we're headed and what we'll be doing! Be sure to check out the info and photos at all the different stops:

NCI map workaround

Sound good? Apply now!

The Best of 2013, Day 12: Crown of the Continent Follow-up

Davidson_B&C dawn

Happy Holidays from IJNR!

We hope you have enjoyed our Twelve-Days-of-Christmas, Best-of-2013 Bonanza here on The Nooze.  Here's one final offering before we take a break for the holiday. We'll be back on December 30 with a few final reminders to support IJNR before the end of the year.

In the meantime, happy holidays to all of you, from all of us here at IJNR!


Fellow Trailer_DavidsonToday, instead of highlighting an alumnus, series, or publication, we'd like to shine the spotlight on some of the great reporting that came out of our 2013 Crown of the Continent Institute. The journalists covered a lot of Davidson_questionsground (Read dispatches from the Crown of the Continent trip here, herehere, here, and here), and learned about wildfire, hydroelectric dams, water quality, non-native vs. native fish debates, collaborative conservation, ranching in predator country, Davidson_marciworking landscapes, native science, species reintroduction, oil and gas exploration, and climate change. Participating reporters represented a wide variety of publications, including the the Bozeman Chronicle, the Helena Independent Record, High Country News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the La Grande Observer, Aspen Public Radio, Northwest News Network, Earthzine, Wyoming Public Radio, Wyofile, Boise State Public Radio, KQED Public Radio, and several others.

The following are some great examples of reporting that emerged following the trip. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed taking the journalists out to learn about these issues firsthand!

(All photos above by Osha Gray Davidson.)

Crown of the Continent 2013 Post-Institute Highlights

Katy NesbittFrom Katy NesbittThe Observer

Praying for loved ones of fallen Arizona hot shot crews

This past week one of the fellows I met on the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resources journey around Montana kept us updated on the temperatures at his home in Phoenix, which were to rise to 118 degrees.

The only time I’ve experienced that kind of heat was on a wildland fire. I was a member of a 20-person crew from the Malheur National Forest dispatched to Tucson to battle a blaze where temperatures reached 122 degrees.

We were put on the night shift and warned of tarantulas, scorpions and rattlesnakes. I encountered each of these creatures during the fire, luckily at a safe distance. But the heat was the biggest risk we were to encounter... Read more.


Osha Gray DavidsonFrom Osha Gray Davidson, freelance

The Great Burning: How wildfires are threatening the West (Rolling Stone)

It was the sound of her neighbors' propane tanks exploding that convinced Nancy Myers she had run out of time. Twenty minutes earlier, the 57-year-old potter had been standing with some friends on a rock-strewn hillside above the village of Yarnell, Arizona, on a hot Sunday afternoon, watching the red coil of flames unspool in the distance, certain that everything was going to be OK – despite the "prepare to evacuate" order issued by the county sheriff's office earlier that day. "Then the storm came down the mountains," she remembers. "The wind shifted and it came straight into town. There was ash and smoke everywhere and big old flames. I went into panic mode."...Read more. 

The fire mappers (Earthzine)

Maps of a wildfire tragedy show why escape was impossible (Earthzine)


anna kingFrom Anna King, Northwest News Network

Hoof-to-Ground: Bringing wild bison back to the west

Northwest Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation stretches across 1.5 million acres. But it turns out that isn’t enough room for the free-roaming bison herd that tribes are attempting to establish. Northwest Native Americans are hoping restored buffalo herds may reopen ancient trade and cultural traditions.

Most American bison were exterminated more than 100 years ago. Now, tribes across the country are trying to coordinate with Canada, the federal government, states and even private ranchers to once again bring herds back to the Western landscape... Read more.


eve byronFrom Eve Byron, Independent Record

The great trout divide

YELLOW BAY — It’s a blustery afternoon at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, but the chill in the air isn’t just from the breeze coming off the water.

Five men are involved in a lively and pointed debate over the future of the fishery here. It’s clear that they’ve had this discussion among themselves before, and on this cool June day no one is making any headway in winning the argument.

The debate boils down to two fish species, some nearly microscopic shrimp and unintended consequences. But it’s also about an ongoing philosophical dilemma over native species vs. introduced species, as well as when to concede defeat and when to continue fighting... Read more.

Anti-fossil fuel coalition asks to be included as defendant in Badger-Two Medicine lawsuit

Gladstone invites energy exec to Front


Marci KrivonenFrom Marci Krivonen, Aspen Public Radio

Tribes in Western U.S. use water to assert sovereignty

In Colorado’s southwest, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe co-manages part of the Dolores Water Project. And, near Durango, the Animas/La Plata project is partially managed by the state’s two tribes. Ernest House directs the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

"Not only do these water projects strengthen tribal sovereignty, but they also solidify a treaty obligation to the Utes here in Colorado. I think that by the tribe’s involvement in a lot of these projects, it provides a very important tool for future economic development, especially, specifically, water," he says.

While the project is different, the goals are similar in Montana. When the tribes take over the dam there, they say, their sovereignty will be strengthened... Read and hear more.


Frankie BarnhillFrom Frankie Barnhill, Boise State Public Radio

13 words you need to know during wildfire season

Idaho's wildfire season is here, and that means you're going to be hearing a lot of firefighting jargon to describe what's going on.

We put together this list of key firefighting terms you're likely to hear in the next few months... Read more.

Why letting some wildfires burn could save homes and prevent future fires


Laura LundquistFrom Laura Lundquist, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Hoof-to-Ground

People will go to great lengths to bring a missing relative home. Calling politicians, making appeals and raising money are just the start. Even as years go by, they don't give up, especially if the first wisps of hope begin to take on the semblance of success.

For Native Americans throughout the West, those wisps came in the form of some high-court rulings and a successful yet controversial quarantine experiment. The ultimate success will be when the tribes can welcome their relatives — bison from Yellowstone National Park — home to their lands. Within the past two years, the tribes of the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations have had a small taste of that success. Now they and dozens of other tribes want more.

To them, the Yellowstone bison — they use the word “buffalo” — is more than just meat on the table, said LeRoy Little Bear of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in a June interview... Read more.


Matt FrankFrom Matt Frank (editor), Science Source

Icon of Change: Notes from the edge of a vanishing glacier, Flathead Beacon, by Allison Mills

In the center of Glacier National Park, Mount Gould’s rounded ridge cradles Grinnell Glacier. On a September afternoon, Dan Fagre walks over a smooth patch of bedrock toward the slab of ice. Below it, newly splintered icebergs fill an opaque blue lake.

The U.S. Geological Survey research scientist, who studies the retreat of the park’s namesakes, stops at a small boulder and taps it with his trekking pole.

“You can tell that this was only recently uncovered by the retreating ice,” Fagre says, pointing out the dusty rock flour left behind by the slow grinding of the glacier. He’s likely the first person to ever touch the boulder... Read more.

Pioneers contribute to world climate study, The Montana Standard, by Kindra McQuillen


Sarah KellerFrom Sarah KellerHigh Country News

Montana's largest utility diversifies its energy mix with hydropower

Montana’s largest utility company, NorthWestern Energy, is moving to diversify its energy mix – an increasing trend in the industry. Seeing the regulatory noose tightening on coal, and questioning the long-term promise of natural gas, the company recently announced plans to buy Montana’s 11 hydroelectric dams from their Pennsylvanian owners. By adding 630 megawatts of stable hydro to a portfolio of wind, coal and natural gas, NorthWestern is fortifying itself for a future when energy prices could be higher and more volatile... Read more.

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds


Irina ZhorovFrom Irina Zhorov, Wyoming Public Radio

When it comes to environmental policy, science isn't always as helpful as lawmakers hope

Science has long been something we look to for answers. But when it comes to policy making, science can’t always provide the clear solutions lawmakers and the public want. That has to do with how science works and the politics that sometimes infiltrate. Two issues in Wyoming demonstrate uncannily well the shortcomings of science when it comes to decision making in the environmental sphere.

IRINA ZHOROV: Remember that scene in Ghostbusters, when Bill Murray’s character is pursuing a seemingly irrelevant line of questioning with a laid out woman as a concerned man stands by?... Read and hear more.

The Best of 2013, Day 11: Ashley Ahearn and EarthFix

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


Ashley AhearnToday we hear from alumnus Ashley Ahearn, who is based at KUOW Public Radio in Seattle and reports for EarthFix. She has joined IJNR on a couple of Institutes, and currently serves on the board of SEJ. Along with her colleagues at EarthFix, Ashley produces award-winning multimedia stories about environment and natural resource issues in the Pacific Northwest; currently their high-quality coverage of coal in the region has been causing quite a stir. Ashley is a tireless and enthusiastic reporter who does a great job of making complex environment stories accessible to the general public. She also rides a motorcycle, which we think is pretty badass.

Ahearn_coal trainFirst, you should check out this page devoted to EarthFix's ongoing coverage of coal. This project won them the 2013 Online Journalism Awards for Best Explanatory Reporting (Small), so it's definitely a worthwhile series to explore. Highlights include a documentary, and a "Voices of Coal" multimedia  series that offers perspectives from many members of the public from throughout the region.

Recent highlight stories from Ashley (some related to coal, and some not) include:

Coal ships and tribal fishing grounds

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Dozens upon dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point. The spit of land juts into northern Puget Sound.

SSA Marine says Cherry Point is an excellent location to build a terminal because it’s surrounded by deep water with quick access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. If the company has its way, up to 48 million tons of coal could move through these waters each year aboard more than 450 large ships bound for the Asian market.

But if the Lummi and other tribes exercise their treaty fishing rights, there may not be any coal ships servicing American terminals in these waters... Read, hear and see more.

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Documents reveal coal exporter disturbed Native American archaeological site at Cherry Point

China imposes first-ever West coast shellfish ban

New research: Lab fish fed plastics more likely to develop tumors, liver problems

Toxic algal blooms and warming waters: The climate connection

Washington tribes grow impatient with fish-killing dam

The Cascades frog is only found in the alpine wetlands of the Pacific Northwest, though its range used to extend down to Northern California and up to British Columbia. Scientists are concerned its range will continue to shrink with climate change. (Photo by Ashley Ahearn)

Tracking an alpine frog that chuckles and beeps for climate change research

Taking killer whale research to the classroom

Tidal power project in Puget Sound one step closer to approval

Vanquishing zombie fishing nets in Puget Sound

The call (and noise) of the open road

Do you like what you see from Ashley? If you want more, just type "Ashley Ahearn" into the search bar here on The Nooze, and see how many more of her stories pop up! Feel free to search for any of our other alumni as well, and see what kind of Nooze you find!

The Best of 2013, Day 10: Kalamazoo River Follow-up

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


Kzoo oil samplesToday, instead of highlighting an individual alumnus, or a series, or even a publication, we'd like to shine the spotlight on some of the great reporting that came out of the first IJNR Institute of 2013: Kalamazoo River. The journalists covered a lot of ground (Read dispatches from Kzoo Kayaksthe Kalamazoo trip here, here, and here), and learned about crude-oil spills, PCB clean-ups, Superfund sites, sturgeon, sand dunes, development, cutting-edge agriculture, and, of course, beer. Participating reporters represented a wide variety of publications, including the Kzoo EPA 1AP, Scientific AmericanNational Geographic NewsNative Sun News, Detroit Free Press, Canadian Geographic, Petoskey News-Review, Michigan Radio, National Driller, Tulsa World, ClimateWire and several others.

The following are some great examples of reporting that emerged following the trip. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed taking the journalists out to learn about these issues firsthand!

 

 

Kalamazoo River 2013 Post-Institute Highlights

christine dell'amorefrom Christine Dell'AmoreNational Geographic News

Breweries raising their glasses to clean water

Inside Arcadia Ales’ brewery, the air is pungent with fermenting beer, and Tim Suprise is talkingwater. The founder and president of the Battle Creek, Michigan, microbrewery recently signed on to Brewers for Clean Water, a Natural Resources Defense Council program that launched in mid-April.

Surrounded by giant sacks of malt and wooden barrels, a glass of beer appropriately in hand, Suprise told a group of journalists he’s sending a simple message: “You can’t have a sustainable culture or society without our most precious resource, and that’s water.” (Learn more about freshwater.)... Read more. 

Rebirth of Lake Sturgeon: freshwater Species of the Week

 


lindsey smithFrom Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo residents struggle with EPA over "Mount PCB"

People in Kalamazoo are rallying to get rid of a major dump site that contains cancer causing waste.

Imagine decades’ worth of wood pulp and grey clay waste from the paper mill industry. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of it and it’s laced with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Now, plop it in the middle of a neighborhood.

Sarah Hill lives a little more than a mile away from what neighbors have dubbed "Mount PCB."... Read more.

Prehistoric fish species with 'personalities' get help from humans to survive

EPA delays decision on 'Mount PCB,' cleanup continues at another site

3 years and nearly $1 billion later, cleanup of Kalamazoo River oil spill continues

A good summer for raising baby sturgeon in northern Michigan

 


Rod WaltonFrom Rod WaltonTulsa World

Keystone pipeline critics point to 2010 Enbridge disaster

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Those opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline warn incessantly about dangers to aquifers, rivers and farm land, but perhaps the loudest strike comes from a distant, now quiet watershed in western Michigan.

For it was into Talmadge Creek and, ultimately, the Kalamazoo River that a ruptured Enbridge line spilled nearly a million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil and diluent in July 2010. The Enbridge disaster response involved thousands of people, 80 miles of shoreline, close to $1 billion and years of recriminations... Read more.

McClendon development plan raises dispute in Michigan community

 


sharon oosthoekFrom Sharon OosthoekStudent Science

Unconventional Spill

On July 26, 2010, people living along Talmadge Creek in Marshall, Mich., awoke to a sharp, sickening smell. Those who followed their noses to the creek witnessed an environmental horror.

The water flowed black and shiny. It coated turtles and waterfowl with a smelly goo. It transformed grasses and bushes along the banks from green to oily black.

Eyes watered and throats burned as people breathed in the fumes. Some developed headaches and felt sick to their stomachs.

"It was like something from a science fiction movie. It was creepy," recalls Paul Makoski... Read more.

 


Tiffany SteckerFrom Tiffany SteckerScientific American

What helps organic soils store more carbon?

Phil Robertson may be on the cusp of solving a long-standing mystery.

Boosters of organic food often say the practice, which rejects synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, is a good method for curbing climate change because it stores more carbon in the soil. But aside from anecdotal observations, no one could really explain the dynamics behind why organic fields keep more carbon underground than conventional ones... Read more.

 


Jacob wheelerFrom Jacob WheelerThe Uptake

Three years later, Michigan tar sands oil disaster spells urgent warning for Midwest, Country

Sue Connolly knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. Three years ago, the resident of Marshall, a town of 7,400 in southwestern Michigan, awoke to a burning sensation in her eyes and throat that made her and her family sick.

“There was a strong odor in the air that took your breath away,” Connolly recalls. “If you tried to take a deep breath, you would feel it all the way down to your stomach. Migraine headaches, lethargy and diarrhea followed.”

Connolly and her neighbors were among the first witnesses to the July 25, 2010, Kalamazoo River oil spill — a massive pipeline rupture that dumped nearly one million gallons of bituminous crude oil into Talmadge Creek, which feeds the Kalamazoo River... Read more.

The Best of 2013, Day 9: High Country News

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.


HCN logo For Day 9 of our Best of 2013 series, we bring you not a specific journalist, nor a series, but a publication: High Country News. Winner of Utne Reader's 2013 Award for Best Environmental Coverage, HCN is a fantastic publication based in the tiny town of Paonia, Colorado, and focused on environmental news in the West. Incidentally, a dozen of their writers and contributing editors are IJNR alumni!

hcn_logo_dog_tshirtSome of the following stories require a subscription, although most don't. That being said, we can't recommend HCN highly enough, and we hear that subscriptions make great Christmas gifts! (We don't usually use the blog to promote consumerism, but you can also get great HCN swag on their website, including dog t-shirts. How great is that? Now you know what to get for that pooch who loves high-quality environment journalism.)

Without further ado, a line-up of some of the greatest hits of 2013 from our HCN alumni:

Cally CarswellFrom Cally Carswell:

The Tree Coroners: To save the West's forests, scientists must first learn how trees die

There are few better places than Frijoles Mesa to study the mortality of trees. This tongue of land lies partly within the grounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. To the west rises Cerro Grande, a mountain riddled with the charred skeletons of fir and pine trees. To the southwest are the lingering scars of another fire, one so intense that its heat alone killed trees that weren't consumed by the flames themselves... Read more.

Second Yarnell investigation reaches damning - and tragic - conclusions

Lessons from the flooded Front Range

Snapshots of a forest two years after a megafire

sarah gilmanFrom Sarah Gilman:

Will drilling cost the Arctic its wildness?

In the dark of a far-north winter night, amidst 70-mph winds, the nine-member crew of the tugboat Alert released its towline and set the Kulluk oilrig adrift on heaving seas. Loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lubrication oil and hydraulic fluid, the Kulluk ran aground off uninhabited Sitkalidak Island 45 minutes later. It was New Year’s Eve, 2012, and the Alert and the Aiviq, another boat contracted by Royal Dutch Shell, had been towing the Kulluk from Shell’s first exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, to a Seattle shipyard, when they were caught in the terrible Gulf of Alaska storm... Read more.

After South Dakota's deadly whiteout, a look at blizzards past

The Blue Window: Journeying from redrock desert to icy wasteland

A field program teaches undergrads to think differently about public lands

Sarah KellerFrom Sarah Keller:

Montana tribes will be first to own a hydroelectric dam

Most of the people who run Kerr Dam on northwest Montana's Flathead Reservation sit hundreds of miles away, and some are even across the country, in the offices of Pennsylvania Power and Light.

But that's likely to change in 2015, when the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have the option to buy the dam, thereby becoming the country's first tribal hydroelectric owners and operators. Rocky Mountain Power Company built the 205-foot-tall impoundment on the Flathead River, four miles downstream of Flathead Lake, against the will of many tribal members in 1938. Gaining control of Kerr Dam will have significant economic and cultural benefits for the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille – the three tribes of the Flathead Reservation... Read more.

New study shows how helping desert soil could save our snow

Montana takes another step toward restoring free-roaming bison herds

Climate change: moving from science to policy

Jodi petersonFrom Jodi Peterson:

Public lands with no way in

What do the Troublesome Wilderness Study Area in Colorado, the Sabinoso Wildernessand Cowboy Springs WSA in New Mexico, and the Fortification Creek WSA in Wyoming have in common?

They’re all public lands – and none of them can be reached by the public.

Western lands have long had a patchwork of owners: federal, state, local, tribal and private. In the late 1800s, the federal government gave railroad companies every other square mile along rail corridors, creating a public-private checkerboard. But because it’s illegal to even step across a corner from one public parcel to another, many of those pieces of land remain inaccessible. Others are marooned in a sea of private property with no right of way. Some landowners even illegally close public roads across their holdings... Read more.

Feeding elk - and spreading chronic wasting disease

Death in the desert

Made in the American West, consumed in China

michelle nijhuisFrom Michelle Nijhuis:

For the love of trees

Last summer, after 15 years in western Colorado, my family moved back to the Pacific Northwest. The move was a shock in many ways, taking us from dry to wet, rural to town, red politics to blue. The topography here is different, the wildlife is different, and the trees are very, very different.

But our neighbors' attachment to the forests is familiar. Whether surrounded by graceful aspen or scrubby juniper or majestic Douglas fir and western hemlocks, people care about trees in a way that goes beyond politics and logic. For most of us, forests are part of the personality of our places, and when they change, we change, too... Read more.

The mysterious reappearance of the white-bottomed bee

From other contributors:

nathan rice

 

 

Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country, by Nathan Rice

josh zaffos

 

'Port Gamble Predicament' inches toward resolution, by Josh Zaffos

 

Judith Lewis Mernit

 

Dead Southern California puma would have spread genetic diversity, by Judith Lewis Mernit

 

 

Matt Jenkins

 

New Hope for the Delta, by Matt Jenkins

 

Photo by Robert Campbell