Wildlife

Detroit River Institute Dispatch from the Road: Day Two

The Detroit River crew continued their adventures on Friday with a day focused on rivers, wetlands, water quality, and conservation efforts.

Check out the Storify synopsis of Day 2 of the Institute!

Detroit River Institute Gets Underway!

At this very moment, journalists from throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states, and Midwest are descending on Detroit to begin their four-day whirlwind tour of the city and its natural resource issues.

We have a great line-up of stops and speakers, and we can’t wait to meet everyone and get the bus rolling – literally! Topics we’ll cover include: Rewilding the Detroit River, the conflicts between residential and industrial neighbors, environmental justice, international trade, clear-air regulations, wastewater, wetlands, nutrient pollution, wildlife conservation, and urban agriculture. Whew!

We’ll visit the 48217 area – Michigan’s “most polluted zip code,” and we’ll stop at Ambassador Bridge, where 10,000 diesel trucks idle each day as they wait to cross. We’ll meet with representatives of the EPA and Michigan DEQ, to discuss efforts to reduce air pollution – especially sulfur dioxide, which is a leading air pollutant tied to asthma and other health issues.  We’ll stop at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant, which is changing its image as a major point-source polluter.

We’ll go to Belle Isle, and learn how to restore a river, one wetland at a time, and we’ll see the Blue Heron Lagoon restoration project that’s providing important habitat. We’ll get out on the river with Detroit Riverkeeper, to visit areas of concern, and learn how a bi-national commission is working to clean them up. The group will tour the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the only such refuge in North America. And finally, the group will get a day-long immersion in urban agriculture – by bicycle.

We hope that you’ll follow along digitally, as we’ll be posting highlights to Twitter (#ijnr_detroit ) and Facebook, and we’ll offer daily dispatches from the road here on the blog.

And last but not least, we’d like to congratulate and welcome all the journalists who will be joining us on this trip!

Introducing the 2014 Detroit River Institute Fellows 

Jim Bloch – The Voice (St. Clair, MI)
Mary Ann Colihan – Freelance writer/producer; book author
Steve Furay – Michigan Citizen; Common Breath Media
Weenta Girmay – Freelance multimedia journalist
Tom Henry – The Blade (Toledo, OH)
Tim Lougheed – Freelance writer/editor
James McCarty – The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
Alexa Mills – The Boston Globe
Peter Moskowitz – Freelance writer
Hannah Northey – E&E Publishing
Elizabeth Royte – Freelancer writer; book author
Zoe Schlanger – Newsweek
Kristina Smith Horn – Port Clinton News Herald and The News-Messenger (Ohio)
Al Smith – Freelance writer

Earth Month, Day 15: Whales and Sustainability in Uruguay

Carol Ann BasettFor today's Earth Month offering, we bring you something a little different. From alumna Carol Ann Bassett, who teaches environmental writing and journalism at the University of Oregon, comes an innovative project. In her own words:

I direct a new & on-going Study Abroad Program through the University of Oregon's Office of International Affairs: "Environmental Multimedia in Uruguay." The program is similar to the core values and design of IJNR as expedition-style immersion journalism on environmental issues. Last fall I worked with a team of eight students (mostly juniors) over an intensive 4-week period in Uruguay. We became the first journalists in the world to ever document Uruguay's Route of the Whale, from its beginning in the hillside town of Piriapolis to the Brazilian border at Chuy. The result is our website, which was released a few months ago. It's bilingual -- and my faith in environmental multimedia on an international level has taken a quantum leap!

Check out their great work here - Route of the Whale - and watch a video synopsis, below:

[vimeo 79445302 w=500 h=281]

 

Earth Month, Day 14: Peeing Wolves and Scientific Bling

On today's installment of Earth Month, we bring you the ongoing tale of a wolf named OR7 (lonely no more!) and a bracelet that's helping scientists understand pollution: Cally CarswellFirst, from Cally Carswell with High Country News, a look at OR7's new friend:

Against All Odds, Wolf OR7 May Have Found a Mate

OR7's lady-friend. Photo courtesy USFWS / Oregon Department of Wildlife.

On May 3, a wolf slipped through the frame of a remote camera in southwestern Oregon, a blur of black and brown. The next day, under the cover of darkness, it stared directly at a camera, eyes aglow, and did something ordinary that, under the circumstances, was an extraordinary sight: It squatted and peed. This was a she-wolf.

Her gender had big implications because a famous he-wolf, known as OR7, was right nearby. OR7 rocketed to celebrity in 2011, when he was two years old. He ditched his pack in northeastern Oregon that year and went where no wolf had gone for decades. He traveled south through Oregon, crossing I-84 and four U.S. highways, and became the first wolf known to have been west of the Cascades since 1947. Then, he slipped over the border into California, giving his species a presence in that state for the first time in almost a century... Read more.

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BrianBienkowskiAnd, from Brian Bienkowski with Environmental Health News, the scoop on some new scientific jewelry:

Armed with Arm Candy: Bracelets Can Detect People's Chemical Exposures

Wristbands are the accessory of choice for people promoting a cause. And the next wave of wrist wear might act as a fashionable archive of your chemical exposure.

Researchers at Oregon State University outfitted volunteers with slightly modified silicone bracelets and then tested them for 1,200 substances. They detected several dozen compounds – everything from caffeine and cigarette smoke to flame retardants and pesticides.

“We were surprised at the breadth of chemicals,” said Kim Anderson, a professor and chemist who was senior author of the study published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Beginning with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, the cheap, colorful, rubbery wristbands have been a popular fad over the past decade in promoting charities and other affiliations.

Anderson initially tried to use silicone pendants attached to necklaces to test for contaminants. But then, at a football game she saw “all kinds of people, even burly men” sporting wristbands. That’s when the idea hit her.

Silicone is porous and acts similar to human cells, so once chemicals are absorbed by the wristband, “they don’t want to go back to the water or the air,” Anderson said... Read more. 

Bienkowski_Clark_wristbands

Earth Month, Day 13: Four-part Lake Series

Today on Earth Month, a dynamic duo of alumni present a four-part series examining threats to the quality of Wisconsin lakes, and ambitious new efforts that seek to improve them.  Also, how can you not love the incredible quote they got to lead off the story?

“There are no trends in the lakes. The lake water quality is not getting better. It’s not getting notably worse. It’s as if the interventions we’re doing are just holding the line, running in place like the red queen in Alice in Wonderland.”             - Steve Carpenter, University of Madison

 

Kate GoldenJessica VanEgerenWithout further ado, here's Kate Golden, with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Jessica VanEgeren with The Capital Times, partnering up to bring you:

 

Murky Waters

PART 1: BEACH BUMMER Yahara beach closures highlight algae, bacteria threats statewide

PART 2: MANURE MESS Manure digesters seen as best hope for curbing lake pollution, but drawbacks remain

PART 3: URBAN POLLUTION Leaky sewer pipes could export viruses to lakes

PART 4: CHALLENGES AHEAD Lake scientists to Kegonsa: Lower your water quality expectations

A experimental boom surrounded Madison’s B.B. Clarke beach in 2010 to keep out algae, though it ended up being closed June 24 for high E. coli levels. Algae and bacteria are the prime causes for beach closures throughout the Madison area and the state. Mike DeVries/The Capital Times

Earth Month, Day 12: Bone Collectors and Fish Ladders

Today on Earth Month we bring you two stories about aquatic critters, and the people interested in them: lauren sommerFirst, from Lauren Sommer with KQED Public Media, a look at how one man's quirky pastime is helping protect sea life in California:

For San Francisco Bone Collector, Skulls Are a Lifelong Love Affair

There are hobbies and then there are lifelong passions. Ray Bandar’s passion is finding and cleaning skulls.

For six decades, Bandar has been making a quiet contribution to science, harvesting the bones of dead animals on the California coast and amassing an impressive collection of skulls. On Friday the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is opening a new exhibit of skulls that features his work.

Bandar keeps his own collection in the basement of his San Francisco home. The “bone palace,” as he calls it, holds close to 7,000 skulls and skeletons, stacked floor to ceiling. He organizes the shelves by species, including seals, sea lions, leopards, cheetahs, horses, zebras, giraffes and dolphins.

“This is largest animal that lives and breeds in California,” Bandar says, holding up an elephant seal skull. “That’s an adult female.”

Bandar is a spritely 86-year-old with an encyclopedic knowledge of the bones. “Sixty years at Ocean Beach, I’ve been decapitating dead marine mammals,” he says... Read and hear more.

There are almost 7,000 skulls and skeletons in Bandar’s San Francisco basement. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)

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rebecca kesslerAnd from Rebecca Kessler reporting for Yale Environment 360, a story about how nature's own designs may be the best way to help fish:

Mimicking Nature, New Designs Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

On a chilly April morning, when the buds had opened just enough to cast a faint red haze on the trees, Jim Turek drove me out to see how his latest construction project was faring after a long winter. In December, work crews completed a project designed to let fish swim over the old Kenyon Mill Dam spanning the Pawcatuck River in Richmond, Rhode Island. The dam, and one that probably preceded it, had been blocking the fish’s path from the sea to their upriver spawning grounds since the 1700s. What was once likely an annual migration of hundreds of thousands of river herring and tens of thousands of American shad had dwindled to just a few hundred fish. Runs of Atlantic salmon had long since disappeared. 

This was not your typical fish ladder — narrow concrete, metal, or wood contraptions that look a bit like flooded pedestrian highway overpasses. Instead, work crews had installed boulders in sweeping arcs or V-shaped formations clear across the river to create a series of broad pools. These ramped gradually from the natural riverbed up the now nearly submerged 5-foot-tall dam, whose top they had replaced... Read more. 

A new "nature-like" fish passage on Rhode Island's Pawcatuck River that has been carefully designed to accommodate the particular swimming capabilities and behavioral quirks of river herring and shad. The new passageway enables migratory fish to move around the Kenyon Mill Dam. However, three dams downstream are still blocking fish passage. (Photo credit: Rebecca Kessler)

 

 

 

Earth Month, Day 10: Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Betsy KulmanToday on Earth Month we bring you Betsy Kulman's story about the politically complicated business of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, in Al Jazeera America. How the Chesapeake Bay Became a New Front in States' vs. Federal Rights

ROCK HALL, Md. – Since the 1960s, Chesapeake Bay waterman Dave Kirwin has seen the waters where he earns his livelihood overwhelmed with a combination of agricultural and industrial runoff, sediment and wastewater from sewage-treatment plants.

“When they started using fertilizer, stepping that up in agriculture, and the runoff, that’s what killed all the grasses,” he said of the plants that once poked up along the entire coastline. “I’ve worked on this water for 48 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes. And not any of them good.”

For 30 years, the six states surrounding the bay have pledged to clean it up.

But with no financial penalties, their numerous voluntary agreements have failed to limit pollution in the watershed that’s home to 17.5 million Americans. So in 2009, President Obama stepped in, inadvertently setting off a fight that has made the bay an unexpected but critical battleground in the broader war between states' versus federal rights... Read and watch more.

Waterman Dave Kirwin has been fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for decades, and his seen it transform firsthand. (Photo courtesy America Tonight)