Category Archives: natural resources

MSU Extension collaboration and CDC initiative receives positive press coverage

The March 26 Marquette Area Climate and Health Adaptation Workshop, a multi-organization collaboration to discuss health and climate change issues, received positive press from Local 3 News and the Mining Journal last week. The workshop is one of three, and is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative. The goal of these workshops is to design interventions to address climate- and health-related issues in the area. Pat Crawford, associate professor in the School of Planning, Design and Construction, and Extension specialist Wayne Beyea are the co-principal investigators on this project.

The collaboration involves Michigan State University Extension, the Marquette County Climate Adaptation Task Force, the Marquette County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“The project demonstrates how MSU Extension can help bring multidisciplinary teams together to solve problems,” said Wayne.

I’d like to send a huge thank you to Wayne, Pat, Marquette residents and all of our collaborators for coming together around this important initiative.

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MNFI scientist quoted in Wall Street Journal

In a previous Spotlight article, I featured Dr. Joelle Gehring’s selection by the Partners in Flight Awards Committee for a national award for her contributions toward bird conservation, specifically her work on bird collisions with communications towers. Joelle is a senior conservation scientist in Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI).

Joelle was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article on turning off steady warning lights to avoid bird-tower collisions. Read the article here.

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Director of MNFI to serve on NatureServe council

Dr. Brian Klatt, director of Michigan State University Extension‘s Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), was appointed to the U.S. Section Council of NatureServe.

 Sound natural resource management begins with knowing the extent, status and diversity of our natural resources. NatureServe, a non-profit conservation organization, represents an international network of biological inventories known as natural heritage programs. A natural heritage program exists in each of the 50 states, many of the Canadian provinces and a number of Latin American countries.

 The MNFI serves as the natural heritage program for Michigan. As such, MNFI maintains the most comprehensive database on threatened, endangered, and other rare species and high quality habitats in the state and conducts research into a variety of conservation issues. In the best Extension tradition, MNFI uses this information to inform decision makers as to sound conservation practices at individual landowner, local government, non-governmental organization, state agency and federal levels.

 NatureServe aggregates the information maintained by these programs into an international database. As a member of the U.S. Section Council, Dr. Klatt will provide input into the direction and annual goals of NatureServe and help coordinate activities across the network in the U.S. We’re fortunate to have Dr. Klatt’s leadership on behalf of Michigan and MNFI’s connection to MSUE.

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Federal grants extend MSU Extension Firewise efforts

Each year between 8,000 and 10,000 wildfires occur in Michigan. These include forest fires, brush fires and grass fires that damage homes, property and public facilities. Michigan State University Extension has been actively engaged in providing wildfire prevention education since 2002 when former MSU Extension emergency management specialist Mark Hansen collaborated with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to pilot the Firewise Communities Program in southern Michigan.

 As Mark was able to obtain additional funding through USDA Forest Service and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grants, Firewise programming was expanded to the Upper Peninsula, northern Lower Peninsula and select Lake Michigan shoreline counties in southwestern and central Michigan. Since 2002, MSU Extension has received more than $1 million in federal grants to support the Firewise program.

 Though Mark officially retired from MSU Extension in December 2007, he agreed to remain as Firewise project director until June 30, 2011. At that time, Extension educator Elaine Bush assumed leadership duties for the statewide program in addition to providing Firewise educational programming in the northwest Lower Peninsula. Joining Elaine in providing Firewise programming are MSU Extension educators Mike Schira, Dave Andersen, Beth Clawson, Russ Kidd and Dennis McClure. Elaine, Dennis and Mike also applied to their respective counties for Title III funding that has provided each of them with a part-time staff person, greatly expanding their ability to provide local programming.

 The Firewise Project continues to expand. Over the past year, the Firewise team has reached more than 6 million listeners, viewers, program participants and local decision makers in Extension programs and media efforts. You can learn more about Firewise by signing up for the online session being offered during Fall Extension Conference by Elaine Bush and Paul Kollmeyer, MDNR state Firewise liaison.

 You can read about the national Firewise Communities Program here: http://www.firewise.org/ The staff in Agriculture and Natural Resources Technology Services recently redesigned the MSU Firewise website (http://firewise.msu.edu/). Continue to check the site for current information.

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Extension educator to present at Natural Resources Commission meeting

Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant (MSG) Extension educator, has been invited to present at the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) Parks Advisory Committee meeting today (Aug. 11) at the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health in Lansing. The NRC is a seven-member public body whose members are appointed by the governor and subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioner Hurley Coleman chairs the committee. Kelley Smith, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) acting natural resources deputy, and Jim Dexter, MDNR acting fisheries chief, invited Mary to present the Detroit River fish consumption communications project after learning about it at the Lake Erie Citizens Fishery Advisory Council meeting earlier this year. Mary will have an opportunity to talk to the commission about her work in the Detroit area that focuses on communicating fish advisory information to fish consumers.

 In 2007, MSG requested proposals for projects addressing issues of importance in AOCs (areas of concern). As a result, Dr. Donna Kashian, assistant professor at Wayne State University, was funded for a three-year project to explore the causes, consequences and correctives of fish contamination in the Detroit River. Mary helped Donna identify local stakeholders and invited them to participate in the project. Prior to the first stakeholder meeting in 2009, some of Donna’s students conducted a survey of people fishing along the Detroit River. The survey revealed that people were either not aware of fish consumption advisories (FCAs), did not understand them or did not believe them. At the first stakeholder meeting, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) requested assistance in developing new ways of communicating the advisories. As a result, a subcommittee was formed and began developing a strategy for improving access to, and communication of, the advisories. Subcommittee members included Michigan State University Extension natural resources educator Gary Williams and representatives from Friends of the Detroit River, MDNR Fisheries, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Wayne County Department of Public Health, Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion and the Detroit Recreation Department.

 Previously, FCAs were communicated through a lengthy statewide booklet that was distributed at the point-of-sale when fishing licenses were purchased. Due to budget constraints, booklets are now only available on the Web. The booklet was also technical, could be confusing and is often viewed as very negative. The subcommittee wanted the new materials to be a positive piece that provided information about the healthy benefits of eating fish and balanced that with the need to include cautionary fish consumption information. This was a significant change in communication strategy. The subcommittee developed brochures, signage, fliers and outreach activities, and the MDCH has since updated their website and other materials using this positive strategy. The MDCH has also received two grants through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to expand the program to areas throughout the state.

 Find more information about Michigan’s fish consumption advisories at http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-54783_54784_54785—,00.html.

 Find more information on the FCA project at http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/fisheries/detroit-river-fish-consumption-advisory.html.

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Michigan Sea Grant Extension testifies at Senate committee

Michigan Sea Grant Extension (MSGE), represented by Chuck Pistis, Sea Grant Extension program coordinator, and Ron Kinnunen, Sea Grant senior district Extension educator in the Upper Peninsula, was invited to provide testimony at the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee, chaired by Sen. Goeff Hansen.

 The committee convened to better understand what can be done to enhance education and outreach opportunities to Michigan residents and tourists on the dangers of rip and channel currents in Michigan’s Great Lakes. In 2010, rip currents claimed 29 lives in the Great Lakes with many of those occurring in Lake Michigan.

 Ron and Chuck provided testimony, and they also leveraged the partnership we have with the University of Michigan through Michigan Sea Grant to engage other experts. They included Guy Meadows and Heidi Purcell from the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering faculty at Michigan and Bob Dukesherer from the National Weather Service. Ron and Chuck’s presentation featured the work their team has performed to educate municipalities, agencies, residents and tourists across Michigan coastal counties on rip current awareness and beach-goer safety. They also discussed what actions are needed to enhance education and outreach on this important topic.

 In April, Michigan Sea Grant hosted the Michigan Water Safety Conference, which generated a statewide committee to address the matter of reducing rip current casualties more thoroughly. Members of the Michigan Sea Grant Extension team are now exploring possibilities of rip current warnings accessed through mobile technology and mobile devices.

 Sen. John Proos is seeking to introduce legislation on developing some statewide consistency on how communities communicate beach hazards via a flag system. The statewide committee formed in April at the conference will be utilized to obtain input.

 At the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Meeting held June 19–22 in Sheboygan, Wis., Ron Kinnunen, along with colleagues from Minnesota Sea Grant and Wisconsin Sea Grant, received the 2011 Dairyland Surf Classic Award for outstanding work in rip current safety in the Great Lakes.

 For more information on rip current safety, please visit http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/rip/.

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Fishing for solutions

I’ve spent the past two Fridays attending legislative public meetings in coastal communities on lakes Huron and Michigan to learn more about the threats posed by invasive species to the Great Lakes. The meetings resulted from a discussion with Rep. Holly Hughes of Muskegon earlier this year, in which she asked what Michigan State University Extension could do to help inform the public about the potential threats of silver carp and bighead carp if they were to become established in the Great Lakes. These and several other species, including grass carp and black carp, are commonly referred to as Asian carp species.

 Silver carp, bighead carp and grass carp have established large populations in the Illinois River. This has dramatically altered the entire Illinois River ecosystem, devastating populations of once abundant native species that had been the basis of commercial and recreational fisheries. The silver carp pose a safety risk given their habit of leaping out of the water as boats pass by, occasionally striking boat occupants and causing injury. A constructed channel connects the headwaters of the Illinois River with the Chicago River and Calumet River, which drain into Lake Michigan. With those connections, there is a high likelihood that the Asian carp species may move into Lake Michigan, and if they become established in the Great Lakes, they could dramatically alter the dynamics of the lake ecosystems and perhaps disrupt the valuable fisheries we have in our lakes and rivers.

 In the public meetings, Dan O’Keefe, Sea Grant Extension educator in Ottawa County, led off the presentations with a very thorough and up-to-date summary of the status and potential threats of these species if they become established in the Great Lakes. He was followed by Dave Clapp, fisheries research biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, who explained the plan that MDNR has developed to prevent and if necessary to respond to potential introduction of these invasive species to Michigan waters.

 What is most striking from participating in all four of the sessions is that the most reliable solution we have is one that is very difficult to achieve: never allow the Asian carp species into the Great Lakes. Prevention is by far the most certain way of managing the risk these species pose, and prevention requires actions by everyone. After boating elsewhere, boaters need to be sure they clean and check their boats, trailers and other equipment before bringing them back into Michigan waters to be sure they aren’t bringing along aquatic hitchhikers. Managers of waters that may allow for fish to swim into the Great Lakes can install and operate preventive measures such as the use of physical barriers or electric weirs to prevent fish from entering the Great Lakes.

 I was pleased to see the public respond to this challenge as they realized that there is no simple answer, no silver bullet, either to prevent the introduction of these species or to remove them if they become established. When your best solution is an informed public that is motivated to do the right thing, it will take a lot of meetings and other communication efforts to ensure that we benefit from best practices. Thanks to Dan and Dave for their willingness to spend a few Fridays informing concerned Michigan residents about these important matters.

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