Tag Archives: great lakes

Rich connections in District 14 affect students throughout the state

We asked Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Sea Grant educator, to share with us about a strategic connection he has made that has strengthened his impact. Brandon’s current programming efforts involve fisheries science, biodiversity conservation, sustainable coastal tourism and Great Lakes education: working with coastal communities in northeastern Michigan to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues locally.

“I value my Extension role in making connections and building relationships, and believe it’s an important role we play in our communities,” Brandon said.

Our questions and Brandon’s answers follow:

Will you tell us about a strategic connection you’ve made?

One successful educational partnership I’d like to highlight is with the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) and our leadership for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network. These relationships reflect rich connections made between schools and educators across northeastern Michigan – and the entire state – as well as fostering greater school-community partnerships. This place-based stewardship education initiative seeks to engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship projects that make a difference in the community – and so youth also are connected as community partners.

How did you go about making the connection and building relationships?

  • Seeking organizational partners, building personal relationships: Early on, we identified an opportunity (with funding) to partner with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and an emerging statewide GLSI network. With this in mind, we sought out and met regularly to recruit potential school and community partners who had mutual interests in connecting Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship with school learning opportunities.
  • Networking in regional meetings to foster relationships: In 2006, collaborating with 4-H colleagues, we hosted and facilitated the first of many regional networking meetings inviting school and community partners who had much to contribute and to gain in this Great Lakes and natural resource education conversation. This was an educational workshop also designed to serve a networking function by facilitating relationship-building and resource sharing among schools and partners. Conversations sparked during our first regional networking meeting, now an annual tradition, became the foundation for the NEMIGLSI partnership.
  • Facilitating an engaged leadership team: A regional leadership team for the NEMIGLSI was established and helped launched the initiative. This regional team still meets regularly to coordinate our educational efforts, provide shared leadership in implementing activities and collaborate around new opportunities (and securing new resources) for our growing NEMIGLSI network. Our leadership team is more than an advisory group; they are active contributors and beneficiaries in this joint programming.
  • Sharing investment, sharing successes: Leadership team partner organizations – community, school and teacher advisors – contribute significant time, expertise and resources toward NEMIGLSI network goals. In trade, we work to ensure that network programming and successes align with their own goals and educational initiatives.

What has been the outcome of this connection and how has it influenced your work and your district?

Our NEMIGLSI network and partnership is successfully fostering a growing place-based education culture in northeastern Michigan. Since 2009, more than 19,000 students (around 20 percent of student population annually) have engaged as Great Lakes stewards and valued community leaders through NEMIGLSI. This initiative has supported more than 35 schools (290 educators) from eight counties in professional development, community partners connections and stewardship project support. Numerous NEMIGLSI student projects have directly benefited Sea Grant and partner priorities helping to conserve Lake Huron’s biodiversity, map threatened and endangered species habitat, restore native fisheries, monitor water quality and vernal pool wetlands, manage invasive species, enhance aquatic habitat, investigate marine debris and more. A published program evaluation found that students value their learning experiences as hands-on and engaging, community connected, career oriented and fun. Perhaps most exciting is that students are serving as valued community and conservation partners today – and perhaps even more in their future!

Schroeder stands in the pond with three boys and is explaining the monitoring device in the water.

Schroeder engages students in wetland ecology: invasive phragmites monitoring.

Schroeder and a boy and a girl hold up a large net to do fisheries sampling.

Schroeder fisheries sampling with students during 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp

What have you learned (personally or professionally) from this connection?

  • Embrace the power in partnerships! We can all cover more ground more efficiently and effectively, and achieve deeper, richer impacts as a result of collaborative programming. Relationships and connections (or partnerships) are both organizational AND personal. They demand significant time, energy and a bit of patience to foster, and require ongoing attention, commitment and care.
  • Relationships and partner connections are equally important to our science or technical content expertise, and the educational processes and methods we use to deliver this content in communities.
  • In Extension, I have found the most vibrant and exciting projects to be at the intersections of stakeholders and opportunities that wouldn’t normally (or as regularly) cross paths. For example, connecting schools, educators and youth with Great Lakes scientists or community development partners. Many times I find that community expertise, ideas and resources abound once we have simply helped open a door for networking and relationship-building.

Thanks again to Brandon for taking time to share with us about his strategic connections. One of our great strengths in Extension is our ability to bring people, organizations and resources together to make a profound impact on our state. Each month, I’ve shared a story from each district highlighting strategic connections our colleagues have made in hopes that it will inspire all of us to reach out.

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Filed under 4-H, Conservation, Impacts, Invasive species, Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections

Southeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Network recognizes Extension educators

I would like to share the recognition several of our staff received at the recent Southeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative Network meeting. Brandon Schroeder, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute; Tracy D’Augustino, Extension educator in the Children and Youth Institute; Steve Stewart, senior Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute; and Justin Selden, program instructor in the Greening Michigan Institute; were all recognized by this group for their educational efforts.

The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative focuses on leveraging educational programs to develop knowledgeable and active stewards of the Great Lakes in the community. They collaborate with local organizations such as Michigan State University Extension to help students and teachers address important environmental issues in their communities. In the process, students learn academic content and practice the skills of problem-solving and citizenship. The work they are doing is raising awareness in communities and in young people, which will help protect our Great Lakes for years to come.

Please join me in congratulating them on their hard work and dedication to MSU Extension!

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Filed under Awards

Asian carp going viral

Our Michigan State University Extension educators write regular articles for our website, and we often find that their superb content gets a lot of attention from the public. Recently, we’ve had an article go practically viral very quickly after it was posted on Feb. 24. Dan O’Keefe’s article, “Asian Carp Being Eaten by Native Fish, New Studies Find,” quickly passed the 1,000-visit mark, and it is currently the most-read article on the MSU Extension website at 7,791 page views in less than a month.

Within days of the article’s publication, it exceeded even the traffic of the home page of the MSU Extension website. Adding to the traffic, the article was featured in Blue Water Satellite, an e-newsletter that focuses on Great Lakes issues. The biggest push of traffic came from Facebook, however, with more than 5,000 visits so far to the article directly. This post has attracted a lot of cumulative attention due to the timely nature of the study, the well-researched content, and the sharing on social networks that our friends and partners have done for us.

Great job, Dan!

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Filed under MSUE News

Before you step foot in one of our Great Lakes, know how to respond to a rip current

We can’t say it often enough, so I’m adding to the chorus: our Great Lakes are a tremendous recreational resource and anyone who lives here should make the most of them. But before stepping foot in the lakes, it’s important to be aware of the risk posed by rip currents. Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant have teamed up to lead an effort to alert people of the risks of rip currents and the remarkably straightforward way to respond if someone ever finds themselves being pulled away from shore by a current. Senior Extension and Sea Grant educator Ron Kinnunen posted a news item on the MSUE news in June, and it has been featured on our home page over the July 4 holiday and this week.

We lose too many people to rip currents every summer, and often they are young, healthy and strong. As strong as they may be, lack of knowledge about the risk of rip currents and the proper way to detect and avoid or swim out of them overwhelms their strength. The answer is simple: if you’re being pulled away from shore, simply swim parallel to shore and you’ll get yourself out of it. If you’re not sure you’re strong enough to swim out of the current, the best thing to do is just relax, let the current carry you a bit further out, and then as it dissipates farther from shore, you can swim to the side to escape the current.

Refer to the article to find out how to get out of a channel current, another dangerous current found in the Great Lakes.

Ron’s article is one that should be retweeted, “liked” and forwarded as much as possible. And if you do visit a Great Lakes beach this summer, there’s a good chance you’ll see signs and cautions about rip currents that MSUE and Michigan Sea Grant and our partners have posted in many locations.

Be sure to enjoy our lakes, and be sure you and everyone with you is aware of how to avoid or escape a rip current.

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MSU Extension works closely with award-winning teacher contributing to environmental education

One of the outstanding things about our organization is the way that our partnerships build capacity in community leaders.

 Bob Thomson, a Sanborn Elementary School teacher in Ossineke, Mich., who works closely with Michigan State University Extension, won a Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award. Through the award, Earth Force and the General Motors Foundation team up to reward educators who integrate quality environmental education into their schools. Bob works with Michigan Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 4‑H Youth Development and Huron Pines AmeriCorps program to guide his students in learning about the Thunder Bay watershed beyond the classroom.

 MSU Extension is connected with Bob Thomson’s work in three ways: 

  • The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NE MI GLSI) initially supported Bob’s work. This is a regional collaborative network, part of a statewide place-based education programming network supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. Michigan Sea Grant, partnering with 4-H, facilitated the early planning discussions dating back to 2006 in establishing this regional northeastern Michigan network. Today, Sea Grant and 4-H continue to serve as leadership partners in facilitating the NE MI GLSI work in our region. 
  • The Toyota-supported 4-H2O Project, a water science and education initiative, supports Bob and his work. The Toyota 4-H2O Project is funded by a grant from Toyota to National 4-H Council and the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Sea Grant and 4-H partners locally, co-coordinating 4-H2O efforts with the help of Extension educators Sienna Suszek and Melanie Chiodini, Extension program associate Tammy Barrett and Extension program instructor Les Thomas. 
  • Sea Grant is a direct partner to Bob’s project, supporting Great Lakes fisheries and aquatic invasive species studies conducted with his class. Brandon Schroeder, Northeast Michigan District Sea Grant Extension educator, serves as a resource expert to his class and participates in several of their exploration field trips.

 Brandon shares about Sanborn’s place-based water science education partnership, “What’s most exciting is that MSUE has been able to directly support Bob’s class through different yet complementary angles, strategically bringing to the school partnership ‘table’ both 4-H Youth Development (focused on enhancing youth learning) teaming up with Michigan Sea Grant (fostering Great Lakes science education and engagement). This reflects another great example of collaboration between two MSU Extension programs and expertise, and Bob’s class has benefited greatly as a result!”

View this video featuring Bob’s class as one of several school projects of the NE MI GLSI:

 See the October 2011 edition of “Upwellings,” a quarterly Sea Grant publication, to read more about Bob and his relationship with Sea Grant. The newsletter featured his work as an exemplary model of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programming. (See page 5.)

 Read this fact sheet for details about fifth and sixth grade students from Sanborn Elementary studying the Thunder Bay watershed through the help of these collaborations.

 These partnerships are great examples of how our work branches out, enabling others in the community to improve lives.

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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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