Tag Archives: michigan sea grant

Coming together to save lives: Strategic connections in District 2

Ronald Kinnunen is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator in the Upper Peninsula. He provides technical and educational programs in his district and statewide in the areas of Great Lakes commercial fisheries and aquaculture. Michigan Sea Grant, an MSU Extension collaboration with the University of Michigan (UM), is connected to more than 40 coastal counties in the state.

Headshot of Ron Kinnunen.

Ron Kinnunen, photo courtesy of Ron.

Some of the programs Ron delivers are Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Aquatic Invasive Species HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity. Another important program has been educating the public about dangerous currents in the Great Lakes including rip, channel, longshore, structural and outlet currents. Since 1999, Ron has built and maintained partnerships and strategic connections around educating the public about these currents in order to save lives.

Twelve-year-old Travis Brown’s death in the summer of 1998 followed a similar pattern of drownings at the Hiawatha National Forest Service Campground, and U.S. Forest Service personnel began to question the safety of their waters for swimmers. Ron and Mary Kostecki, who was the Mackinac County Extension director at the time, were the first to meet with the U.S. Forest Service on the drowning issues. As a result, Ron and Mary led the formation of the Mackinac County Water Safety Review Team (MCWSRT). They facilitated bringing many groups to the table to join the team. Team members included Travis Brown’s family, the Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police, the Mackinac County Office of Emergency Services, MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, Allied EMS, Mackinac County 911, the St. Ignace News, the National Weather Service, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Departments, the Hiawatha National Forest, First National Bank of St. Ignace, Cellular One, the Dunes Shore Resort, Moran Township, state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and the University of Michigan Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory.

The review team’s first task was to address drownings along the U.S. 2 shoreline and work to prevent future drownings. The group coordinated with emergency management personnel from several agencies, provided public service announcements in local media during the summer months, developed educational brochures and a traveling display, and placed signs warning swimmers of possible dangerous currents in the area of concern. Through these measures, the team was able to increase public awareness about dangerous currents along the northern Lake Michigan shoreline so swimmers and parents of young swimmers could take appropriate precautionary measures.

Additionally, the review team coordinated several public awareness days. At these events, information was presented on how dangerous currents develop and what swimmers can do to escape them. The team also provided tours of the safety stations that were placed every mile along the areas of concern. The stations include life rings, life jackets and a surf rescue board to facilitate the rescue of swimmers in trouble. The Michigan State Police and Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department now carry safety equipment in their patrol cars so they are ready to assist in dangerous current-related accidents.

Bringing everyone together was not always easy. In the beginning, Ron brought research results from Guy Meadows of the UM lab, confirming dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. He presented it to the National Weather Service office in Marquette. Many there were skeptical that dangerous currents existed in the Great Lakes. Over time, the National Weather Service participated in the team’s workshops and education and is now one of their strongest allies. The National Weather Service forecasts for these dangerous currents all over the Great Lakes. Ron’s efforts to reach out and bring in this partner resulted in families having access to National Weather Service forecasts that continue to save lives.

Ron and the review team’s efforts and accomplishments have become a model of efficiency and collaboration for other regional efforts throughout the Great Lakes

“I quickly learned that these efforts would be valuable in other Great Lakes coastal communities that experience dangerous currents,” he said.

He reached out to other Great Lakes Sea Grant programs and coordinated the first Great Lakes Rip Current conference that took place in St. Ignace.

“Additional partnerships were developed in the region working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network where National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Storms funds were received to purchase water safety and rescue equipment that has been deployed throughout the Great Lakes region where dangerous currents exist,” Ron said.

The MCWSRT was able to accomplish amazing tasks in a relatively short time and their efforts have been effective in saving lives. People are becoming aware of the potential dangers of Great Lakes dangerous currents and that there is safety equipment available in many areas in case of an emergency.

Jim Lucas, District 2 coordinator, witnessed the impact of Ron’s strategic connections.

“All the research and awareness of rip currents did not exist until Ron listened and networked the research, trained the EMT folks, networked with the Weather Channel and NOAA Weather … Ron makes connections that work,” Jim said. “By Ron listening, providing feedback, re-evaluating and networking with partner agencies, countless people have been saved because of this connection.”

Michigan Sea Grant also has been proud of the work Ron has accomplished.

“Ron has been a tremendous collaborator and community partner in the U.P. and throughout Michigan. He has covered a lot of territory for Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension for many years and we’ve long wanted to get him some additional help.” said Heather Triezenberg, Extension specialist and Michigan Sea Grant program coordinator. “We have just started a new partnership to house our new Sea Grant Extension educator Elliot Nelson on the campus of Lake Superior State University. Ron will play an important part in helping Elliot establish strategic connections in District 2 as Elliot develops his Extension programming to address needs in the region. However, Ron will continue to provide his training and educational expertise throughout the entire region.”

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Michigan Sea Grant receives positive feedback in review process

This week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Michigan Sea Grant Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Assessment. As part of the program evaluation that the National Sea Grant Office does every four years, each state program has a site review to determine the success of its performance. We have a very special relationship with University of Michigan in which the Michigan State University Extension Greening Michigan Institute supports efforts to carry out Michigan Sea Grant programs throughout Michigan.

The review took place at Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit, and included presentations from Jim Diana, director of Michigan Sea Grant; Catherine Riseng, research program manager for Michigan Sea Grant; Bill Taylor, associate director for Michigan Sea Grant; Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant management team; and Heather Triezenberg, program coordinator for Michigan Sea Grant Extension. Our Sea Grant educator team of Steve Stewart, Mary Bohling, Mark Breederland, Ron Kinnunen, Dan O’Keefe and Brandon Schroeder paired with stakeholders and collaborators to effectively tell of our partnerships and describe the impact of our programs.

Preliminary feedback from the review was very positive, and the review panel indicated that Michigan Sea Grant would be rated among the top of the country. The final results of the report are expected in late December. The team also indicated that there is an unusually high level of collaboration between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, which is very high praise to receive.

I’m very impressed with the work that our staff illustrated through their review and hope that our collaboration continues to thrive!

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Our colleagues shine in ANREP

I recently heard from Michigan State University senior Extension educator Dean Solomon about an award one of our colleagues won at the recent Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals (ANREP) Biennial Conference that took place May 18 to 22 in Sacramento, California. ANREP is a national association of Cooperative Extension Service professionals working in environmental education, fisheries, forestry, wood sciences, range, recreation, waste management, water, wildlife and related disciplines.

 During the event, Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator, won the poster competition Gold Award for her entry “Creating Sustainable Fish Communities Through Habitat Restoration in the Huron-to-Erie Corridor.” (I find the subject of the poster MOST agreeable!) The award took first place among 57 academic posters. This project involves Mary and collaborators from Michigan Sea Grant, the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

 Dean doesn’t like to toot his own horn but I’d like to mention here that he is currently ANREP national president-elect, assuming that role at the beginning of this year. In January 2015, he will become president, then past-president in 2016. You may recall that Dean was a recipient this February of the MSU Distinguished Academic Staff award.

 Congratulations to Mary and her collaborators ‒ and to Dean!

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Sea Grant co-recipient of national conservation award

Michigan Sea Grant was co-recipient of a prestigious honor when the Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative (now called St. Clair Detroit River System Initiative or SCDRS) received the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award from Sally Jewell, secretary of the interior.

Mary Bohling, Sea Grant Extension educator, is involved in the initiative and attended the award ceremony Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C., along with representatives of co-recipients including the U.S. Geological Survey, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. (For a list of the initiative’s collaborators, click on huron-erie.org/partners.html.)

The Partners in Conservation Award recognizes groups that make exceptional contributions in achieving conservation goals through collaboration and partnering.

Michigan Sea Grant is a founding member of the initiative’s steering committee, which includes federal, tribal, state, provincial, local and nongovernmental partners working together since 2004 to address aquatic resource and management needs in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit and St. Clair rivers. Michigan Sea Grant has managed more than $3.7 million to support the restoration and evaluation of fish spawning habitat in the river system. Since the first restoration project at Belle Isle, Sea Grant has been the lead organization for three fish habitat restoration grants and will oversee reef construction efforts at two additional sites in 2014.

Approximately 2.5 acres of restored spawning habitat increased the spawning success of more than 12 native fish species. By the end of the 2014, initiative partners will have created nearly 10 acres of deep water, rocky spawning habitat for lake sturgeon, lake whitefish and walleye in the river system helping boost populations of these valuable fish.

When asked about the award, Mary said, “It is an honor to be a part of such an amazing team of scientists, educators and engaged citizens all working to improve conditions for fish and wildlife in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers and Lake St. Clair and to be recognized by the secretary of the interior.”

Michigan Sea Grant College Program is a cooperative program of the University of Michigan (UM) and Michigan State University (MSU) and is part of the National Sea Grant College Program. Michigan Sea Grant receives core funding from National Sea Grant within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Matching funds come from the UM, MSU, additional Michigan universities and other nonfederal sources.

Read more in the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Awards Ceremony program: www.doi.gov/news/upload/PIC-2013-Final-Event-Program-1-16-2014.pdf

Read more and see a photo of the recipients in Mary’s MSU Extension News article: msue.anr.msu.edu/news/michigan_and_ontario_groups_earn_prestigious_department_of_interior_partner

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Summery Discovery Cruise interrupted by dramatic rescue

During the summer, Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks collaborate to offer educational cruises to the public on Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. The Summer Discovery Cruises (SDC) allow participants to learn about various aspects of these bodies of water depending on the cruise theme – and there are more than 20 themes to choose from.

Retired MSU Extension educator Patrick Livingston narrates the Bob-lo Island Cruise. Patrick is the ideal person for the job since he’s author of Summer Dreams: The Story of Bob-lo Island¸ a history of the island recognized by the Library of Michigan as a Michigan Notable Book of 2009.

On August 11, the education vessel the E/V Clinton carried passengers enjoying the Bob-lo Island Cruise. In addition to Patrick, senior Sea Grant Extension educator Steve Stewart and Extension program workers Elizabeth Nebel and Jenna Roy provided expertise. All are experienced SDC and Great Lakes Education Program (GLEP) instructors. Captain Norm Raymond piloted the ship.

During the cruise, Captain Raymond heard Sarnia, Canada, Coast Guard Radio broadcast a Mayday distress call regarding a personal watercraft going in circles with nobody on board. The captain informed the MSU Extension staff of the alert and asked them to keep an eye out for anybody in the water. Anyone in that position that day would be in trouble. The air temperature at 71 degrees and a wind speed of 11 mph created conditions for cold water and waves a foot high.

The captain soon spotted two people clinging to a buoy. As the Clinton approached the buoy, one of the people began to swim toward the boat and climbed the boarding ladder our staff had deployed. The staff assisted the shivering teenager to a seat. He explained that he and his father had been on a Jet Ski and the choppy waves threw them off. The current took the Jet Ski into the lake and they could not safely attempt to retrieve it, choosing instead to cling to the buoy. He thought they had been in the water approximately 45 minutes. Fortunately, both he and his father were wearing personal flotation devices.

As the boat came about to retrieve the boy’s father still clinging to the buoy, a Canadian Coast Guard vessel approached at high speed. The Clinton stood off as crew in the Canadian vessel pulled him from the water. As soon as the Canadian Coast Guard vessel crew members had secured the father aboard, they came alongside the Clinton and our staff transferred the young man to the Coast Guard boat. The Coast Guard vessel then went to retrieve the Jet Ski and the Summer Discovery Cruise continued.

After the cruise, our MSU Extension staff reflected on the rescue, the need for safety aboard any vessel regardless of size and the fact that safety training each season – including man-overboard drills – had prepared them to act quickly, calmly and effectively.

They acted so calmly that one participant wrote on the cruise evaluation form: “We especially enjoyed the rescue re-enactment – well done!”

If you’re interested in learning more about these local bodies of water, consider participating in a Summer Discovery Cruise next summer. Find all the details at www.discoverycruises.org.

Steve Stewart said, “While we don’t promise excitement of this magnitude on every Summer Discovery Cruise, we can promise that participants will have a unique learning experience.”

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MSU Extension named to Hall of Fame

Before last month, I didn’t even know that Michigan has an Environmental Hall of Fame. I was chagrined to be ignorant about it, but I learned last Thursday that it has only been in existence for a year or two.

On May 9 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan State University Extension, along with one other organization and three individuals were inducted into the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame. MSU Extension was inducted into the hall for “providing environmental education to the people of Michigan.” MSU Extension is credited with helping to make Michigan’s environment a cleaner and healthier place to live. I’d like to think we’ve helped it be a more economically successful state as well, building on the natural assets that we share.

The Muskegon Environmental Research and Education Society formed the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in 2012. The society is in the process of raising funds for a new Education Center at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve in North Muskegon. The completed center will house an exhibit featuring Hall of Fame members.

Other inductees last week included former Governor William Milliken, Dr. Howard Tanner, former president of the Muskegon Conservation Club Fred Wilder and the Huron Pines organization.

It was heartening to hear someone else recognize the long record of service our programs have provided and the impacts they have on participants. Our work in coastal communities through the Michigan Sea Grant partnership with the University of Michigan; our programs on forest, fish and wildlife management; our work in natural resource-based tourism; our 4-H Youth Conservation Council; our partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission ‒ all are examples of the contributions we’ve made to science-based resource management and utilization. For all who have contributed to these and similar programs in the past and present, and will continue to contribute in the future, this award belongs to you. You can view a nice plaque in room 108 Agriculture Hall.  Thanks to Ron Brown for sharing his photographs from the event.


Michigan State University Extension Director Tom Coon spoke of his appreciation for the honor bestowed on MSU Extension

On May 9, 2013, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., Michigan State University Extension Director Tom Coon spoke of his appreciation for the honor bestowed on MSU Extension in recognition of their long-standing commitment to educational programming that supports stewardship of Michigan’s natural heritage. Photo credit: Ron Brown


One feature that made the induction ceremony particularly notable for me personally was that Dr. Howard Tanner, former director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and former director of natural resources at MSU, was inducted for his individual achievements. Dr. Tanner has been recognized widely for his contributions to conservation in Michigan, credited, along with Dr. Wayne Tody, for the introduction of Pacific salmon species to the Great Lakes in the 1960s, which has generated a recreational fishery currently valued at more than $4 billion in total economic impact. But there’s more to Dr. Tanner’s conservation legacy, and I hope to read his telling of those stories in book form in the near future. Dr. Tanner has had a long affiliation with my home department, Fisheries and Wildlife, so it was a special treat to share the evening with him.

2013 inductees to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame included (left to right) former Gov. William Milliken (represented by his son Bill Milliken), Dr. Howard Tanner, Mr. Fred Wilder, Huron Pines organization (represented by Brad Jensen) and Michigan State University Extension (represented by Director Thomas Coon).

On May 9, 2013, at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013 inductees to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame included (left to right) former Gov. William Milliken (represented by his son Bill Milliken), Dr. Howard Tanner, Mr. Fred Wilder, Huron Pines organization (represented by Brad Jensen) and Michigan State University Extension (represented by Director Thomas Coon). Photo credit: Ron Brown


Filed under Awards

Scientific study leads students to success in Eco Challenge

A team of eighth-grade students from Harper Woods Middle School won a $15,000 prize in the Final Challenge of the Lexus Eco Challenge. The team had previously earned $10,000 in scholarships and grants in a preliminary round, which qualified them to participate in the Final Challenge that took place in January and February.

The middle school is in Harper Woods, a city in Wayne County on Detroit’s northeast border. The school serves urban youth, kids who previously have had little to no exposure to the natural world of shorelines and lake waters.

The team, the Eco H20 Preservers coached by teacher June Teisan, entered the Land and Water Challenge part of the contest. They investigated water pollution in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provided guidance and financial support for the development of Basic Observation Buoys (BOBs) and Basic Information Floats (BIFs) the students used to collect water quality data.

The Michigan Sea Grant Extension and Harper Woods connection began in 2007 when senior Extension educator Steve Stewart met June at a Great Lakes Observing System workshop hosted by Michigan Sea Grant Extension. June was interested in involving her students in Great Lakes studies and stewardship, and using Great Lakes data in the classroom was a way to begin. At the time, Steve served as Michigan coordinator for the Great Lakes Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Great Lakes), a multi-state project funded by the NSF and NOAA.

Steve was able to provide June with some initial COSEE funding to attend a teacher-training workshop in Connecticut and fund the materials for the first BOBs in Michigan, which she and her students deployed in 2011 on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. She has spearheaded a number of additional projects – all focusing on Great Lakes studies and stewardship – which Steve has supported with curricula, educational materials and opportunities for her students to share their experiences.

Steve said, “My role, and the contribution of Michigan Sea Grant Extension, has been one of identifying possibilities and facilitating opportunities for June and her students as they seek to become more knowledgeable about and stewards of our Great Lakes. June and her students are a great educational success story. This experience could be an introduction for some to a career in the STEM fields.”

Through the project, students have increased interest in lakes, wetlands, water quality and environmental stewardship. The eighth graders learned hands-on, gathering data and testing equipment. These student scientists worked through the winter months to disaggregate the data and prepare for BOB deployment in the spring. They teamed up with a teacher and 7th grade class from Buffalo, New York, who deploy a BOB on their side of Lake Erie. The collaboration resulted in a more rich data stream for the students to analyze and excitement about connecting with New York peers.

The team will use some of their prize money to fund their participation in the 10th Biennial Lake Superior Youth Symposium May 16‒19 at Michigan Technological University. At the symposium, the team will present their work to students and teachers from around the Great Lakes.

Congratulations to June and the team!

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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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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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