Tag Archives: ron kinnunen

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.”

Comments Off on Coming together to save lives: Strategic connections in District 2

Filed under Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections, Uncategorized

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.

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

Filed under Uncategorized

Life of Lake Superior Youth Program continues to educate with “workshops on the move”

Eleven years ago, Michigan State University Extension developed the format for the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program. And eleven years later, it continues to maintain enhanced new programming each year.

 The Life of Lake Superior Youth Program brings children, aged 9 to 14, and adults together to explore their community and appreciate the opportunities that exist nearby in the arts, natural resources, history, culture, recreation and careers, which have relevance for children living along the Lake Superior shoreline. The option to have a parent or grandparent participate with their children in every activity is one of the distinctive features of the program. This year, 51 youth participated along with 15 parents/grandparents.

 Presented by MSU Extension in Alger County, the 2011 program took place on four days and four different sites in July. A series of “workshops on the move” included:

 July 7: Attendees received sailing instructions then sailed in Munising Bay. Staff members from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, part of the National Park Service, gave a demonstration in the Bayshore Marina in Munising on personal flotation devices.

Participants in the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program receive sailing instructions in Munising Bay.

Participants in the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program receive sailing instructions in Munising Bay, July 7, 2011. Photo by Alana Herzog.

 
Park rangers demonstrate personal flotation devices.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore chief ranger T.C. Colyer, assisted by park ranger Bill Smith, demonstrates personal flotation devices to participants of the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program, July 7, 2011, at Bayshore Marina. Photo by Birch Smith.

 July 13: Participants learned about geomorphology (which I’m told is the study of landforms), sport fishing and logging at Kingston Plains and Kingston Lake. As part of the fishing experience, Ron Kinnunen, Sea Grant senior district Extension educator, brought a collection of aquatic invasive specimens. He talked about fish anatomy while dissecting a Lake Superior whitefish. Kids were particularly enthralled with a large stuffed and mounted Asian Carp that he brought along. Incidentally, Ron helped design the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program at its onset and has contributed every year by teaching something related to his current Sea Grant research.

 July 19: Attendees helped plant 5,000 native wildflower plugs as part of the U.S. Forest Service’s work to restore native plants at Grand Island National Recreation Area. At another site, one of the island resident’s summer home, youth went on an exploration hike and did card loom weaving, incorporating birch bark, leaves, grasses and driftwood.

 July 27: Participants paddled a 24-foot voyageur canoe in Munising Bay, learned about the area’s history at the Alger Heritage Museum, did a re-enactment skit at the fur traders’ cabin and watched a blacksmith demonstration.

Participants in the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program were the crew paddling a voyageur canoe.

Participants in the Life of Lake Superior Youth Program were the crew paddling a voyageur canoe on Munising Bay, July 27, 2011. Photo by Jude Holloway.

 The event closed with an evening family fish boil celebration at the Alger Heritage Center, July 27.

 Healthy meals and snacks are part of each day of the program. Vicki Ballas, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education) program associate, designed the “Captain Nutrition” component. In the past, healthy meals and snacks were always a critical part of the program. But when Vicki joined the Alger County staff, her creativity and interest in kids and nutrition, led to making the meal something the kids would be involved in preparing. All foods served are those that youth easily could teach their families to make at home. And before each meal or snack time, Vicki teaches them what they are preparing, including all food groups and making half their plates fruits and vegetables. The Captain Nutrition component of the last three years has truly enhanced the overall program.

 Since 2000, MSU Extension has partnered with more than 35 community services and their professional and technical staff to deliver unique workshops each summer. About 40 adult volunteers annually provide their services as presenters, mentors or community partners. The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service actively participate in program planning as well as hosting Life of Lake Superior activities.

 Joan Vinette, MSU Extension educator in Alger County, attributes the program’s success to its dedicated volunteers and collaborators.

 Joan says, “It takes an intense effort to bring together all the logistics. But the rewards are in watching kids (together with peers or a parent or grandparent) enjoying outdoor learning at different venues that highlight natural features unique to Alger County. Youth get to experience recreational opportunities, scientific research, economics, cultural heritage and art that influence life along the shore of Lake Superior.”

 Visit the Life of Lake Superior Facebook page to view many more photos and some videos.

Comments Off on Life of Lake Superior Youth Program continues to educate with “workshops on the move”

Filed under Youth development

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/.

Comments Off on Michigan Sea Grant Extension testifies at Senate committee

Filed under natural resources