Congratulations to Michigan State University Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator Dan O’Keefe on receiving the Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award from the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association. The association chose Dan for the award to honor his contributions to sport fishing and his work to research and expand fishing and the environment necessary for the sport. Dan serves seven counties along the coast of Lake Michigan and has developed many education and outreach programs such as citizen science programs and fishery workshops. He also completed a study and evaluation of charter and tournament fishing economic impacts that has led to a greater appreciation for a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem. Howard Tanner, former director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the MSU College of Ag and Natural Resources, is 94 and still supporting the stewardship of Michigan’s Great Lakes. He was at the ceremony to bestow the award. Read more about Dan and his award on the MSU Extension website.
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Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisherman’s Association gives Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award to Michigan Sea Grant Educator
The Board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association (MSTA) has announced that Stephen Stewart has been selected as the 2015 Informal Science Educator. The winner was chosen for unique and extraordinary accomplishments, active leadership, scholarly contributions and direct and substantial contributions to the improvement of nonschool-based science education over a significant period of time. Employed by Michigan State University Extension since 1977, Stephen is a senior educator with Michigan Sea Grant Extension.
“This award does mean a lot to me because I think it’s always very rewarding and gratifying when your peers and your constituents are the ones giving you the awards,” he said. “No way is it a one-way award, because what I’ve accomplished I’ve done with the help of my Extension colleagues and my other colleagues in the Michigan Science Teachers Association.”
Stephen will be honored at an awards ceremony during a special dinner at the 2015 MSTA Conference in February 2015. We are proud of his accomplishments and thankful for his continued dedication.
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!
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
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/.
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.