The Environment Report

Building a better Lyme disease test?

Aug 17, 2017

Experts tell us it’s important to treat Lyme disease early, and state officials say Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. 

But officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it can sometimes be confused with a similar condition that’s also transmitted by ticks, called Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI.

One of the toughest things about being a parent in Flint right now is the uncertainty. If your kid gets diagnosed with ADHD, or struggles in school, there’s a part of you that wonders: is it because of the lead exposure?  

An Asian carp was caught this summer in a place where it shouldn’t be – beyond an electric barrier meant to keep the species out of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. Now, a researcher at Southern Illinois University is trying to figure out just how it got there.

Trying to trap invasive sea lamprey with "eel ladders"

Aug 9, 2017

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

Water filters that you attach to your faucet are known to be good for filtering out heavy metals like lead and disinfectants like chlorine. But they’re not designed to filter out bacteria that can grow in the filter itself.

Turning an old highway into a "pop-up forest"

Jul 25, 2017

Many cities in the Rust Belt are still shrinking, because people continue to move away. Some have lost so many people, that highways are unneeded, and being removed.

In one Midwestern city, what’s being constructed (at least, temporarily) is giving some people hope for the future of its downtown.

More flights could get grounded because of heat waves

Jul 20, 2017

Remember how it was too hot for planes to fly in Phoenix last month?

That could happen more often as our climate warms.

Radley Horton is an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Horton is an author of a new study on this issue in the journal Climatic Change.

Biologists say the sixth mass extinction episode on Earth is already happening. But researchers say if we only look at species extinctions, we miss a big part of the story.

Paul Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of biology at Stanford University, and an author of a new study about this published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 31 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But clusters of bats that warm up together during hibernation might have an edge against the fungus. Researchers discovered this by putting temperature-sensing surveillance cameras in caves.

There’s a newly discovered kind of bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, Borrelia mayonii. Scientists have run tests to find out how long it takes to transmit the disease after a tick bites you.

Long-term exposure to certain kinds of air pollution increases the risk of premature death in Americans over 65 years old. That finding holds true even at levels of air pollution below national standards.

The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice is meant to defend communities that face a disproportionate share of the effects of pollution. But that office’s funding could be cut entirely in the 2018 budget.

This week, experts are getting together in Ann Arbor to make a warning system for meteotsunamis in the Great Lakes. We have on average 106 meteotsunamis in the lakes each year.

New charges in the Flint water crisis are connected to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

Five current and former government officials are now facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the Flint water crisis. The charges are in connection with a Legionnaires' disease outbreak during the height of the crisis. Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia caused by bacteria.

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

Green infrastructure is the focus of a conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center this week.

The people behind it say it’s time to start thinking differently about how we handle storm water throughout the Great Lakes; but make sure we do it right.

The Trump administration’s detailed budget proposal leaves fewer resources for protecting endangered species. Under the proposed plan, the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be trimmed to $1.3 billion for 2018.

Brett Hartl, Government Affairs Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says that’s about an 8% funding cut for conservation. He says the Trump administration’s cuts to the domestic side of the budget, in favor of defense spending, aren’t a surprise.

Researchers have developed a way to track endangered species using smartphones and drones, and you can help them with that work.

A new survey finds a majority of Americans (54%) lean toward regulations as the best way to increase our use of renewable energy versus relying on economic markets alone.

Cary Funk is the associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. She says a majority of Americans say that increasing the use of renewable energy sources should be a top priority for the country’s energy policies.

“But there’s a closer divide on whether or not government regulations are necessary or whether the private marketplace can ensure that businesses and consumers increase more reliance on renewables even without regulations,” she says.

Why it's hard to get plastic bag bans to stick

May 22, 2017

Plastic bags are all around us. They’re a persistent litter problem on land and along the Great Lakes. Some cities have tried to ban bags or charge a fee for them. But it's hard to make these bans stick.

We’ve heard a lot about lead service lines after the Flint water crisis. But that’s not the only way lead can get into your drinking water.

Birds breeding early to catch up to climate change

May 15, 2017

 


New research shows that in order for some early birds to catch the worm, they have to breed sooner in the spring.

 

Luke DeGroote is the avian research coordinator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and he runs the bird banding program at the museum's Powdermill Nature Reserve.

 

Right now, he’s in the thick of spring migration.

 

“It’s sort of a bit like fishing, in a way. We put out our nets to see what we catch,” he says.

The uncertain future of Great Lakes funding

May 11, 2017

Now that President Trump has signed the spending bill, Great Lakes funding is safe, at least for now.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funded in full for 2017. But Trump wants to eliminate this funding entirely in his 2018 budget proposal.

A fight is brewing over Great Lakes fish

May 4, 2017

The rules for commercial fishing in Michigan are being rewritten in Lansing. The law is old and needs to be updated. There are only 21 non-tribal businesses licensed by the state to catch fish for market. Tribes fish under their own rules.

Monarch butterflies need more to eat. That's the conclusion of a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The only thing monarch butterfly caterpillars can eat is milkweed.

Wayne Thogmartin is a quantitative ecologist with the USGS. He says the butterfly population has dropped by about 80% since the mid-90s. The population has rebounded a little bit in the last three years, but Thogmartin says it's not a huge improvement.

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