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Preview: The Environment Report Podcast

The Environment Report

Michigan Radio's "The Environment Report" hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan. New episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

Last Build Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:36:03 +0000


In Ohio, farmers are being trained to avoid nutrient build

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:35:06 +0000

The buildup of nutrients in western Lake Erie can trigger algae growth – and contaminate drinking water in nearby cities. That happened as recently as 2014, when Toledo residents could not drink their water for two days.

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As the climate gets warmer, some mammals are getting smaller

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:48:14 +0000

Here’s one way to react to a warming planet: get smaller. We know mammals literally shrank, during a massive global warming event 56 million years ago. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat. Now back then, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now. So researchers wanted to know: do mammals still experience shrinking - a.k.a. dwarfing - during other, less intense periods of warming? Abigail D'Ambrosia is a researcher at the University of New Hampshire, and she did a study with scientists at the University of Michigan to answer that question. “And we found that, yup! There’s definitely dwarfing in a couple of the mammals we found,” she says. She says nobody's sure why generations of mammals gradually shrank during those periods of global warming in the past. Maybe because it’s easier to cool yourself off if you’re smaller. Or maybe global warming killed off so many plants, animals didn’t get enough food. D’Ambrosia thinks it’s some combination of the two

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How climate change is altering spring

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:36:41 +0000

You know how in old Disney cartoons and movies, spring arrives and all the birds and woodland creatures just wake up all at once? That’s kind of how nature works, too. But new research suggests that what we typically think of as spring: flowers blooming, ice melting... is starting to change.

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Funding for Great Lakes protection at risk?

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 18:46:55 +0000

Early budget indications suggest the Trump administration could slash funding for the Great Lakes. There are many possible cuts to EPA programs. Great Lakes restoration money could be cut by 97%, and money for beach monitoring could be also at risk.

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We have a lot of old water infrastructure, so what do we do about it?

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 17:00:05 +0000

President Trump called for a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure this week in his address to Congress. The Great Lakes Commission has ideas for where some of the money should go. The Commission is an interstate compact agency that represents Great Lakes states. The agency released recommendations today for rebuilding our water infrastructure.

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These maps show the early arrival of spring

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 15:35:17 +0000

Scientists have known that spring is arriving earlier across the U.S. because of climate change. Now, you can take a look at new maps from the U.S. Geological Survey to see how early spring is arriving where you live. Jake Weltzin is an ecologist with the USGS, and the executive director of the National Phenology Network. "The folks down in the southeastern United States, across much of that region, are seeing spring coming as many as three weeks early this year," he says. In Michigan, early spring warm-ups followed by hard freezes can devastate crops, as cherry farmers experienced in 2012. Weltzin says earlier spring arrival can mean mosquitoes and ticks becoming active earlier, and flowering plants and wildlife can get out of sync. As the National Phenology Network's website notes: In 2017, we see very large anomalies in the southeastern United States on the Spring Leaf Index map, where the Index was met up to three weeks earlier than what is typical for these locations. The timing

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No lethal control for cormorants in the Great Lakes this spring

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 15:28:20 +0000

For more than a decade, double crested cormorants could be killed in 24 states in the eastern U.S. In the Great Lakes, it was mainly done to protect sport fish like perch and bass. But last spring a federal judge stopped the program, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t doing the research on cormorants necessary to justify killing them. Sport fishing groups hoped that research would have been done by now and the program could resume.

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Highland Park residents lighting up their streets with solar power

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:42:48 +0000

Energy costs can be a huge burden on low-income communities. That’s especially true in Highland Park. The tiny enclave within Detroit was literally left in the dark after it ran up a big street lighting bill. But there are some small bright spots popping up—thanks to solar power, and the efforts of one community group. (Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here .)

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IJC urges U.S. and Canada to keep microplastics out of the Great Lakes

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 17:18:14 +0000

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece. Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

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Is Line 5 needed to heat the Upper Peninsula?

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:25:33 +0000

An environmental group in Traverse City is challenging the claim that Enbridge’s Line 5 is necessary to keep residents of the U.P. warm. The twin pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac deliver natural gas liquids that can be turned into propane.

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Some EPA, State Dept climate pages changing under Trump administration

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 15:06:50 +0000

Shortly after the election, researchers from the U.S. and Canada got together to start backing up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S. They’re also keeping a close eye on how the Trump Administration is changing federal websites, and they're already finding some changes. One of the groups heading up this effort is called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. (You can see EDGI's report on changes to some EPA websites here , and its report on the State Department and Department of Energy here .)

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Judge sides with controversial trout farm along Au Sable River

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 15:57:52 +0000

An administrative law judge has sided with a company called Harrietta Hills Trout Farm that's operating in Grayling. It produced nearly 69,000 pounds of rainbow trout last year. The state granted a permit to the company in 2014. But some groups challenged that permit, and it ended up in court. Last week, the judge issued a proposal for decision that the business should keep the permit that’s allowing it to expand. Opponents of the fish farm are vowing to keep fighting the permit.

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Study finds fluorinated chemicals in fast food packaging

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 17:20:39 +0000

A new study found fluorinated chemicals in one third of the fast food packages researchers tested. The chemicals keep oil and grease from leaking through. The researchers found that out of 407 food packages tested, 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals. Scientists have found this class of chemicals doesn't break down in the environment, and some kinds of fluorinated chemicals are linked to health problems.

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Will grass carp spread in the Great Lakes?

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:33:56 +0000

There are grass carp in three of the Great Lakes, but it’s not too late to do something about it. That’s one of the conclusions of a new risk assessment on this type of Asian carp by the United States and Canada .

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What's the fate of one of the largest pollution cleanup projects in Michigan?

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 13:52:53 +0000

There are a lot of former industrial sites in Michigan that need to be cleaned up. The pollution left behind in one town in the middle of Michigan is particularly bad. The Velsicol Chemical Company (known as Michigan Chemical up until 1976) produced a lot of toxic chemicals in St. Louis, Michigan. It operated from the 1930s up until the late 1970s, and it was responsible for the notorious PBB incident that contaminated people throughout the state. The amount of pollution left behind in this town is pretty staggering. The old Velsicol chemical plant was simply knocked over and buried in 1982 with a concrete cap. So all those chemicals are still left in the ground. (To see a timeline of how the company left behind its toxic footprint, go here .) The town had to shut off their wells and switch to a new water supply. And just a couple years ago birds were dropping dead in people’s yards. So they had dig up the soil to try to get rid of the DDT and other chemicals that were left behind.

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"Goldilocks days" and a warming climate

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 17:21:21 +0000

2016 was the hottest year on record . When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about extreme weather events: extreme heat, drought, flooding. But scientists have also studied what’s likely to happen with the best weather days. Days that are not too hot, not too cold, or humid or rainy. Just right.

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Researchers uncover possible new hidden threat to honey bees

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:06:14 +0000

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees. They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

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Hunters and anglers react to federal land transfer push by House Republicans

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:56:39 +0000

Earlier this month, Republicans in the U.S. House made it easier for the federal government to give up control of public lands to states. Many of the most avid users of these lands, especially hunters and anglers, are on edge about the idea. (Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here .)

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Bumble bee added to the endangered species list

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 16:40:42 +0000

For the first time in the U.S., a bumble bee has been listed as an endangered species. It’s called the rusty patched bumble bee . The species is no longer found in Michigan, but small populations still exist elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

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Why state officials want you to look for this tree-killing insect

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:41:05 +0000

State officials want you to check your trees for a tiny insect. It’s called the hemlock woolly adelgid, and it survives by sucking sap from hemlock trees. This insect was first detected in Michigan in 2006.

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