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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: Sat, 22 Oct 2016 05:16:10 +0000


Searching for lead in Detroit's water lines

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:51:59 +0000

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit. Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

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How our unseasonably warm fall is affecting migratory birds

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:39:12 +0000

2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south? Andrew Farnsworth is a research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he runs BirdCast – it’s a tool the lab created to forecast what’s happening with bird migration each week. He says how weather patterns affect birds varies by species. “Some birds are dramatically affected, in that, for example, in the fall, species may stay around quite a lot longer than they might otherwise if temperatures are warmer. For example, waterfowl: common loon, ducks on the Great Lakes, if temperatures are warmer than average all the way through the fall and into early winter, those birds will stick around much, much longer than they would if there were a freeze,” he says. Some species are less affected by temperature, and instead time their trips south based on changes in the

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Why one industrial designer wants us to rethink our relationship with plastic

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:55:00 +0000

Plastic pollution is all around us, from grocery bags that aren’t properly recycled to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. An industrial designer from the Netherlands is trying to get people to think differently about plastic’s long life cycle.

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As deer season begins, testing for chronic wasting disease ramps up again

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:21:10 +0000

Archery season for deer started over the weekend, and that means state officials are gearing up to test more deer for chronic wasting disease. The disease is contagious, and it’s always fatal for the animals. It creates tiny holes in their brains, and deer get very skinny and start acting strange. Since it was first found in wild deer in Michigan last year, seven deer have tested positive, with an 8th case suspected.

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Scientists hope to track sea lampreys by their DNA

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:15:07 +0000

We spend a lot of money to control sea lampreys. The U.S. and Canada spend $21 million dollars a year to keep them in check. The invasive fish drills holes into big fish like trout and salmon, and drinks their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish. Managers are always looking for new ways to control the blood suckers and keep tabs on where they are in the Great Lakes system. Now, scientists are testing the idea of using environmental DNA – or eDNA. It’s a tool that’s been used a lot to see if Asian carp are in a river or lake; it detects genetic material from the fish.

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Tracking honey bees with big data

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:40:03 +0000

You can thank a honey bee for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat. But as you’ve likely heard, bees are in trouble. They’re getting hit hard by pesticides and diseases and pests, and they’re losing habitat. Two Grand Valley State University professors are using technology to track the health of hives in a new way.

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Reviving Michigan's coastal marshes

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 12:49:55 +0000

Most visitors to northern Michigan are looking for sugar sand beaches on the Great Lakes. But if you’re a spawning fish or a migratory bird, you might be looking for a coastal marsh. The Great Lakes used to be lined with coastal marshes that were full of native plants and wildlife. But in lower Michigan, many of these places been drained, plowed, polluted and, more recently, overrun by exotic plants from other parts of the world. Some conservation groups are working to restore and protect the marshes we have left.

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Can you really offset the carbon dioxide you put in the atmosphere?

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 19:27:44 +0000

Every day, you and I burn up all kinds of things. We burn gasoline to get to work, mow the lawn, or fly to a conference. We burn natural gas, coal, or heating oil to heat our homes. And we burn up coal or natural gas when flipping on that light switch. Whenever we burn stuff, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Burned a gallon of gas driving around town? You just put around 20 pounds of CO2 into the air. That CO2 traps heat, and all the burning we do is causing the planet to warm dramatically. You thought 2015 was hot? 2016 has likely got it beat: (To see an interesting graphic representation of the kind of warming scientists expect, check out this cartoon.) So what can you do about it? Of course, there are ways to stop burning stuff. Drive less. Fly less. Buy energy efficient things. And the neighbors won’t like it, but you could let that grass go to seed instead of mowing it. Right now, our economy revolves around burning fossil fuels. Most of us can’t avoid doing it. But

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Flint activists sue for door-to-door bottled water delivery

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 11:00:00 +0000

Should a judge force the government to deliver bottled water, door to door, to everybody in Flint? The Flint water crisis has gone to federal court: a group of activists say the state’s efforts really aren’t reaching a lot of people – especially older, sick, or low-income people. There’s several plaintiffs here: a group called the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Flint resident/activist named Melissa Mays. They’re asking the court to force the state and city to immediately deliver bottled water directly to every Flint resident who needs it. “These are everyday Flint residents who simply don’t have the ability to get out of the house every day, and pick up a heavy case of water and bring it back home,” says Anjali Waikar, an attorney with the NRDC. They brought in a witness who really makes their case: Jacqueline Childress is 60 years old, a retired General Motors employee who lives with her disabled adult son. She says she doesn’t have a

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Fertile grass carp found in Canadian waters of Lake Erie

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 22:22:06 +0000

The Canadian government has confirmed that, for the first time, a fertile grass carp has been caught in the Canadian waters of western Lake Erie. Grass carp are considered less of a threat than bighead and silver carp (but grass carp can eat a lot of aquatic plants) and for a long time, people thought the grass carp in the lakes were sterile. But lately, fertile grass carp have been turning up. A commercial fisherman caught the fish off Point Pelee.

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How do teachers' beliefs on climate change influence their students?

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 17:35:55 +0000

The vast majority of climate scientists agree climate change is happening and it’s mainly caused by people. A new study looks at how middle school students' beliefs about climate change are shaped by their teachers’ own beliefs.

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Work expected to start soon on underwater supports on Line 5

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 17:06:19 +0000

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan. It splits into two pipelines at the Straits, and it was recently announced that the supports that hold the pipeline in place are not in compliance with a 1953 easement agreement with the state.

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Researcher: "Wild variation" in how city planners address climate change

Thu, 01 Sep 2016 21:44:05 +0000

Our cities are especially vulnerable to climate change. More than 80% of people in the U.S. live in cities, so things like flooding and heat waves can affect a lot of people at once. But city planners don’t always have a good handle on the risks their cities face.

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Butterflies get the love, but there's much more to learn about moths

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 12:50:00 +0000

What do you know about moths, besides that they’re attracted to your porch lights? It turns out researchers still have a lot to learn about the many species of moths and the role they play in ecosystems. Ryan Utz is an assistant professor of water resources at Chatham University. But right now, he only has eyes for moths. “It feels like just a wall of gems because you never know what you’re going to find," he says. Utz is talking about a four-by-eight-foot white board. He and his students have put it up at the edge of a field here on the campus, east of Pittsburgh. If you drive onto campus at night, you’ll see it glowing with LED lights. They draw the moths in like a magnet. It's like a drive-in movie for moths, but the insects are the main attraction. The sky is still dark at 5 a.m. when Utz gets to work each day. He photographs each moth that shows up. “They’re all different shapes, colors and sizes, and when you get very, very close to them, you notice things that you would never

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Recycling hits some snags in Michigan

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:30:00 +0000

Recycling programs in Michigan have run into some problems. Some, like the University of Michigan's program, cut back on what they take. And businesses are paying some of the highest prices they've seen in recent years to have their leftover material recycled. The folks at Ventura Manufacturing wrote to us to say they're having a hard time finding a good recycling option for their facility in Zeeland. "Right now, there’s not too many people who can recycle," says Franciso Colón with Ventura Manufacturing in Zeeland. "I mean everybody is charging you a lot of money if they come and pick up your recycling." And we’ve been hearing from a lot of you about the state of recycling in Michigan. People have been sharing their questions through our MI Curious project: "Why are some recycling centers having trouble selling the stuff they collect?" - Salle Haverkamp "Athens, MI council just voted to end their recycling program partly because they think the stuff is just land-filled. Is recycling

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Tougher pipeline safety rules could be a tough sell

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:50:00 +0000

There's a building boom for pipelines all across the country right now, and that’s created anxiety about new pipelines close to where people live and work. While the federal government is trying to ratchet up safety rules, there are limits on what these new rules can do.

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Scientists on the lookout for microfibers from your fleece jackets in the Great Lakes

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:35:03 +0000

A team of scientists from the U.S. and Canada are setting sail on Saturday. They’re heading out on a research trip to sample plastic pollution in all five of the Great Lakes. It's part of a project called EXXpedition Great Lakes: seven research boats led by female scientists who are studying microplastic pollution. Microplastic pollution is made up of plastic particles that are five millimeters in diameter, or smaller.

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Michigan photographer turns invasive species into art

Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:02:34 +0000

Plants usually don’t get as much love as cute animals. Sometimes it’s hard to get people fired up about an endangered plant. But Jane Kramer’s trying to do that anyway. She’s a fine art photographer. She takes photos of the shadows of rare or threatened plants, and then prints them on paper she makes out of invasive plants like garlic mustard and purple loosestrife.

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Robins, cardinals, and a West Nile virus mystery

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 15:52:01 +0000

Robins are considered "super-spreaders" of West Nile virus. They’re especially good at passing the virus to mosquitoes, and mosquitoes, of course, can then pass it to us. It turns out a different bird species – cardinals – might be shielding people from getting the virus in some parts of the country.

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Flint's water system is falling apart. Fixing it could cost $100 million.

Tue, 09 Aug 2016 11:45:07 +0000

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people’s taps in Flint? That was Flint’s water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards.

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