After 10 years in daily newspapers, Karessa returned to school at Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. As a graduate student, she worked on the first version of Great Lakes Echo. After graduation (and the birth of her son, Elliott), Karessa began teaching journalism and writing at various local colleges. She and her husband, editorial editor Brian Wheeler, live in Jackson, Michigan with their three children, Elliott, 6; Alec, 4; and Maggie, 18 months.
Now that an actual real live Asian carp has been discovered beyond the barrier trying to keep it out of Lake Michigan, scientists are trying to discover if the adult male fish was dropped into Lake Calumet or if it is part of a larger population of fish. John Rogner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources told the Chicago Tribune that the carp, 34 inches long and more than 19 pounds, was found east of the O’Brien Lock, giving it unimpeded access to Lake Michigan. Rogner said fish biologists will use genetic testing to try to determine whether the bighead carp was farm-raised, indicating it might have been dropped off in the lake, or whether it had lived its life in its natural environment. The latter would suggest the carp was among several that perhaps have migrated up the Chicago water system and are now poised to enter Lake Michigan, a potentially dire scenario given how Asian carp have overwhelmed native fish populations in the Mississippi River and lower parts of the Illinois River. Meanwhile, the fish has spurred Great Lakes politicians and activists into calling for immediate action.
The term “invasive species” is a new one in my life. I was raised to love nature. The idea that something that is growing out of the ground on its own has no business doing so was never considered. A case in point: The Purple Loosestrife Festival. This was something we looked forward to each year in rural Hillsdale County, in southern Michigan along the Ohio border.
It has been a month since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the political reverberations have finally made their way to the Great Lakes. The Michigan Democratic Party on Monday released a video stating that drilling in the Great Lakes could lead to the same kind of disaster here. The two minute video shows graphic images of dead wildlife set against a spooky soundtrack and stark quotes. It then superimposes drilling rigs on Michigan landmarks such as the Mackinac Bridge, Grand Hotel and the RenCen. That’s a threat long banned in Michigan.
Does the name Elena Kagan ring a bell? For those following the legal wranglings of the Asian carp invasion, it should. Kagan, as President Barack Obama’s Solicitor General, argued against closing the Chicago locks to prevent the invasive carp from entering Lake Michigan. She wrote that although allowing the carp to enter the Great Lakes would produce “grave and irreparable harm,” it was only “speculative” that the harm would occur “imminently.” Now that Kagan has been nominated to the high court, environmental journalists across the spectrum are trying to fathom her stances but not finding much.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox was rebuffed again by the U.S. Supreme court in his effort to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. On Monday, the court declined to consider Cox’s request to close the Chicago locks to prevent the invasive fish from traveling from the Mississippi River into Lake Michigan. This is the third time they refused the request by Michigan and six other states. Cox is now focusing on Congress and President Obama as potential saviors. “While President Obama has turned a blind eye to the millions of Great Lakes residents who do not happen to live in his home state of Illinois, it is now up to him to save thousands of Michigan jobs and our environment,” Cox told the Associated Press.
My kids may not learn everything they need to know from kindergarten but they are learning a lot about science from the ‘90s alt-pop band They Might Be Giants. The duet of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, following up on their kids’ album “Here come the ABCs,” released “Here Comes Science” late last year. The album is amazing. I could listen to “Electric Car” all day long and “Meet the Elements” prompted my six-year-old Elliott to download, print and tape to his bedroom wall a periodic table. But it is a pair of songs about the sun that really gets me thinking.
A report recently broadcast by the University of Michigan Radio Consortium’s Environment Report reminded me yet again of the tightrope parents walk trying to ensure their kids’ health. It sometimes seems that the very things we do to keep ourselves and our children safe and free from disease end up hurting them. This report connected the use of “personal care products” while pregnant with an increase in ADHD. Researchers with the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Study concluded “behavioral domains adversely associated with prenatal exposure to phthalates are commonly found to be affected in children clinically diagnosed with conduct or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.”
The researchers measured the amount of phthalate metabolites in the urine of 479 mothers in their third trimester in New York City. Those children were then tested for cognitive and behavioral development between the ages four to nine.
An Ohio activist dubbed “The Snake Lady” and a university researcher have been honored for their efforts to conserve the threatened Lake Erie watersnake. Kristin Stanford and Richard King of Northern Illinois University are among this year’s 18 recipients of the recently announced U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Recovery Champions awards. According to a U.S. F&W press release, the pair has put in a combined 35 years of work to save the snake and its habitat. King has been working since the 1980s and identified early declines in the population and threats to the species. Stanford has “worked tirelessly to reach out to residents of the Lake Erie islands” to teach them how to live with the snake.”
“The dedication of Ms. Stanford and Dr. King to the conservation of the Lake Erie watersnake, through both scientific methods and strong public involvement, has recovery efforts for this species to the point that the next step is to propose removing it from the list of endangered and threatened species. There is no greater measure of recovery success,” said Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.
Within the Great Lakes, the industries that depend on their ecosystem is almost as varied as the organisms. And like predators competing for the same food, their interests aren’t always in sync. This became apparent in the wake of Monday’s refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately close the Chicago Locks. The closure was requested by the state of Michigan to prevent Asian carp from moving from the Mississippi River into Lake Michigan. It was supported by Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio as well as various environmental groups. The decision was hailed by the barge and tug industry.