Moms Clean Air Force demonstrates an electric school bus in front of a manufacturing facility as a part of its national Let’s Get Rolling Tour in 202. Courtesy photo

Inside is not the answer: Air quality in the Great Lakes

By Mia Litzenberg

In the Detroit area, people experience unsafe levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone in the air they breathe. These pollutants are blamed for adverse health effects such as heart disease, respiratory issues and cancer. The University of Michigan is part of an ongoing Detroit research partnership, Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments (CAPHE). CAPHE identifies sources of air pollution, measures its impact on residents and empowers the community to take action. CAPHE found that outdoor air pollution has caused people to miss a total of 500,000 days of work and 990,000 days of school.

Every summer, toxic algae blooms form on Lake Erie, posing a health risk to humans and animals. Image: National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Experts predict moderate Lake Erie toxic algae bloom

By Gabrielle Nelson

Lake Erie’s annual algae bloom has begun to form weeks ahead of schedule off the coast of southeast Michigan, but scientists say they expect only a moderate bloom this year. “There was scum off Monroe,” said Richard Stumpf, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer who leads the federal government’s bloom forecasting effort. “It’s not huge now, about 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles), but it has actually started up in that area.”

Cyanobacteria, known as blue-green algae, fouls hundreds of square miles of western Lake Erie every summer, typically from July to October. The putrid, sometimes toxic, blooms pose a risk to human and animal health and the region’s tourism economy. Under the right conditions, they produce harmful toxins that can sicken humans and kill pets.

: Record-setting heat waves are becoming more frequent due to climate change. Image: JJ Gouin/Adobe Stock

Heat waves are a sign of ‘creeping changes’ in climate, expert says

By Elinor Epperson

There’s no easy way to say it: The heat is only getting worse. Extreme heat events in the Great Lakes region will only become more frequent as climate change warms the oceans, lakes and air, a University of Michigan climate expert said. And the earlier that heat waves start each season, the more there may be in the months to come. Richard Rood is a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering. He said extreme weather will change what feels “normal” for each season.

In Michigan, e-bikes are banned from state-managed dirt trails, and some e-bikes are banned from paved trails. Image: Shutterstock

Michigan officials mull more access for e-bikes on state trails

By Gabrielle Nelson

Electric bicycle use is expanding, welcoming a new group of riders to the cycling community. But under current Michigan state park policies, the bikes are banned from many trails. That could soon change. The Department of Natural Resources has proposed a yearlong pilot program that would open 3,000 miles of trails to e-bikes. The change could take effect as early as July.

Michigan program helps hobbyists safely rehome aquatic flora and fauna

By Elinor Epperson

Don’t flush that unwanted goldfish – find it a new home instead. Home aquariums and water gardening are two of the many routes invasive species take to enter Michigan habitats. A Michigan State University Extension program provides educational materials and resources for rehoming unwanted aquatic pets. Reduce Invasive Pet and Plant Escapes (RIPPLE) works with hobbyists, retailers and gardeners to minimize the release of invasive species into the wild. Most people may not give much thought to letting one or two pets go for a variety of reasons – financial, lifestyle changes or change of seasons, for example – but Paige Filice, the program’s primary coordinator, said those numbers add up.

Image: A Michigan Department of Natural Resources technician collects a red swamp crayfish from a retention pond in Novi in August 2022. Matthew Clara/ DNR

Michigan trying new approaches against invasive crayfish

By Elinor Epperson

Researchers are exploring new techniques to remove an invasive crayfish from Michigan waters. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been fighting an invasion of red swamp crayfish since they first appeared in the state in 2017. Aggressive attempts to trap and remove the crustacean haven’t worked. Kathleen Quebedeaux, a fisheries biologist with the DNR, said eradicating the invader will require a variety of approaches. “In order to have a more efficient means of achieving eradication, we need other tools in our toolbox,” she said.

Pieces of wreckage of the Mojave are visible on the bottom of Lake Michigan near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Image: Wisconsin Historical Society

Ship doomed on Lake Michigan now moored on National Register of Historic Places

By Eric Freedman

A Detroit-built sailing ship that sank in Lake Michigan during an 1864 storm has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The three-masted Mojave, only 1 year old at the time, went down in heavy weather while northbound on the route from Chicago to Buffalo with a load of grain. A newspaper reported at the time: “The master of the bark Monarch reported seeing the Mojave drop into the troughs of the heavy seas that were running at the time, become swamped and disappear.”

The doomed ship was never seen again. At least five crew members died, including 30-year-old Capt. Darius Nelson Malott, and “their remains were not recovered,” according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The inscription on Malott’s memorial marker in Lakeview Cemetery in Leamington, Ontario, reads, “Lost with the Barque Mojave on Lake Michigan.”

In 2016, shipwreck hunter Steve Radovan discovered the well-preserved Mojave 12½ miles northeast of the Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Breakwater Lighthouse.

Limited access to health care contributes to higher rural death rates

Rural Michigan residents who suffer from a chronic illness that requires specialized treatment may have to drive hours to receive care.

That barrier to access to health care is one reason rural county death rates tend to be higher than their urban counterparts, according to Robert Howe, the medical director of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.

Community input sought for cleaned-up lakes, shorelines

It’s taken over 30 years and $80 million to restore Muskegon Lake and a few nearby smaller bodies of water.

Decades of pollution and rapid urbanization created ecological problems so severe that the lake was designated a “Great Lakes Area of Concern” by the U.S. and Canada in 1987.