Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Great Lakes Imprint In Us

Leave the Great Lakes?
We feel their pulse in our blood,
in our sinews, our bones.
vibrations in our bellies.
Their islands arise in waking dreams.
And even in sleep we know
moon, stars and planets float in their waters
until dawn.
The Great Lakes gulp the sun at noon
while diatom symphonies
dazzle green currents
and curious protozoa graze.
In silent depths below
lie burbot, sturgeon, lake trout.
White sailboats belly out in the breeze.
On the beach rare piping plovers
hide their nests among stones.
We walk through singing sands,
scoop pails of water,
build spirit castles of wet sand.
Then we brush sand from our feet
and our hands.
The lakes’ imprint is in us.

From The Wilderness Within

the watercolor is a piping plover

Poem and watercolor by Barbara Spring

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, between the communities of Munising (west) and Grand Marais (east). 
Pictured are Grand Sable Dunes.  The Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior are interesting, but these dunes are pretty spectacular too.  There are also many waterfalls in the area. It's a great place to hike and enjoy the beauties of nature: sand, wildlife and freshwater.  For more information about the Great Lakes, read The Dynamic Great Lakes, a critically acclaimed non fiction book about the Great Lakes systemavailable at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and many other fine bookstores.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Duluth, Minnesota to Kingston, Ontario

Pictured is Duluth, Minnesota

On the Great Lakes, linked by connecting rivers and man made locks, a ship may navigate for 2,342 miles from Duluth, Minnesota
at the western tip of Lake Superior to Kingston, Ontario at the entrance of the St. Lawrence River and then down the Saint Lawrence River to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the North Atlantic
Ocean making shipping to and from the Great Lakes worldwide.

Excerpt from the Dynamic Great Lakes

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oversight for Nuclear Power Plants

Since there are numerous aging nuclear power plants in the Great Lakes Basin, 33 plus four that are not running, we should be aware of the loose regulations.  Here is a link to an important AP article:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Great Lakes Are Gifts of the Glaciers

Imagine this if you can.  Glaciers one to nearly two and a half miles high bulldozed their way through our continent four times.  Slowly, ever so slowly they ground across the landscape scooping out old riverbeds and then slowly melted back north over thousands of years leaving freshwater of the Great Lakes in their wake.  Since we do not expect another Ice Age any time soon, we need to care for the glacial water left to us in the Great Lakes and in the groundwater.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Invasive species: purple loosestrife

Wetlands are very important.  The native species of plants help prevent floods and filter out pollutants. They also are nurserys for birds and fish.  Pictured is a wetland with an invasive species: purple loosestrife.  This plant does not belong in Great Lakes wetlands because it takes over and native species are crowded out.  Read more about invasive species in the Great Lakes in my book: The Dynamic Great Lakes.  The book is widely available at, and many other fine bookstores.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review of the Dynamic Great Lakes by Barbara Spring

Reviewer:  Norman Goldman Editor Bookpleasures     

  Many of us know very little about the five Great Lakes other than perhaps being able to name them. As Barbara Spring states in her introduction to her outstanding primer The Dynamic Great Lakes they are "a flowing river of seas left behind by Ice Age glaciers and are nearly twenty percent of the world's supply of fresh surface water; the world's greatest freshwater system." The ecosystem of this great body of water is very complex and unfortunately due to pollution and the fallout of modern industry and agriculture they have gone through a gradual transformation.

One of the unique characteristics of this compact book is that it is written in a language devoid of esoteric explanations. The eight chapters of the book reflect the author's teaching and journalistic aptitudes in knowing how to unravel the mystery of the Great Lakes and the many painful dangers it has faced and continues to face.

Each of the five Lakes is introduced with a brief synopsis of important elements distinguishing one from the other such as: elevation, length, breadth, average depth, maximum depth, volume, water area, retention time, population and outlet. From this point of departure the author deals with the various changes that have taken place as well as the various major issues affecting the Lakes. There are also brief descriptions of the various animal life found in each of the Lakes and how they have been affected by pollution and the appearance of harmful species, such as the Lamprey Eel.

However, we are also reminded throughout the reading of the book that "people power" can have an effect and if we band together and make our voices heard we could exert influence in reversing some of the harmful trends that have caused ecological disaster. For example we are apprised of the situation that occurred in relation to Lake Erie. In 1969 a tributary river of Lake Erie, the Cayahoga, caught on fire due to being heavily coated with oil and debris. As a result, the Federal Water Quality Administration launched a one and half billion dollar municipal sewage treatment program for the Erie Basin which included the five surrounding states: Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.

The conclusion of the book most appropriately reminds us that: "we are all challenged to use our knowledge, creativity and common sense to keep the Great Lakes great. Can you think of ways to think globally and act locally?" We are also warned " life on earth is only possible as long as our limited life support system works.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sturgeon to Imprint on the Kalamazoo River

The Grand Rapids Press
Howard Myerson

NEW RICHMOND -- Dawn Petrowski was careful to use a long feather to gently stir the brew, the salt bath being given to a tankful of tiny Great Lakes sturgeon.

The salt would kill any fungus in the Kalamazoo River water. The feather was to assure the 9-day-old and fragile fish would not be injured. After bath time, it was feeding time. Brine shrimp was on the menu.

"When they (the sturgeon) get bigger, we’ll switch to blood worms, a bigger food. But now they are being fed brine shrimp," said Petrowski, a fisheries staffer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources who had the morning shift at the state’s newest mobile sturgeon rearing facility located along the banks of the Kalamazoo River.

The tiny sturgeon, 140 in all, swam in plastic tanks enclosed in the small trailer parked at New Richmond Bridge Park. The inch-long fish were treated carefully, being the future hope for a dying river fishery where sturgeon were once abundant.

Archaeological evidence suggests sturgeon were a large part of the local tribal fish diet 500 years ago. Today, there are 60 mature sturgeon left in the river, according to state researchers who have been studying the population for past eight years.

The demise of sturgeon on this river follows a course seen elsewhere in the Great Lakes; a saga of overfishing, poaching and spawning habitat loss because of the damming of rivers.

2sturgeon-05.jpgDNR staffer Dawn Petrowski gives the sturgeon larvae a salt bath to kill off fungus.
"What we are most interested in doing here is identifying the Kalamazoo River sturgeon as (genetically) different from those on the Manistee River or from Wisconsin," said Kregg Smith, a DNR fish biologist and sturgeon researcher who recently finished up the work of collecting Kalamazoo River sturgeon larvae for the rearing station.

"When we release these fish in September or October, hopefully, they will be 8-to-10 inches long. We’ll tag them with radio transmitters to monitor their over-winter survival. They will live in the river through January and then move out into Lake Michigan," he said.

That may be the last Kregg and other researchers see of them for years.

Female sturgeon can live to be 80 years old. Males can live to be 65. Males live in Lake Michigan until they are 12 years old. Then they return to their home river to spawn annually or every other year.

Females, however, are slower to mature They may be 18 or 20 before they spawn and then only reproduce every four to seven years.

"We have one female that is about 200 pounds," Smith said. "We see her every four years. We’ve captured her twice in eight years."

Between 50 and 100 young sturgeon are expected to be released this fall. Smith hopes to double that in future years. The Kalamazoo River sturgeon population declines about 2 percent a year, 30 percent every 15 years.

"We want to stock between 100 and 200 a year to stem the rate of loss," Smith said.

3sturgeon-05.jpgThis is the first stream-side hatchery for sturgeon on the Kalamazoo River at New Richmond Bridge Park.
It is a worthy goal that may be difficult to attain.

Larvae netting this spring collected almost 700 quarter-inch sturgeon, according to Smith. But many died because of the stress of netting, handling and an initial problem with facility water temperatures. More are likely to die when their diet is changed to the larger blood-worm, Smith said. But so far things appear to be on track.

"Releasing 100 would be a good year for the first year of one of these trailers," Smith said. "The others have been (releasing) less than 50."

The New Richmond facility is the newest of six mobile sturgeon-rearing facilities parked around Lake Michigan. Two are located on the Milwaukee and Manitowoc rivers in Wisconsin. Two others are on the Cedar and Whitefish rivers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the other is on the Manistee River.

Kalamazoo River water is used exclusively in its tanks, so the young fish imprint on the river. It is filtered and disinfected to remove parasites or other diseases that could affect their health.

Smith said using river water is essential at this early stage to assure the fish imprint on the river and come back to spawn. Studies elsewhere have shown that adult sturgeon later introduced to rivers may not return. They may just wander up another river to spawn.

The Kalamazoo project is a cooperative partnership between the Michigan DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gun Lake Tribe, Allegan County and volunteers with Kalamazoo River Sturgeon for Tomorrow, among others.

The station cost $220,000 to build and was built by staff from the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Funding came from federal funds allocated to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Al Weener, president of the Kalamazoo River Sturgeon for Tomorrow, said his group has been hoping to see it get built. It has the capacity to handle 2,000 young sturgeon. Volunteers with Weener’s organization help by patrolling the river looking for sturgeon poachers during the spawning season.

"We had the feeling that if something wasn’t done in the next few years, this genetic strain would be gone," Weener said. "It’s been a lot of fun to be involved and this is pretty exciting."

Smith said project the was eight years in the making, time spent assessing the river’s population to make sure there was a viable reproducing sturgeon population. Poaching continues to be a problem, he said. Signs are being posted along the river to warn and advise anglers of the fines involved.

Sam Stafslien, the FWS fish biologist who helped to build the station and who works onsite, said most who have stopped by to see the operation approve of what is being done.

"There is a lot of support for this project," Stafslien said. "People come a long way to see it. We’ve had maybe two people complain, out of 100, They want their money to go to things like walleye and perch."

E-mail Howard Meyerson: and follow him on Twitter at

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The sand dunes along Lake Michigan are gifts of the west wind. 
It was here that the father of ecology, Henry Chandler Cowles, made observations about the rapidly changing plant life that led to the
science of ecology.
In 1899 he published
The Ecological Relation of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan
 In this paper he showed the  mutual relationships between plants and their environment.
“Ecology is a study in dynamics,” he wrote.
The word dynamic means change. The Great Lakes are dynamic.
Sand dunes are dynamic, making them a living laboratory for the
study of ecology.
Excerpt from The Dynamic Great Lakes

Available from Barnes & Noble and many other fine bookstores.