Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wild Weather

Wild weather.  From very cold to very warm and back again.  I am looking forward to spring.  It can't be too far away.  This is my photo of the pier, catwalk and lighthouse at the end of the Grand River that flows into Lake Michigan.

Photo by Steve Damstra                   American bald eagle

We are seeing eagles fishing and chasing birds now.  Their courtship is in February and the eagles are gathering. Read more about this phenomenon in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.

The Dynamic Great Lakes is available at Barnes & Noble, and many other places in stores and on the www.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lake Michigan Shore Ice

Now the ice is building in ridges along the shores of West Michigan.  If you decide to explore this, be very careful.  Some have plunged into frigid waters when they thought there was solid ice under them.  The ice moves in and out of the lake all the time with wind and wave action.  It is pretty though.

Read more about the Great Lakes in The Dynamic Great Lakes.  The book is available on Kindle, and paperback through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many fine bookstores.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

You Can Fight City Hall and Win Big

 Norm Spring

You can fight City Hall and win.  It takes time and patience, but sometimes the results are spectacular.

Years ago we lived across the street from the city park in Grand Haven, Michigan where the elm trees were sprayed with DDT to fight Dutch elm disease.  Long after the spraying we would see robins trembling in their death throes.  DDT is a long lasting pesticide that magnifies through food chains and the robin that had fed upon earthworms died before our eyes.

The fish in nearby Lake Michigan were affected even more since food chains in water are long.  DDT builds up in plankton and then magnifies with each step up the food chain.  Small fish and then larger fish and then the American bald eagle that feeds upon fish began to show the effects of DDT.  The young of eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys did not hatch because DDT caused the shells of the eggs to break before the birds could hatch.

At that time, I was reading Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring,  and showed it to my husband, Norm Spring.  His reaction was visceral.  He had to do something about it.  He marched down to city hall and asked that the DDT program stop in our city park.  When it was not stopped, he brought experts to explain why it should be stopped.

City hall countered by bringing agriculture department people.  This went on for three years before he convinced city hall to stop the DDT program.

Then people from a neighboring city, Holland, Michigan came and together with others Norm Spring formed the Michigan Pesticides Council.  It met at M.S.U. with Dr. Ted Black, Dr. George Wallace, Dr. Howard Tanner, Dr. John Kitchel, Joan Wolfe and others.  Together they marshaled citizen support and by 1969 DDT was banned in Michigan and by 1972 was banned nationally. 

It took years for DDT to purge from Lake Michigan food chains, but today we often see bald eagles along the beaches and the Grand River that flows through Michigan.  On January 4, 2003, the Grand Haven Tribune reported 46 bald eagles on the ice and in the trees not far from U.S. 31.  About a third of these were mature eagles.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ongoing Research about The Great Lakes

Follow the link above to see the reserch at the Annis Water Resources Institute. Mapping the Great Lakes, invasive species and other important research is happening.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes

Interviews & Essays Interview by LISA
Lisa:Could you tell a little about yourself? Where you grew up, how you started writing?

Barbara:I was born in New York City, spent some growing up years in Columbia, Missouri, then my family moved to East Lansing, Michigan when I was 10. After high school I graduated from Michigan State University with a major in English. I always liked to write. I became an English major after taking a poetry class at Michigan State from the Poet Laureate of Canada, A.J.M. Smith. I have taken many post graduate courses in outdoor education, art, photography, and I have studied writing with Wm. Stafford, Robert Bly, Nancy Willard, N. Scott Momaday and many other notable writers.

Lisa:Why did you write The Dynamic Great Lakes?

Barbara:I could not find an up to date book on the five Great Lakes and their connecting waters, dunes, wetlands and other features. I could not find any book for the general public about the interconnected Great Lakes. So I wrote one.

Lisa:Who were your mentors?

Barbara:My first mentor was my father, E. P. Reineke, a research scientist at M.S.U. in the physiology dept. He did some important original research there. I learned to love and appreciate nature from him. My husband, Norm Spring has been a long time outdoorsman and conservationist. I have learned a great deal about nature and the democratic process from him.

Lisa:What are some books that have changed your life?

Barbara:Silent Spring by Rachel Carson opened my eyes to what we are doing to the environment. After reading the book and recommending it to my husband, we both became activists on behalf of the environment before the first Earth Day in 1970. I also loved A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. I required my students to read it when I taught writing classes at Grand Valley State University.

Lisa:Who do you think would enjoy reading this book?

Barbara:I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes for a general audience.

I spoke to school children this week. I opened my talk with a space photo of Planet Earth and explained that the water they saw was 98% salt water-only about 2% is freshwater. "Dang!" said a kid in surprise.

The audience for my book is really adults, but school age kids will find it interesting, too. It is an up to date reference to the five Great Lakes and their connecting waters: their fishes, dunes, wetlands, seasonal changes and changes caused by people. The Dynamic Great Lakes will be an eye-opener for anyone.

Lisa:Why is the Dynamic Great Lakes an important book?

Barbara:The Great Lakes are important but often misunderstood. They are about 20% of all the fresh surface water on this planet. People need to understand their dynamics in order to make sound decisions about them. Recently a grassroots movement in Michigan blocked oil companies from further oil exploration under Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The risk of polluting the lakes with oil and noxious gases was intolerable. There will be more schemes that threaten the health of the Great Lakes. Armed with knowledge, people will demand the right thing of their government. They will also be careful of what they do in their personal decisions. The lakes' water is low this year, but it will rise again. People who know this is a natural cycle will not build too close to the water.

Lisa:Why is this book a good choice for Earth Day?

Barbara:The book encourages people to think globally and act locally. Everything is connected to everything else. This means that what we burn, what we release in the water and land and what we eat are all connected. We often forget that we are part of the whole and flowing web of life. Our actions will affect us now and in the future.

Lisa:How is your book different from other books about the Great Lakes?

Barbara:I limited my topic to changes in the Great Lakes, both through natural forces and through changes caused by people. There have been a great many changes and I believe people will be interested in learning about the Pacific salmon planted in the lakes to feed on the pesky alewives that invaded them through the canals around Niagara Falls. They will be interested in other exotic species such as the zebra mussels and how they got into all five Great Lakes.

Lisa:How did you research the book?

Barbara:I began with observations. We live within view of Lake Michigan. I can observe the change of seasons and what kinds of fish are being caught. I have also observed all the other lakes and their connecting waters. I then set out to find out authoritative information about the lakes by interviewing experts. The book is interdisciplinary. I interviewed a geologist, fish biologists, and naturalists. I asked them for good sources in print. I went out on Grand Valley State University's research vessel, Angus to see what research was being done. I enjoyed working on the Dynamic Great Lakes because there was always something new.

Lisa:What else have you written?

Barbara:As a journalist, I have written articles for the Grand Rapids Press, a major newspaper in West Michigan. These articles were about travels, profiles of interesting people, and outdoor subjects. I also have had articles published in Michigan Out of Doors magazine, Michigan Natural Resources magazine, Muskegon Magazine, Field & Stream and many others.