Sunday, November 15, 2015

Great Lakes Education

People need to know about the Great Lakes

In Touch with the World through the www
People who live around the Great Lakes often take them for granted.  I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes, to give people enough information to make intelligent choices in their every day lives about the world’s greatest freshwater system.  The Dynamic Great Lakes is a book about their ecology and the mistakes people have made when altering the landscape by making locks for shipping, destroying wetlands or introducing new species both intentionally and unintentionally.  It was my aim in writing this book to make people appreciate these lakes and understand what they might do for their betterment.
Most people do not understand the significance of the Great Lakes.  They are twenty per cent of the world’s fresh surface water and need to be protected.  These lakes’ freshwater will be hotly contested as more and more industries and people in arid parts of the world would like to exploit them. It is indeed happening now.   Some large freshwater lakes in the world have been destroyed—drawn down to nothing through a lack of understanding.
Bottling plants have their eyes on the Great Lakes.  Bottling water and shipping it out of the watershed will destroy the integrity of the lakes and their unique ecosystems.  People in the Great Lakes watershed argue that the water belongs to the commons and should not be sold for private profit.  There are many more issues the book addresses: directional drilling for oil, nuclear power plants, exotic species, wetlands, sand dunes and pollution from industries and municipalities. 
I wrote the book and created this website so that people might find the information they need about the Great Lakes. It gives the basics and yet limnologists have told me they learned things about the Great Lakes they did not know, while general readers have told me that they never appreciated the Great Lakes until they read my book.  Another motive in writing the book was to raise consciousness about the greatest freshwater system on the surface of Earth and the need to protect what we have.  Armed with such knowledge, people are in a good position to make good decisions about the lakes.
One of the first educational websites and newsletters that featured The Dynamic Great Lakes website was  in the U.K.  I have had responses from around the globe: Germany, France, USSR, Scandinavia, China, and many other places.  I believe the world wants to know about the Great Lakes.
The Dynamic Great Lakes has been added to the National Clearinghouse of Math and Science, The Eisenhower Regional Consoritia (enc online)  a database for math and science, a resource widely used by schools.
 I  have given talks about the ever-changing Great Lakes at several bookstores, libraries and museums as well as schools.
Several public radio stations, and several public television stations have interviewed me and prominently displayed my book cover and URL as the program was aired, or in the case of radio, repeated the URL of my website over the air several times. 
The Dynamic Great Lakes, the book, will be listed as a resource in an educational program under development for the Great Lakes in Michigan.  The book is also listed as a resource in a book published by Michigan State University 
Because of a great many favorable reviews, the book has been critically acclaimed and re released by Independence Books.  It has also been updated with new material.  The Dynamic Great Lakes is in its fourth printing.  I believe that having a website has helped get the word out and this led to the book being chosen by the publisher to be re released. 

 If we do not work to conserve our life giving freshwater, we may find that the integrity of the lakes is damaged beyond repair.  My website allows people to see satellite views of the Great Lakes as well as places around the Great Lakes of interest: Chicago, Cleveland, Lake Michigan with its singing sands, the Door Peninsula in Canada and the Bruce Peninsula in Canada with their limestone formations, population centers, invasive species, fish, both endemic and planted or accidentally released into the lakes.
A website can be a valuable adjunct to a book.    To keep the website fresh, I change it from time to time.  I have published other books, The Wilderness Within, a book of poems and a few essays. It is about wild places in the world and within the self; Sophia's Lost and Found, poems of above and below, and Between Sweetwater and Sand.  Although different genres, these books were  written with a deep appreciation of nature.
My poems are published on other websites that appreciate my work, the PW Review, Artvilla, Prairie Poetry, Wise Women’s Web, Betsie’s Literary Page, Creative Women’s Network UK.; Care2  These websites can be accessed around the globe.   In this way I can publish new work until I decide to publish another collection of poetry.  There is a community of poets who support and appreciate one another.
There is a community of people who are involved in the work of educating about the environment, and groups whose aim is to make a difference in improving the environment.  I can be in touch with these groups with a few keystrokes.  They let me know what is new and often send good feedback about my website.  Often we trade links.
These websites are Environmental Education on the internet (EE link); National Science Teachers Association (nst);;;; Presbyterians for Restoring Nature;; eco-portal; getCited; Book Sense; Care2 Environment Supersite; Michigan Authors and Illustrators Search Page; waterwebring;, a clever literary website; Creative Womens Network; A Celebration of Women Writers; Snakeskin; Teacher Talk Earth and Sky;, a literary website and Poets House in New York City,
Some of the most ardent conservationists are outdoorsmen and women.  I won an award from Water and Woods for my website.  I contribute articles to websites and sometimes they review my book:  Lakeland Boating has such a website as does Great Lakes Boating;; Fishing With Rod, a website in British Columbia where my book was reviewed; Float Fishing, a website in Toronto.
I can be in touch with communities in far-flung places with my website.  My book is available to purchase in other countries such as Canada, Japan, Germany, England, and France, Australia through various on-line stores.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Smitty the Mastodont

Mastodont Bones Found

In l985, the gigantic bones of a mastodont were found in

 Grandville, a city in West Michigan. A family digging the

foundation of a new house reported the find to Dr. Richard

Flanders, an anthropologist at Grand Valley State University

and Dr. Flanders along with his anthropology students began

the task of digging up the skeleton of the Ice Age animal

very carefully so that none of the bones would be lost or

destroyed in the process.

After all the bones had been carefully reassembled, they

could learn a great deal about Smitty, a name the students

gave to the ancient animal. Smitty weighed as much as a

school bus and his huge tusks were supported by a very

powerful neck.

Some parts of Smitty were missing, the brain and the

legs. They wondered if Smitty might have been hunted and

then killed by paleo indians because these would have been

the choice cuts of meat. Professor Flanders took some of the

bones to a butcher for his opinion. Flanders suspected that

the animal had been butchered for its meat. The butcher told

him that it looked to him as if the bones had been butchered

in the same way butchers still cut meat today.

The place where Smitty was found also led Dr. Flanders

and his students to believe that the mastodont had been

driven into a pit by a number of hunters and their dogs where

he could be killed with stone weapons.

Although the mastodonts and their larger relatives the

mammoths were numerous at the end of the Ice Age and

quite a few of their bones have been found in the Great

Lakes basin, they disappeared from the face of the Earth

along with the other mega sized animals.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Enbridge Pipeline Under Straits of Mackinac

 Did you know that the currents that run through the Straits of Mackinac are 10 times stronger than the current of the Niagra River? That's one of many reasons it's a terrible idea to have 23 million gallons of oil passing through those waters daily - imagine how quickly those currents could move leaking oil across the #GreatLakes Help us #ShutDownLine5 - Visit

Click the links above for more information and how you could help.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Isle Royale in Lake Superior

Greenstones,  Wolves, Moose, Thimbleberries, and the Isle Royale redfin lake trout


On the map, Isle Royale looks like the eye in the wolf’s head shape of Lake Superior with Duluth its snout and the Keweenaw Peninsula its mouth.  It is precious since there are few places left on this planet that have been preserved like this.  It is unique; some of the oldest rocks on this planet form Isle Royale, its plants and animals  and minerals.  There are copper mining pits on the Island where native Americans dug rich veins of copper long ago.


     When I think of Isle Royale, I think of Eden, a place away from cars and the noise of machinery. There is no traffic on Isle Royale; only hiking trails.   The sounds of Isle Royale are of bugling moose, the silvery songs of northern songbirds, the lapping of waves on rocks and the quavering voices of loons.  Sometimes there is the slap of a beaver’s tail.  The resident pack of wolves are elusive and seldom seen.  We did not hear them at all.

     My husband and I hiked the trails there and I’ll never forget the thimbleberries  higher than our heads along a trail.  We picked the large berries like none other I have ever tasted, copper color, tangy and delicious.

          We found greenstones, Michigan’s semi precious stone.  We stayed on Isle Royale for a week and every day we took a different hiking trail.  We watched a diving duck teaching her young to dive.  We saw a fox near its den, and had a close encounter with a moose.   As we hiked, my husband Norm said, “I smell a moose.”  I didn’t believe him, but as we came around the bend, there it was, bigger than life, standing athwart our trail.  We kept a respectful distance and it casually strolled off.


          We did not fish, but the rocks off of the island are the place where the Isle Royale redfin lake trout spawn as they have for millennia.  This is an endemic species and its good to know it is still returning to Isle Royale every year before returning to the depths of Lake Superior.


          In my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes, I have a section devoted to this very special fish, the Isle Royale redfin lake trout.



Thursday, September 24, 2015

One Thousand Sturgeon

1000 sturgeon planted  follow the link to the latest news about sturgeon.

Read more about the sturgeon in the Great Lakes in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.
This book is available in paperback and on Kindle., etc.

the 5 Great Lakes as seen from space.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Round Gobies in Lake Michigan

BY RYAN MATUZAK Local Columnist Traverse City
Here in Grand Traverse Region, we can try for many different species of fish in a single trip — the interesting part is how one of the more recent invasive fish plays a part in the catching. Round gobies cover the floor of the lake and bays at most every depth. They are one of the most visible and abundant fish on the bottom of the lake. Any cover on the bottom will attract gobies. In their home waters of the Black Sea, they prefer eating small crustaceans and invertebrates, along with zebra and quagga mussels. Since our lake bottom is covered with these mussels, there is plenty of food for the gobies — in addition to competing for food with the native fish species.
When I go out fishing now with a particular species in mind, gobies are part of the equation. In the Grand Traverse Bays and Lake Michigan, finding cover or structure that the gobies live on will have more fish that are looking to eat. These areas continue to draw feeding fish based on the gobies reproduction cycle. The average mature 1-2-year-old female goby spawns every 20 days from April until September. As many as 5,000 eggs are laid in each nest. That is a lot of different-sized prey fish entering the system for around six months of the year. These fish are rich in vitamin B, which helps the reproduction of the fish eating them. Natural reproduction in native fish has gone up in areas where the alewife populations have gone down and gobies numbers are up. Alewives are a decent food source for fish with their fatty acids but they do not help reproduction because they are vitamin B-deficient. I've found gobies in nearly every species of fish caught in the Great Lakes and connecting waters in the last decade. Our perch eat the juveniles and big perch are full of 1-inch gobies. The local lake trout have a steady diet of almost exclusively gobies. We catch them in 10- to 200- feet of water trolling and jigging vertically — all of them have gobies in them. And yes, we have seen some chinook salmon this year full of gobies. There were not a lot of salmon eating them but we have seen more this year than in all of the years since gobies' arrival combined. Our prized smallmouth bass fishery here in the Grand Traverse Region is also benefiting from the abundant goby population right where the bass like to live. The bass are found feeding on gobies in water right up to the beach and as deep recently as 80 feet of water. Tube baits do a great job of mimicking a goby. If you do happen to catch gobies when you are fishing your next time out, don’t be surprised. Just remember that spot may have some of your favorite target species nearby just waiting to bite your line next! Ryan Matuzak runs fishing trips in the Grand Traverse region — North Country Sportfishing, LLC — and is a board member of the Grand Traverse Area Sport Fishing Association. To learn more, drop him a line at:

Lake Michigan

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fishing in Lake Michigan

Coho and Chinook Salmon, Pacific Salmon are now being caught in Lake Michigan. People are now catching perch and lake run steelhead from piers.
 Read more about fishing in the Great Lakes in The Dynamic Great Lakes.  The book is available online at,, The Bookman in Grand Haven, MI, Schuler's Books and Music in Grand Rapids and Lansing and many other places.

Critically acclaimed by those interested in fishing and the freshwater seas.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Native Fish in Great Lakes Make a Comeback

Steelhead, perch and lake trout are making a comeback due to the decline of the alewife.  For more information about fishing in the five Great Lakes, here is a link: The latest fishing information

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lamprey Eels in Canada and the Great Lakes

The so-called “vampire of the lakes” has been found for the first time in a creek west of London, Canada.
Sea lamprey are a blood-sucking scourge that once threatened to ruin the multibillion-dollar fish industry in the Great Lakes.
Now, with a $22-million annual program to monitor lakes and treat tributaries for lamprey and their larvae, they number “about 10% of what they (once) were,” says Brian Stephens, who heads the sea lamprey control program for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “They almost decimated the populations of lake trout in the upper Great Lakes in the 1950s.”
But lamprey larvae keep popping up in new places. And the newest location to be treated with a lampricide will be a tiny tributary of the Thames River, in Komoka Creek west of London.
“This is the first time Komoka Creek is scheduled for treatment,” Stevens said.
Adult lamprey swim from lakes to spawn in clean, gravelly tributaries. The adults then die but their larvae stay in the stream-bed for about five years until they’re large enough to float downstream to the lakes.
There, they attach themselves to native fish and literally suck the life out of them.
The Komoka Creek larvae were found during survey efforts in 2013.
The population estimate is there are 730 larvae longer than 100 millimetres, or the width of a human hand.
At that stage, they’re ideal for chemical treatment to prevent them from growing into adults.
In the oceans, sea lamprey are parasites that live off large saltwater fish.
But as an invasive species in fresh water here, they threaten a $7-billion fishing industry.
“Unfortunately, in the Great Lakes, the fish aren’t as big as the host they feed on and they kill the host,” Stephens said.
Before the U.S. and Canada began a joint program in the mid-1950s to monitor, trap and apply lampricide, commercial fish populations had plummeted to just 2% of their previous average.
The lamprey larvae have low levels of an enzyme that would allow their systems to break down the species-specific lampricide, Stephens said. Fish have higher levels of that enzyme and are not harmed in the treatment.
A trout hatchery set up on the creek by Thames River Anglers Association wouldn’t be harmed by the lampricide.
Monitoring takes place continuously through the Great Lakes basin.
In the London region, Big Creek and Big Otter Creek — which feed into Lake Erie — have also been treated with lampricide in past years. This week, a team has also been treating creeks near Oshawa.
Komoka Creek was originally to have been treated this spring, but heavy rains have tentatively postponed that to August. 

Read more about invasive species in The Dynamic Great Lakes: available on a Kindle reader and also in paperback.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fracking: What Does it Mean?

Click the link for the Fracking Song.


I just have signed a petition to put a ban on fracking in Michigan for 2016.  This is an important piece of legislation for the sake of the environment and all living things.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kite Festival

                 Go fly a kite.  It's a green sport.  No motors; only wind and skill. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bookman in Grand Haven MI June 20 10:30-11:30 a.m. Celebrate Summer Solstice

I will be at the Bookman in Grand Haven MI from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday June 20 to celebrate the Summer Solstice with poetry and music by the Trace Duo.

Robin Spring fishing

Dutchman's Breeches and the Bookman in Grand Haven, MI

I will be at the Bookman in Grand Haven MI on May 1 declaiming poems and showing a few of my watercolors.  I will be at the Bookman again on June 20 at 6-8 pm with my new book, Between Sweetwater and Sand.  See you there.

Dutchmans Breeches

Delicate dances in strong April winds
blowing off Lake Michigan
Delicate wild flowers grow
Under tall pines
Under high sand dunes
Called Rosy Mound.

Tiny white wild
Flowers tremble on green stems
Dance amid lacey green leaves.
They are called Dutch mans breeches.
Did Dutch men ever dance like this?
                                        --Barbara Spring

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Great Lakes from Space by NASA

NASA photo of the five Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  There is still ice on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior but soon it will all be gone and people will be out on the lakes enjoying swimming, fishing, kayaking, surfing, wind surfing, kite boarding and just enjoying the freshwater seas.

From this point of view, we can appreciate the Great Lakes.  They are freshwater seas.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

For Earth Day: The Dynamic Great Lakes

On Planet On Planet Earth, the Great Lakes are absolutely unique.

The decisions we make in our daily lives,  and the choices we make in who represents us in our government may affect generations to come.  The Great Lakes system is a treasure. Understanding their natural processes and understanding the dynamics of what we do is essential to these life giving waters.

The way to solve pollution  problems is to think globally and to act locally.

Picture yourself as an astronaut looking down from a spacecraft at this beautiful planet, the Earth. From space, it is easy to see that everything is connected to everything else.  The great masses of swirling clouds travel over the continents, drop rain, and sometimes along with the rain, pollutants. The lakes, rivers and seas are interconnected. In order to control global pollution problems they must be controlled at their source.

In order to act locally, some communities, both adult groups and school age students have adopted a stream.  They have observed the places where pollution might be occurring then they have spoken out against pollution in their communities, city councils or other government agencies.  Local groups of people are in the best position to observe what is happening to their local stream.

Local citizens can help develop cleanup strategies and local pollution prevention programs. The problem is too important to leave to government officials and industries alone.

Legislation to curb pollution needs to be on a global level as well as on national, state and local levels since everyone is a part of the global whole and flowing air, water and land ecosystems.

The view of planet Earth as seen from a satellite in outer space shows the continents, deep blue oceans and white swirling clouds of vapor. The five Great Lakes show their distinct, interconnected shapes; unique bodies of fresh water.

Of all the planets our satellite cameras and telescopes have probed, only Earth looks inviting or habitable.  A famous photograph taken from the moon shows Earth rising against a barren moonscape where nothing lives.  In the foreground we see jagged rock, but rising in the distance is Earth with its liquid medium: water.  Water and life are inseparable. Where there is life, there is water; where there is water, there is life.

All nations as well as all living things share the water and air supply that is the planet’s life support system; therefore we all share a responsibility for the cleanliness of the air, water, land and its living webs of life. Air and water never stop to show a passport, but circulate freely around the globe.  The great swirling airstreams and water systems we can see from a satellite circulate continually.

If we thought of the Earth as an apple, a layer of life- supporting air, soil and water would only be as thick as the apple's skin. Life on Earth is only possible as long as our limited life support system works.

excerpted from The Dynamic Great Lakes by Barbara Spring

Monday, March 2, 2015

Barbara Spring Author websites and blogs

Barbara Spring author of
The Dynamic Great Lakes isbn: 1-58851-731-4
This is a green book.  It shows changes in the Great Lakes ecosystems through natural forces and changes by the hand of man, especially in the past 200 years.  I have a website with my books and their reviews: Books by Barbara Spring

I have two blogs with a lot of information and videos about the Great Lakes:

The Dynamic Great Lakes

And websites:

I have published three poetry books: The Wilderness Within; Sophia’s Lost and Found: Poems of Above and Below; Between Sweetwater and Sand.

I do not represent any organization presently.  My husband and I worked on grassroots committees to ban DDT in the past.  This resulted in a return of the American bald eagle to the shores of the Great Lakes along with peregrine falcons and ospreys and in other areas, fish eating birds such as the brown pelican and whooping crane.

I was a correspondent for the Grand Rapids Press for many years specializing in outdoor  and agricultural topics.

I was an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University and designed writing courses around environmental topics.

I am inspired by the Great Lakes and I see Lake Michigan every day where I live.  Lake Erie Podcast

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow: Lake Michigan

                                            photo by Barbara Spring

On the Beach in Grand Haven, MI: February 
Confessions of an Ice Watcher

As I walk out on the icy shoreline on a cold February day, the wind blows through my wool balaclava and my foot slips on glazed patches on the sand.
My leather gloves are not warm enough to keep the wind from freezing my fingers.
My long down coat though is keeping me warm enough to hike along the shoreline.

I pull my Canon (camera that is) out of my pocket. I didn’t want my camera to freeze.   Ice fascinates me.  My distant relative, Roald Amundsen was a polar explorer from the north of Norway who studied ice and figured out how to reach the South Pole with dog sleds.  Maybe that explains my fascination.  Maybe.  Or it may be that the way the wind and waves change the ice patterns every day is the fascination.  From my perch on the dunes, I watch.

In mid-February of 1979, four of the five Great Lakes froze all the way across. This was the first year this had happened in the recorded history of the National Weather Service.  For years the harbor has not had fast ice where the Coast Guard Ice breaker had to try and break through.  Link to my author page on Amazon
I watch. I walk and I watch some more.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Biophilia: the love of nature and living things.

I have had a great love for the Great Lakes since the moment I saw them as a child. Magnificent Lake Superior was the first Great Lake I saw, the greatest of them all.  I was on a road trip with my family and my uncle was telling a story in the car about “old foamy”, the fish he was going to try and catch. It was quite a fish story.

Then we reached Duluth and I was in awe at its size and beauty. The roar of the waves, the deep blue color and the rocky shores.  Up until then I had lived inland and had only experienced small lakes and streams.  When I grew older I visited all of the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls.  Each of the Great Lakes has its unique features: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Lake Erie, Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario.  I set out to learn important facts about the five lakes and what I might do to preserve their beauty. The Earth, the air, the waters and their living things are all connected and I am connected to them.

When you love something, you are compelled to care for it.  How can I care for the Great Lakes?  First I can learn all I can about them and let others know.  In a small way I am hoping I can help to keep the Great Lakes great.

I must have a serious case of biophilia: the love of nature and living things.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ecology of Kitchel-Lindquist Sand Dunes

The high wooded dunes rise above the Grand River, as they have for several thousand years, a part of the landscape both residents and tourists in the Tri-Cities area enjoy.   For a closer look, people can follow a self-guided nature trail through the dunes.  On Earth Day, the community  pitches in and picks up debris blown into the dunes by the winter winds.  It's a favorite place for people whether they simply look at it as a familiar part of the landscape, or use it for walking or cross country skiing in the winter for it abounds in wildlife, grasses, flowers, and trees. It's a good place to study the lessons of ecology. 

     Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes, near the shore of Lake Michigan and on the north bank of the Grand River is a gift from the river and the west wind; water and wind currents carried sand deposited by Ice Age Glaciers 4,000 years ago.  It is a perfect place to study how a duneland changes over decades, centuries, millenia.  It is a good place to observe dynamic changes from season to season, and even from hour to hour.

     Ecologists say dunes are dynamic because they change rapidly. First to develop the discipline of ecology, Henry Chandler Cowles published his work in l899.  His scientific studies of the sand dunes along Lake Michigan in Indiana and Michigan pointed out the relationships between the shifting sands of the dunes and the changing plant communities that survive under harsh conditions. The scientific observations Cowles made in the Indiana and  Michigan sand dunes made him the father of ecology.  He saw that plants and animals change more rapidly in the dunes than in other places, therefore the dunes  made a perfect outdoor laboratory.

    Cowles' observations on one group of plants replacing another is called succession.  Each stage in dune succession depends upon an earlier stage.  The first plants to grow were perhaps nourished by a dead fish that washed ashore. Insects such as the springtail and bacteria and molds broke the fish down into nutrients the plants could use. After their root systems stabilized the sand, and helped build the dune, other plants were able to establish themselves nourished by nutrients in a layer of topsoil formed by decaying matter. Here is how the dune ecosystem changes with time: 0-20 years Beach grasses 20-50 years Cottonwood, beach grasses, cherry, willow, herbs 50-l00 years increasing variety of shrubs, trees, and herbs.  Jack pine may dominate l00 years Black oak may be among the first forest dominants.   Oak and hickory l00-l,000 years  Beech and maple climax forest (extension bulletin E-l529 Sea Grant).

    Marram grass and sand reed grass are not discouraged by the harsh environment of a sand dune: hot, desert like conditions in the summer, strong winds, and cold arctic conditions in the winter.  Dune plants are adapted to extreme heat, cold, and a lack of moisture. The marram grass and the sand reed grass hold the fort on the foredune by binding the sand with their huge, hair like root systems that may extend down to the water table for a hundred feet. Their stems grow upward even when covered by sand repeatedly.

   On Kitchel-Lindquist Dune"s 52 acres, there is a surprising diversity of life which makes its dunescape an ever changing panorama: plants especially adapted to the dune bloom, each in their season: A self-guided nature trail with l5 numbered stations shows the succession of plants in Kitchel Dunes: along the footpath are: horsetails, interdunal ponds or pannes with rushes, sedges and various insects and amphibians. A delicate looking yet hardy plant bearberry or kinnikinick was used by the Native Americans as tobacco, and there are junipers of two types, an endangered species: Pitcher's thistle, pines, dune grasses, poison ivy, sand cherry, and various types of hardwoods such as red oak.  On top of the highest dune are beech and maple. There are also witchhazel trees that bloom in October and sassafras that turns brilliant colors of red and orange in autumn. Some trees are entwined with bittersweet with orange fruit that birds feed_ upon.   

    Dune forests can grow up on dunes that have been pioneered by grasses and shrubs which stabilize the sand and over the years  help to build a layer of topsoil that can support tall trees.  In the spring, wildflowers such as trillium grow in profusion on south slopes of forested dunes where they can absorb more sunlight. In the open sunny areas of the dune, the yellow hairy puccoon flourishes: its gray green color and fuzzy leaves help it to reflect light and retain water.  Migrating birds rest in the high tree branches while permanent residents such as the pileated woodpecker and the horned owl go about earning their livings in their particular niches.  Whitetail deer browse on vegetation and red fox feeds upon everything from berries and insects to frogs and small mammals such as the white-footed mouse.

    With the climax forest, the dunes have produced a diverse community of plants and animals that are an important part of the Great Lakes' ecosystem. It may have taken a thousand years between the time the first grasses colonized the sand and the tall trees found enough nutrients for their seeds to grow.  These dunes are not replaceable. They are of more value to the whole ecosystem as dunes rather than as industrial sand or real estate. They protect inland areas from wind damage since wind blowing off the lake will glance off of a tall dune and rise up into the air.  They also protect inland areas from flooding, but perhaps their most appreciated value is their beauty.  Dune plants may be able to live through harsh summer and winter weather but, they cannot stand up to off the road vehicles or heavy foot traffic.  Building houses on dunes may also cause wind erosion when the plants stabilizing the dunes are removed. This is called a blowout and it forms a saddle shaped or U shaped depression in a stable sand dune.  In the past, many Lake Michigan dunes were trucked away load by load since their fine sand has industrial uses.   In order to protect Michigan's coastal sand dunes, the state government passed a law in l989 that will prevent harmful development and protect the dunes we still have left. Governor Blanchard signed the bill into law at Kitchel Dunes. Henry Chandler Cowles would have been proud.                         

  Nature Preserve photos and map  click the link.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ship Stuck in the Harbor: Grand Haven, MI

Today the St. Marys Challenger got stuck in the Grand River and a tug and an ice breaker are trying to get it through.  It may take all day because the ship has not gotten very far after several hours.  The photo shows ice ridges that have formed along the Lake Michigan beach in Grand Haven, MI due to the strong winds and cold weather.  Ice in  the Grand River is blocking the passage of the ship.
video from a drone  click here for a youtube picture of the freighter and ice breaker.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ice Forms in Lake Michigan

My Amazon Page with books and more    Click the link for more information

Ice ridges are forming on the Great Lakes.  Read how this happens in my non-fiction book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.

 I took this photo on the sandy beach in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cook Nuclear Plant Leaking oil into Lake Michigan

Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman has been leaking oil into Lake Michigan

Julie Mack | jmack1@mlive.comBy Julie Mack | 
on January 04, 2015 at 12:38 PM, updated January 04, 2015 at 1:13 PM
BRIDGMAN, MI -- Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman has leaked an estimated 2,000 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan since Oct. 25, according to an event notification posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website.
Cook nuclear plant
Plant officials notified the NRC, plus state and local officials, on Dec. 20 about the leak, which is from the Unit 2 main turbine lube oil cooler.
The notification said that "no visible oil or oil sheen is present on Lake Michigan or the shore line."
The leak was isolated as of 10:30 a.m. Dec. 20, the notice said. "Leak repairs will be made to the cooler prior to placing back in service."
Bill Schalk, the spokesman for Cook, could not be immediately reached by the Kalamazoo Gazette for comment Sunday.
However, he told the Detroit Free Press that the leak involved an oil cooling system on the two-turbine plant's Unit 2 main turbine. The series of tubes runs in a heat exchanger where hot oil is cooled by water from Lake Michigan. It's believed the oil leaked into a tube or tubes and was mixed into the cooling water, Schalk told the Free Press.
The turbine system is separate from the plant's radioactive facilities, so the leaked oil is not contaminated with radiation, the Free Press reported.
Schalk told the Free Press that it took awhile for plant officials to realize that a leak was occurring because it was a small leak and the plant discharges 1.5 million gallons of water a minute.
In August, plant officials issued a report that 8,700 gallons of diesel fuel were suspected to have been released from a buried fuel oil tank, but later said there was no leak and the report resulted from "instrumentation error."
Both Unit 1 and Unit 2 were shut down for two days in early November after excessive debris from large waves from Lake Michigan damaged several water screens.
The plant is located near Bridgman, 11 miles south of St. Joseph in Southwest Michigan's Berrien County along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Unit 2 went into operation in 1978.
The plant is owned by American Electric Power and operated by Indiana Michigan Power, an AEP subsidiary.
Julie Mack covers K-12 education and writes a column for Kalamazoo Gazette. Email her at, call her at 269-350-0277 or follow her on Twitter at @kzjuliemack.