April/May 2013

April - 2013 Upwellings
Image courtesy: Eric J. Anderson, Physical Scientist, NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The World of Modeling

Exploring scientific models

By Stephanie Ariganello, Michigan Sea Grant

Models are misunderstood.

No, not the beauties of the fashion variety — though, they very well may be misunderstood. The models referred to here are scientific models. Models that, when they are run or simulated, inform scientists about what is happening to particular aspects of the natural world now or in the future.

While it may not seem that models hold relevance to everyday life for some people, scientific models often form a base that many non-scientists use as the root of decisions — contributing to whether you grab an umbrella in the morning, avoid a beach because of high bacteria levels or host the annual family picnic at a certain time of year.

How are they misunderstood? They may seem overly complex and unconnected to our lives. However, understanding models and how they work is not only possible, but also crucial to understanding science in today’s world. Here we look at how models are built, what type of information they supply and what we can do with that information.

Defining Models

Models are, in simplest form, a mathematical representation of a real world event, explains Brent Lofgren, a modeler. “But one of the things a model allows you to do is change some single aspect of the real world to see what happens.”

See: Full Story

Other News

Lake Ontario Salmon vs. Lake Michigan Salmon

By Dan O’Keefe, Southwest Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator

Sometimes the salmon only seem fatter and bigger on the other side of the basin; however, in this case it could be true. Lake Ontario continues to produce big salmon, while Lake Michigan fish sizes are down. Chinook salmon catch rates are at all-time highs on both lakes, but the fish size could be a sign of trouble on Lake Michigan.

Salmon fisheries in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have seen big changes in the past decade. In Lake Huron, Chinook salmon disappeared from much of the lake after their primary food source, the invasive alewife, crashed in 2004. In Lake Michigan, the abundance of large, older alewife has declined along with their caloric value.

Although salmon are still abundant in Lake Michigan, their size has declined.

These changes have hurt coastal communities on Lake Huron and led to concerns that Lake Michigan may follow the same path. In looking for an explanation, two possibilities emerged. Broadly speaking, the “bottom-up” explanation is that invasive quagga mussels have reduced the productivity of open waters, while the “top-down” explanation is that salmon are too abundant. Both situations could lead to problems for alewife and ultimately spell disaster for salmon.

This leads into the question – did Lake Ontario’s fishery really escape the problems of the upper lakes?

Intrigued? To read about potential explanations, see Part 2: Michigan Anglers Wonder Why Lake Ontario Salmon Seem to be Doing Better

Underwater World of Salmon

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This video relates Great Lakes ecology to the experiences of people who fish for salmon on the Great Lakes, watch them during the fall spawning run in Michigan rivers, and even raise them from egg to smolt in classrooms around the state. The video specifically deals with the early life history stages of wild and captive salmon.

Citizen scienceCitizen Science: Adopt-a-Beach

By Mary Bohling, Urban and Southeast Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator

Getting involved in citizen science means contributing to important work — while also learning or applying new skills, building camaraderie and trying something different. One such opportunity is volunteering with Adopt-a-Beach, coordinated by the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Teams of volunteers head to their local beach or shoreline area to conduct a shoreline assessment using science-based observations and sampling. Teams also remove litter and record their findings for inclusion in the Great Lakes database.

According to the program manager, Jamie Cross, 3,122 volunteers removed 8,309 pounds of debris from 140 beaches and shorelines in Michigan last year. Through their participation, volunteers submitted nearly 600 data sets into the Adopt-a-Beach™ online data collection system. Information collected is shared with the public, management agencies and others to help make informed decisions about shoreline and beach health and to work toward improvements for our Great Lakes coastal areas.

For more details on the program and other opportunities in Michigan, see:

Additional Citizen Science References:


2012 Staff Retreat, Muskegon MIMichigan Catch & Cook Program Earns Governor Honors

An innovative program that offers charter fishing clients a chance to take their fresh catch to a restaurant to have it prepared for them has caught the eye of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. The Michigan Catch & Cook™ program was recently recognized with a 2013 Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration in the Experience Development & Presentation category.

The program was regarded for its innovative approach in getting people from one recreational activity connected to several others. Catch & Cook brings the recreational fishing and the restaurant and hospitality industries together — expanding the services offered to clients by charter boat fishing companies, generating new business for restaurants, getting visitors to stay longer or overnight and promoting Michigan’s Great Lakes.

The program is collaborative in nature and is comprised of partners from the fishing industry, government and academia, including Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Charter Boat Association, Michigan Restaurant Association, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Catch & Cook was launched in May 2012, and by the year’s end, 49 charter businesses and 29 restaurants were participating in the program. In all, 21 Michigan ports and 17 coastal counties participated in the program, offering the opportunity to catch and cook through various charter operations and restaurants.

See: Michigan Catch & Cook

Marina with facebook logo-150pxAhoy! Clean Marina Program on Facebook

Did you know the Michigan Clean Marina Program is on Facebook? We post updates about the program, link to stories relevant to boating, marinas and water quality, and we have a little fun. Consider joining the conversation here: CMP Facebook page.

SDC-120Don’t Miss the Boat!

Summer Discovery Cruises are back! The scheduled for this summer’s cruises are now available through the Summer Discovery Cruise website. For details, see: SDC schedule