December 2019

Welcome to new staff!

The Michigan Sea Grant team is growing! After a season of retirements, we’re happy to welcome a new crop of staff members around the state. Each new member comes to Michigan Sea Grant with a strong scientific background and a commitment to research, education, and outreach about Great Lakes issues. We’re honored to have these folks join our organization and proud to introduce you to them here.

Tom Johengen began serving as Michigan Sea Grant’s new director on November 1. Tom has been a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) at the University of Michigan for nearly 30 years. His research interests include harmful algal blooms, aquatic food webs, invasive species, and observing system technologies to improve water quality monitoring. 

Catherine Riseng, Michigan Sea Grant’s research program manager, served as interim director for a year and a half after Jim Diana’s retirement in 2018. Catherine says, “Tom’s familiarity with the Great Lakes management and research community and his strong connection to NOAA make him an excellent choice to lead Michigan Sea Grant.”  Learn more about Tom.

Lauren Jescovitch’s new role is a collaboration between Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan Technological University. As an Extension educator based in Houghton County, Lauren will focus her education and outreach efforts on fisheries and aquaculture. She will maintain Michigan Sea Grant’s strong relationships with tribal and commercial fishers in the Upper Peninsula. Learn more about Lauren.

El Lower joins Michigan Sea Grant from CIGLR, with an office at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) in Ann Arbor. El works with Rochelle Sturtevant on the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS), a database that tracks the spread of non-native species throughout the Great Lakes region. El combines experience in stakeholder engagement and science communication to create and promote outreach material on aquatic invasive species. Learn more about El.

Martha Gerig works with coastal communities and businesses as another new Extension educator in the Upper Peninsula. She helps bring relevant, concrete science to folks in Delta and Marquette counties, with a focus on coastal resiliency, environmental change, and fisheries. “‘Science serving society’ is one of my favorite mantras,” says Martha. “There is such a great awareness around water resources, environmental change, and coastal resources here. It’s a great place to be at a pivotal time.” Learn more about Martha.

Lake sturgeon take center stage in Saginaw Bay

The lake sturgeon is having a moment in Michigan. After humans nearly erased it from the Great Lakes, this fascinating fish species is on the cusp of a comeback, thanks to dam removals, riverbed restoration projects, and long-term restocking initiatives by state and tribal agencies. 

Michigan Sea Grant has joined the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in focusing on the Saginaw Bay watershed as an important ecosystem for boosting lake sturgeon populations. One of the state’s major recovery strategies is raising young lake sturgeon in hatcheries and releasing them into Michigan’s rivers and lakes. With support from many partners, including Michigan Sea Grant and local tribal communities, Michigan DNR released 19,571 juvenile lake sturgeon into Michigan’s lakes and rivers this year. Nearly 2,000 of these found a new home in the rivers of the Saginaw Bay watershed:

  • Tittabawassee River: 470 fish
  • Cass River: 469 fish
  • Shiawassee River: 469 fish
  • Flint River: 471 fish

This fall, Michigan Sea Grant staff helped host sturgeon release events at riverside sites in Frankenmuth, Flint, Midland, and Chesaning. The young lake sturgeon, fresh from the hatchery, were only a few months old and about 4-6 inches long. Hundreds of participants got to learn about lake sturgeon, meet representatives from state and natural resource groups, and gently hand-release the baby lake sturgeon into the river. These events are an incredible way to get up close and personal with these fish as they begin the next phase of their decades-long lives. Watch the calendar for another round of release events next August and September.

New lake sturgeon adoption packages available

Release events aren’t the only way to get involved in lake sturgeon recovery efforts. A new Adopt-A-Sturgeon program, developed by Michigan Sea Grant and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, offers symbolic adoption packages so sturgeon lovers can directly support these special fish. 

Funds raised through the adoption program will provide room and board for lake sturgeon currently growing in hatchery facilities, support riverside release events, and make it possible for teachers and students to raise juvenile lake sturgeon in their classrooms.

Depending on the support level, adopters can receive a certificate, plush sturgeon stuffed animal, and recognition on the program website. 

All adopters also receive a unique PIT tag number corresponding with their fish. Each hatchery-raised fish is implanted with these tiny tags to help future researchers figure out where the fish were raised, how much they’ve grown, and how far they’ve traveled. If an adopted sturgeon is later captured and scanned by a researcher, the adopter will receive an update about their fish’s size and location. Find the Adopt-A-Sturgeon program online at

Having a blast in Sault Ste. Marie

In September, Michigan Sea Grant hosted the biennial Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Meeting in Sault Ste. Marie. More than 100 Sea Grant staff and network partners gathered in the Upper Peninsula for three days of sharing successes and challenges, collaborating on projects, and renewing friendships across the network. 

We aimed to make the meeting a zero waste event by encouraging participants to bring their own name tags and water bottles, composting food waste, providing a digital program book, and cutting down on giveaway items. We even snipped hosta leaves into green confetti that participants tossed into the air for a celebratory closing photo. 

Check out the photos below for a few snapshots of the event, and find the full album on our Flickr page. Be sure to read this post on our Freshwater Feasts food blog for some of the delicious Great Lakes seafood we enjoyed during the event.

Recent publications from staff and partners

Along with education and outreach, research is a core pillar of Michigan Sea Grant’s work. We not only fund students and faculty at Michigan colleges and universities — many of our staff members are actively researching and publishing, too. Here’s a selection of work generated by our staff and funded researchers this fall:

Graduate research fellow Peter Alsip published his work about potential habitats for invasive carp species in Lake Michigan. His paper, co-authored with Michigan Sea Grant’s research program manager Catherine Riseng, appeared in the November 2019 issue of Freshwater Biology. The issue’s cover art features Peter’s graphics. Read Peter’s paper and take a look at the cover art in the upper right corner of the webpage. 

Extension Educator Rochelle Sturtevant manages the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species (GLANSIS) database. She and her co-authors, including GLANSIS Research Associate El Lower, published a comprehensive review of invasive species in the Great Lakes, updating work last published by Edward Mills in 1993. Rochelle’s article was published online in the Journal of Great Lakes Research and will appear in print in an upcoming issue. Read Rochelle’s paper.

Extension Program Leader Heather Triezenberg and Associate Director Bill Taylor were co-authors on an article in the Journal of Extension about risk perceptions and invasive species outreach. The paper uses viral hemorrhagic septicemia, an invasive fish disease, as a case study for examining invasive species outreach. Read the article.

Bill Taylor also co-edited a book about fishery management success stories, published by the American Fisheries Society. From Catastrophe to Recovery: Stories of Fishery Management Success portrays the positive side of fishery management, a field more commonly known for its challenges and missteps. Find the book.

Sustainable Small Harbors team comes to Arcadia

In October, about one-sixth of the population of Arcadia turned out for a series of workshops designed to help the community develop a long-term vision for its waterfront.

Home to about 600 folks, Arcadia sits on Lake Michigan’s shoreline north of Manistee. Like each of Michigan’s coastal towns, Arcadia has weathered plenty of literal and metaphorical storms blowing in from its surrounding lake shore. When Lake Michigan’s water levels plunged a few years ago, sediment threatened to choke off boat access to the local private and state-managed marinas. Only a few years later, 2019’s water levels rose high enough to eat away shoreline improvements at Arcadia’s Sunset Beach.

Despite these challenges, Arcadia’s residents, along with local conservation groups like the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, anticipate a bright future for their community. In August 2019, they unveiled a new universally accessible boardwalk through the Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve, a wetland gem south of town. Local leaders are also in the process of updating their five-year master plan. Hoping to capitalize on this momentum, Arcadia joined forces with the Sustainable Small Harbors (SSH) program this October.

SSH grew out of a Michigan Sea Grant-funded research project about the long-term sustainability of small coastal communities. Today, the SSH team consists mainly of Michigan Sea Grant staff, architects and designers, state agency representatives, and project leader Don Carpenter. The team has visited communities like Pentwater, St. Ignace, and New Baltimore, where they facilitated public workshops, or charrettes, for residents and local leaders. 

Workshop participants brainstorm a 20-year vision for the future of their community’s waterfront assets. The SSH team gauges the momentum behind each idea and helps participants hone the results into a set of specific development projects and recommendations. Local leaders can then take this report and apply for grants, loans, and state or federal funding to help bring the vision to life. For more about SSH, visit the project website.

In Arcadia, around 110 participants came to the first public workshop on October 10, where they expressed their perceptions of the community’s waterfront and their dreams for its future. The SSH team helped them distill their ideas into three distinct design options, as described in this article from the Manistee News. The SSH team is currently processing the results from the workshops and their conversations with the historical and planning commissions. The results will go into a final recommendations report for the community, expected in Spring 2020.

Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension educator for the northwest Lower Peninsula, was part of the Arcadia SSH project team. He notes that momentum seemed to build behind the idea of a cooperatively owned gas station and store, a boon for a town where the nearest gas station is 12 miles away. Folks also wanted fresh ways to showcase their new wetland boardwalk and connect it to the broader downtown area. 

The final design recommendations will probably include improvements to the public marina. “They’ve always been a boating community,” says Mark. “Some of the infrastructure along the lakeshore has been under extra stress with the current high water levels, so the time might be ripe for improvements that add sustainability and longevity to the existing facilities. The community can use the results of the visioning process to assist in future grant requests for funds that support the marina or repair erosion damage at Sunset Beach.”

Strong outreach and public participation have already set this project on a trajectory for success, says Mark: “The community was in the process of updating their five-year master plan. They were able to hit the pause button while the Sustainable Small Harbors conversations were ongoing and can soon incorporate input from the process into their master plan and build on momentum from a community consensus for their future.”

Find more photos from the Arcadia SSH visit in this Flickr album.

Michigan Sea Grant staff and partners win fall awards

Michigan Sea Grant staff and partners work hard to understand and strengthen Great Lakes ecosystems and communities. Some of those folks have been recognized with awards this fall. We congratulate them on these well-earned accolades:

From the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network honored two Michigan Sea Grant educators during its September conference in Sault Ste. Marie. The awards recognize individual Sea Grant professionals who have shown noteworthy enthusiasm, performance, accomplishments, and impact during their Sea Grant careers.

The network presented Senior Extension Educator Dan O’Keefe with a Mid-Career Individual Achievement Award. In his 12 years of service in southwest Michigan, Dan has worked with coastal communities and businesses to apply science-based knowledge to address a variety of Great Lakes and local issues. His program areas include recreational and charter fisheries and aquatic invasive species. 

Dan has earned a reputation as a neutral facilitator and purveyor of information. In 2019, his work was cited by several local government officials as helping them decide whether or not to support a proposal to dredge the Grand River in their area.

Dan has also worked with anglers and natural resources agencies to develop citizen science processes to collect useful data about Great Lakes fisheries. These programs include Salmon Ambassadors and the Great Lakes Angler Diary.

Senior Extension Educator Steve Stewart received a Distinguished Service Award from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. Steve served southeast Michigan for 40 years, from 1977 until his retirement in June 2019. He was director of the Great Lakes Education Program (GLEP) and Summer Discovery Cruises and was education co-leader for Michigan Sea Grant.

Steve’s programming covered topics as varied as fluctuating Great Lakes water levels, aquatic invasive species, fisheries, water safety, community development, youth education, and water quality. He also provided technical assistance to specialized stakeholders including teachers, charter fishing captains, emergency medical personnel, and coastal community governments. 

From the Michigan State University Fall Extension Conference

Michigan State University Extension presented a series of awards at the October Fall Extension Conference. A 2019 Key Partner Award went to John Scholtz of the Ottawa County Department of Parks and Recreation. As the department’s director for over 30 years, John worked in close partnership with MSU Extension. For the past 12 years, John’s work has been in direct support of Michigan Sea Grant and he has collaborated closely with educator Dan O’Keefe. Incorporating Dan’s presentations and educational materials into the park department’s education center, youth camps, volunteer training, and riverboat cruises has allowed Michigan Sea Grant to better connect with outdoor educators, recreation enthusiasts, and Great Lakes anglers. 

Michigan Sea Grant Extension Program Leader Heather Triezenberg also received a Meritorious Service Award at the conference. Her skill and willingness to approach difficult conversations and help people move toward shared solutions have made Michigan Sea Grant a more responsive and results-oriented organization.

In addition to being an effective and motivating leader for her Extension educators, Heather has nearly doubled the external leveraged grant funding she manages on an annual basis. She collaborated with Michigan State University partners to develop and pilot a Community Engaged Scholarship program to teach researchers the importance of connecting to communities. She then received an additional $500,000 in federal funds over 5 years to expand the program.

Fellowships and internships

Each year, Michigan Sea Grant offers funding opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. All current applications are due in February, so now is a perfect time to start planning for the up-coming deadlines.

Undergraduate internships

Michigan Sea Grant’s undergraduate internship program coordinates and funds undergraduate students to pursue a summer project related to Great Lakes environmental stewardship. Students can apply from any accredited community college, college, or university in Michigan to work with private businesses, local government, state and federal agencies, environmental non-profit organizations, or university faculty to plan or implement environmental stewardship in the Great Lakes.

Students may propose projects with sponsor organizations who will provide guidance and support for their research projects. We can also recommend potential sponsors and projects, if necessary. 

We encourage applicants from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

Applications are due February 28, 2020.

Knauss fellowships

The John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.

The program matches graduate students with host agencies in Washington, D.C., such as congressional offices, the National Marine Fisheries Service, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For one year, fellows work on a range of policy and management projects related to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. 

The fellowship will run from February 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022. Applications are due February 21, 2020.

Fisheries fellowships

The National Marine Fisheries Service-Sea Grant Fellowship places PhD students studying in one of two priority areas in three-year research fellowships. The current priority areas are Population and Ecosystem Dynamics and Marine Resource Economics. 

Applications are due January 30, 2020.

From Extension

Great Lakes Water Life database documents biodiversity of Great Lakes native species

By El Lower and Rochelle Sturtevant
The database hosts ecological information and tools for environmental researchers and the public.

Understanding 2019’s high Great Lakes levels

By Elliot Nelson
Michigan Sea Grant and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offer insights into this year’s record-setting Great Lakes levels.

Michigan Clean Marina Program offers best management practices information to marinas

By Elliot Nelson
Workshops in U.P., Lansing, explain certification process to marina operators.

Fish diet study reaches another milestone

By Dan O’Keefe
Researchers at MSU recently dissected 4,538 trout, salmon, and walleye stomachs collected from Lake Huron and Lake Michigan in 2018.