July 2017

Notes from the director

Michigan Sea Grant Director Jim Diana. Photo: SNRE

So far, 2017 has been a busy year for Michigan Sea Grant: events, awards, budget challenges, staffing changes, and institutional shifts. Personally, I have experienced considerable change, as I am retiring from the University of Michigan after 38 years of teaching and research at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). While I will miss interacting with so many vigorous young individuals, I feel this is the perfect time to move aside and allow the next generation to take over fisheries education at the University. I will continue as director of Michigan Sea Grant for at least a year. SNRE is undergoing its own major change, transforming into the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) and gaining a new dean. Stay tuned for strong environmental leadership from the University of Michigan.

This spring, Michigan Sea Grant and Wayne State University co-sponsored and hosted the 60th annual meeting of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR). The meeting was held in Detroit’s Cobo Center and showcased the city to more than a thousand participants from around the world. Michigan Sea Grant hosted the 2017 Michigan Seafood Summit in conjunction with IAGLR, celebrating local seafood with a series of informational sessions and a delicious banquet. The IAGLR meeting was a great success, which required a good deal of effort by many people in the Sea Grant community. I would like to particularly mention Elyse Larsen, Rhett Register, Mary Bohling, and Catherine Riseng for their hard work behind the scenes.

Having such a great staff leads to other programs continually enticing members to depart for new positions. Amy Samples, Michigan Sea Grant’s coastal resilience specialist, recently returned to her home state of Kentucky for a position at the Bluegrass Conservancy. Program Coordinator Kate Bailey leaves this fall to pursue a Ph.D. at University of British Columbia. We wish them the best in their future.

After weathering the first round of federal budget challenges in the spring, the Sea Grant network’s 2018 budget is now under congressional review. The next version of the 2018 budget will be formally announced in late summer, and early reports indicate that Sea Grant’s funding may be fully restored. As the budget will undergo several rounds of negotiation before receiving final approval, we still intend to solicit letters of support from our stakeholders to their congressional representatives, indicating the importance of Sea Grant and reasons why the presidential funding cut should be reversed. Given the strong support we have received from Michigan’s congressional representatives, as well as our stakeholders, I have no doubt Sea Grant will continue into the future as a vibrant program in the Great Lakes area

Finally, it’s summer — a time to enjoy Michigan’s great wealth of resources. But, as always, water safety is important while recreating on the Great Lakes, and I encourage you to review this information on beach safety. This year has already seen more drownings than in recent times, and the main rip-current season has not even begun. Michigan Sea Grant and many other groups have joined the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium, and all of these programs are working together to improve safety at beaches. If you plan to visit a beach for swimming this summer, please check out the National Weather Service’s website to see if there are dangerous swimming conditions in the area you plan to visit. Have a safe and happy summer!

– Jim Diana

Michigan Sea Grant announces two Knauss finalists

In 2018, Washington, D.C., will gain two more Michiganders. Michigan Sea Grant is pleased to announce that two candidates from Michigan have been selected as finalists for the 2018 Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship places graduate students from around the nation with host organizations in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Knauss Fellows get up close and personal with the processes and offices that guide U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resource use and policies.

Interested graduate students submit applications through their nearest Sea Grant program, which forwards a selection of candidates to the National Sea Grant Office. Out of 128 applications forwarded by Sea Grant programs in 2017, 67 finalists have been selected.

Janet Hsiao

Both of Michigan’s Knauss Fellowship finalists hail from Michigan State University (MSU) graduate programs. Janet Hsiao will soon earn her M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013. While at MSU, she has worked with Dana Infante to study the interactions of landscape, coastal habitats, and ecological communities. Janet is no stranger to Washington, D.C., having interned there at the Trust for Public Land in 2014.

Lisa Peterson

The second finalist, Lisa Peterson, is pursuing her Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. Prior to this program, she received her B.S. and M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife, also at MSU. She has been working with Mike Jones to study yellow perch stocking in Lake Erie.

Now that the Knauss finalists have been selected, all 67 will congregate in Washington, D.C., this November for Placement Week. Through a process one former Fellow describes as “grueling,” finalists will meet with representatives from an array of prospective host offices in the legislative and executive branches. Previous Knauss Fellows from Michigan have worked in various offices within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Senate.

After the finalists and hosts have made their choices, the finalists will be granted Fellow status and prepare to begin their year-long fellowships in February 2018.

Knauss Fellows from Michigan — along with recipients of other Michigan Sea Grant-related fellowships — contribute to a blog that captures their experiences, insights, and takeaways. Read posts from current and previous fellows here. Learn more about Michigan Sea Grant’s graduate fellowship opportunities here.

Step aside, Golden Globes

Forget the Grammys and the Golden Globes — Michigan Sea Grant and our partners have had an exciting awards season in 2017. Although each award comes from a different organization and carries different criteria, they all share one goal: to celebrate the hard work of an individual or group passionate about shaping a strong, sustainable future for the Great Lakes.

Join us in honoring these dedicated people and teams:

Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award — Dan O’Keefe

Dan O’Keefe (right) stands with Howard Tanner (left), who served as Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division chief during the 1960s and was key in bringing salmon stocking to the Great Lakes. Photo: Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association

In March 2017, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Dan O’Keefe was presented with the Dr. Howard A. Tanner Award for his contributions to Michigan’s sport fishery. The award is given by the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association.

“Dan O’Keefe believes education is a critical component of natural resource management, and the importance of knowledge in making sound decisions has been the cornerstone of his contributions to our anadromous sport fishery,” says Dennis Eade, Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association executive director.

Based in southwest Michigan, Dan has developed many outreach and education programs, including:

  • Citizen science programs such as the Salmon Ambassadors and the Great Lakes Angler Diary
  • An economic impact study of charter and tournament fishing
  • Annual fishery workshops that bring together a variety of stakeholders to consider the current state and sustainability of the Great Lakes fishery

“Dr. Howard Tanner is an icon in the fisheries world, and I’m honored to be receiving an award named after him,” Dan says. “It’s important to me that citizens receive the best available scientific information and get involved in Great Lakes fisheries management.”

John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Award — Michigan Sea Grant

In May 2017, Michigan Sea Grant was honored to receive the John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Award, presented by the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance (IWRA) and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Michigan Sea Grant staff have been involved with both the IWRA and the Detroit River Refuge since they were organized. The IWRA recognized Michigan Sea Grant’s continued efforts in providing classroom and vessel-based education in southeast Michigan and our ongoing commitment to the mission of both the IWRA and the Refuge.

“The Refuge is such a wonderful asset to the Detroit area,” says Mary Bohling, a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator. She is also a current board member and one of the original organizers of the IWRA. “The Alliance has been an important part of building fantastic partnerships to help protect, conserve, and manage the Refuge’s wildlife and habitats. As a Sea Grant educator, I’m very proud to have been a part of making this happen.”

The award is named after former Michigan U.S. Congressman John D. Dingell, Jr., who championed many conservation causes and legislation and supported the creation of the Detroit Refuge.

Dedication to Place-Based Stewardship Education Award — Michigan Sea Grant

Students from southeast Michigan learn about the Great Lakes through hands-on lessons aboard a Great Lakes Education Program cruise. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

In May 2017, the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS) presented Michigan Sea Grant with a certificate for our dedication to place-based stewardship education. Based in Ypsilanti, SEMIS works with teachers and students to encourage engagement with place-making, sustainability, and Great Lakes literacy. Several of Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension educators work in southeast Michigan, including Steve Stewart, who accepted the certificate on Michigan Sea Grant’s behalf along with Michigan State University Extension Educator Justin Selden.



Van Snider Outstanding Partnership Award — Marcia Daily

National Sea Grant Office Education Coordinator John Lilley (left), Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Steve Stewart (fourth from left), and Michigan Sea Grant Director Jim Diana (right) celebrate with award winner Marcia Daily (center). Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan Sea Grant recognizes Marcia Daily with our 2017 Van Snider Outstanding Partnership Award. A 4th grade teacher at Meridian Elementary on Grosse Ille, Marcia was instrumental in getting Michigan Sea Grant’s Great Lake Education Program (GLEP) off the ground. Her dedication and commitment have helped GLEP grow into a successful annual program that introduces southeast Michigan students to the Great Lakes in engaging and innovative ways.

Over the last 20 years, Marcia has faithfully brought her students to the docks for each and every GLEP season. We thank Marcia for her dedication to advancing Great Lakes literacy and stewardship in southeast Michigan.

Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Mid-Career Award — Mary Bohling

Based in Detroit, Mary Bohling connects urban dwellers with local waterways. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

At the June 2017 meeting of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Mary Bohling received a mid-career award honoring excellent work during her 11-year Sea Grant career. Mary serves the urban Detroit area and works with diverse populations and stakeholder groups to address Great Lakes issues with science-based knowledge.

She actively assists nonprofit partners in the preparation and reporting of grants, including numerous successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants that have totaled nearly $30 million. Mary is always looking for creative and interesting ways to get urban youth out on the water or bike trails, including helping to bring the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile to Detroit several times.

“Mary Bohling is an excellent educator who has strong interaction in her communities and with her colleagues. She is creative and has made — and continues to make — outstanding contributions to Michigan Sea Grant and our state,” says Heather Triezenberg, Michigan Sea Grant Extension program leader.

Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Distinguished Service Award — Brandon Schroeder

Brandon Schroeder is based in Alpena and is active in place-based education efforts. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

During the 2017 Great Lakes Sea Grant Network meeting, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Brandon Schroeder received a Distinguished Service Award. Based in Alpena, Brandon has been with Michigan Sea Grant for 13 years and serves a set of coastal counties that encompass 230 miles of Lake Huron shoreline in Michigan’s northeastern Lower Peninsula. Brandon’s programming focuses on the changing Lake Huron fishery, coastal tourism and business development, and youth engagement in coastal community development and stewardship.

Brandon’s leadership and involvement in many place-based education opportunities, 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp, Center for Great Lakes Literacy, and fisheries workshops are just some of the ways he shares his expertise with stakeholders.

“His enthusiasm for his work, combined with a natural curiosity, broad knowledge base, and engaging approach to his work, combine in a way that is unique and extremely effective,” says co-worker Steve Stewart, a senior Extension educator.

As noted in a previous issue of Upwellings, Brandon was also chosen as the Michigan Science Teachers Association 2017 Informal Science Educator of the Year.

Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Outreach Programming Award — Sustainable Small Harbors Project

Todd Marsee (left) and Mark Breederland (right) accept the award on behalf of the Sustainable Small Harbors team. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

During the 2017 meeting, Michigan Sea Grant’s Sustainable Small Harbors project received the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network’s Outreach Programming Award.

The Sustainable Small Harbors project, funded by Michigan Sea Grant and a host of partners, aims to assist coastal communities in their planning efforts. The project has enabled six coastal communities with public harbors to collaboratively envision their future and do in-depth self-assessments, uncovering strengths and weaknesses related to their waterfront assets.

The project has come at a time when harbor towns can capitalize on rebounding tourist dollars and a recovering state economy to make needed waterfront upgrades and add amenities that will increase their appeal to visitors. Team members created and customized highly interactive, public input-driven workshops, or charrettes — typically valued at tens of thousands of dollars — at no direct cost to the six communities involved. The project brought together community decision makers, harbor managers, infrastructure planners, boaters, business owners, and others to come up with meaningful pathways for moving their communities forward.

“The economic and environmental health of small towns along Michigan’s coast is essential to strengthening the state’s economy and environment,” says Jim Diana, Michigan Sea Grant director. “If Michigan thrives, the Great Lakes region as a whole benefits — and that is why this program has been so important.”

Team members for the Sustainable Small Harbors project from Michigan Sea Grant included Mark Breederland, Catherine Riseng, Amy Samples, and Todd Marsee. Don Carpenter from Lawrence Technological University was principal investigator. Other partners included:

Michigan State University Extension; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of the Great Lakes; Michigan Department of Natural Resources Waterways Program; Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Michigan State Housing Development Authority; Environmental Consulting and Technology, LLC; Veritas Environmental Consulting, LLC; David L. Knight, LLC; Edgewater Resources, LLC; Richard Neumann, architect; Constance Bodurow, designer.

Congratulations to one and all!

Michigan aquaculture goes to Washington

Like many other species, rainbow trout can be farmed safely and sustainably as an alternative to wild-caught seafood. Photo: Dave Brenner

From trout to kelp to oysters, U.S. aquaculture industries featured in a national conversation about food security and sustainability. The White House and Congress have expressed interest in using aquaculture to bolster flagging wild freshwater and marine fisheries. Many federal and state agencies agree that investments in aquaculture research and technology can revitalize local economies, relieve pressure on wild fisheries, ensure a safer food chain, and stem the tide of farm-raised seafood currently being imported from other parts of the world.

On June 13, the Sea Grant Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the Sea Grant program concept, hosted an informational event on Capitol Hill about enhancing the growth of domestic aquaculture production. The event was sponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), both of whom represent states with economies that depend heavily on seafood exports.

NOAA and Sea Grant invited representatives who produce different crops in different parts of the U.S. to speak about the barriers and opportunities for aquaculture in their home states. When asked for a representative to speak about the Great Lakes aquaculture industry, Michigan Sea Grant Director Jim Diana knew just who to call.

Owen Ballow is going on his fourth year running Indian Brook Trout Farm in Jackson. His 120-acre property includes a hatchery building, several spring-fed production ponds, and a series of indoor fingerling tanks. Indian Brook rainbow trout appear at seafood counters and on restaurant menus across the state. A member of the Michigan Aquaculture Association board, Owen is an ardent advocate for safe, sustainable aquaculture.

Owen Ballow discusses the challenges and opportunities of freshwater aquaculture in the Midwest. Photo: National Sea Grant

Michigan Sea Grant spoke with Owen over the phone about his experience at the June 13 meeting:

Was the Washington, D.C., audience eager to talk about aquaculture?

We had about 110 or 120 people, many of them senators’ policymakers who specialize in agriculture or fisheries. That was important; when you’re a legislator that creates these laws, you rarely see how it actually affects people.

What unique challenges does aquaculture face in Michigan?

Aquaculture is a new industry here. We’re always being told that some large company is coming in and investing $50 million or $100 million in aquaculture, but none of them ever do it after they see the start-up costs. The infrastructure is expensive, and a farm might take three years before turning a profit. In the meantime, you’re spending all your own money, because the industry hasn’t been around long enough for banks to feel comfortable approving loans for aquaculture operations.

Supply chain is also a real issue in the Midwest. Feed costs account for about 70 percent of the overall cost of raising fish. With all of the Midwest’s feed coming from the east or west coasts, an individual farm can’t order enough to get a break on the shipping costs.

How can Michigan aquaculture producers work together to make the industry viable?

If we can improve the lending environment so others would be interested in starting farms, there’s a lot of potential for forming aquaculture hubs for local farms. At Indian Brook, we started our own licensed processing facility so we could harvest the fish and, within a day, get them into grocery stores and restaurants. If other farms started up nearby, we’d support them with our biologists and our engineering expertise, and they could sell their fish directly to us for processing.

These hubs could include a center that hatches eggs and supplies fingerlings to multiple small farms. This would reduce their time-to-market by at least six months.

To cut down on food shipments, we’re developing an organic, non-GMO food that can be manufactured in Michigan with Michigan products. The food might eventually include soybeans raised by tribal groups. We’re also talking with tribes to see if inland aquaculture operations could help them weather the ups and downs of the wild whitefish population they’ve relied on for more than a century.

The industry can also diversify. Existing livestock farms can add aquaculture ponds or tanks. The flowing water used to raise the fish can be reused to irrigate fields or water other livestock.

Are you hopeful about the future of Michigan aquaculture?

People in the Great Lakes already have lots of freshwater fish in their diets. But as the Great Lakes fisheries decline and shift, we have to import most of the fish we eat from Canada, China, or South America. There’s a growing awareness of the benefits of local, sustainable food, but until aquaculture farmers can get a boost from loans and investments, we won’t be able to grow enough fish to meet the state’s demand.

From Extension

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators write informative articles on a variety of subjects — from wayward arctic birds to recovery strategies for saturated mid-Michigan towns. Below are some of their articles from the past few months.

Michigan Sea Grant project seeks to help communities prepare for extreme storms

By Kip Cronk

Saturated mid-Michigan looks back at 1986 Great Flood, then forward to 2017 recovery.

Read more


From fireworks to fish: 2017 Summer Discovery Cruises offer fun lessons on the water

By Steve Stewart

Register now for this summer’s educational cruises on Lakes St. Clair and Erie!

Read more


What’s the best fish to stock in your Michigan fishing pond?

By Ron Kinnunen

Choose wisely, because stocking the wrong species can lead to problems down the road.

Read more


Blue views associated with improved mental well-being

By Heather Triezenberg

A study indicates that Michigan’s Great Lakes, inland lakes, rivers, and waterfalls may soothe troubled souls.

Read more


Student video promotes awareness of Great Lakes marine debris

By Brandon Schroeder

Elementary students created a video to foster awareness of the plastic monsters invading Michigan’s Great Lakes and inland waterways.

Read more


In life, ivory gull draws crowd — and in death, will contribute to science

By Elliot Nelson

In March 2017, a rare arctic visitor brought birders to Flint. Its unexpected death may help scientists better understand the species.

Read more