July 2020

Rapid-response funding helps Michigan Sea Grant support fish producers and charter operators

Businesses that depend on Great Lakes fish are struggling to remain viable as the pandemic affects nearly every aspect of their operations.

State-licensed and tribal fishers and processors are seeing demand from restaurants and wholesale buyers plummet and are moving quickly to implement new safety and sanitation guidelines. Many charter fishing operators, whose profits hinge on a lively tourist season and full boats, are struggling to stay afloat.

To help address these challenges, Michigan Sea Grant applied for and received a $100,000 COVID-19 rapid response grant from the National Sea Grant Office. These funds will allow Michigan Sea Grant to collaborate with industry associations and other Sea Grant programs to assess and address the needs of fish producers and the charter industry. The team also plans to work to connect Great Lakes fish producers directly with consumers.

Before the pandemic began, Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educators Lauren Jescovitch, Elliot Nelson, and Dan O’Keefe already worked closely with operators involved in aquaculture, aquaponics, state-licensed commercial and tribal fishing, and charter fishing. When the effects of the pandemic began to ripple through Michigan, they applied for the rapid response grant to support efforts to understand and mitigate the challenges their networks were facing.

Michigan Sea Grant surveyed the state’s 500 charter fishing operators in late March 2020 to gauge the industry’s challenges and needs. The grant team will follow up with additional surveys during and after the 2020 charter fishing season, and at the cusp of the 2021 season, to track the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and related restrictions. They will capture these findings in a technical report next year, which may provide insights into potential next steps or recovery strategies for the industry.

During virtual listening sessions this spring, many fish producers discussed their struggle to find new consumer bases while typical restaurant and wholesale supply chains remain in flux. With the grant, Michigan Sea Grant will collaborate with the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative and the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center to create an interactive online map of regional fish and seafood producers. This tool will allow consumers to locate and buy directly from participating Great Lakes fish producers. When complete, the map will be available through the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.

The project team will promote fish producers on food hub websites such as Taste the Local Difference and UP Food Exchange to connect them with local consumers throughout Michigan. They also will produce a series of webinars and educational videos on the proper processing and cooking techniques of local fish to raise interest among consumers.

In addition to the work funded by the rapid response grant, Michigan Sea Grant has found many other ways to serve our networks during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as listening sessions with vessel-based educators and family-friendly HOMES at Home broadcasts. Watch for articles in future issues of Upwellings that explore some of these new or adjusted programming efforts.

New report highlights successes and challenges of green infrastructure projects

Stormwater runoff from rain or melting snow can negatively affect water quality in nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. Impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, and buildings prevent runoff from penetrating into soil, leading to flooding and erosion. This runoff can then carry pollutants, pathogens, litter, and sediment to waterbodies, leading to algae blooms, declining ecosystem health, beach closings, and no-swim advisories.

Traditionally, Michigan communities have managed this stormwater through “grey infrastructure” approaches, such as storm drains, sewer pipes, and basins, and other approaches that are often expensive and complex. Green infrastructure, however, uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage this runoff.

A new report from a Michigan Sea Grant-funded research team summarizes the challenges to implementing green infrastructure and highlights key initiatives and pilot projects for green infrastructure in Michigan.

The report, Green Infrastructure in Michigan: An Integrated Assessment of Its Use, Barriers, and Opportunities, was produced by Don Carpenter of Lawrence Technological University, Sanjiv Sinha from Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc., and Avik Basu at the University of Michigan. They found that barriers to implementation of these projects include conflicting codes and ordinances, cost, lack of financing, maintenance, municipal and public acceptance, lack of regional planning, and uncertainty in performance. The report also highlights how these challenges can be overcome.

The research team engaged over one thousand community leaders, professionals, and engaged citizens across the state in gathering this information.

Online, self-paced course helps paddlers identify and avoid transporting invasive species

Despite these extraordinary times, it is still possible to safely – with social distancing – enjoy paddle sports on Michigan’s many wonderful water trails and lakes. Kayakers, paddleboarders, and canoeists can also help protect the waters they love by identifying and reporting aquatic invasive species they encounter.

The new MI Paddle Stewards self-paced, online program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension will teach paddlers how to identify and report invasive species and how to properly clean a watercraft to prevent their expansion. Paddlers can inadvertently spread invasive species when they travel between waterbodies, as plants and animals can attach to boats and equipment. Participants will learn to use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) app, a reporting tool Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and others use to locate invasive species of concern.

Registration is open for the series of six short sessions at a cost of $20. Participants who complete the class will receive a certificate, bucket hat, towel, waterproof phone case, dry bag, and more. (The class is free if participants choose not to receive the items.) Participants must complete all six sessions by Dec. 31, 2020.

For questions and more information about the course, contact Mary Bohling (bohling@msu.edu).

The MI Paddle Stewards program is funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program.

Staff and fellows publish papers on public education and engagement, invasive species and climate change

Michigan Sea Grant staff members and fellows recently published journal articles on topics ranging from the importance of funding for public education programs to the effectiveness of video conferencing, and the effects of climate change on the spread of invasive species.

Extension Program Leader Heather Triezenberg co-authored an article in the February 2020 Journal of Extension that underscores the importance of Extension public policy education programming. The paper concluded that most programs provided no clear priority, funding, or support for these programs and that most lacked necessary policies or staff training. Increased administrative support and staff professional development for public policy education are needed for Extension programs to achieve their societal mission.

El Lower, research associate with the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS), co-authored a paper with Rochelle Sturtevant, GLANSIS program manager. Published in June in the Journal of Extension, the paper covers the use of videoconferencing for stakeholder-driven web design when in-person focus groups or usability testing are not feasible. They found the technology provided a low-cost, high-reward way to engage stakeholders. 

Peter Alsip, a 2018-2020 Michigan Sea Grant graduate research fellow, published a paper earlier this month in the journal Biological Invasions that finds climate change may increase the vulnerability of Lake Michigan to invasion by certain species of invasive carp. The paper was co-authored by Catherine Riseng, Michigan Sea Grant’s assistant director and research program manager.

Todd Marsee wins NOAA awards for coastal photos

Todd Marsee, graphic designer and photographer at Michigan Sea Grant, won two awards in the 2020 Coastal Management in Action photo contest. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, which hosted the competition, selected Todd’s images for two awards out of 138 submissions.

In the “Recreation” category: Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore hike, Lake Michigan (left).

In the “Economics” category: Irish Boat Shop, a Michigan clean marina, Michigan (right).

Be sure to visit Michigan Sea Grant’s Flickr page for a large collection of photos from Todd and other Michigan Sea Grant staff and partners. Nearly all the images are free for public use through Creative Commons copyright agreement; the Flickr description underneath each photo provides specific attribution information.

Michigan Sea Grant welcomes new communications program lead

Michigan Sea Grant welcomed Elizabeth Striano as its new communications program lead in June. 

Elizabeth StrianoElizabeth previously served as communications officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., where she led outreach for the organization’s marine science program. Communicating about water and natural resources has formed the backbone of Elizabeth’s career, with stints at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and the Water Research Foundation. She also has worked with the U.S. Geological Survey and Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor.

Elizabeth earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in biology from George Mason University. Her graduate work gave her experience in the laboratory and field, studying aquatic plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and monitoring water quality in Virginia’s Back Bay.

She has taught science communication courses at George Mason University and biology and environmental science at Northern Virginia Community College. She has also trained scientists on how to effectively share their research with the public.

“We are thrilled to bring in someone with such a rich background and diverse set of skills to lead our communication program,” says Michigan Sea Grant Director Tom Johengen. “Elizabeth will be a true asset to our program, and we are incredibly excited to have her on the team.”  

Elizabeth is based at Michigan Sea Grant’s Ann Arbor office, where she will spearhead the organization’s efforts to share Great Lakes research, and work with Extension colleagues to lead outreach and education to audiences around the state. She can be reached at estriano@umich.edu.

Extension and research staff expands

Two new staff members joined the Michigan Sea Grant Extension and research teams this spring. Austin BartosAustin Bartos is working as a research associate on the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) database. He focuses on GIS research, database maintenance, and invasive species outreach efforts. Austin’s master’s thesis from Utah State focused on cyanotoxins, plant toxicology, and contaminants in both water and dust. He earned his undergraduate degree in environmental science from the University of Toledo. Austin works out of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. 

Tyler AugstTyler Augst is serving as a government and community vitality educator for southwest Michigan with Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant. Tyler provides communities and their elected and appointed officials with training and resources to improve land use planning and resiliency, especially for coastal communities. Tyler earned bachelor’s degrees in sociology and anthropology from Michigan State University and a master’s in rural sociology from Pennsylvania State University. Tyler is based in the Van Buren MSU Extension office (Southwest District) and can be reached at augsttyl@msu.edu.

Michigan Sea Grant offices closed, bookstore open for business

Michigan Sea Grant offices, including county Extension offices, mostly remain closed or have limited access. In-person meetings and programs are on hold for the time being. Please contact us via email.

The online bookstore is still open, but there may be some shipping delays. For urgent orders, please email msgpubs@umich.edu.

Meet the 2020 undergraduate interns

This summer, Michigan Sea Grant welcomes 16 new undergraduate interns from seven Michigan universities. Their projects cover everything from the effects of sea lamprey on lake trout to tree-planting in Grand Rapids and Detroit. Learn more about the interns and their projects.

Watch for articles from the interns in future issues of Upwellings and on the Michigan Sea Grant fellowship blog.

From Extension

“State of the Great Lakes 2019” report released

By Rochelle Sturtevant and El Lower
New assessment report identifies challenges, trends, including updates about aquatic invasive species from Michigan Sea Grant.

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Lakes Michigan-Huron water levels expected to reach summer peak in July 2020

By Mark Breederland
Webinar will discuss options for shore protection/stabilization with expected erosion.

Fish and a changing climate: Researchers compile database to support management of freshwater fisheries under climate change

By Martha Gerig
Understanding how fish are affected by climate changes is a critical component of informing freshwater fisheries management.

Challenges and resources for fish producers in Michigan during COVID-19

By Lauren Jescovitch
Michigan Sea Grant webinar for fish producers discussed including direct-to-consumer marketing strategies as a business plan.

Celebrating Great Lakes youth stewardship leaders

By Brandon Schroeder and Meaghan Gass
Alpena High School senior selected as the State of Michigan’s Environmental Service Award Competition winner for exploration and education relating to marine debris in the Great Lakes.