June 2018

Letter from the Director

Jim Diana retires from Michigan Sea Grant on July 1. Photo: SNRE/SEAS

The time has come for my final “Letter from the Director” as I near retirement. I have been Michigan Sea Grant Director for nine years, making me one of the longest serving in our history. However, it seems like a very short time to me. I find retirement to be bittersweet: the change and loss of responsibilities, which I enjoyed, but the development of new activities, which I am certain I will enjoy equally well. It has been a great opportunity for me to lead a wonderful program such as Michigan Sea Grant and to learn so much about the Great Lakes during that time. Catherine Riseng, currently Michigan Sea Grant’s research program manager, will assume the position of interim director, and I am confident she will continue the legacy of our program.

I have been pondering the journey, not only of my time at Michigan Sea Grant, but as a faculty member for the past 39 years and an aquatic researcher for the past 50 years. It has been a wonderful experience. Michigan Sea Grant has had many great successes, including the work we continue to do with coastal communities. We have also had many challenges, both financial and scientific. Issues around Great Lakes fisheries and aquaculture continue to grow, and more scientific debates will occur around the Great Lakes. Michigan Sea Grant must remain a neutral broker of scientific information in these deliberations. While each of us may personally believe certain actions should occur, decisions should be made by appropriate organizations with full knowledge of relevant science.

I am particularly proud of the great staff members we have hired and sustained during my tenure. We have a great staff in the field with our Extension educators and have been able to expand their numbers with educators in Sault St. Marie and Bay City. We hope to expand further with a regional position in aquaculture and a joint position with Indiana-Illinois Sea Grant near southwest Michigan. Our Lansing and Ann Arbor personnel are more unified and productive than ever before, and morale is high. We have a good relationship with the national office and Sea Grant programs in other Great Lakes states. We work well with our state and federal agency colleagues, and this collaboration makes all of us stronger. We have managed to maintain our importance on a federal level, as we continue to be funded in a time of budget challenges. Overall, things are good, and I believe they will continue to improve.

A number of issues remain. Michigan’s small coastal communities have uncertain futures. They face challenges to tourism industries and the loss of young adults who leave the area because of lack of economic opportunity. Michigan Sea Grant will continue to provide support in these areas and be an honest broker of potential avenues for future development. The future of our state and tribal fisheries, as well as aquaculture, remains important to many of these communities. We must expand our food production to meet population growth and provide quality food for our residents, while fish become more important in this role. We will continue to see challenges by invasive species introductions, including species we have not foreseen. Climate change will continue to exacerbate problems in the Great Lakes. In a few years, we have seen the transition from one of the historically lowest water levels to the highest water levels measured in our lakes. This is a major influence on coastal communities, infrastructure, flooding, and storm damage. Similar challenges will continue through the future and will require dynamic solutions

As for my future plans, I hope to continue my involvement in Great Lakes issues privately and help support Sea Grant’s mission. I hope to keep involved in future Seafood Summits, as those have been enjoyable and important activities for our seafood businesses and the public. I look forward to the lack of a schedule and time to reflect and enjoy life a little more. I will visit more Great Lakes locations and will have the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends. My career has been very rewarding, and I thank all of the people who have contributed to my work. I wish all of you the best in continuing to steward our Great Lakes, a global treasure and one deserving our protection.

Photo: Pixabay

Catherine Riseng will serve as Michigan Sea Grant’s interim director

Catherine Riseng joined Michigan Sea Grant in 2013. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Director Jim Diana can begin his retirement knowing he leaves Michigan Sea Grant in good hands. Michigan Sea Grant Research Program Manager Catherine Riseng will serve as interim director beginning July 1.

Riseng earned her Ph.D. in aquatic ecology from the University of Michigan in 2001 and joined Michigan Sea Grant in May 2013. As research program manager, Riseng leads a program that funds statewide research efforts on critical Great Lakes issues, such as coastal development, climate change adaptation, and aquatic invasive species. Also serving as an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), Riseng currently manages a collaborative research project called the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF). Learn more about GLAHF here.

Riseng’s interim position will continue through July 2019 or the appointment of a permanent director. The directorial search will be conducted largely by University of Michigan SEAS, with direction from Dean Jonathan Overpeck and input from Michigan Sea Grant staff and Michigan State University Extension.

News from our fellows

Michigan Sea Grant’s graduate student fellows have been busy this spring! Check out their latest posts on the Michigan Sea Grant fellowship blog:

Janet and Lisa enjoyed the cherry blossoms. Photo: Lisa Peterson

Lisa Peterson took a moment during her flurry of May travel to describe her Knauss projects and show us some of D.C.’s springtime sights. Find her post here.

Michael Mezzacapo closed out his fellowship with the International Joint Commission on a note of binational cooperation. Find his post here.

In a few short months, Michigan Knauss fellow Janet Hsiao experienced a government shutdown, crippling winds, squid dissections, a science competition, and more. Find her post here.

Corey Krabbenhoft, our graduate student researcher at Wayne State University, catches us up on sampling nets, goby guts, and her latest research. Find her post here.

In March, the Great Lakes went to Washington, and Great Lakes Commission fellow Margo Davis joined them. Find her post here.

New program pairs fellows with coastal researchers

The invasive sea lamprey has caused untold damage to Great Lakes fisheries.

In the spring, when stream temperatures reach a threshold estimated by scientists to be somewhere around 15 degrees C (59°F), adult sea lamprey — having spent the fall and winter attaching to and sucking the juices from fish in the Great Lakes — migrate from the lakes into rivers where they spawn.

Research recently published by Erin McCann, a Michigan Sea Grant research fellow, strengthens understanding of how Great Lakes tributaries may be impacted by climate change and how these changes might affect spawning of invasive sea lamprey populations.

McCann was a member of the inaugural cohort of Michigan Sea Grant research fellows. The program was created to support graduate research projects and provide Sea Grant partner organizations with quality student help with ongoing agency research. McCann worked with Kevin Pangle at Central Michigan University and Nicholas Johnson of the U.S. Geological Survey, who were her advisors and co-authors on the paper. Together the team analyzed decades of sea lamprey trap data from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission looking for trends in stream temperatures and resulting shifts in the migration timing of sea lamprey. Results of their work were recently published in Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, available online here.

The research team also published a paper in Transactions of the American Fisheries Society on their work using a type of sonar to monitor the timing of stream entry by sea lamprey. Their findings will help inform development of barriers and traps for sea lamprey as they enter a stream. The paper is available online here.

Angela Yu was the other member of this first MISG research fellowship group. Yu was advised by Colleen Mouw at the University of Rhode Island (formerly at Michigan Technological University) and Tom Johengen at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory to create a model to better understand and predict the Detroit River’s impact on harmful algal blooms (HABs) in western Lake Erie.

The research team found that the Detroit River flow impacts the surface area of HABs in the lake, but the combined influence of the Detroit River flow and other physical drivers, such as wind speed and direction, better explains HABS distribution patterns. Information from the model will help state and federal agencies predict the extent of HABs and develop tools to support decision making in coastal communities.

“The research fellowship gave me an opportunity to understand what it is like to complete grant writing and collaborate with a research team while completing my degree,” Yu says. “This fellowship also has made me more interested in pursuing science communication and outreach as a future career goal.”

Based on the successes of these fellows, Michigan Sea Grant recently expanded the program and will fund four new research fellows beginning this summer.

“We are really happy with the work Erin and Angela did to extend and amplify the efforts of Great Lakes researchers,” says Catherine Riseng, Michigan Sea Grant research director. “And we look forward to the next class of Michigan Sea Grant research fellows and to the future of this program.”

To learn more about this and other fellowship opportunities offered by Michigan Sea Grant, and to read more about these projects, visit: www.michiganseagrant.org

Summer events

Cruises are a great way for adults and kids to learn while having fun on the water! Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Hop aboard the intrepid Clinton for one of this season’s engaging Summer Discovery Cruises! This year’s cruises will feature shipwrecks, lighthouses, shipboard science, fascinating stories from local lore, and more. The Lake St. Clair cruise season kicked off on June 26, so get your tickets here!

Saginaw Bay-area homeowners, planners, public officials, and all other interested parties are invited to the third in a series of webinars about making Saginaw Bay communities more resilient in the face of coastal storms and flooding. The webinar, held on July 11 at 1:30-3 p.m. will highlight the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, which allows communities to reduce flood insurance premiums for local property owners by completing flood protection activities. The webinar is free, and recordings of the previous two webinars will be sent to anyone who registers. Recordings will also be available on Michigan Sea Grant’s YouTube channel. Find more information and registration here.

Middle and high school students can help protect Saginaw Bay by mapping and removing aquatic invasive species at Invasive Species 4-H Youth Workshops in Bay City (July 12) and Sebewaing (August 9). Details here.

Kids ages 8-12 are invited to learn how to fish and protect the Great Lakes! Saginaw Bay 4-H Fish Camp is coming to Bay City State Park on July 16-19. All campers will receive a rod with reel, fully stocked tackle box, and camp T-shirt. Details here.

Grab a ferry to Beaver Island to check out the Smithsonian’s traveling Water/Ways exhibit, on display at the Beaver Island Historical Society June 23-August 5. The exhibit is a unique display and event series that explores the essential role of water in our environment, economy, and society. Learn more about the exhibit here.

More progress for iconic Great Lakes fish

This summer brings a fresh round of efforts on the Detroit River and in Saginaw Bay to benefit lake sturgeon, walleye, and other native fish. These fish lay their eggs in rocky parts of the river or lake bottom called reefs — a habitat type that humans have largely degraded or destroyed. Efforts to recreate rocky reefs for spawning fish are making a difference for vulnerable fish populations. Read about the project here.

A crane lifts out of the Detroit River after dropping a load of limestone rocks onto a new reef near Fort Wayne. Photo: Lynne Vaccaro

Reefs near Belle Isle are complete, and a new informational sign is being posted on the northern portion of the island near Blue Heron Lagoon just onshore of the reefs. Construction of a reef in the Detroit River near Fort Wayne, a half-mile upstream from Zug Island, was completed in early June. Further north, in Lake Huron, an additional reef is being planned for Saginaw Bay.

Learn more about lake sturgeon at the Belle Isle Aquarium, which features a new exhibit all about this Great Lakes giant. View a full-size replica of an adult female sturgeon — and visit some living youngsters! The Aquarium is open Friday-Sunday 10am-4pm; admission and parking are free, although a Michigan State Park Recreation Passport is required for all vehicles on the island.

The Belle Isle Aquarium’s new sturgeon exhibit complements its population of live young sturgeon. Photo: Mary Bohling

Michigan school brings Great Lakes science to the national stage

The Greenhills High School team took first place at the Great Lakes Bowl in February 2018. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Though the Great Lakes Bowl science competition happened back in frigid February, the victorious students from Greenhills High School had to wait until late April to bring their skills to the national stage. The annual National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) consists of regional tournaments that test high school teams on their knowledge of marine and Great Lakes biology, physics, chemistry, history, and more.

The Greenhills students traveled to Boulder, CO, on April 21-22 for the NOSB finals, where they faced off with winners from 25 regional competitions across the U.S. The team was accompanied by Michigan’s regional NOSB coordinator, Hannah Schaefer, a graduate student at the University of Michigan and a technician with the U.S. Geological Survey in Ann Arbor.

While the national victory went to Montgomery Blair High School from Silver Spring, MD, Greenhills High School earned second place in the Science Expert Briefing portion of the competition. Congratulations, Greenhills — and we hope to see you next February along with the many other high school teams! For more information on how your high school might enter the Great Lakes Bowl, contact nosb-great-lakes-bowl@umich.edu.

From Extension

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators write informative articles on a variety of subjects — from gutsy research projects to Michigan’s expanding network of non-hiking trails. Below are some of their articles from the past few weeks.

Study gauges concerns about climate change in Great Lakes coastal communities

By Heather Triezenberg

Participating in outdoor recreation appears to affect climate change attitudes.

Read more

Trails movement keeps growing in Michigan

By Cindy Hudson

Communities are drawing more visitors with specialty nature- or history-based attractions.

Read more


Videos address Lake Michigan fisheries management, prey fish, and mass marketing

By Dan O’Keefe

Video series recaps presentations on the state of southern Lake Michigan’s fisheries.

Read more

Alpena High School student already exploring underwater robotics, science careers

By Brandon Schroeder

Liz Thomson is assisting a sturgeon science team in capturing video, data in the Black River.

Read more

Huron-Michigan Predator Diet Study gears up for summer

By Katelyn Brolick and Dan O’Keefe

Student researchers at MSU are analyzing the contents of fish stomachs collected by Great Lakes anglers.

Read more