November 2020

Note from the director

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope our readers are able to still appreciate the many blessings we have and that everyone can find a way to celebrate with their families and loved ones in a safe way. I also hope we are all looking for ways to help those in great need.

I am heartened by the message from President Elect Biden, that we need to come together as a nation to collectively fight the numerous challenges we face, including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic disparity, systemic racism, and the existential threats of climate change. As we all grow weary of the isolation and burdens placed on us by the pandemic, we need to remind ourselves more than ever about the need to support one another, to protect one another, and to value the tremendous efforts of our front line health care workers. I know that all of us at MISG are thankful for the amazing efforts of our wonderful colleagues and for having jobs dedicated to supporting our communities and protecting our magnificent Great Lakes.

          – Tom Johengen

More than 1.3 million jobs, $82 billion in wages directly tied to Great Lakes

The Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually, according to a new analysis of 2018 economic data by Michigan Sea Grant, and more than 350,000 of those jobs are in Michigan alone. The coastal counties of the eight Great Lakes states produce 21% of the gross domestic product in the region and 5.8% of the U.S. GDP, according to the report.

The study analyzed the status and trends for all employment sectors between 2009 and 2018 across the 83 coastal counties in the eight states along the Great Lakes’ border—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Employment data includes industries that rely upon the Great Lakes for key inputs such as water or fish; for economic viability, such as transportation; or for their influence, such as by attracting visitors or providing climate moderation.

The report covers the rebound in jobs after the 2008 recession by looking at the changes in employment between 2009 and 2018, although it does not include changes in employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020.

Transportation and warehousing saw the biggest jump, with a gain of more than 34,000 jobs, an increase of 23%. Agriculture, fishing and food production added 15,000 jobs, an 11% jump; while tourism and recreation added 23,000 jobs, a 10% increase. Michigan saw a revival in the auto industry, with a 23% increase in jobs from 2009 to 2014.

Manufacturing was responsible for 59% of the Great Lakes-supported jobs; followed by tourism and recreation (17%); transportation and warehousing (11%); agriculture, fishing and food production (10%); science and engineering (2%); utilities (0.7%); and mining (0.3%).

“Protecting the health of the Great Lakes not only sustains critical jobs, it also makes the region desirable for new businesses and families,” says Emily Rau, one of the report’s lead authors and a research assistant at Michigan Sea Grant. “The positive trends in employment for many sectors further illustrate their influence on the region’s economy and highlight the importance of protecting them for future growth.”

Commercial Whitefish processing

Increases in tourism have greatly enhanced Great Lakes states’ economies, particularly in Michigan. The three national parks and three national lakeshores located in coastal counties attracted approximately 6.5 million visitors in 2018. Michigan had 113.4 million visitors that spent over $22 billion in 2014. Of the $22 billion, $13 billion came from Michigan’s coastal counties. In 2013, the Detroit RiverWalk, a 3.5-mile paved waterfront path connecting downtown Detroit and multiple green spaces, attracted approximately 3 million people who spent nearly $16.7 million on related riverfront activities.

Michigan has the most commercial fishing licenses out of all the eight states with around 50, but only a portion of them harvest fish each year. In addition to fisheries, the Great Lakes provide ideal soil and climate conditions and water in coastal areas to grow specialty crops. In Michigan, 201 million pounds of cherries and 15 million pounds of wine grapes were produced by farmers in 2018. Since the 1980s, the number of wineries in the state increased from 12 to 130.

Report calculations are based on the most recent annual estimates for county employment from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and its Occupational Employment Statistics program. Support for the research and production of the report was provided through the Marshall Weinberg Internship program at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at U-M, and Michigan Sea Grant at U-M.

Explore northern Michigan with Life of the Straits videos and at-home activities

The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan in the west, Lake Huron in the east, and Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The area contains hundreds of islands, miles of pristine shorelines, and rich forested ecosystems, and is known for trade, tourism, wildlife, and recreation.

Although it’s one of the most well-known locations in the Great Lakes, the Straits of Mackinac area contains plenty of hidden gems and rich depths of cultural and natural history that the average visitor may miss. Each year, the Life of the Straits team finds underexplored and exciting places, diving deep into the cultural and natural history of the region. This fun and engaging program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan 4-H is designed to help families learn more about the straits area.

Usually, the program is held in person; this year, however, the program was held virtually, and the six sessions were recorded for all to enjoy! The videos are geared for families with children ages 8-12, but all ages will find something to learn and enjoy. The program highlights cultural and natural features in Mackinac, Chippewa, Emmet, Cheboygan, and Presque Isle counties. Each video includes an interview with local experts and a family activity challenge. These videos are great resources for individuals of any age, whether at home or in the (physical or virtual) classroom. Explore the Life of the Straits today!

Read more about the natural and cultural history of the straits and find the videos online.

Online bookstore to close soon for maintenance

Michigan Sea Grant’s online bookstore has plenty of great holiday gift ideas, including our crayfish poster, Beautiful Belle Isle guidebook, and updated edition of Life of the Lakes. Find the perfect gift for the Great Lakes enthusiast on your list!

Please note: the bookstore will close for maintenance November 30, 2020 through January 31, 2021, so be sure to place your orders soon.

Staff and partners win awards during fall Extension conference

Michigan Sea Grant staff and partners received three awards during the Michigan State University Extension 2020 Fall Extension Conference. The annual conference was held virtually on September 28-October 2, providing Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension staff opportunities to present about their recent work and network with colleagues from around the broader Extension program. The virtual awards ceremony also showcased exemplary work from two Michigan Sea Grant staff members and celebrated a powerful partnership.

Tricia Blicharski, director of operations of Friends of the Detroit River, received a Friend of Extension award. Epsilon Sigma Phi, the membership organization for Extension professionals, which confers the award, recognizes those who have played a major role in promoting, supporting, and furthering Extension programs.

Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension educator for the Detroit area, nominated Tricia for the award. Mary and Tricia have coordinated on many projects, including the annual Detroit River Festival, Michigan Water School, and a successful grant request for $400,000 to support recreational trail development in Wayne County. Friends of the Detroit River and Extension have worked together for more than 20 years to promote and preserve the Detroit River, which forms part of the border between the U.S. and Canada.

“[Friends of the Detroit River] have been this conduit to bring together all the folks who are interested in working on wildlife habitat restoration projects on the river,” says Mary. “Tricia is the glue that holds everything together.”

Tricia says that Michigan Sea Grant has been able to return the favor. “The staff at [Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant] has been so helpful in assisting us where our capacity may be limited,” she remarks. “They’ve really been a huge asset in allowing us to extend our impact and our reach.”

cindy hudsonCindy Hudson, communications manager for Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension team, received a Meritorious Service Award in recognition of her exemplary dedication to the mission, program, and staff of Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant Extension.

Cindy is a skilled communicator, focused on bringing fun, accessible content to a variety of audiences. Her leadership has been a major factor in raising Michigan Sea Grant’s profile within the broader Extension landscape. She has committed to wearing her employee nametag even in non-work contexts, a decision that has sparked many conversations about the mission of Michigan Sea Grant and Extension with everyone from high-ranking members of Michigan State’s leadership to strangers at the grocery store.

Cindy is committed to making Michigan Sea Grant a fun place to work, and her colleagues benefit from her enthusiasm and support on a daily basis.

Brandon SchroederBrandon Schroeder received an Alumni Community Service Award from the Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP), which provides students and teachers with real-world science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lessons. AEOP partners with other programs within the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force to hold the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a STEM competition for high school students. Brandon participated in JSHS as a student, which helped foster his interest in natural resources. Serving as Michigan Sea Grant’s Extension educator for northeast Michigan, Brandon returns to JSHS as a mentor, sharing his passion for helping students engage in hands-on environmental learning projects rooted in their own communities.

“I’ve always described [JSHS] as a graduate research experience for high school kids,” says Brandon. “Michigan Sea Grant Extension and Michigan State University Extension are rooted in science, research, and scholarship, so it’s a great partner fit to engage youth in an experience where they can participate in Great Lakes natural resources science and research.”

In addition to the three honors presented during the virtual awards ceremony, several Michigan Sea Grant Extension staff members celebrated milestones in their employment with Michigan State. Vanessa Pollok, Michigan Sea Grant Extension’s administrative assistant and fiscal officer since 2014, marked 30 years within the Extension program. Mark Breederland has served Michigan Sea Grant as an Extension educator in southeast and northwest Michigan for 25 years. The aforementioned Cindy Hudson also reached her 5-year mark with Extension.

Congratulations to one and all!

Free online training helps paddlers fight aquatic invasives

Kayakers, paddleboarders, and canoeists can help protect the waters they love from aquatic invasive species by taking the MI Paddle Stewards self-paced online course from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension. Register for the free course here.

Note: Anyone who registered for the course in 2020 should complete it by December 31, 2020. The same course will be available again in 2021.

Undergraduate internship applications now open

Michigan Sea Grant’s undergraduate internship program coordinates and funds students working on summer Great Lakes stewardship projects. Each internship pairs a student with a business, nonprofit, government agency, or academic institution that can help support and guide the project.

This year, in addition to proposing their own projects, students also have the opportunity to apply for a project submitted by a partner organization.

Michigan Sea Grant encourages applicants from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Michigan Sea Grant is committed to diversity and multiculturalism through staff training and organizational development for employees to help them provide effective and inclusive programs for the diverse residents of Michigan’s communities.

The application closes on March 1, 2021. Further details and application guidelines are available on the internship webpage.

Michigan Sea Grant educators create innovative outreach opportunities

With in-person gatherings canceled and schools in flux, Michigan Sea Grant educators have found innovative strategies for reaching K-12 and adult audiences for outreach and education this year. A common thread: forming communities and collaborations through emerging online tools. In our fall and winter editions of Upwellings, we’re highlighting some of the creative ways educators have stepped up to the plate during this unusual year.

This month, we’re focusing on an online discussion shaped by U.P. Extension Educator Martha Gerig.

Creating space on shore for shipboard educators

Vessel-based education (VBE) is exactly what it sounds like: learning that happens on a boat! Getting learners of all ages out onto the water is one of the best ways to bring home lessons about the Great Lakes. Michigan Sea Grant’s VBE initiatives include Summer Discovery Cruises and the Great Lakes Education Program. Several of our partners around the state also host shipboard programming.

When COVID-19 shut down VBE opportunities in the spring and summer, Michigan Sea Grant hosted a virtual listening session for VBE educators and operators in July 2020. Listening sessions often function like focus groups, allowing people to gather in a physical or online room to discuss a given topic with the guidance of a facilitator. These sessions provide an opportunity for people to raise shared challenges, offer successful strategies and tips, and build a network of like-minded folks.

The listening session drew 16 participants from 7 different organizations that run VBE programs. Participants were invited to share how the pandemic was affecting their operations, what strategies they’d adopted to follow health guidelines, and what needs they faced moving forward.

Martha Gerig, a Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator for the western Upper Peninsula, facilitated the session. Major themes from the discussion included using personal protective equipment while onboard the vessels, scaling up virtual programming and outreach, and the need for a robust network of vessel-based educators throughout the state. Participants shared tips and success stories, and they left eager to collaborate, share resources, and – someday – meet in person.

2021 Knauss Fellow receives placement, 2022 applications now open

Congratulations to 2021 Michigan Knauss Fellow So-Jung Youn, who will begin working with the NOAA-National Ocean Service Policy and Constituent Affairs Division in February 2021. The prestigious Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, led by Sea Grant, provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. So-Jung is currently a PhD candidate in the Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, where she studies inland fisheries.

Applications are now open for the 2022 Knauss Fellowship. 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. Fellows can be placed in the federal legislative or executive branches.

The fellowship runs from February 1, 2022 through January 31, 2023. Any student who is in a graduate or professional program in a marine or aquatic-related field at a U.S. accredited institution of higher education may apply. Find more details and application guidelines on the fellowship webpage.

Online dashboard explores HABs and community health

Algae are tiny plants that grow naturally in water (some photosynthetic bacteria are also referred to as algae). When their populations grow to a point where they are visible to the eye, they are considered an algal bloom. Some algal blooms are harmless, but others contain toxins that can be harmful to humans and animals. This type of bloom is called a harmful algal bloom or HAB.

A new online dashboard has been developed to help scientists, policy makers, and the public understand and predict water quality and community health data as it relates to harmful algal blooms. The dashboard visualizes data for four counties adjacent to Western Lake Erie. A fact sheet about the dashboard also is available.

On the dashboard, viewers can explore community-level health risks from HABs related to:

  1. Sensitivity to HABS resulting from underlying health status
  2. Adaptive capacity if exposure to a harmful algal bloom occurs
  3. Overall exposure to water quality impairments

Michigan Sea Grant Extension Specialist and Program Leader Heather Triezenberg played a leading role in developing the dashboard. This project was supported with funding from the Bowling Green State University Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health.

Dispatches from Extension

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators write informative articles on a variety of subjects — from exemplary Michigan science teachers to apps for anglers. Here are some of their articles from the past few months.

Fight the winter blues by connecting with the outdoors online this fall

By Paige Filice
Continue to be inspired by Michigan’s natural beauty by participating in virtual Extension programs.

Michigan teacher highlighted for excellence in Great Lakes literacy and learning

By Brandon Schroeder and Meaghan Gass
Hands-on experiences helped Mark Koschmann connect his students to science.

New project allows steelhead anglers to track wild and stocked fish in Michigan rivers

By Daniel O’Keefe
Michigan Sea Grant Extension seeks volunteers to use the Great Lakes Angler Diary.

Exploring Great Lakes literacy and stewardship from the comfort of home

By Tracy D’Augustino, Meaghan Gass, Brandon Schroeder, Meag Schwartz, and Emily Vogelsang
Lessons learned from making the switch to a virtual teacher training.