September 2020

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.

Previous issues of Upwellings mentioned one stand-out success from the early months of the COVID-19 shutdown: our HOMES at Home video series, where educators delivered Great Lakes lessons in fun, engaging ways and presented viewers with crafts and challenges to undertake at home. The next few issues of Upwellings will highlight some of the creative ways educators have stepped up to the plate during this unusual year.

This month, we’re focusing on educators Meaghan Gass and Brandon Schroeder and their experience running a virtual teacher training workshop this summer.

Virtual teacher training

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, partners in the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, pivoted this summer to support teachers planning to engage youth in place-based stewardship education (PBSE) in the upcoming school year by shifting their annual summer institute to a virtual course.

Typically offered in person, over three days, this year’s virtual institute included six content sections, which were held asynchronously —  not live sessions, allowing for self-paced learning — over eight weeks.

The 2020 virtual summer institute consisted of three sections of content:

  • Place-based stewardship education process and pedagogy
  • Great Lakes Literacy – Check out this Google Site to see one way summer institute participants explored content
  • Land habitat exploration and evaluation

Three additional sections focused on the components of a successful PBSE project:

  • Exploring and identifying community issues, needs, or opportunities
  • Building community relationships to address the issue with their community
  • Meeting Michigan’s education expectations

Teachers first explored how forest management, gardens, and public land use interact with and affect the Great Lakes. Then they began to develop their class PBSE project plan — exploring how to launch and implement a successful PBSE effort while adjusting for the challenges of the pandemic. After completing the professional learning opportunity and project planning form, teachers received a $500 stipend to support their students’ place-based stewardship education effort during the school year.

While the focus remained on the stewardship content and place-based education, an effort was made to engage the teachers in a variety of virtual learning tools — from Google Classroom to Flipgrid and Jamboards — they could use in the coming school year. Teachers indicated an appreciation for experiencing many of the tools from a student perceptive.

“I feel that sometimes as a teacher we don’t always get the opportunity to be a student and gain information. With this summer institute, I was able to learn lots and therefore will be able to pass more on to my students.”

– Participating educator

Lessons learned

The organizers learned many lessons over the eight weeks, including: 

  • Make decisions for the learning platform as early as possible. The team committed to virtual learning back in April, rather than waiting to see how conditions changed through the summer.
  • Reach out for help. Many groups are experimenting with new tools and tactics and may have valuable expertise to offer.
  • Emphasize relationship-building, though strategies for this will look different in virtual spaces.
  • Collaborate and work as a team.
  • Assume that activities in a virtual classroom will take more time, both to create and to complete.

Although the NEMIGLSI 2020 Lake Huron Watershed Place-Based Stewardship Education Summer Institute took a very different form this year, participants and facilitators learned together, shared experiences, made plans to empower youth to change their communities and protect the Great Lakes through PBSE, and most importantly had fun!

The 2020 NEMIGLSI Lake Huron Watershed Place-based Stewardship Education Summer Institute was hosted by the NEMIGLSI network and its leadership partners, Huron Pines, MSU Extension, and Michigan Sea Grant with funding support from the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and NOAA Great Lakes BWET program.

“Place-based stewardship education provides a framework for integration of English language arts, math, science, and social studies topics, as well as our schoolyard habitat and inquiry-based learning. Helping our students make connections to their communities and their world is more important than ever in a time when people are feeling very disconnected.”

– Participating educator

Fight aquatic invasive species with online MI Paddle Stewards training course

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 course here.

Thanks to additional grant funds, the course is now available for free — even for those who opt for the MI Paddle Stewards gifts! Anyone who previously paid a fee for the course gifts will be reimbursed.

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

Great Lakes Aquaculture Day 2020 to focus on seafood production, cooking

The first annual Great Lakes Aquaculture Day (GLAD) will take place October 10, 2020! This virtual event will showcase the region’s potential for fish and seafood production and host a culinary competition.

The event is free and open to the public, although registration is required. Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time with a cooking challenge demonstration. Participants are welcome to jump in and out of the stream throughout the day. The sessions will also be recorded and made available after the event.

GLAD will feature a variety of panel discussions and presentations on aquaculture. Presentations will target a variety of audiences, from beginning and current farmers to consumers interested in learning more about preparing and cooking seafood.

The event finale will feature a cooking demonstration with Chef Jeff Igel, from the Wisconsin Technical College, followed by a cooking competition featuring three culinary students from the Great Lakes region. Each student will be required to use a key ingredient and local aquaculture products in their creation. Culinary students interested in entering the competition can apply here. The three chosen students will receive a $250 stipend.

GLAD is hosted by the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative, which is a project of Sea Grant programs across the Great Lakes region working to share resources and promote best practices throughout the aquaculture industry.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of agriculture across the world, accounting for more than 50% global seafood production and surpassing production from wild-caught fisheries. However, in the United States, the growth of aquaculture has been stagnant. U.S.-based wild caught fisheries cannot meet nationwide demand, resulting in a $14-billion seafood trade deficit.

The U.S. aquaculture industry has potential for growth, especially in the Great Lakes region where abundant inland freshwater resources have enabled a handful of state-based aquaculture operations to employ a local workforce and produce sustainable, healthy, and tasty fish.

For more information about the Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Day 2020 event and registration visit or contact Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Elliot Nelson,

Interns focus research on conservation issues in Great Lakes

This summer, Michigan Sea Grant welcomed 16 new undergraduate interns from seven Michigan colleges and universities working on research that focused on aquatic invasive species, fisheries, ecosystem modeling, and education and green infrastructure. These two-month-long internship projects are aimed at enhancing sustainable use of Great Lakes resources and are part of the National Sea Grant Community Engaged Internship (CEI) initiative. The CEI strives to support a diverse group of undergraduates doing innovative research and provides a series of professional development opportunities for the interns throughout the summer.

In addition, most of the projects also included an outreach and communication component, often with the community most directly affected by the research being conducted. Outreach efforts included using social media, developing web pages, writing brochures and other materials, and meeting with community members.

“When we review their proposals, we really are looking for projects that not only have the potential to benefit the environment and human life in the Great Lakes region, but also that provide a full, rich experience for the student,” says Catherine Riseng, Michigan Sea Grant assistant director and research program manager. “We supported some truly inspiring students this year, who worked on everything from fish egg mortality in the St. Clair and Detroit rivers to New Zealand mud snails in the Boardman River.”

Two interns wrote blog posts about their experiences. Read them here: Julianne Grenn’s Grayling Hatchery Gazette and Studying rock snot with Molly Wozniak

Projects that make a difference

In mid-August, each intern had an opportunity to present their project at a virtual symposium and answer audience questions. Each student worked with a collaborating organization and faculty member to develop and conduct their projects. 

David Martinez-Vasquez, a student at Calvin University, developed a project that will use tree planting to discourage growth of invasive reed canary grass and provided watershed education to urban Grand Rapids high school students. His goal is to determine if native trees produce enough shade to reduce the growth of reed canary grass. 

They plan to plant 220 trees of seven different species. In the meantime, he worked with the Plaster Creek Stewards Green Team on teaching watershed ecology, environmental justice issues, green infrastructure, and job skills to high school students. The team worked with the students to identify native plants and conduct restoration projects. 

“I got to meet eight different high schoolers from around the area. They learned about different native plant species, different types of green infrastructure, and they also worked on a few different restoration projects,” said David during his virtual presentation. He said he also learned the value of restoration work. “Restoration work is not the easiest thing to do all the time,” he added. “But there’s so much satisfaction that comes with doing it. The smallest changes can really give you hope for the future. And in a few years, when these students graduate from high school, they can come back to these different sites they worked at and see what they contributed to.”

Abigail Meyer, from the University of Michigan, assessed how well native wetland plant communities can resist invasion from non-native plants. The goal of her research was to understand the specific mechanisms of plant competition to determine under what conditions native plant communities are able to better resist invasion, and why. This information can be used by wetland managers to select species best suited to increase biotic resistance of the native wetland.

Although the pandemic affected nearly all projects in some way, the students were able to continue to make progress, altering course or refocusing some aspects of their work as needed. For any field work students were able to conduct, everyone had to wear masks, maintain social distance, and sanitize all tools. 

Through her project, Julianne Grenn of Lake Superior State University worked with the Anglers of the Au Sable, Lake Superior State University, and Grayling Fish Hatchery to develop an operations manual for the hatchery and improve community outreach. “Our goal was to be open to the public because we’re a public resource. So I had to figure out how to … keep the guests safe while also keeping myself safe,” said Julianne during her presentation. Steps included shutting down the visitor center and installing one-way paths, hand sanitizer stations, and a guest-free zone. “That definitely taught me how to adapt to the circumstances at hand.”

Michigan Sea Grant’s 2020 interns demonstrated resilience and ingenuity in the face of unprecedented challenges. Michigan Sea Grant is proud of the work they accomplished. To learn more about the opportunity and how to apply for 2021, visit the internship webpage

The fish are biting, but Michigan’s charter industry is struggling

Talk among Michigan’s charter captains usually focuses on where the fish are and what they are biting. But the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions have had a much more immediate impact on the fishing industry this year.

Michigan Sea Grant is conducting a series of surveys on the status of Michigan’s charter fleet in 2019 and 2020. The most recent survey was completed in July and had 149 responses from captains who detailed how their charter fishing activity and revenues compared during the early season (March-June).

The survey found that 32% of captains who were actively chartering in 2019 had not taken a single trip during 2020. On average, captains were down a total of 15 trips during the early part of the 2020 season. This decline led to an overall loss of $4.5 million in revenue from charter fishing trips during the early part of the 2020 season.

Bookings during the late part of the season were also down, with nearly 15% of captains indicating that they have no trips booked for late summer – which is the peak fishing season in many areas of the state. Over 75% of captains reported a substantial decline in late-season bookings. However, a handful (8.8%) had seen an increase in bookings for 2020. One captain who has seen a rise in trips noted that people are looking for new outside activities to try, and charter fishing fits the bill perfectly.

Spring fisheries hit hard

Some of the captains who were hit the hardest were those who focused on spring fisheries for walleye and steelhead. Due to the timing of the stay-at-home order and restriction on motorized boating, captains who focused only on spring fishing lost their entire season. When restrictions were relaxed later in the season, many captains expressed concern regarding guidance that left captains and customers unsure of the legality and safety of operating a charter fishing business.

When asked about the impact of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus, on their business, many captains expressed concern about their own safety and the safety of clients. Many captains also expressed frustration with the governor’s shutdown and subsequent executive orders, along with shifting guidelines and inconsistent enforcement.

Although there were some common themes, the list of concerns was long. Captains who regularly fish Canadian waters saw their business suffer from the border closure, while others mentioned that impacts to other businesses had an indirect effect on their ability to run trips. With mechanics overbooked or out of business after the shutdown, one captain was unable to get his boat in working order. Others found that customers were less interested in travelling for charter fishing because hotels, campgrounds, marina facilities, tackle shops, and restaurants were unavailable in the area. Cancellation of corporate trips also put a dent in bookings for some, and the loss of additional revenue from cancelled sport shows and seminars had an impact, as well.

Mask clarification has helped

Several captains were particularly frustrated with a hard-and-fast requirement for social distancing, which can be impossible to maintain with multiple people on a boat. On July 13, after the survey timeframe, Executive Order 2020-147 was issued. This order specified that masks must be worn outside when social distancing cannot be maintained, which helped to clarify that social distancing is not required when outside if masks are being worn. Charter fishing provisions from Michigan DNR were updated on August 12 to reflect this.

The good news is that charter fishing is officially open for business in Michigan and plenty of good fishing is available. Although there was considerable confusion earlier in the season, it is now clear that either a mask or social distancing is required while fishing with people who do not live in your household. This means that you and your friends can charter a boat and take full advantage of fantastic late-summer salmon fishing on Lake Michigan, chase early fall muskies on Lake St. Clair, or book a trip for the fall steelhead run on your favorite river.

Free webinar series highlights water issues for officials

Elected and appointed city, county, state, and tribal officials often need to make important decisions regarding the future of shared water resources. The new online version of the Michigan Water School program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension provides decision-makers with critical, relevant information needed to understand Michigan’s water resources in order to support sound water management decisions.

This year, Michigan Water School: Essential Resources for Local Officials will be offered for free in a Zoom webinar format on four Thursday afternoons in October and November. The Erb Family Foundation and Pure Oakland Water provide generous support for this program.

The program will include sessions on water quantity, water quality, water finance and planning, and water policy issues. Speakers will include educators and faculty from MSU and MSU Extension as well as other experts providing local perspectives.

The webinar series will be held at 3-5 p.m. on the following Thursdays:

  • Oct. 8: Water Quantity
  • Oct. 22: Water Quality
  • Nov. 5: Water Finance & Planning
  • Nov. 19: Water Policy

Register to attend the free, policy-neutral, fact-based program. Not sure if you will be able to attend the live sessions? Each webinar will be recorded and all registrants will receive links to the recordings so you can watch them at a more convenient time, along with additional resources. For more information, contact Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Mary Bohling at

Communicating research from home: Virtual conference presentations and outreach tools

Christine Kitchens, an aquatic ecology research technician at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), monitors harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie and Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. This year, Christine helped develop a modified analytical technique to measure manganese, a heavy metal, in samples from hypoxic waters in the central basin of Lake Erie. Seeking ways to continue to communicate her findings under COVID restrictions, she presented her first virtual poster about hypoxic manganese flux from Lake Erie sediments at the 2020 IAGLR Conference and created CIGLR’s first educational video about hypoxia.

“I enjoy engaging in science communication at all levels because I want to be a researcher who helps build bridges and encourages people to keep asking questions and thinking critically about the world around them,” says Christine. Read more about her approach to science communication.

CIGLR, a NOAA-funded research collaboration housed at the University of Michigan, is a close cousin of Michigan Sea Grant, with similar research and outreach priorities for the Great Lakes.

Dispatches from Extension

Michigan Sea Grant Extension educators write informative articles on a variety of subjects — from the identifying characteristics of trout to case studies for using videoconferencing tools. Here are some of their articles from the past few months:

GLANSIS technical memos add new data to invasive species risk assessments

By Rochelle Sturtevant and El Lower
Memos provide transparent, publicly available documentation of the risk assessment process.

How to interpret steelhead fin clips

By Dan O’Keefe
Since 2018, yearling steelhead stocked in U.S. waters of the Great Lakes and tributary streams have been marked with an adipose fin clip. But that doesn’t mean anglers can easily determine where their fish was stocked or if it is wild.

Journal of Extension article highlights how videoconferencing can be used for stakeholder-driven design

By El Lower and Rochelle Sturtevant
GLANSIS website redesign relied on virtual hands-on feedback from users.

What’s the catch? New video from Michigan Sea Grant helps anglers identify Great Lakes fish

By Dan O’Keefe
Seasoned pros and newbies alike will learn new tips and tricks for identifying big lake salmon and trout.