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Where are the Mudpuppies?

mudpuppy2The University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and the Herpetological Resource and Management are asking for help in collecting dead specimens of Mudpuppies. Due to the extreme weather conditions this year, herpetologists are anticipating a large winterkill, which provides a unique opportunity to assess population health.

What is a Mudpuppy?

• Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander

Why Are They Important?

• “Bioindicator” species: Due to their sensitivity to pollutants and poor water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems

• Are the only intermediate host to the Endangered Salamander Mussel

• Great Lakes populations are declining, and the true abundance is currently unknown

How Can I Help?

Place the whole Mudpuppy(s) in ziploc bag, seal, and freeze the bag. Tissue samples may be placed in storage tubes containing ethanol.

Include the following information on a 3×5 card placed within the bag (using pencil) and on the outside of the bag (using permanent marker). In the case of tissue samples, label outside of tube with permanent marker.

1.) Observer

2.) Date

3.) Precise Collection Location

Contact one of the following people:

1.) David Mifsud 517-522-3525 DMifsud@HerpRMan.com

2.) Maegan Stapleton 517-522-3525 Stapleton@HerpRMan.com

3.) Amber Stedman 815-761-8941  AStedman@EMich.edu

4.) Greg Schneider 734-647-1927, 734-763-0740 ES@UMich.edu

mudpuppy1

Ann Arbor Unveils Plan for its Urban Forest

A2ForestAfter three years of study and gathering input from residents, businesses, forestry experts and stakeholder groups (including HRWC), the City of Ann Arbor is taking final public comment on their draft Urban and Community Forest Management Plan.

The Plan describes the status of the city’s “urban forest,” which includes all trees within the city, from the forests in Bird Hills and other parks, to the trees lining its streets and in back yards.  One of the findings of the plan is that trees provide $4.6 million in benefits each year to the city.  These benefits include reducing stormwater runoff , improving water and air quality, moderating summer temperatures, lowering utility costs and contributing to property values.  HRWC was a member of the Advisory Committee that provided input on plan development and fully supports the goals of the plan.

The City is accepting public comment on the plan until March 28, 2014.  Comments may be submitted via:

email:  kgray@a2gov.org
fax:  734.994.1744- attn: Kerry Gray
mail:  301 E. Huron St., PO Box 8647, Ann
Arbor, MI 48107- attn: Kerry Gray

Paper copies of the draft plan are available upon request.  Please contact Kerry
Gray at kgray@a2gov.org or 734.794.6430 x
43703.

Kris Olsson

Kris directs the Bioreserve Project, which aims to identify and protect the watershed's most ecologically important remaining natural areas, and works with local communities in the Portage Creek watershed to keep the creek healthy. Kris enjoys being outdoors and cuddling on the couch with her three dogs (and her two daughters, oh yeah, and husband too!)

Latest posts by Kris Olsson (see all)

The Big Melt

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

The sun is brighter, the birds are more active, and the temperatures are warming. I even got showered by puddle water as I walked home yesterday on N. Main St.!

The record snow fall will turn in to stormwater with the potential for flooding and back-ups.  In the past 2 weeks there have been numerous news articles about flood warnings and predictions.  I won’t look in to my crystal ball but I will pass along some solid suggestions from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on steps you can take to minimize flooding impacts.

Basically, as the weather warms, make sure you take these precautions at home:

  1. Clear stormdrains, catchbasins, or any kind of detention or yard drains you have from debris, ice, and litter;
  2. Check that any sumps or back-up generators are working;
  3. Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves, debris, and ice to expedite drainage

Yeah, you might be sore on Monday, but you’ll be drier in the weeks to come!

For more information about flooding risks, please visit the State’s website.

Senate approves bill to battle algal blooms

The Senate last night approved legislation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers to boost federal efforts against the harmful algae blooms that haunt many of the nation’s waters.

S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and 18 colleagues, would authorize interagency work on algae blooms and the dead zones, suffering from a lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, that they frequently spawn. The legislation would also create a national program with a research plan and action strategy. The legislation also requires the interagency Task Force to: (1) submit within 18 months to Congress and the President an integrated assessment that examines the causes, consequences, and approaches to reduce hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes; and (2) develop and submit to Congress a plan, based on such assessment, for reducing, mitigating, and controlling such hypoxia and blooms.

The upper chamber approved the legislation by unanimous consent.

Algae blooms, a result of nutrient pollution that washes off farm fields and suburban streets and comes from wastewater treatment plants, are an entrenched problem across the United States. Sprawling algae blooms on Florida’s east and west coasts this summer kept people from the water and contributed to the deaths of sea animals, including the highest recorded annual death count for manatees (Greenwire, Dec. 20, 2013). Closer to home, nuisance algal blooms impact Ford Lake and Belleville Lake, impoundments of the Huron River, reducing access to the waters for fishing, swimming, and other outdoor pursuits.

“We can’t sit back and let endangered creatures disappear along with jobs in the fishing industry,” Nelson said when he introduced the legislation in June.

Elizabeth Riggs

Elizabeth directs RiverUp!, the signature placemaking initiative for Huron River communities, and also serves as Deputy Director for the Watershed Council. She thinks this may be the year that she finally invests in her own kayak or canoe - suggestions welcome.

Michigan Fisheries: 200 Years of Changes

Now available in print or PDF

A four part series on the history of Michigan fish,  featured in HRWC’s newsletter over the last two years, has been compiled into one document and is now available digitally and in print form. It is great for students, fishermen, history buffs, and everyone interested in fish and aquatic ecology.

“Michigan boasts 11,00 lakes, 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, and is surrounded by the largest system of freshwater lakes on Earth. Over the past two hundred years, European settlers and their descendants have done much to alter these natural systems and the creatures that inhabit them.
 
This special report examines how humans changed fish diversity and abundance in Michigan since 1830 through greed, stewardship, ignorance, and intention.”
This 1930's fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

This 1930′s fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

 

You can get the PDF version here.

 

If you would like a printed version, please email Paul at psteen@hrwc.org.  The printed version will not be mailed but will be available at the HRWC office for pickup.  Supply is limited!

Paul Steen

Paul works on the Adopt-a-Stream Program and is program manager for Michigan's MiCorps program, a statewide volunteer water monitoring network. He really likes aquatic insects, fish, stream ecology, natural history, and trying to make the HRWC website more legible.

Email: psteen@hrwc.org

Latest posts by Paul Steen (see all)

Snow: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Bucking the conventional feeling this winter, I have been loving all of this snow — this is how every winter should be!  Avid cross country skiers everywhere agree.

Lest the record snow and polar vortexes (vortices?) distract us, or worse, make us wonder how we could be in the grip of global warming, take a look at the latest

New York Times article on the topic.

The article describes the alarming long term trends in snowfall and snowpack worldwide, and it reminds us all that, taken alone, local weather events on any given day or month cannot support or refute global climate change.

Among many alarming trends the article points out is that Europe has lost half its glacial ice since 1850; 2/3′s of Europe’s ski resorts could be closed by 2100; and the American West may lose 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by then.

In the Great Lakes region, the number of days with snow cover has decreased by 5 days per decade, since 1975. The average snow depth has also decreased.  Future projections predict later arrival of winter and earlier arrival of spring resulting in more precipitation falling as rain than snow  (GLISA, Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region).

Of course, global warming is not just about inconveniencing a bunch of skiers.  Those winter snows provide drinking water for us all and drought protection for farmers and forests.

So, next time you curse the snow delaying your morning commute, think about the likely future if current trends continue, and when you eventually get to the office or other workplace, give your Senator or Representative a call.

Get out and enjoy the snow while it's here!

Get out and enjoy the snow while it’s here!

 

Search for Stoneflies!

Volunteers and Staff Searching for StonefliesVolunteers and Staff Searching for Stoneflies

Winter Stonefly Search is Saturday, January 25, 2014. You’re invited to come on your own or bring a small team of friends and family for a unique wintertime activity in/on the Huron River.

As part of a long-term river study, each January, HRWC looks for “winter stoneflies,” which grow, feed, and find their mates in the coldest months when most fish are too sluggish to eat them. Stoneflies are very sensitive to changes in water quality and habitat. Like canaries in a coal mine, they tell researchers a lot about the health of the river.

Trained volunteer collectors take each team to two of HRWC’s 70 designated study sites throughout the Huron River system, where the group helps search through stones, leaves, and sediment taken from river bottoms. All equipment is provided. Participants are encouraged to dress for the weather. Volunteers meet in Ann Arbor and car pool to their assigned sites.

Participants must register to be assigned to a team. Children are welcome to attend but must bring their own adult.

DATE: Saturday, January 25, 2014

WHERE: Meet in Ann Arbor. Then car pool to two streams in Livingston, Oakland, Wayne and/or Washtenaw Counties.

WHEN: Two starting times: January 25, 2014 at 10:30AM or NOON. Takes 4 – 5 hours (2-3 hours outdoors).

DEADLINE: Registration closes on January 21, 2014.

TO REGISTER:

First time volunteers, please fill out both forms:

http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/registration-for-first-time-volunteers

http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/stonefly-survey-registration/.

Returning volunteers, please fill out the registration form only:

http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/stonefly-survey-registration/.

MORE INFO: Please email Jason at jfrenzel@hrwc.org, or check out this article: http://www.annarbor.com/lifestyles/hrwcs-annual-winter-stonefly-search-a-chance-for-anglers-others-to-learn-about-stoneflies-and-stream/

Unadilla Township creates Green Infrastructure Plan

Joining Dexter and Lyndon townships in Washtenaw County and all communities in Oakland County, Unadilla Township has created a Green Infrastructure Plan that provides a map of its natural areas — woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, and waterways — and connections and pathways connecting them.  At a workshop facilitated by the Huron River Watershed Council as part of our Portage Creek Project, residents and officials from Unadilla Township studied maps of the township’s natural areas, topography, master plan designations, land use, and other natural assets, and drew over them onto transparent mylar natural area hubs, links connecting them, and special natural features such has Heron rookeries or rare plant communities. HRWC used the sketching to create the map and plan.

The township will use the plan to inform their land use planning and policy development, directing future development in a way that is in concert with their natural infrastructure.

HRWC will will hold a similar workshop for Stockbridge in January.  The Dexter and Lyndon township green infrastructure planning processes were also part of our Portage Creek Project.  Oakland County Planning and Development completed its Green Infrastructure planning program in 2009 — all of their communities now have plans and maps that inform their planning and policies.

Fall Creek Monitoring: Beautiful colors and beautiful bugs

River and creek sampling

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests.

South Ore Creek at Bauer Road is shallow creek flowing through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto

Thanks to 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 548 volunteer hours, the 2013 Fall River Roundup was a great success!  Our volunteers split into 25 teams and traveled to 50 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.

This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected from this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.

You can see all the results in Fall 2013 River Roundup Report.

Current Watershed Health

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

12 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County.  Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.

14 sites are significantly improving.  11 of improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. 2 sites are improving in Livingston County (Horseshoe Creek at Merrill Road and Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

 

Highlights

1. For many years HRWC has held up Millers Creek in Ann Arbor as an example of what can happen to an urban creek- the stream flow is flashy, the channel is incised, the riparian vegetation is shrubby invasive plants, and there is little life in the creek.  In 2009 HRWC finished up a green infrastructure project in the headwaters of Millers designed to reduce the amount of stormwater rushing into the creek, and at the same time the City of Ann Arbor finished a major streambank stabilization project where the creek crossed Glazier Way.

The efforts spent restoring Millers Creek seems to be paying off.  The sample taken in Millers Creek at Glazier Way contained the most insect families ever seen since sampling began in 1993. While the overall trend since 1993 is unchanged, from 2004 when the creek was at its worst (3 insect families), until now in 2013 (12 insect families), there is a statistically significant increase.  Insects that are particularly susceptible to pollution and disturbance have yet to be found here however, and we will continue monitoring in hopes that these insects will make their way back to the stream.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

Fall sampling results for Millers Creek @ Glazier Way over the past 20 years.

 

2. Starting in this past January, HRWC has been sending volunteers to two new stream sites on Portage Creek near Stockbridge.  This is a long drive from Ann Arbor and we appreciate the volunteers who have made this journey. This Roundup, volunteers in the Portage Creek at Rockwell site found a treasure trove of insect diversity.  Twenty insect families were found which puts this new site up there with the very best places we go.  We will look forward to visiting this site again in the future!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve... a new sampling site!

Portage Creek @ Beckwith Nature Preserve… a new sampling site! Picture taken January 2013.

 

Lowlight

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor.

Norton Creek @ West Maple Road looks like it has nice habitat, but the water quality is very poor. credit: Ron Fadoir

Norton creekshed in Oakland County is a Detroit suburb and industrial hub. Historically, the creek has suffered from numerous impairments and has seen little improvement as the area has become increasingly suburbanized.

In terms of the macroinvertebrate community, samples taken here have always had terrible diversity and low abundance, but in recent years things have gotten worse.  When sampling started in Norton Creek at West Maple Road in 2000, it was normal to find between 8 and 10 insect families.  However, volunteers during the past four fall River Roundups have found 3, 4, 4, and 3 insect families.  Two of the insect families found are actually water striders, which are only semi-aquatic as they live on top of the rather than in the water.

These poor samples have made Norton Creek the worst location of all of those that HRWC monitors. For more information on Norton Creek, see our Norton Creek page and associated creekshed report.  http://www.hrwc.org/norton

 

What’s next?

On January 26th, HRWC staff and volunteers will gather for the 19th annual Stonefly Search.  This event is very similar to a River Roundup except that we are only looking for stoneflies.  Some of these little guys can be found year round, but there are a couple of stonefly families that are only reliably found in the winter months, and they are great indicators of healthy water.   We hope you and your family and friends will join us for this fun outdoor event!  Register here! http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/

Bids on the River Open Nov 25-Dec 2

HRWC’s holiday auction includes our largest collection of fabulous items for your bidding pleasure! This year we have over 40 items listed online at BiddingForGood and all proceeds benefit HRWC’s efforts to restore and protect the watershed.

Bids on the River is online now until December 2 and is the perfect shopping opportunity for the holidays or any occasion.

It’s a toss up between Paddle Board Lessons and Schultz Outfitters Fly Fishing Lessons or a Jolly Irish Christmas. Something for everyone. Outdoor recreation, birding, paddle boarding, baked goods, entertainment, unique experiences and cooking lessons.

Bid early and remember to check back for new items.

The auction closes on Dec 2 so start your bidding soon and check back often. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to purchase a beautiful gift for yourself or special someone and support HRWC with just a couple of clicks! Auction proceeds this year will support HRWC’s core programs, such as water quality monitoring.

 

 


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