Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Carbon acidification could cause problems for Great Lakes wildlife

Available data from the Environmental Protection Agency suggests the Great Lakes could be soaking up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which could change the pH levels in the water and have a negative impact on wildlife.

Galen McKinley, ocean sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said while data is currently limited, computer projections suggest the Great Lakes’ waters are becoming more acidic due to human carbon emissions. She said a similar process is happening in the open oceans.

...The biological impact of a lower pH level is unknown for the Great Lakes specifically, but McKinley said based on the data from the oceans, some species, such as algae, would thrive, while others, such as mussels, would suffer. While that would help with eliminating invasive mussels, McKinley believes the native species will suffer too.

Planet Tech News
25 Jul 2013
A Muller

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Study of gene expression in common blue-green algae reveals what makes it bloom, toxic

Blue-green algae blooms formed by Microcystis.
Credit: Scott Kishbaugh
If your local pond, lake, or watering hole is looking bright green this summer, chances are it has blue-green algae and it may be dangerous to you or your pets. A newly published study has used a novel approach to better understand why these algae form blooms and what makes them toxic.

Matthew Harke and Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, used global gene expression analysis of the most common blue-green algae, Microcystis, to uncover how it uses different types of nutrients to form blooms and what regulates the production of its toxin, microcystin. The study, entitled "Global transcriptional responses of the toxic cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa, to nitrogen stress, phosphorus stress, and growth on organic matter," published in the July 23rd edition of the journal PLoS ONE, is the first to use this approach with this algae.

"Toxic blue-green algae blooms are a common phenomenon in freshwater lakes and ponds, particularly during summer and early fall," says Dr. Gobler. "These algae can create various toxins that can harm humans, pets, and aquatic life."

24 Jul 2013
S Kishbaugh

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Under cover of darkness, researchers capture, track loons in Minn.

How do you sneak up on a loon? That's the question this night as wildlife scientists slide a boat into South Turtle Lake, a few miles east of Fergus Falls.

The biologists want to know why so many of the iconic birds die of botulism poisoning on the Great Lakes every fall. They want to learn more about environmental toxins loons face on their long annual migration. But first they have to catch them.

...Scooping the adult into a fishing net, U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Kevin Kenow sees it's the male of this loon family, wearing the leg band researchers put on a year ago. He snags the small, brown-colored chick but can't find the female. He decides to head back to shore and get data from the male and chick so they can be released.

South Turtle Lake is one stop on a three-week tour of lakes across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The states boast the greatest concentration of nesting loons in the U.S....Using a tiny needle, Kenow draws a blood sample. He also clips off a wing feather. The blood and the feather can tell scientists if this loon was exposed to residue from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 or mercury and other contaminants.

On Lake Michigan, the data revealed loons feed farther off shore than previously thought, with the birds diving repeatedly to depths of about 150 feet.

That means they're feeding on fish near the lake bottom, which might make them susceptible to toxic botulism that grows in the algae there.

Minnesota Public Radio
15 Jul 2013
D Gunderson

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mysterious substance in Lake Michigan baffles beachgoers, scientists as source remains unknown

A strange substance discovered last month just off the southern shore of Lake Michigan has beachgoers and scientists alike wondering how it found itself in the water.

Officials first heard of an "oily substance" during the middle of June after swimmers at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore reported the material on their bodies, said Dan Goldblatt, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The Chicago Tribune reports the substance included D-gluconic acid, which is used to clean metals, and tricalcium orthophosphate, an additive found in food and fertilizers.

... Luckily for swimmers and wildlife, there's no indication the substance is toxic, Goldblatt said. No one has reported any injuries or illnesses.

08 Jul 2013
A Krietz

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013 Lake Erie algal bloom will be significant: NOAA

Satellite image of 2011 bloom, the most severe in decades.
(Photo Credit: MERIS/NASA; processed by NOAA/NOS/NCCOS )
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research partners predict that the 2013 western Lake Erie harmful algal bloom (HAB) season will have a significant bloom of Cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green algae, this summer. The predicted bloom is expected to be larger than last year, but considerably less than the record-setting 2011 bloom.

Bloom impacts will vary across the lake’s western basin. This marks the second time NOAA has issued an annual outlook for western Lake Erie.

“This annual forecast and NOAA’s weekly bulletins provide the most advanced ecological information possible to Great Lakes businesses and resource managers so they can save time and money on the things they do that drive recreational activities and the economy,” said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., NOAA’s assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service.

Fish Info & Services
08 Jul 2013