Environment

Great Lakes pollutant lurks in your laundry

Jan 2, 2017
Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The United States and Canada are moving to ban microbeads -- the tiny plastic bits in toothpaste and facewash that are big water polluters. Now scientists are focusing on a similar problem -- and it’s lurking in your laundry hamper.

When you do laundry, take a look at the tags on your clothes. You’ll find that most shirts and pants have some synthetic material -- like polyester, nylon or spandex. Every time you wash them, tiny plastic fibers go down the drain.

Nick J Nixon / Flickr

Plants die off, the ground freezes over, and animals go into hibernation. Although this description of winter may sound dreadful, these aspects are needed to keep our ecosystem in check. On this episode of "Nature of Things" from February 26, 1988, host John Weeks explains why sometimes a tough winter can be a good thing. 

Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A new study from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York tracks how much plastic is getting into the Great Lakes, and where it's going.

Matthew Hoffman, an assistant professor who is part of the research team, says about 10,000 metric tons of plastic is getting into the lakes every year. In Lake Ontario alone, he says, "it's the equivalent of 28 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with empty plastic bottles."

The Positives of Winter

Dec 21, 2016
Kaylyn Izzo / WRVO

According to biostatistics, warmer seasons produce the most beneficial characteristics to the environment. However, winter has many positive aspects that can not be measured in numbers. On this archived episode of the "Nature of Things" from January 27, 1984, host John Weeks discusses the beautiful sights, camaraderie, and fun that can be brought about by winter. 

Local Bird Watching

Dec 14, 2016
Becks / Flickr

Bird watching can be both a relaxing and fascinating hobby. In this archived edition of the "Nature of Things," host John Weeks reveals how you can do this locally. Although originally aired Februrary 24, 1984, much of the same rules apply.

Thousand Islands Tourism Bureau

Green groups and boaters along the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario won a huge victory Thursday. The U.S. and Canada approved a new, more natural plan for managing water levels after 16 years of study that cost more than $20 million.

Diana Robinson / Flickr

When it comes to wildlife, Africa is plentiful--home to some of the largest creatures known to man. In this archived broadcast of the "Nature of Things" from January 13, 1984, host John Weeks speaks with Dr. Jack Calvert about his adventure through Africa. 

Anthony Quintano / Flickr

With winter underway, an archived broadcast of the "Nature of Things" from February 3, 1984 helps explain how lake effect storms form. Host John Weeks and weather expert Dr. Alfred Stam, dive into the science behind it, while also sharing some fun facts. Find out the only other region in the world, besides the Finger Lakes, that may experience lake effect storms. 

Great Lakes plan to combat marine debris

Dec 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A conference in Cleveland is tackling marine debris, the pieces of plastic that wash up on the river, ocean, or Great Lake shores. It's a issue that has affected the health and appearances of beaches around the world.

Marine debris also has a deadly effect on wildlife, especially birds.

“They can get entangled in fishing line or balloon string,” says Jill Bartolotta, an educator with Ohio Sea Grant. “They also eat plastic because they think its fish or a food item, which will eventually cause them to starve to death.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A small protest outside of Chase Bank in downtown Syracuse gave information on the various banks financing the Dakota Access pipeline. Protesters encouraged people to pull their money out of the big banks supporting the pipeline and reinvest it into local credit unions. The protest was part of a national day of divestment.

Renee Vogelsang, one of the organizers of the event, said it is a powerful way to take action against the banks.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Genetically modified food is something that’s discussed a lot. But scientists in Syracuse are trying to take that technology one step further, and create the first genetically modified wild forest tree. And with that, rest hopes that the American chestnut tree could make a comeback with a scientific nudge.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Hundreds of protestors opposing a controversial Midwest oil pipeline marched through downtown Syracuse over the weekend. They walked six miles from the Onondaga Nation Arena to downtown Syracuse, carrying signs about protecting water sources.

November's Open

Nov 10, 2016

In this archived broadcast from November 13, 1992, John Weeks discusses the beauty of November, despite the loss of life that comes with the beginning of winter.  Weeks remarks on how the fall and winter are necessary to bring about spring and tells a series of anecdotes about his discovery of various bird nests in the late autumn.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Environmentalists are bringing a giant yellow oil barrel across New York State to bring attention to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s fight to extract internal research from Exxon Mobile about climate change.

Jaime / Flickr, Creative Commons

Saturday is Drug Take Back Day for people across the country. Educators with a program out of Cornell University and SUNY are particularly urging people who live near the Great Lakes to bring leftover prescription drugs to nearby collection sites.

Helen Domske, with Sea Grant New York, says unused prescription drugs are often dumped down the drain or the toilet. That means antibiotics, hormones and vitamins are making their way into our waterways, threatening marine life.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Most of northern and central New York is still experiencing a drought, despite some rain this weekend. Groundwater reserves are depleted in wells across the region. Farmers are trucking in water for their livestock, people are digging new wells for their homes and towns are trying to find ways to conserve this now limited resource.

The Loon

Oct 12, 2016

In this archived broadcast from October 9, 1987, John Weeks discusses the common loon and the decrease in the species population.  Weeks touches on the causes of this decrease, the increased interest in the bird, loon behavior, and its incredible voice, including his own account of hearing a loon song.

Green vs. gray: how can trees clean up the Great Lakes?

Oct 11, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

A big threat to the Great Lakes comes from outdated sewer systems that can carry bacteria into waterways, and lead to closed beaches and drinking water warnings. Now, some cities are fighting back – with trees.

In nearly 200 communities, sewer systems handle both stormwater and sewage. When it rains a lot, these systems get overloaded, and untreated water -- or sewage -- runs into the Great Lakes or nearby streams and rivers.  

“These outflows happen up to 82 times per year at some spots in Cleveland,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Michelle Kondo.

Environmental convention focuses on future of Great Lakes

Oct 10, 2016
Angelica A. Morrison / Great Lakes Today

Split pea soup – that’s how some folks describe the Great Lakes back when it was plagued by contamination, pollution and algae. A lot has changed since then.

During the Nature Conservancy conference last week, Jerry Dennis, author of "The Living Great Lakes," described how far the lakes have come.

Dennis’s deep connection with the Great Lakes starts on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Phantoms of the Marsh

Oct 5, 2016
James West / Flickr

In this archived broadcast from October 4, 1990, John Weeks discusses the phantoms of the marshes, better known as rails.  Weeks talks about how he stumbled onto their nest and the reaction the birds had to his visits.  Weeks also offers a description of the species.

Dogs sniff out pollution along Great Lakes

Oct 1, 2016
Rebecca Thiele / WMUK

In the town of Bridgman, Mich., investigators Sable and Kenna sniff samples from storm water drains near a beach. Sable is a 10-year-old German Shepherd, while Kenna, a Golden Retriever, is 2.

The dogs have been trained to sniff out polluted water, says Karen Reynolds, co-founder of Environmental Canine Services.

“If they smell any contamination that indicates human source bacteria, then they will give an alert,” Reynolds said. “Sable barks when he smells that and Kenna will sit.”

Kaylyn Izzo / WRVO News

Each summer, many beaches along the Great Lakes are closed because of high bacteria levels in the water.  But figuring out exactly when to close a beach is difficult, and scientists are trying out a new test that could lead to safer swimming.

Drought may cause drab fall foliage

Sep 22, 2016
Stanley Zimny / Flickr

The typically brilliant colors of fall may soon become the latest casualty of the severe drought affecting parts of central and western New York, and the Finger Lakes.

Plants cool when water evaporates from their leaves, and when there is little or no rain, that process shuts down.

dougtone / Flickr

Opponents of a pipeline expansion that would flow through vast portions of New York state want the Cuomo administration to deny a key permit, an act that could halt the upgrade.

The New Market Dominion pipeline is one of a dizzying array of fuel pipelines that flow through New York, in many cases taking natural gas from hydrofracking sites in other states to markets in New York and other places.

Associated Press

Plastic debris is pervasive in the waters that feed the Great Lakes, according to a new study published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The study found widespread microplastics in 29 tributaries, with the highest concentrations in the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Buffalo River in Buffalo.

Microplastics are fibers and beads that come from decomposing bottles, bags, clothing, and even some cosmetic products.

In this archived broadcast from September 16, 1988, John Weeks talks about the negative perception surrounding hawks and owls, particularly the red tailed hawk.  Weeks talks about the bird's history and his own relationship with attempting to protect the species.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

Some of the migratory songbirds that pass through the Great Lakes region are already on the move, and volunteers at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory are preparing for them. Hundreds of species – swallows, finches, warblers and more -- visit the observatory on the shore of Lake Ontario, just west of Rochester.

Today, the volunteers are repairing large nets, about 12 feet high with very fine mesh. That’s how they catch the birds.

"When they're flying along, they kind of hit these soft nets and fall into little pockets or hammocks," says education director Andrea Patterson.

Deadly currents -- why they hit the Great Lakes

Sep 3, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

Powerful currents on the Great Lakes have caused more than 150 drownings since 2002, according to researchers. Those currents can appear suddenly, says Mark Breederland, an educator with Michigan Sea Grant.

Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority

Each year, ports on the Great Lakes dredge tons of material to keep shipping lanes open. But disposing of the spoils is a big problem. The Port of Toledo has a creative approach: farming.

The Port of Toledo dredges more sediment than any port on the Great Lakes – up to a million cubic yards every year.  The idea of reusing sediment as soil for agriculture is new for the Great Lakes region and ideal for Lake Erie’s western basin.

Why high lead ratings are always possible

Aug 23, 2016
Monica Sandreczki

Troubles with water quality have raised concerns over contamination across the country. Just last month, nine drinking sources in Ithaca came back with high lead levels. 

There are a couple of reasons there is lead still present in some of our faucets.

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