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A big threat to the Great Lakes comes from outdated sewer systems that can carry bacteria into waterways, and lead to closed beaches and drinking water warnings.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.

Nik Stanbridge / Flickr

College students are returning to upstate campuses and facing a situation year-round residents have dealt with for most of the year -- a drought.

August rainfall has been above average for many areas in New York state, but the National Weather Service says totals for the year in some parts of the state are several inches below normal.

Kevin Montano / The New York Reporting Project at Utica College

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has designated this past week as Invasive Species Awareness Week. The goal is to encourage the public to help stop and reverse the spread of invasives. A group of volunteers from central New York has joined the battle.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Legislature has agreed to contribute its share in funding a plan to clean up a portion of Ley Creek, which is polluted with toxic chemicals. The money will be reimbursed to the county by the company responsible for the pollution.

Farmers helping to limit algae in Great Lakes

Jul 2, 2016
Elizabeth Miller / Great Lakes Today

Summers along the Great Lakes include fishing, boating -- and dangerous algae blooms that can shut down beaches. These blooms are caused by excess phosphorous, a lot of which comes from farms. Now some of the region's farmers are testing agricultural practices that could reduce harmful runoff.

Duane Stateler and his son Anthony run Stateler Family Farms, one of a handful of demonstrations farms across the country. Over the next five years, three farms in Northwest Ohio will test different practices to find out what reduces phosphorus runoff.

In this archived broadcast from June 29, 1990, John Weeks talks about tulip trees and the Baltimore oriole. He gives a brief history of both species and their modern day roles in the natural world.

Courtesy: Save the River

On June 23, 1976, an oil barge called the NEPCO-140 ran into a shoal on the St. Lawrence River, spilling 300,000 gallons of crude into the heart of the Thousand Islands. The "Slick of ‘76" remains one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history.

That tragic incident changed how local residents viewed the St. Lawrence River. Many felt a strong urge to protect it from future catastrophes.

In this archived broadcast from June 25, 1992, John Weeks speaks about bird songs and their qualities.  Songs by different species of thrush, wrens, thrasher and others are interspersed throughout the talk.  Weeks examines each song, touching on qualities such as tone and energy.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Aging homes, poverty and unemployment force too many central New Yorkers to live in housing that just isn’t safe according to the New York state attorney general’s office. So it’s giving Home HeadQuarters $1 million to create the Greater Syracuse Green and Healthy Homes Initiative.

Local governments and several agencies have signed a pact promising to support initiatives that will lead to healthy homes. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said one of the big issues will focus on potential lead poisoning from lead paint.

Save the River

On June 23, 1976, an oil barge called the NEPC-140 ran into a shoal on the St. Lawrence River, spilling 300,000 gallons of crude into the heart of the Thousand Islands. On this, the 40th anniversary, the ”Slick of ‘76” remains one of the largest inland oil spills in the United States.

A Study in Bird Nesting

Jun 8, 2016
Dan Dangler / Flickr

In this archived broadcast from June 10, 1993, John Weeks discusses the observations he made during a study of a local wetland.  These observations include several notes on the nesting habits of over a dozen different bird species. 

Worst of the worst Great Lakes invasive species: Sea Lamprey

Jun 4, 2016
Angelica A. Morrison / Great Lakes Today

The sharp scent of chemicals bites the air as Jason Krebill wades in a creek and pulls out two slippery, slimy, parasitic creatures.

He’s holding dead adult sea lampreys, one in each hand. They’re about two feet long, with suction-cupped mouths, lined with nearly a dozen rows of sharp teeth.

Like a vampire, the sea lamprey latches onto its prey and sucks the blood and nutrients out of fish in all five of the Great Lakes. Krebill, a biological science technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a part of a team whose job it is to control the invasive species.

Changes in Birdwatching

Jun 3, 2016
Keith Williams / Flickr

In this archived broadcast from June 4, 1992, John Weeks discusses some observations in migration patterns he has witnessed while bird watching and offers a metaphor involving his daughter moving to a new home.

Flying Architects

Jun 1, 2016
Henry T. McLin / Flickr

In this archived broadcast from June 7, 1991, John Weeks discusses nature's flying architects, commonly known as birds.  Weeks covers the nest building of several species including Baltimore orioles and hummingbirds.


May 27, 2016
Michael Becker / Flickr

In this archived broadcast from May 27, 2005, John Weeks discusses the role mice play in maintaining an ecosystem.  Weeks goes into detail on how mice provide meals for several predator species and how this makes mice important members of the natural world.