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21 February 2022

Muddy Water Has Town Official Singing the Blues

Coastwatch GLERL NOAA imagery December 17, 2021 (annotated). Several years ago, when our kids were young and at least one was still in elementary school, I visited a class of 3rd graders taught by a friend of the family’s and put on a soil erosion demonstration. The “show and tell” consisted of setting up rainfall simulators for two contrasting land cover types represented by two baking pans: one filled with …

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30 June 2019

“Fairy Rings” or “Hexinringe” and the Role of Fungi in Weathering and Soil Fertility

As our three-year old chocolate-golden Labrador mix looks happiest when he’s running, we try to get him out to a park once or twice a day. While he’s chasing noisy killdeer and attacking discarded plastic water bottles, I have a chance to look at the land and sky and assess the progress of the new growing season. In springtime, at one of the parks near our home in Lenawee County, …

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19 May 2018

Prairie Woody Encroachment, Fire Ecology, and Implications for Regional Hydrology

Images of modern prairie burns near Council Bluffs, Kansas have been captured by venerable National Geographic photojournalist Jim Richardson. These fires aimed at maintaining prairie grassland ecology carry on a Native American practice that goes back centuries. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosts an online archive of The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in which George Clark, who probably never won a spelling bee, recorded this remarkable river scene …

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16 February 2018

Chemical Cocktails Confound Phosphorus Management

It’s been fifty years since the Canadian government at the urging of the International Joint Commission set aside the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora, Ontario in 1968 to conduct large-scale experiments in aquatic ecology. There, the young Director named David W. Schindler, who would go on to become a world-renown limnologist, and others conducted experiments with nutrient loading and produce one of the most iconic photos in the field of …

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8 September 2017

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Ag Programs Under Review

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) has received a two-year $750,000 grant to evaluate the effectiveness of money spent on farm conservation programs by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In addition to the GLC, Ohio State University and Michigan State University will play a role in the evaluation process. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration proposed to end funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and National Sea Grant programs. …

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1 September 2017

Life in the Soil: The Lizard and the Fire Ant

After a slow, plodding climb up a steep hill in West Virginia, the miogeocline side of the Apallachian mountains, I sat down on a log to catch my breath when, soon, this gregarious creature skittered toward me and, seemingly, looked me straight in the eye. This eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) was about seven inches long, and out in full sunshine near the edge of a clearing. It was a …

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31 March 2017

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation: The 10 Percent Solution

Following the Great Flood of 1993, an official report called for more research to find ways to prevent flood devastation, apparently unaware the problem had been mostly solved, conceptually over a decade earlier. But taking action through the implementation of a national wetland restoration program has faced intractable political and economic obstacles.

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18 February 2017

Keep Your Shirt On, Save Some Coral?

This is not great news, especially for those of us who like to be out in the sun but get really bad sunburns. As reported by Nature and Scientific American, Hawaii state senator Will Espero has introduced a bill to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that may pose risks to us, such as endocrine disruption, as well as to coral. The Environmental Working Group maintains lists of …

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22 December 2016

Maine Shake Map Using Surficial Geology and Crowd-Source Responses

Researchers in Maine (Marvinney and Glover 2015) have created a clever earthquake risk shake map using readily available surficial geology maps and online responses from state residents. Did you feel it? That is the name of a USGS Earthquake Hazards Program interactive website that “collects information from people who felt an earthquake and creates maps that show what people experienced and the extent of damage.” I first became interested in …

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30 September 2016

Lake Erie Algae Blooms Correlate to June Rainfall

June precipitation appears to be positively correlated to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Looking at monthly precipitation data readily-available from Weather Underground and comparing it to the Western Lake Erie Algae Bloom Severity Index, I was surprised by the strength of the correlation (0.6, 0.85 with an “outlier” removed). June precipitation was the only month to correlate to the Severity Index in my data set and I was surprised that …

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3 July 2016

Lake Erie Watershed Soil Phosphorus Study Shows Glyphosate Link

As reported recently by Laura Barrera in the magazine No-Till Farmer, a study led by Ohio Northern University chemistry professor Christopher Spiese links the popular herbicide glyphosate to dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) desorption in soils. Mobilization and runoff of phosphorus to streams and lakes is associated with toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. For decades, soil scientists have understood phosphorus to form low-solubility compounds …

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1 June 2016

Herbicides, Critical Source Areas, and Vegetated Buffers

Waging Chemical Warfare on Weeds Last fall, while on one of my country road walking routes, I noticed an advanced infestation of marestail (Conyza canadensis) in a soybean field. Evidently, this weed, and others, is becoming herbicide-resistant. A new agricultural herbicide called Acuron (link goes to manufacturer’s website) is on the market, and in some fields. Acuron has been developed in response to “superweeds” that have grown resistant to glyphosate, …

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18 April 2016

A Journey on the Dirt Road

When I was seven years old, my family moved from Dearborn, a modern suburb of Detroit, Michigan and the home of Henry Ford, to a much smaller and older town in Northwest Ohio, called Defiance. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Defiance was that it was built at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers and regional folklore had it that the meeting of these two rivers protected the …

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1 January 2016

Agricultural Runoff and Ohio’s Senate Bill 1

In response to the August 2014 shutdown of Toledo’s water supply due to microcystin contamination, the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which regulates fertilizer and manure application to farm fields. Essentially, the new regulations prohibit spreading manure or fertilizer in the Lake Erie Watershed when soils are frozen, snow-covered or saturated, or if there is a more than 50% chance of at least one-half inch of rain in the …

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16 November 2015

Field Drain Tile and the “Re-Eutrophication” of Lake Erie

Algae Blooms, Microcystin and Phosphorus It’s been over a year since Toledo, Ohio and surrounding communities shut down public water supplies due to an algae bloom and microcystin contamination in western Lake Erie. Was the trouble a “one-off” or can we expect more of these events in the future? While attending a seminar this year hosted by the Michigan Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, my interest was …

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