Month: March 2017

Great Lakes Watershed Field Course for Teachers


Watershed Field Course
The Inland Seas Education Association is offering a four day Watershed Field Course for teachers from Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The course is designed to help students learn about invasive species, nutrient runoff and habitat restoration.

Priority is given to schools in  Great Lakes Areas of Concern, but teachers everywhere in the Great Lakes region are encouraged to apply for the 4 day (June 26 – 29) Watershed Field Course outlined below. The course is offered by the Inland Seas Education Association.

Do you want your students to learn how to be active in their communities and take steps to improve our environment?
This free professional development opportunity gives you the skills and background to empower your students while fulfilling Michigan education standards. Over four-days you will visit projects in the Grand Traverse region that address invasive species, nutrient runoff, and habitat restoration, and meet with the professionals who design and implement the work. You’ll meet teachers from around Michigan, develop a plan for implementing a stewardship action project with your students, and have time to enjoy beautiful northern Michigan.

Thirty 4th-12th grade teachers will be accepted for the program. Priority is given to schools in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, but teachers everywhere in the Great Lakes region are encouraged to apply.
  • Support will be provided throughout the school year with check-in calls and additional training.
  • Lodging, transportation to field sites, meals, and a $300 project stipend are included.
  • Bring your students on the schoolship this fall – a free program for your class! ($825 value)
  • SCECHs and graduate credit through Ferris State University are available.
Apply by filling out the Application Form.
Find out more by reading the Application packet.
Visit the website for links and updates:

Contact Jeanie Williams with questions:, 231-271-3077

Applications are reviewed as they come in, space is limited!
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March 6 & 7 Mercury Round Table/Student Presentation

Fish consumption advisories
Province of Ontario fish consumption advisories are in place for most lakes in Northwestern Ontario, mainly due to mercury.

The public is welcome to a round table discussion entitled, “What Can We Do About Mercury in our Water,” which will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 6th at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, 1080 Keewatin Street, on the Confederation College campus.

“It’s not just a local area or a local source that’s causing the contamination,” says Peggy Smith, Lakehead University’s interim vice-provost (Aboriginal initiatives) and an associate professor in Natural Resources Management.

The impact of high levels of mercury contamination will be discussed at the round table as part of Lakehead University’s 2017 Research and Innovation Week. Michael Rennie, a panel member, assistant professor in Lakehead University’s Department of Biology, also Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries, says that mercury is a, “persistent issue that we’ve known about since the 1960’s. What do we need to do about that? Should we be concerned and how much should we be concerned?”

Round Table Participants

  •  Elder Beatrice Twance-Hynes will do an opening including the Water Song.
  •  Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries (Biology, formerly with Experimental Lakes Area).
  • Dr. Brian Branfireun, Canada Research Chair in Environment and Sustainability, cross-appointed with Earth Sciences and Geography at Western University.
  • Judy Da Silva (Environmentalist and member of Grassy Narrows First Nation).
  • Dr. Peter Lee (Biology, works with Seine River First Nation).
  • Dr. Peggy Smith Interim Vice-Provost, Aboriginal Initiatives, and Associate Professor in Natural Resources Management (Moderator).

Some people may recall mercury, a silver, liquid metal, as the substance they rolled around in their hand in high school chemistry class. Since that time, the toxicity of mercury has been extremely well documented. Mercury is an element which can neither be created nor destroyed, although it can “speciate” or “cycle” between various forms. In fact, mercury is a natural constituent in many substances, including soil, vegetation like trees, and coal. When coal is combusted, in power plants for example, mercury is a by-product of the combustion process. Mercury moves up the smokestack and is then transported through the atmosphere, falling out on land, rivers and lakes. Atmospheric deposition of mercury is by far the largest source of mercury in the environment and the leading contributor to consumption advisories for fish in Ontario’s lakes. Almost every lake within the Lake Superior watershed, including Superior itself, has consumption advisories for mercury, mainly due to atmospheric deposition.

Additionally, work carried out in the Experimental Lakes Area, east of Kenora, Ontario, demonstrates that flooding as a result of reservoir creation results in the microbial breakdown of dead plants and organic soils leading to methylation of mercury already present in the system. Methyl mercury is a more toxic form of mercury.

Spills of mercury are another concern. In Northwestern Ontario, many of these spills are the legacy of the pulp and paper industry. Chlor-Alkali plants producing chlorine-dioxide used in the bleaching process for paper were often located near pulp and paper mills. These facilities utilized mercury in the production process and spills have resulted. Mercury in the English-Wabigoon River system and orginating at the Dryden, Ontario mill site is a well-known example. Other examples are the mercury contamination in Peninsula Harbour, the main harbour in Marathon, Ontario. Contamination in Marathon’s harbour was addressed in 2012 through the Peninsula Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Cleanup involved an innovative thin-layer cap, put in place with contributions from the federal government, the provincial government and industry, at a cost of approximately $7 million dollars.

Another site contaminated with mercury lies within the waters of Thunder Bay Harbour, adjacent to the mouth of the Current River and a former mill site. Cleanup method for this 350,000 cubic meters of contaminated pulpy material, some of it up to three meters thick and covering an area the size of several football fields, has not been determined.

Three-Minute Thesis Presentations –
Starting at 10:00am Tuesday, March 7 – Faculty Lounge Lakehead University

In addition to the round table talks, Samuel Pegg will be presenting about his thesis titled Acquiring Minds in an Uncertain World: Risk Communication in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern.  Supervised by Dr. Rob Stewart, Samuel’s research works within the context of the Remedial Action Plan program and seeks to understand how the risks of the mercury-contaminated sediment in the Thunder Bay North Harbour can be effectively understood and communicated.

What began as a simple completion at the University of Queensland, the three-minute thesis competition has grown into a multi-national event that sees a variety of graduate students attempt to concisely explain their research to a non-specialist audience within the space of three minutes.

The presentations are open to the public and will begin at 10:00am, Tuesday March 7 in the Faculty Lounge, Lakehead University.


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Watershed Webcasts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be hosting a webcast on the new tool “Model My Watershed” on Thursday, March 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT.

“Model My Watershed” is a user friendly, online watershed modeling application that allows users to learn how land use and soil together determine whether rainfall infiltrates into the soil, runs off into streams, or is evaporated and transpired by plants. This web tool is intended to provide an easy-to-use professional-grade modeling package to inform land-use decisions, support conservation practices, and enhance watershed education.

The webcast will provide an overview and a demonstration of the application and will highlight how the tool is being used by several states for their total maximum daily load, nonpoint source, and municipal stormwater programs.

Webcast participants are eligible to receive a certificate for documenting their attendance.

Learn More:

Watershed Webcasts Flyer

Flyer for March 9th Model My Watershed Webcast


More information about the Watershed Webcasts from U.S. EPA.


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March 8/9: Low Impact Development Workshop

Memorial Ave. Low Impact Development
This low impact development site on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay, Ontario assists in stormwater management and also acts as a beautiful, green urban oasis.

Please join EcoSuperior, the City of Thunder Bay, Confederation College and Lakehead University on March 8th & 9th for an informative 2-day training workshop on Low Impact Development (LID) Stormwater Management.

Training will be provided by Credit Valley Conservation, a leader in Low Impact Development in Ontario.

The workshop will take place at Confederation College from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Registration is $175.00/day or $315/2 days payable in advance to EcoSuperior, 562 Red River Road, Thunder Bay, ON.

Contact or 807-624-2658 or register at the following link.

Want to find out more about Low Impact Development. Check out this guide from Credit Valley Conservation.

See more pictures of the Memorial Avenue Low Impact Development site for stormwater management here.


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Sailing Into History



Sailing Into History
A new book by Michigan author Frank Boles outlines the history of Great Lakes Freighters and the lives of those who sailed themThe Great Lakes create a vast transportation network that supports a massive shipping industry. In the new book, “Sailing Into History”, seamanship, cargo, competition, cooperation, technology, engineering, business, unions, government decisions, and international agreements all come together to create a story of unrivaled interest about the Great Lakes ships and the crews that sailed them in the twentieth century.

Author Frank Boles grew up in Lincoln Park, Michigan and was fascinated with Great Lakes Freighters. especially those he saw on the nearby Detroit River. Bole’s early fascination led to a life-long interest, and eventually to writing, “Sailing into History: Great Lakes Bulk Carriers of the Twentieth Century and the Crews Who Sailed Them.” Boles is the director of Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library since 1991. He has also worked as an archivist with the Chicago Historical Museum and University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library. Five years was put into the research and writing of the book.

Boles says that providing an accurate portrayal of shipboard life was one of his key goals in writing the book. The book points out that working aboard a lake freighter was a very tough life, often in very tough weather. The author notes that unlike other difficult occupations, you didn’t get to go home at night.

This complex and multifaceted tale begins in iron and coal mines, with the movement of the raw ingredients of industrial America across docks into ever larger ships using increasingly complicated tools and technology. The shipping industry was an expensive challenge, as it required huge investments of capital, caused bitter labor disputes, and needed direct government intervention to literally remake the lakes to accommodate the ships. It also demanded one of the most integrated international systems of regulation and navigation in the world to sail a ship from Duluth to upstate New York. Sailing into History describes the fascinating history of a century of achievements and setbacks, unimagined change mixed with surprising stability.

The book is available at major book retailers in both Canada and USA.

Like Great Lakes Freighters? You’ll like this site:

Note: You could win a trip on a Great Lakes Freighter (second link from the top of the page.

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How Much Warmer Was Your City in 2016?

City Temperatures
A new AccuWeather/New York Times application allows users to type in the name of a city and view information about temperature and precipitation in relation to historical data.

It’s simple. It incorporates a wealth of data and it works.

An interactive database put together by Accuweather and the New York times let’s site visitors type in the name of any city around Lake Superior, the Great Lakes, or anywhere else in the world, and view information about temperature and precipitation in relation to historical data. Once the name of a city is “plugged in,” the application provides a specific temperature number, noting whether a given city is warmer, or cooler, than AccuWeather’s historical data. With a click of the mouse users of the application can choose to view data in Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Looking at cities around Lake Superior, the NYTimes/Accuweather application provides the following information:

  • Duluth 3.1 F/1.7 C above normal
  • Thunder Bay 4.2 F/2.3 C above normal
  • Sault Ste. Marie 3.2 F/1.8 C above normal

The application also provides a rendering of monthly temperature and precipitation in the from of an easily viewed graph. Record high and low temperatures are incorporated in the graph and easy to see.

Give the application a try.

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Conservation Purchase Includes Swede Island

Superior Islands Nature Reserve
The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists conservation puchase includes six remote island locations adjacent to the Black Bay Peninsula and St. Ignace Island in the Canadian waters of Lake Superior.

The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists organization, is purchasing six remote Canadian Lake Superior island locations as part of their “Superior Islands Nature Reserve.” Field Naturalists information about the purchase states that six remote island locations in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area will be protected.

The reserve consists of three adjacent parcels on the east shore of Vert Island in Nipigon Bay, two separate parcels on Spar Island, one at Fraser Point on Saint Ignace Island, a parcel at Agate Cove, and one on the northern end of Swede Island. The purchase is additional to previous purchases by the Field Naturalists such as Hare Island off Thunder Cape, Granite Point in Black Bay and Bowman and Paradise Islands off the south shore of St. Ignace Island. The purchase will protect over 4 kilometres of shoreline and 145 acres of land, plus some adjacent water lots.

The islands are all within the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, and the small privately-owned parcels being bought are surrounded by crown land. By purchasing them the organization hopes to avoid the development of new camps which would significantly impact the wilderness quality of the area. Several of the properties are near existing Field Naturalist reserves at Bowman and Paradise Islands. The entire area is a popular destination for sailors, power boaters and kayakers and is on the Lake Superior Water Trail, a concept currently being developed as part of the Trans Canada Trail.

On a more detailed level, TBFN has an accepted offer to purchase the lots, with a closing date of July 12, 2017. The Field Naturalists will pay $336,000 in cash, with the vendors donating the balance of appraised value in return for a charitable receipt. Additional expenses include the appraisal, legal fees, land transfer tax, as well as a contribution to the Field Naturalists endowment fund to make sure the properties are protected into the future.

The sale is conditional on the Field Naturalists raising sufficient funds and the organization is actively seeking funding
from federal sources and various foundations, noting that these funders  require matching dollars
through private donations. The Field Naturalist say they are confident sufficient funds can be raised and given their very solid record of completing such purchases in the past, this most recent puchase will proceed. Anyone interested in contributing to this project can mail donations to the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists mailbox:

Thunder Bay Field Naturalists

PO Box 1037

Thunder Bay, Ontario


P7B 6T6

Make cheques payable to “Thunder Bay Field Naturalists” and note on the cheque that it is for the “Superior Islands Nature Reserve.” Donations can also be made using PayPal or credit card at the Field Naturalists website – indicate that your donation is for “Superior Islands Nature Reserve”.

Thunder Bay Field Naturalists accepts donations of stocks or securities, an increasingly popular approach which may offer significant tax advantages. Contact the Nature Reserves Chair, Dr. Sue Bryan, for more information on this option. A charitable receipt valid for tax purposes will be provided for all donations.

A Field Naturalists trip to the new reserve will be offered during the summer of 2018 and Infosuperior hopes to carry information about this Lake Superior excursion. The Field Naturalists organization is seeking participants.


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Minnesota Landview Map Tool

Aerial View - Western Lake Superior
An aerial view of Western Lake Superior. The Minnesota Landview map tool has multiple functions and allows users to view aerial photos of Minnesota from earlier decades.

Infosuperior is glad to receive input from readers. Feel free to get in touch with us with comments or to suggest topics for articles. Recently, in response to information about mapping tools posted in Infosuperior’s January 31st newsletter, Brian Huberty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and based in Bloomington, Minnesota, wrote to suggest that links to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Landview Mapping tool be provided on the Infosuperior site.

Brian also suggested a few revisions to enable more effective navigation of Infosuperior’s online maps page. The page contains everything from a live, interactive Great Lakes water level viewer to a “story map” providing information about cleanup projects in Thunder Bay Harbour.

Brian also kindly provided the following article about the Landview mapping tool, a fascinating way of exploring Lake Superior’s Minnesota shorline and an extremely useful tool for environmental initiatives and decision-making. Thanks for the article Brian. Here it is…



The Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources ‘Landview’ webmap page has a long history going back to the dawn of the internet…..the Post-Pleistocene Epoch or it has been commonly called, the Infocene Epoch.

Landview evolved from the NASA funded FORNET project to the University of Minnesota started in the 1990’s to serve forest inventory maps via the ForestView webpage.

Forest inventory polygons were ovelaid on aerial and Landsat imagery over analog telephone dial-up 33k modems to MN DNR field offices.  The core software was Mapserver which was the first common, open source webmapping software used around the world to serve maps and remote sensing imagery over the internet.

Given the very limited telephone networks of the time, Mapserver still is a very efficient and fast webmap delivery system.  Fifteen years ago, very complex Mapserver image ortho webmaps like using LandView would take one minute to load over analog telephone lines while it would take over ten minutes to load the same imagery using commercial software web mapping pages.

When one goes to the Landview website, you see this:

Minnesota counties with a long list of options on the left side to check and activate.

The key layers to check out are:

Historic air photos


These colored dots represent geo-referenced scanned aerial photos dating back to the 1930’s for most of the state.

This example with the CIR backdrop shows a variety of imagery available to view over the Duluth Harbor.  To see the image, one needs to activate  just to the right of  and click on a colored dot.

In this example, another window pops open with an 8-13-39 (1939) image of the port before WWII:

One can download the full resolution image by clicking on the link.

Here is what the Duluth Lift Bridge and harbor entrance looked like back then:

Fall Peak Color CIR Aerial Photos:

The red squares illustrate the aerial photos that might be available for all forested counties in Minnesota:

Here is one example from 2005​:




Oblique Coastal Aerial Photos:

Finally, LandView also serves up oblique Coastal Zone Management photos as shown by the colored dots in this overview map:

Again, using the same procedure as before, pick a colored dot and this new window will pop up:

And again, you can download the full image using the link.  In this case, this is a 2012 shot of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park:

Landview was developed by the Minnesota DNR using the University of Minnesota MapServer software.




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