Month: February 2018

Terrace Bay Caribou Presentation Feb. 21: In-Person or Online

What’s the presentation all about? Presenter Leo Lepiano provides an overview in the above 5′ podcast.

A presentation about the most southerly population of woodland caribou in the world, centered on Lake Superior islands, will be held at 7 p.m. EST on February 21st in the Terrace Bay, Ontario Recreation Centre. Everyone is welcome. There is no charge.

Attend in person or attend online at:

Presentation slides and audio will be livestreamed.

Michipicoten First Nation’s Lands and Resources Consultation Coordinator Leo Lepiano, will provide historical and current information about population and range, as well as about recent efforts to assist Lake Superior caribou. An overview of the Lake Superior Action and Management Plan and environmental funding sources will also be presented.

View More Information in this Previous Infosuperior Article: February 21st Terrace Bay Presentation: Lake Superior Caribou

More information??? – Jim Bailey – Lakehead University – 807-343-8514

Caribou, The Sequel: – “Skylift 2”, Features Superior’s Most Remote Island

Caribou Island, Lake Superior
Caribou Island, situated 72 km./44 mi north of the Michigan mainland and 6o km./37 mi. south of the Canadian mainland, will be the destination for a second caribou relocation.

Insurance Policy

Indications are that the January caribou relocation from Michipicoten Island to the Slate Islands, near Terrace Bay, was successful but Michipicoten First Nation wants an insurance policy.  For the second time, Michipicoten Island caribou will be relocated; this time, the destination will be the most remote island on Lake Superior, Caribou Island.

Lake Superior ice comes and goes and there are no guarantees about wolf movement. Caribou Island, with its remote location roughly midway across the lake, was the best guarantee Michipicoten First Nation could get. Aptly named given the circumstances, the Caribou Island relocation destination is due south of Michipicoten Island, 60 km (37 mi) south of  the Canadian mainland and 71 km (44 mi) north of the US mainland. The lighthouse on Caribou Island is the most remote in North America. The island is located in Canada but just barely north of the international boundary. Band representatives only recently received permission from the American island owners to relocate caribou there.[Editor’s Note: Another Caribou Island, not related, is situated, in Thunder Bay, near Amethyst Harbour.]

Related: Join a February 21st online Caribou presentation from anywhere around Lake Superior.

Evolving Cooperation

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) officials visited Caribou Island to assess conditions before transfer efforts began. According to band representatives, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Nathalie Des Rosiers has been very cooperative, prioritizing action to sustain Lake Superior’s caribou population. The band says their relationship with MNRF has become a cooperative one but one where the importance of continued effort to sustain this most southerly population of woodland caribou in the world needs to be maintained. Caribou have been designated as a “threatened” species in Ontario.

Difficult Action

On February 13th, representatives of Michipicoten First Nation, with cooperation from MNRF, took action. Their transfer operation involved assistance from an expert rushed in from Quebec. Caribou were to be located by helicopter, netted (not darted with a tranquilizer as in the January relocation to the Slate Islands), and transferred south to Caribou Island. The 36 km (22 mi) between Michipicoten Island and Caribou Island is approximately 12 minutes by helicopter. In the event, the effort had to be suspended due to poor weather.  The intention was to try again but Infosuperior has not learned whether transfer has been completed successfully.

Leo Lepiano, who was on Michipicoten Island to assist with the move, reported that the February 13th situation was extremely difficult. He reported that there were probably only about 10 caribou left on Michipicoten, at most. This, from a population that exceeded 600 animals, in 2014, before wolves crossed over frozen Lake Superior to Michipicoten Island. Lepiano said that, on February 13th, a couple of these caribou were seen from the helicopter on Davieaux Island, just south of Michipicoten Island’s Quebec Harbour. He said it would likely not be possible to remove caribou from Davieaux by helicopter.  That left only 8 animals to find on an island over 50 km (32 mi) long and 20 km (12 mi) wide.

Caribou Island Map
A map of eastern Lake Superior showing Caribou Island.


Why Not Just Hunt the Wolves?

Lepiano said that many people have asked him why they didn’t just hunt the wolves, instead of going through the difficult exercise of moving caribou. He explained that odds were steeply stacked against hunting success and that it would be next to impossible to find all of the wolves on such a large island. He stressed that, without a guarantee that every last wolf could be eliminated, Michipicoten’s caribou population was doomed.

“If no Action was Taken, Caribou Would Have Been Eliminated from Lake Superior in a Few Weeks”

In December, prior to any of the relocation efforts taking place, Lepiano contended that the Lake Superior caribou population would be eliminated, not just in a year or two, or even a few months, but in a few weeks. He explained that wolves which had crossed over the ice in 2014, to both Michipicoten Island and the Slate Islands, had decimated caribou populations. According to Lepiano, for the wolves, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. He backed up this assertion by citing figures showing a population plummet from several hundred in 2014, down to less than twenty, on both Michipicoten and the Slates. As for the Slate Islands specifically, Leo reported that female caribou were no longer present, making the population unsustainable. He said there was a glimmer of hope, however, as there was no longer evidence of wolves on the Slates. This situation provided potential, in that female caribou could be moved to the Slates, thereby preserving the Lake Superior population. Since this December conversation, a cooperative situation has developed between MNRF and Michipicoten First Nation and relocation action has resulted.

February 21st Caribou Presentation in Terrace Bay Accessible In-Person or Online

Leo Lepiano will provide a presentation about the Lake Superior caribou population and efforts to sustain it at 7 p.m. on February 21st at the Terrace Bay Recreation Centre in Terrace Bay, Ontario, Canada. The presentation is available in-person or online and is free of charge. More information and directions to join the audio livestream, including presentation slides, is accessible here.

Information about the Lake Superior Environmental Action and Management Plan will also be presented at the February 21st event.


Lake Superior Action and Management Plan 2015 – 2019

A Bio-Diversity Conservation Strategy for Lake Superior – 2015

Lisa Jacques Photo of Caribou Crossing the Ice from the Slate Isands – 2o14

More caribou photos by various photographers.






The Dragonfly Mercury Project

Dragonfly Mercury Project
The Dragonfly Mercury citizen science project is helping to better understand variation in environmental mercury levels across North America.

A new continent-wide initiative is underway to better  understand varying mercury levels in the environment. The Dragonfly Mercury Project is a “citizen science” initiative and a collaboration between the University of Maine, the United States Geological Survey, Dartmouth College, the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, and the National Park Service.

Mercury is an element that is widely distributed throughout the environment in varying forms and concentrations. Although it is naturally occuring, elevated levels can be released into the environment by human-caused processes. For example, coal combustion is the largest anthropogenic source of mercury being released to the environment in the U.S. Mercury is a natural constituent in coal; when coal is combusted for power production mercury is released into the atmosphere as a bi-product.  Atmospheric mercury falls out onto the surrounding environment with precipitation and is eventually transported to bodies of water.

Globally, the largest source of anthropogenically-emitted Hg is artisanal & small-scale gold mining (source: nal-cooperation/mercury- emissions-global-context#type). In the US, coal combustion (as you mention) is the largest single source: “In the United States, power plants that burn coal to create electricity account for about 42 percent of all manmade mercury emissions (Source: 2014 National Emissions Inventory, version 1, Technical Support Document (December  2016)(PDF)” sic-information-about-mercury

Atmospheric mercury deposited in waterways can become “methylated” and highly toxic in a complex process, which is assisted by bacteria. The “methylation” process occurs most readily in water with high concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and low pH. Toxic methylmercury is readily absorbed and accumulated in biological tissue working its way up the food chain from small aquatic organisms, to fish, waterfowl and humans.

So where do dragonflies fit in? The Dragonfly Mercury Project is looking at dragonfly larvae for information about mercury levels in national parks across the United States. Dragonfly larvae are ideal for tracking environmental mercury. They accumulate relatively high levels of mercury because:

  • they spend most of their life cycle (several years) in a freshwater aquatic environment where mercury methylation occurs
  • they are long-lived and eat many small insects, thereby “bioaccumulating” mercury over a long period
  • they are found across North America, from Alaska, through Canada, to Florida.

The citizen science project employs the work of students and park visitors to collect the laravae. Once the method is learned, dragonfly larvae  are much easier to collect than fish. Collecting them is also engaging for kids. That’s why the Dragonfly Mercury Citizen Science Project was started. The project now spans USA.

Scientists like dragonfly larvae as well, for a number of reasons:

  • the larvae are relatively large, with plenty of material for laboratory analysis
  • laboratory analysis is relatively inexpensive
  • they provide a good representation of the variability of mercury concentrations across locations.

Want to learn more about the Dragonfly Mercury Project or get involved? Find out more here.

Additional Link, Including Video: Schoodic Institute

Thank you to Lakehead University doctoral student Nathan Wilson, studying under Dr. Rob Stewart, Department Chair for Geography and Environmental Science, for bringing the Dragonfly Mercury Project to the attention of Infosuperior.

There is very strong interest in learning more about the process of methylation. To date, much research has been undertaken about methylmercury, much of it associated with fish.  In fact, the Ontario government produces a “Guide to Eating Ontario Fish” to identify the types and amounts of fish that are safe to eat. Mercury is the primary concern outlined in this document. Every State around Lake Superior also provides documentation about eating fish from inland lakes, as well as from Lake Superior. Again, mercury is a primary concern.


2018 Great Lakes Water Levels Assessment

Great Lakes Water Levels Report - 2018
A Great Lakes Water Levels Report has been released by the Graham Sustainability Institute of the University of Michigan.

The Great Lakes Water Levels Integrated Assessment Report has been released by the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute and Water Center. The goal of the report is to help decision-makers address the challenges and opportunities posed by Great Lakes water level variability.

The project combined multidisciplinary technical analysis with stakeholder engagement to identify potential policies and actions that will help shoreline managers and property owners plan for and adapt to variable lake levels. The assessment was informed by a binational advisory committee that provided input and advice reflecting the views of key stakeholder groups. The report includes the results of collaborative efforts among four multidisciplinary U.S. and Canadian research teams.

Additional project support was provided by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management Program and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Access the Report

Provide Public Comment until March 3rd to:
Maggie Allan, Graham Institute, Emerging Opportunities Program Officer, at (734) 763-0749 or

1927 Lake Superior Health Report

American Journal of Public Health, 1927.
An excerpt from the American Journal of Public Health, 1927.

Thank goodness that times change. While all major cities on the shores of Superior now have state of the art water pollution control plants, the document referenced below points out that this wasn’t always the case.

“The residents of the United States and Canada possess, in the splendid immensity of the series of waterways through which so much of their common boundary passes, a heritage of inestimable value…”

This is the first line of the Lake Superior Health Report of 1927 produced by the Dominion Department of Health, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The document was forwarded to Infosuperior by Klaas Oswald of Sault Ste. Marie, who pointed out that it might be of interest to Infosuperior’s readers. The report states that in 1927, there were only two municipalities discharging untreated sewage to Lake Superior, these being Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota. The report goes on to laud 10 US municipalities where there is, “partial or nearly complete treatment,” as follows:

Information from a 1927 report on Lake Superior.

The report notes that “Sanitary surveys which have been conducted by the Division of Sanitation of the Minnesota State Department of Health in cooperation with the city of Duluth have indicated quite definitely that the pollution due to the sewage from the city of Duluth and that which is carried in by the waters of the St. Louis River is confined to a relatively small area in the vicinity of the city of Duluth.”

As to 1927 era industrial pollution, the paper has the following to say,“The only two places where industrial waste pollution is serious are at Marquette, where chemical wastes sometimes produce tastes in the municipal water supply, and at the Newberry Chemical Plant on the Tahquemenon River. It is a long distance by river from Newberry to Lake Superior and it is doubtful if this pollution has a very marked effect upon the water of the lake.”

The report adds something that will be of interest to residents of Thunder Bay, where pulp fiber can be found to this day in large quantities in the northern section of the harbour, “The paper mill companies state that they are already making arrangements to install machinery for the recovery of fiber as a logical business improvement.”

Before going on to talk about “Typhoid Fever Rate per 100,000 Population in Cities in the Lake Superior Region,” the document notes, There are only three municipalities of any importance on the Canadian shores of Lake Superior waters: Fort William and Port Arthur on Thunder Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the latter being really situated on the upper waters of the St. Marys River. None of these municipalities treat their sewage…”

Want to give the full 4 page document a scan? Click here.

February 21st Terrace Bay Presentation: Lake Superior Caribou


Caribou Transport to the Slate Islands, January, 2018

Seeking Refuge on the Slate Islands

A caribou on the Slate Islands walks away from a helicopter after being transported from Michipicoten Island, January, 2018.


Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources photo

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Michipicoten Island Caribou have made headlines recently on Minnesota Public Radio, Sault online, CBC’s “As it Happens” and the New York Times, among others. Predation by wolves, who were able to reach the island due to ice cover on Lake Superior in 2014, resulted in relocation of the Michipicoten Island Caribou to the Slate Islands.

The complexity of the issues facing the woodland Caribou around Lake Superior will be covered in a presentation beginning at 7 p.m. on February 21st at the Terrace Bay Recreation Centre. Presentation slides and audio will be livestreamed over the internet for those unable to attend in person. Tune in on the evening of February 21st using your computer, phone or tablet here:

The Terrace Bay presentation provided by Leo Lepiano, Lands and Resources Consultation Coordinator with Michipicoten First Nation, will cover information about:

  • historical caribou populations around Lake Superior in both Canada and USA
  • the Canadian North Shore caribou population
  • the Michipicoten Island caribou population
  • the Slate Islands caribou population
  • the situation respecting wolves and caribou arising from near total Lake Superior ice cover in 2014
  • intervention carried out in January, 2018 when several caribou were moved from Michipicoten Island to the Slate Islands.

Plenty of time will be available for discussion and questions from both in-person and online participants. The objective of the evening is to increase understanding of the Lake Superior caribou population and bio-diversity within the Lake Superior watershed.


Helicopter used in caribou transport, Slate Islands, January, 2018

 A helicopter carrying caribou between Michipicoten Island and the Slate Islands, Lake Superior, January, 2018. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry photo.

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An overview of the Lake Superior Action and Management Plan, along with information about funding sources for environmental restoration and protection, will also be provided at the meeting.

This event is presented by Infosuperior to increase interest, knowledge and respect for the Lake Superior ecosystem, building broader public support for Great Lakes restoration and protection.


Additional Links and Infosuperior Stories:


Mercury Cleanups Happen

A recently completed project at Onondaga Lake in New York State’s Finger Lakes proves that mercury cleanups actually do happen, even if it takes decades. Though the lake is sacred to the Onondaga Nation, severe degradation led to ice harvesting being banned as early as 1901. In 1940 swimming was banned and in 1970 fishing was banned due to mercury contamination. The lake was added to the U.S. EPA list of Superfund sites in 1994. Honeywell Corporation played a central role in cleanup.

Between the years 1946 and 1970, Allied Signal, an aerospace, automotive and engineering company, dumped approximately 165,000 pounds/74843 kilograms of mercury in the lake. Allied merged with Honeywell Corporation in 1999.

Honeywell completed dredging of 2.2 million cubic yards/1.68 million cubic meters of lake bottom sediment in 2014 and capped 475 acres/192 hectares of lake bottom with sand, gravel and topsoil in 2016. The final stage of remediation was completed in the fall of 2017 and involved restoration of 90 acres/36 hectares of wetlands, as well as deposition of underwater rock structure for fish habitat.

Honeywell is required to carry out a long-term environmental monitoring plan for the remediation project over many years. The suite of monitoring will assist in determining “performance,” or effectiveness, of the cap.  Nitrate will be added to the lake bottom on an ongoing basis to assist in reducing mercury levels.

Now that the project is complete, Honeywell will be complementing the project with wildlife habitat attributes and docks for recreation, part of a separate agreement with the federal government.



Wiring Up the Great Lakes


 Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre
The Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre is located in LaSalle, Ontario on the Detroit River.

The Real-time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (REAON) project will receive a total sum of $15.9 million from Ontario’s Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth. The REAON project is led by Dr. Aaron Fisk of the University of Windsor along with a team of researchers from Carleton, Trent, and Western universities, as well as from the United States. According to Dr. Aaron Fisk, the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Changing Great Lakes Ecosystems:

The Real-time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network will provide the instruments and staff to carry out comprehensive and multidisciplinary research to understand and support management of the Great Lakes, and will be a reference for researchers worldwide who are investigating freshwater ecosystems.

Funding will be used to address the network’s infrastructure and data management requirements, allowing the project scientists to carry-out cutting-edge freshwater ecosystem research. The Network is based at the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre in LaSalle, Ontario on the Detroit River. A portion of the funding will be used to build an addition to the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre, providing increased space for preparation and maintenance of instruments, analyzing aquatic sample collections and surgeries for implants which allow fish tracking through telemetry.

Fisk maintains that climate change will be a central focus of Great Lakes research over the next 20 years, with a need to understand rapid changes in ecosystem processes and the associated impacts. The RAEON project will facilitate this goal through a network of real-time sensors, autonomous sub-surface vehicles and an extensive collection of independent instruments.

Professor Fisk says the network, “will give leaders in government, industry and even individual Canadian households the comprehensive science-based data they need to make effective, responsive policy and management decisions.”


New Great Lakes Protection Initiative Seeks Funding Applications

Kama Creek
Restoration of Kama Creek on Lake Superior’s Nipigon Bay was accomplished with funds from the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, predecessor to the Great Lakes Protection Initiative. (Photo: J. Bailey/

On February 1st, Environment and Climate Change Canada announced a call for applications to eight Environmental Funding Programs, including funding under the Great Lakes Protection Initiative which includes the fund to Restore Areas of Concern, formerly known as the “Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.”

Through the Great Lakes Protection Initiative, Environment and Climate Change Canada takes action to address the most significant environmental challenges affecting Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health by delivering on Canada’s commitments under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

To help achieve this goal, Environment and Climate Change Canada is making funding available in  support of actions to:

  • Prevent toxic and nuisance algae: Increasing participation in the application of phosphorus load reduction measures by demonstrating innovative approaches and best practices and promoting broad uptake and application.
  • Reduce releases of harmful chemicals: Increasing participation in the application of beyond-compliance measures to reduce releases of chemicals of mutual concern by developing, implementing, assessing and promoting use of innovative approaches.
  • Engage Indigenous Peoples in addressing Great Lakes issues: Enhancing Indigenous capacity to address Great Lakes issues through projects that engage Indigenous Peoples at the community level.
  • Increase public engagement through citizen science: Enhancing Canadians’ knowledge of and engagement in addressing Great Lakes issues through participation in citizen science.
  • Restore Areas of Concern: Supporting action at the local level to restore water quality and aquatic ecosystem health by implementing projects identified in Area of Concern Remedial Action Plans.

The submission deadline for applications is March 15, 2018 at 11:59PM EST.

The purpose of the 2018/19 Call for Proposals for the Restore Areas of Concern (AOC) fund is to solicit project proposals that will contribute to the completion of necessary actions identified in the AOC’s most current Remedial Action Plan (RAP) and/or Work Plan as this will facilitate the re-designation of beneficial use impairments (BUIs) and the eventual delisting of the AOC. With this in mind, applications should demonstrate clearly how  proposed projects will contribute to the restoration of BUIs or achievement of delisting targets for an AOC.  Priority for funding will be given to those proposals that directly address projects/priority actions in current RAP Stage 2/Stage 2 Update Reports and Implementation Work Plans for the AOC under which your organization is applying. 
The Restore Areas of Concern fund application package is accessible through the links below and consists of:

  1. Application Instructions
  2. AOCs Application Form
  3. AOCs Project Cash Flow Form
  4. Remedial Action Plan Contacts and Websites

To learn more about all of the Great Lakes Protection Initiative funding opportunities and how to apply, visit  or contact

For general information on the Great Lakes Protection Initiative, visit

Related December 16th, 2017 Infosuperior Story:

Canada Provides $45 Million for Great Lakes Protection