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New York’s Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program
CurrentCast Radio/Podcasts (2015-2016 Projects)

Education for NY Great Lakes Resilient Communities and Economies

In a survey conducted as part of Gallup’s 2011 poll on the environment, at least three in four Americans said they worried about contaminants of soil and water by toxic waste; pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs; pollution of drinking water; and the maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water.

To educate and engage the public in water-based learning, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) funded and facilitated the production of recorded “information bursts” and podcasts for Current Cast, a daily, 60-second syndicated radio series and podcast about water stewardship and sustainability in the Great Lakes and surrounding watersheds.

Each sound-rich, entertaining CurrentCast segment is designed to grab listener attention and interest in water stewardship, generating broad-based public support for conservation, protection, and restoration efforts. Segments are proactive in tone, and often provide concrete ways they can make a difference.

In 2016, with support from the NY Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program administered by NYSG, CurrentCast produced and distributed 20 segments on topics including invasive species, stormwater management, shoreline protection, riparian restoration, flooding and erosion prevention, wetlands protection, and green infrastructure in New York’s Great Lakes basin.

Partners on this project include: The Center for Transformative Action at Cornell University, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

CurrentCast segments integrate “ecosystem-based management” principles, including those to:

  • provide citizens with scientific information in layperson’s terms,
  • look at issues from ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives,
  • provide information with ways people can make a difference, and
  • reach a diverse audience, helping to encourage a variety of stakeholders to get involved in stewardship activities.

The segments, which can be streamed below, were broadcast in Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 via radio stations throughout the Great Lakes and through the CurrentCast syndicate of more than 50 stations.

Fall 2016

Mon., Oct. 17, 2016 - For Pet’s Sake – Avoid the Algae: Not all algae is harmful, but there’s no way to know which is which
More Info: CurrentCast
More Info: Learn more about dogs and HABs with this brochure from New York Sea Grant.



Too many nutrients in lakes and ponds can cause algae to grow out of control, producing harmful algal blooms. Some unleash toxins that threaten our health…and our animals’ too. When ingested, touched, or even inhaled, they can make your pet sick or even die. So what can you do?

Bischoff: “Well, the first step is prevention.”

That’s Karyn Bischoff of Cornell University. She says you can’t tell by looking if a bloom makes toxins or not, so keep animals away. If you catch Fido in green, scummy water, remove him quickly, and don’t let him lick his paws or fur.

Bischoff: “The best bet is to get them cleaned up as fast as possible and consult with a veterinarian.”

When it comes to your precious pet, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Tue., Oct. 18, 2016 - Try Not to Get Carried Away: The currents and sandy shores of the Great Lakes can create rip currents as dangerous as those in the ocean
More Info: CurrentCast



When you think rip current, you might think the Atlantic Ocean. But rip currents are quite common in the Great Lakes as well.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jon Hitchcock says there are a couple conditions necessary to create a rip current.

Hitchcock: “One you need a fairly windy day that generates significant wave action, then the second part you need is a sandy shoreline.”

When the wind piles waves up on the beach, the pressure carves a trench in the sand that allows water to rush back into the lake. This happens so quickly that it carries everything out with it, including the unlucky swimmer.

But don’t panic! Hitchcock says you can escape from a rip current by swimming parallel to the beach.


Thu., Oct. 20, 2016 - Wetlands, Extreme Rain, and Climate Change: Wetlands slow and absorb water, making them critical for flood control as extreme weather becomes more common
More Info: CurrentCast



Wetlands were once seen as boggy, buggy swamps with no value. Many were filled in and paved over to make room for new development. William Coon, a hydrologist with the US Geological Survey, says today we know better.

Coon: “They allow for the water in the system to spread out, to slow down.”

The more it rains, the more critical it is to have wetlands to slow and store water and to filter pollutants. And since climate change is predicted to bring more extreme rain events to the Northeast and Midwest, wetlands will be a critical line of defense.

So preserving them is more important than ever as we brace for the wild weather coming our way.


Mon., Oct. 24, 2016 - Greener Ground, Cleaner Water: Trading grey pipes for green spaces is helping cities control storm-water runoff
More Info: CurrentCast



When it rains, it pours…off pavement and into sewers and so-called “grey infrastructure.” This can overwhelm the system, sending pollutants past water treatment centers… straight into creeks and streams.

So to absorb and filter stormwater where it falls, some cities are turning to green infrastructure such as rain gardens.

Sansone: “The rain garden is designed to put a portion of that water back into the ground.”

That’s Andy Sansone of Monroe County Environmental Services in New York. He says the benefits of replacing pavement with plants go beyond water quality.

Sansone: “It gives us the ability to create some green spaces that weren’t otherwise there…”

…providing a solution that’s beautiful and functional.


Wed., Oct. 26, 2016 - Less Lawn, More Native Landscaping: Lake-front landscaping is key to water quality
More Info: CurrentCast



You might like the look of a clean-cut lawn, but if you have lake front property, experts say not to mow all the way to the shoreline.

Rozumalski: “The most important thing you can do for your lake is to create a buffer zone, and this is a patch of native plants along the lakeshore.”

That’s landscape architect Fred Rozumalski. He says even modest buffers can trap pollutants such as fertilizers and loose soils before they reach a lake.

While the roots of plants in a buffer zone prevent erosion, the flowers and branches provide valuable habitat for wildlife.

And these buffers don’t need to keep people away. Grass paths can provide eco-friendly access to the lake.


Thu., Oct. 27, 2016 - The Ins and Outs of a Septic System: Proper care and maintenance is key for maintaining private septic systems
More Info: CurrentCast



In a septic system, a pipe runs from the house to a septic tank where solids get separated from wastewater, which then flows out of the tank and into a drain field.

Terry Gibb, senior educator with Michigan State University Extension, says moving less water through your system gives your tank more time to filter.

Gibb: “So conserve water, and one of the biggies is spacing out laundry during the week.”

She says liquid detergent is best, as powdered soaps can bind and become solid.

How else can you help your system? Don’t put toxic chemicals, medications, and antibacterial soap in, and keep an eye out for gurgling pipes, slow running drains, and standing water around your tank.


Mon., Oct. 31, 2016 - Another Clean-Up for Mother Nature: Governments might be phasing out the use of microbeads, but nothing but time will remove the problem from the environment
More Info: CurrentCast



Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic most often made of polyethylene. Found in face scrubs and toothpastes, they wash down the drain, slipping through filters into waterways…where they’re eaten by birds and marine life.

Now, a nationwide ban is phasing out them out. But what about the trillions already in our water?

Sherri Mason of SUNY Fredonia does not think a large scale clean-up is possible. She says, in time, the tiny beads will settle in the sediment at the bottom and be buried.

Mason: “Ultimately, the reality is that we have to change our habits to reduce the sources of these things.”

That means avoiding products with microbeads until the ban goes into effect in 2018.


Wed., Nov. 2, 2016 - Hard to Tell the Good Guys from the Bad: There are thousands of different types of blue green algae, and only a few produce harmful toxins
More Info: CurrentCast



Blue green algae aren’t all bad. After all, there are about 6,000 different species…

Boyer: And there are probably only a hundred or so that are known to make toxins that would be considered harmful.

That’s Greg Boyer of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He says the organisms are some of the oldest and most diverse on the planet. They thrive in sun, warmth, and calm waters. But add to that too many nutrients, and they can bloom out of control.

Some blooms make toxins that can be harmful if ingested, touched, or even inhaled. But others do not…the trouble is you can’t tell which is which without a toxicity test. So, play it safe… if you see an algal bloom – stay away.


Fri., Nov. 4, 2016 - When Teachers Get Hooked on Science: One 7th-grade science teacher is telling his students about the exhilarating week he spent on a research vessel
More Info: CurrentCast



Seventh grade science teacher Scott Krebbeks of central New York says many kids think scientists are always tucked away in labs. But he knows better.

Krebbeks and other educators spent a week with scientists aboard the EPA’s Lake Guardian Research Vessel, collecting and testing water samples from Lake Ontario.

He found real life science exhilarating, and that’s the message he took back to his students.

Krebbeks: “Being able to have experiences like the one that I had on the guardian and share firsthand with them the types of things that real scientists actually do, they get excited about it…”

And it might inspire some to dive into a science-based career.


Tue., Nov. 8, 2016 - An Iconic Waterway: The Erie Canal introduced a new path to the west by connecting Albany to Buffalo
More Info: CurrentCast



When the Erie Canal was built, it linked the Hudson River to Lake Erie, connecting Albany to Buffalo. That introduced a new path to the west and set the stage for increased trade.

Stewart: “Your other alternative was crossing over the mountains …very laborious, very small units of cargo, and very hard on the people making the trip.”

That’s Richard Stewart of the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute. He says the canal greatly reduced the cost of shipping, and acted as a conduit for transporting timber, petroleum, agricultural products, and people.

Today trucks take the lead as carriers, but the Erie Canal is enjoying its own comeback… as a recreational and historic resource.


Thurs., Nov. 10, 2016 - Too Much and Not Enough Water: Climate change is expected to deal multiple blows to water resources in New York
More Info: CurrentCast



In the coming years, climate change will deal multiple blows to water resources in New York state.

Horton: “We expect more heavy rain events in the future, and that can have very negative impacts on water quality.”

That’s Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University. He says that heavy rain can cause sediment and pollutants such as farm waste and pesticides to run off into waterways.

At the same time, rising temperatures will cause more moisture to evaporate from the soil – leaving it dry and creating a greater need to irrigate – despite the heavy rain events.

So even though the state has abundant rivers and lakes, New York’s water resources are not immune to the effects of climate change.


Fri., Nov. 11, 2016 - A Super Highway for Aquatic Invaders: The system of locks and canals that allowed ships to bypass Niagara Falls suddenly created a path for invasive species
More Info: CurrentCast
More Info: Lock in your understanding of invasive species and the lock system with this New York Sea Grant fact sheet



When locks and canals began allowing ocean-going vessels to by-pass Niagara Falls, they did more than open new trade routes to the west. Suddenly…

Campbell: “Things like sea lamprey and the alewives were able to swim around Niagara Falls and get into Lake Erie then the upper Great Lakes too.”

Tim Campbell of the University of Wisconsin Extension says other invasive species were carried in by ship…

Campbell: “Things like zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas, round gobies, a lot of the really big name invaders came in through ballast water.”

It’s easy for new species to hitch a ride on smaller boats too, and spread from one place to another. So to help slow them down, boaters should clean, drain, and dry their boats between waterways.


Winter 2017

Wed., Jan. 11, 2017 - When Sharing is Not Caring: The governors of the Great Lakes states limit the amount of water that can be removed from the Great Lakes Basin
More Info: CurrentCast



We’ve always been taught to share. But the eight Great Lakes states have a legal pact that limits the sharing of their most valuable resource: water.

Molly Flanagan of the Alliance for the Great Lakes states, “Even though there’s a lot of water in the Great Lakes, it’s not a limitless resource. It’s a resource that we depend on in the great lakes region to support our economy and our way of life.”

She says the agreement is called the Great Lakes Compact. It tightly restricts water withdrawals from the Great Lakes basin, and requires the surrounding states to closely monitor their water use.

“The Great Lakes governors really wanted to make sure that it was a resource that was protected for our use today and for future generations,” she says.


Fri., Jan. 13, 2017 - Lake Ontario’s Best-Kept Secret - Sand Dunes: Eastern Lake Ontario has some of the most majestic dunes in the Northeast
More Info: CurrentCast
More Info: Read more about the dunes from New York Sea Grant: www.nyseagrant.org/lodune



There’s a stunning 17-mile section of dunes on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in New York. Formed by glaciers, the dunes protect wetlands, creating habitat for birds and fish. Thirty years ago, unrestricted access led to damage by all-terrain vehicles and over-use. Today, trails and dune walkovers provide access while protecting the fragile ecosystem. Skidmore College environmental scientist Tom Hart says the efforts are working. For example: “We’ve just had the return of piping plovers for the first time since 1983 in the last few years,” he said. Numerous state parks, wildlife management areas, and marinas offer many opportunities for the public to enjoy this unique habitat.

More Info: On YouTube ...




Tue., Jan. 17, 2017 - Great Lakes Water on the Move: When a massive swell of water moves from one end of a lake to another, it’s called a seiche
More Info: CurrentCast



In the Great Lakes, changes in wind and air pressure can spawn what are called seiches.

“Imagine water in a sink or a bathtub sloshing back and forth—it bounces off one end, and then it bounces off the other, that’s what we call a seiche, it’s really that bouncing back and forth motion,” explains Joel Bernosky of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

For example, on Lake Erie, wind can move massive swells from Cleveland to Buffalo and back.

Seiches range in size and power. Most create rip currents that can put swimmers in danger. But a rare massive seiche in the 1800s swamped Buffalo and killed 88 people.

And seiches can occur in smaller bodies of water too…just like your bathtub.

       
Fri., Jan. 20, 2017 - Causes of Erosion: Natural events and human intervention can cause shorelines to shift and shrink
More Info: CurrentCast



The Great Lakes coastal shorelines are eroding.

“Sometimes it’s slow and you might not even be thinking about it, and other times it can be a very rapid and scary,” Michael Mohr of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He says ice, wind, and waves cause erosion…but storms can really speed things up.

“And the storm intensity and its duration affects how much erosion can occur,” says Mohr.

The effects are costly: shrinking land, homes at risk, and decreased property values.

Shoreline development can compound and accelerate the problem. So it’s important for coastal areas to consider erosion during planning.

More Info: On YouTube




Mon., Jan. 23, 2017 - Invasive Species in Lake Ontario: Many of the most abundant species in Lake Ontario are non-native
More Info: CurrentCast



Many of the most abundant species in Lake Ontario are non-native.

According to Brian Weidel of the U.S. Geological Survey, “My colleagues and I often joke if we only studied species that were native, most of us in Lake Ontario would be out of a job.”

He says species such as quagga mussels and round gobies can push out native species. But once they’re entrenched it’s hard to remove them and they become a part of the food web.

For example, invasive gobies are a now a source of food for many sport fish. So while the ecosystem has changed because of invasives, Weidel adds:

“It still provides clean water to drink, great recreation opportunities, lots of fish to eat. It’s still a natural ecosystem.”


Tue., Jan. 24, 2017 - Holding the Invaders at Bay: Plants that don’t belong in our waters can interfere with swimming, fishing, and boating
More Info: CurrentCast



When a new plant moves into a lake or stream, take note – it could be cause for concern.

Sandra Keppner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that rapidly spreading invasive plants like water chestnut and hydrilla are causing big problems for New York waters.

“We see virtually the elimination of our native plant species as these species grow up and take over,” says Keppner.

And in shallow waters, they can interfere with swimming, fishing, and boating.

So if you see a new plant growing in the water, call your local conservation agency. They can determine whether it’s invasive and help remove it if necessary. Early action is the best way to keep these invaders out of the Great Lakes.


Thurs., Jan. 26, 2017 - Great Lakes Observing System: A system of buoys provides information to boaters
More Info: CurrentCast



The Great Lakes are wonderful places for boating and fishing. But they can also be dangerous, so it’s important to know the lake conditions before going out.

Now, a system of near-shore buoys provides boaters with information about air and water temperature, wave height, currents, wind direction and speed.

According to Kelli Paige, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Observing System, “These are the basic properties that a boater might use to decide whether or not the conditions were safe enough to take their boat on the lake.”

She says the data is also used by weather forecasters to predict rip currents at beaches, and is available for researchers. Find a buoy near you by heading to the Great Lakes Observing System Web site.


Mon., Jan. 30, 2017 - Clean, Drain, and Dry: Here’s how boaters can help turn away unwanted hitchhikers
More Info: CurrentCast



Invasive plants and animals can wreak havoc on waterways, from making a shoreline less able to withstand flooding to harming fish.

Boaters can help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species by cleaning plants and mud off their boats; then they should drain and dry out before moving to a new body of water.

Cathy McGlynn of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, says it’s important for large and small boats.

She says  “Kayaks and canoes can access back country areas via portage trails, and they would pose a threat to the pristine lakes, ponds, and rivers in those areas.”

So remember – clean, drain, and dry to protect our waters.

More Info: On YouTube ...




Wed., Feb. 1, 2017 - Lake Ontario Drumlins: No bluffing… Lake Ontario has some unique shorelines
More Info: CurrentCast



Drumlins are long narrow hills that were created by glaciers thousands of years ago. In New York, drumlins start on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario and extend south for miles.

John DeHollander is retired from the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District. He says wind and waves erode the northern edge of those drumlins – cutting away the gentle slope, and creating…
“… A very steep-sloped faced remnant of what the drumlin used to be…and we call those bluffs,” says DeHollander.

These bluffs are dramatic cliffs that rise up from the edge of the lake and create fascinating shapes. And they provide the shoreline with stunning vistas.


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