Category: Outreach

Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Indigenous Communities

A young brook trout at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal fish hatchery.
A young brook trout at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal fish hatchery.
SARAH BIRD

Interlochen Public Radio and Michigan Public Radio aired a story about toxic chemicals in fish in the Great Lakes, particularly their impact on indigenous peoples, quoting Noel Urban (CEE) and Jerry Jondreau (SFRES).

When fish advisories threaten a traditional way of life

If you eat wild caught fish from Michigan, you might know about fish consumption advisories. They’re recommended limits on safe amounts of fish to eat, and they’re necessary because toxic chemicals build up in fish in the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams.

A toxic burden

Around this same time, an invisible problem emerged: toxic contamination of fish by chemicals like methylmercury and poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Noel Urban is a professor at Michigan Technological University who studies pollutants cycling through the environment. He tells me the chemicals that build up in fish are still being emitted around the world.

“So mercury’s primary sources are coal-fired power plants, mining, metal processing. PCBs are emitted from landfills, from wastewater treatment plants, from transformers that are still in use that have PCBs, agricultural chemicals are also in this so there’s a wide variety of sources,” he explains.

Read more and listen to the audio interview at Interlochen Public Radio and Michigan Public Radio, by Kaye LaFond.

U.P. tribe wants to know: “When can we eat the fish?” Researchers try to answer.

“When can we eat the fish?”

That’s what the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wants to know.

“Culturally-relevant” fish advisories

In 2008, Valoree Gagnon was still an undergraduate student at Michigan Technological University. She learned that toxic chemicals like mercury and PCBs build up in fish in the region. And she learned that not everyone limits their fish intake, especially tribal communities.

“They were consuming fish at rates that were above human health criteria, and that was a really big concern for me,” she says.

Read more and listen to the audio interview at Michigan Public Radio, by Kaye LaFond.


Houghton MS Wins Lexus Eco Challenge

Backyard Backlash
Team HMS Backyard Backlash

Houghton Middle School has done it again for the third time. Their team of eight students has won the 2017 Lexus Eco Challenge. Their project titled “Backyard Backlash” investigates how to prevent nitrate-laden water from reaching Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes by surface area.

Much of the surface and groundwater contamination comes from nitrate-rich fertilizers and topsoils (due to lawn and garden care, roadside grass seeding projects, and agricultural practices) and will eventually reach Lake Superior.

In the Lexus Eco Challenge, student teams tackle environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate, and create practical solutions while competing for amazing prizes. The Lexus Eco Challenge gets students involved in project-based learning, teamwork, and skill building as they identify an environmental issue that affects their community, use their critical-thinking and research skills to come up with a solution, and report on the results by way of an Action Plan. Teams of 5-10 students are led by one or two Teacher Advisors—who are full-time teachers employed at the school.

Houghton Middle School won in 2014 with their invasive species education project, and again in 2015 with their project to identify a grass species that could grow on copper-laden stamp sands.

Teacher Advisor Sarah Geborkoff has participated in the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) since 2014. She receives biannual grants to support projects that incorporate environmental monitoring and stewardship in the Huron River watershed. “LSSI has been critical to helping me prepare my students to compete in the Lexus Eco Challenge.”

Joan Chadde, Geborkoff’s mentor for the LSSI project, is equally elated at HMS’ success. “Sarah Geborkoff is a phenomenal teacher who continually goes above and beyond for her students. They start these projects during the summer. These are truly student-led projects. Sarah is an excellent teacher and student mentor.”

Learn more about their project here.


Becker and Seagren Speak Out on Biosolids Concerns

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Biosolid spreading at the Mason Stamp Sands has local residents still concerned but experts from Michigan Tech are speaking up on the subject.

“It’s not surprising that people have questions about biosolids because most people don’t think about the whole wastewater treatment process,” said Jennifer Becker, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor.

Top questions include impact on water supply and wildlife.

“We can’t say there is absolutely no risk because there is nothing I can think of that we do that has no risk,” said Becker.

But biosolids are processed to the point where experts says health risks are very low, even in unlikely cases of high contact with the material.

“So, for example, for many of the metals this would be a child actually eating the biosolids. This gives you a feel for the regulations. They are based on a very extreme case,” said Eric Seagen, also a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at MTU.

Read more and watch the video at TV6 FOX UP, by Mariah Powell.

Jennifer Becker
Jennifer Becker
Eric Seagren
Eric Seagren


Roadsoft Tech Assist in Lower Michigan

Roadsoft

Center for Technology and Training (CTT) Software Engineers Byrel Mitchell, Andrew Rollenhagen and Mike Pionke traveled in lower Michigan providing Roadsoft on-site technical assistance at the cities of St. Louis, Vernon, Laingsburg and Kalamazoo, and the Calhoun and Kent County Road Commissions during the week of April 17.

This is the fourth year CTT has conducted the semi-annual Roadsoft Tech Assist visits, which are hands-on sessions with agency-specific topics. Besides helping Roadsoft customers, the sessions provide CTT software engineers with valuable information about client workflow and challenges. Roadsoft is a roadway asset management software suite for collecting, storing and analyzing data associated with transportation infrastructure.

Roadsoft is developed and supported by the Center for Technology and Training with principle funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation.


Cleaning Dirty Water Competition Winners Announced

Winning SEEN team & Dr. MartyAuer-1
The winning team of Joseph Doyle, Kyle Mischler, and Jeremy Luebke pictured with judge Dr. Marty Auer

The winners of the Cleaning Dirty Water Competition are no surprise! They are three members of the Society of Environmental Engineering student chapter at Michigan Tech–seniors no less— Joseph Doyle, Kyle Mischler, and Jeremy Luebke.

They had stiff competition from the runner up team “The Insolubles”— three students from a high school chemistry class at Hancock High School (Mike McParlan, Murphy Mallow, Shannon Nulf) taught by a Michigan Tech grad.

Other teams that competed included Quantum Huskies, a group of international students from MTU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Whiz Kids– a group of three 8th graders from Lake Linden-Hubbell Middle School, and three members of the Copper Country Recycling Initiative task force.

The competition was held in recognition of World Water Day, March 22, 2017. This year’s theme is wastewater, hence the competition!

Event coordinator, Joan Chadde, made the wastewater right before participants’ eyes, as they listed all of the household items that go down the drain. Each team was given a cup of wastewater and directed to clean it as best they could using only the materials provided– screen, sand, gravel, activated charcoal and alum. After 20 minutes, the results were in!

Chadde is the director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach and a member of the World Water Day planning committee.

Dr. Marty Auer, a local wastewater treatment expert from Michigan Tech, served as judge.

All members of the winning team received $25 MTU gift certificates, which they generously handed off to the 2nd place Hancock High School students, explaining ‘they didn’t have time to spend it, since they’d be leaving Houghton soon with graduation just a few weeks away!’

Globally, 2 billion people are without clean drinking water and 3 billion are without wastewater treatment.

After treatment, wastewater is a valuable resource that can be returned to cities for drinking water!

Michigan Tech’s World Water Day events are sponsored by the following Michigan Tech departments and research centers: The Great Lakes Research Center, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, the Ecosystem Science Center, the Sustainable Futures Institute, Visual and Performing Arts, and The Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

CEE international students
CEE International Graduate Students
CopperCountryRecycling
Copper Country Recycling Initiative task force
Hancock HS team
Hancock HS team – 2nd place
LakeLinden-HubbellGr.8team
Lake Linden – Hubbell 8th grade team


Detroit HS Students Natural Resource & Engineering Explorations

CIMG5884

High school students in Detroit & Wayne County will have the opportunity to explore environmental science & engineering majors at Michigan Tech this summer.  This will be the 3rd consecutive year that this program will be offered to up to 20 students selected to participate.

Students will participate in many outdoor activities during their 6 day trip to the UP, including: ID and measure trees, collect frog data, sample aquatic life aboard a Lake Superior research vessel, examine plankton, drive a ROV, design a process to clean water and touring the campus of MTU.

The program will be held from June 26 – July 1 and the deadline for students to apply is March 20th.

How to apply

  • Complete application form online 2017 Michigan Tech-Upper Peninsula Trip Application
  • Describe what you hope to gain from the experience and your previous experience with natural resources and/or engineering
  • Email or mail 2 letters of recommendation (from non-family members; one from a teacher) to:

Joan Chadde jchadde@mtu.edu

115 GLRC – Michigan Technological University

1400 Townsend Drive

Houghton, MI 49931

Coordinated by Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach


Chadde Receives Funding for an Educational Program at a Public Aquarium

Joan Chadde-Schumaker
Joan Chadde-Schumaker

Joan Schumaker Chadde (CEE/GLRC) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $47,556 grant from Wayne State University. The project is titled “FACTs & Careers: A Scalable Place-Based Educational Program at a Public Aquarium to Increase STEM Career Choices.”

This is the first year of a potential 2-1/2 year project totaling $146,375.


Unscripted: Daisy and the Engineers

DaisyDaisy Isaksson is a fifth-grade student at Dollar Bay Elementary. A couple weeks ago, she surprised one of Michigan Tech’s engineers from the Center for Technology & Training by beating the results of several PhDs, professional engineers and engineering students in a classroom activity called “Stop That Truck!”

The activity was designed by Drew Roberts, a civil engineering senior, under a Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) Program module updated by civil engineer Chris Gilbertson from the Center for Technology & Training under a Michigan Department of Transportation grant. TRAC is a national outreach program that encourages the teaching of STEM (with a civil engineering flavor) to students at a young age by providing well-designed learning modules to high school and middle school teachers.

Read more at Unscripted, by Allison Mills.


After-school Science and Engineering Classes

GLRC Great LakesThere will be six after-school science and engineering classes held for grades 1-8 at Michigan Tech. The classes will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 24 through Dec. 7. There will be no sessions during Thanksgiving week.

These classes offer hands-on explorations taught by Michigan Tech science and engineering students in the GLRC.

Grades 1-2: “Forest Fun!” Wednesdays

Students will engineer seed get-aways, investigate animal tracks, play bird migration games, examine leaf characteristics and create leaf art, and discover the many ways that animals survive the winter.

Grades 3-5: “Wild About Michigan Wildlife!” Mondays

Explore bats and spiders, follow a salmon upstream, investigate the characteristics of wolves and discover what an owl eats by dissecting a little regurgitation.

Grades 6-8: “Investigating Chemistry” Tuesdays

Find out how chemistry affects our daily lives as you delve into food reactions, tie-dye fabrics, crime scene investigation and designing the best bubble solution to create the longest lasting bubble.

Cost is $75 per student. Register by Friday (Oct. 21). Payments can be made by credit card by calling 7-2247. Your space is not reserved until payment has been received.

A Houghton school bus will drop off students at the GLRC by 3:45 p.m.

Contact Joan Chadde at 7-3341 with questions.

By Joan Chadde.


SIS & SAAM Hold Annual Meeting

Hot Choc Machine SIS-SAAM 9.30.16

The students of SIS and SAAM alumni participated in several STEM activities just like their parents did at Tech! Joan Chadde facilitated several Family Engineering activities for the students who ranged in age from 3-17 years. A favorite activity is the “Hot Chocolate Machine where students stack 10-15 cups to let gravity do its thing and mix the  milk power and cocoa powder—and Voila! Hot chocolate!