TRAVEL CITY – A small, invasive species discovered years ago in several local rivers will be the focus of a series of free monthly webinars hosted by the non-profit Michigan Trout Unlimited.
A group of environmental experts is scheduled to dissect the impact and plan to tackle the New Zealand mud snail, a tiny mollusk that could ultimately have a major impact on the connected river ecosystems of the Great Lakes. Snails are known to reproduce rapidly to overcrowded levels and eventually dominate macro-invertebrates and other insects in the food chain, experts say.
Researchers are looking for answers about their effects on local ecosystems.
New Zealand mud snails were first discovered in North America in 1987 in the West, and finally in Lake Michigan in 2012; Inland water specialists in recent years identified creatures in the AuSable, Boardman, Manistee, Pere Marquette and Pine rivers in Lower Michigan.
“It’s one of the most widespread globally invasive species that occurs worldwide,” said Jeremy Geist, Great Lakes stream restoration manager at Trout Unlimited. “These are often found in cold water trout streams.”
The Michigan Trout Unlimited webinar series will start February 24 and include monthly sessions through June.
Steve Largent, Boardman River’s program coordinator for the Grand Traverse Conservation District, said he intends to participate in every session. His goal was to learn all he could about invasive species, he said.
“They’re on the Boardman and they’re in trouble. How many problems we really don’t know, “said Largent.
The first speaker in the series is Samantha Tank, an aquatic invasive species specialist for the Great Lakes Commission. He is currently leading the invasive phragmite collaborative for the organization, and says previous research on New Zealand mud snails is part of his master’s degree work.
Tank said his research was focused on studying the dynamics of a snail invasion of Michigan’s cold waterways. The affected river is often used by anglers, he said.
Part of his research involved surveying fishermen to tabulate what they generally know about invasive snails and what they are willing to do about it, he said, “looking at the relationship between awareness and action.”
Tank said he was also developing a detection technique for New Zealand’s mud nails that worked 95 percent or more of the time.
He said it too could easily be taught to citizen scientists to further expand the opportunities for data collection.
“I’ll give you some tips on that,” Tank said.
Lucas Nathan, fisheries biologist and aquatic invasive species program coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is scheduled to speak as part of a series of events in April.
He plans to share an overview of the state’s strategy with the webinar attendees.
“With New Zealand’s mud snails, we don’t have a silver bullet in terms of eradication,” he said.
The most likely way for the invasive slugs – which can live for extended periods out of water – to enter inland river systems is through anglers who tie the creatures to boats, waders or other equipment and unknowingly pass them on, Nathan said.
“Preventing the spread is a very big component,” he said.
Techniques for killing slugs with equipment include the use of chemicals, cleaning with hot water or letting the equipment dry completely in the sun, Nathan said.
Other scheduled speakers in the webinar series include experts from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Earth Science Laboratories, Inc., plus another as yet undetermined.
Registration for the webinar series can be done by sending an email to [email protected].
The series is planned in partnership with the New Zealand Great Lakes Mud Snail Collaboration, which more can be learned from visiting www.nzmscollaborative.org on line.
This winter I was fortunate to be securing a weekend retreat by renting a deer. As I was sitting observing nature, a thought came to my mind: How lucky are we to have a safe food supply? I can easily drive to the grocery store and pick my preferred meat and fixin. I have reasonable assurance that the animals are healthy and of good quality.
Food animals are raised by producers who now, for the most part, specialize in that species. Indeed, there are still some smaller and more diverse producers, but their products also benefit from studies on raising cattle, raising pigs and producing chickens. Progress has been made in our livestock practices to efficiently produce healthy protein.
Manufacturers are bound by quality assurance programs and principles to provide the best care for animals with the knowledge that they will provide nutrition for others. Medications administered to prevent or treat disease are tracked, and assurance is made that drug residues do not end up in the meat we eat. Research is continuing to find better ways to control disease, and some of that information is being translated into improving our health care.
The welfare of food-producing animals is very important. Food and water are readily available not only because it helps the animals grow, but is also good for their well-being. They don’t have to forage like our wildlife species. The methods used to handle animals are focused on becoming more stress free. It is known that if the cattle are comfortable, they do better and everyone is still safer. In the management of various species of forage animals, we have been able to provide an environment that enhances their comfort, keeps them safe from predators and helps control the spread of disease.
It started off with a bizarre chant, but it was only after DNA testing of dung that bird researchers were able to confirm Australia’s first record of an unknown Asian bird, rarely seen even in its native region.
The main point:
The first record for a brown line flycatcher in Australia has been confirmed by DNA testing
The small, brown bird was first seen in northwest Australia because of its unusual vocation
Confirmation comes after a researcher has noticed the bird droppings, and is able to collect the deposits
In October 2020, Parks and Wildlife conservation scientist Bruce Greatwich was at the Sandfire Roadhouse, a steep, heat-blasted spot on the edge of the Great Desert, 300 kilometers south of Broome.
He was taking a break from work when he heard an unusual tweet.
To the common man, what would have been another bird’s whistle was enough to excite Mr. Greatwich to take a closer look.
“It doesn’t sound like an Australian bird at all to me,” he said.
After searching the roadhouse mango grove, his suspicions were confirmed.
He knew he had found something quite interesting, but Mr. Greatwich had no idea that this was the start of months of research and much luck would finally confirm that he had found a bird that was almost unknown anywhere in the world.
An unusual song
There are few things more appealing to bird researcher Nigel Jackett than having a call that a rare bird has been spotted.
“About 10 minutes after Bruce saw the bird, we got a text message with a photo of the flytrap from Asia,” he said.
Within 10 minutes of receiving the news, Mr Jackett and two other hardcore birders began the 300 km drive from Broome to the Sandfire Roadhouse.
“Everyone carry their bags in case a rare bird appears, [their gear is] just sitting in front of the door, binoculars ready, cameras ready, “he said.
“You have to be prepared, and you need to react as quickly as possible because some of these birds don’t last long.”
While Mr Greatwich has the ability to hear a few tweets from a bird and knows the call is unusual in Australia, Mr Jackett’s ability to identify bird calls is on the next level.
His skill in identifying bird species from records makes him a sought-after expert, and his ears are capable of detecting something out of the ordinary about the bizarre Asian flytrap.
“As part of my profession, I do voice analysis for people who put out a voice recorder and then they send the data to me,” he said.
“I started listening to the Asian chocolate flycatcher, as we thought, and it didn’t sound right at all.”
The Asian brown flytrap is common and widespread in Southeast Asia, and although never seen on mainland Australia, it has been seen on remote islands and atolls not far from the coast.
Then there are some very similar but much less obscure Asian flytraps that Asian bird watchers hardly ever see, and one of those considered the most suitable.
“Most bird watchers have never heard of the brown-line flytrap call,” says Jackett.
The importance of dirt
When word came about about a new bird for Australia, if only it could be identified, bird researcher and guide Adrian Boyle got stuck in the Mitchell Plateau in remote northern Kimberley.
It becomes even more torturous for Mr. Boyle that he cannot rush the sight of the strange bird, as he moves on to the prearranged work of the Gouldian finches in the east Kimberley.
But amazingly, when he finally made the 1,300km journey to Sandfire, two weeks after the unusual bird was first spotted, he was still roaming the little mango grove on the edge of the desert.
“Nobody’s seen him for more than a week,” said Mr Boyle.
“So driving that far is a gamble.”
Despite calls for matching the brown-line flycatcher, ornithologists around the world remain divided over whether perhaps this lesser-known bird species has never been seen anywhere near Australia before, rather than the more likely and very similar Asian brown flycatcher.
Experts concluded that without DNA, the identity of these birds could not be determined, and that there was only one slim possibility of obtaining DNA.
“There’s talk that if you see an object fall, then just take it,” Boyle said.
“That’s a really serious comment, but if it happens, you have to watch the bird as it falls.
But after driving 1,300 km to find Australia’s only little brown bird of its kind two weeks after it was first spotted, Mr Boyle’s fortune was burning up.
“I saw him through binoculars at the time after taking a few photos, and saw him do this drop,” he said.
“Amazingly, it just landed on this little leaf, like it fell completely, so it’s not contaminated, I don’t have to scrape it off the ground, and it has good substance.”
Australia’s first DNA test
While this bird droppings have all the best features bird researchers might dare dream of, the best samples are still poop.
When it comes to DNA testing, the problem with feces is that there is usually more DNA from eaten food and gut bacteria, than from organisms that carry feces.
Due to these challenges, dung has only been used to identify bird species a few times before.
“This has never been done before in Australia, so we don’t know if we will ever be successful,” said Jackett.
There were financial challenges too, and a small group of keen bird watchers and researchers all donated to pay the $ 600 fee.
It took a while and when the results came in, the results were mixed.
The museum can sequence DNA showing that the bird is a flytrap, but they cannot match the sequence to a specific species.
But the problem isn’t the samples collected by one in a million shit, the problem is that there are no DNA records from the brown-striped flycatcher to compare them with.
“There’s no publicly available order for it, nobody’s ever working on it,” said Jackett.
But luck was on their side again.
‘Change the game’
Word is circulating in the scientific community again that the DNA sequence has been obtained from a strange flytrap in Australia.
“Someone in Singapore put us in the National University of Singapore and there is a researcher named Frank Rheindt who runs the bird evolution lab,” said Jackett.
“He’s actually currently sorting out the genetics of fly traps in Southeast Asia.”
Dr Rheindt only has two samples of the brown striped flycatcher, but that’s enough to confirm the unlikely fact that one of these rare birds made it to Australia.
“This bird is very unknown,” said Mr. Jackett.
“The call is unknown, very few people have seen it even in its original range, so we really need to get DNA to prove it is true.
“We talked to some ornithologists in Southeast Asia, and even they only saw it a few times in their life.
As well as confirmation that this small, obscure brown bird had wandered thousands of kilometers off its usual route and ended up in an equally unknown part of Australia, the work has produced the world’s best record of rare bird species and demonstrated new techniques for DNA identification.
“We email everyone who helps fund DNA analysis … they are very excited about the process and they want to see it tested in Australia,” said Jackett.
“To know that it works, I think it will change the game for the future of Australian birds.”
The first delivery of food from the Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank arrived last week and now the empty shelves of the new pantry at Clatsop Community College are full.
“If there was a food kitchen here when I was a student, I would definitely take advantage of it,” said Loyd, the new kitchen manager, who is also a college graduate.
Now he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will only increase the needs of a few people.
Demand for food fluctuates in local soup kitchens, but shows no sign of actually shrinking as the one-year anniversary of the nation’s first coronavirus closure draws closer in March.
The closure was a major blow to the North Coast tourism and hospitality industry. Businesses are constantly trying to adapt to changing rules and guidelines. When college kitchens open on February 16, it will arrive as an estimated 1 million Oregon residents continue to face food insecurity due to the economic crisis associated with the pandemic.
Oregon’s levels of food insecurity have been declining since 2014, but the economic crisis associated with the virus is “reversing all that progress and has brought the state to unprecedented levels of food insecurity,” according to a recent analysis from Oregon State University.
Clatsop County is already home to a number of soup kitchens. In Astoria, the majority with ties to regional food banks ran out of churches or were sponsored by faith-based organizations.
They are excellent partners, said Dusten Martin, head of operations for the regional food bank. When a college wants to open its own kitchen, there are a few things Martin needs to consider first. Any new kitchen means extra work and extending an already thin resource even further, he says.
He concluded college kitchens would serve an unreached population. Students needed something close by, a place they could easily go to if they had 15 minutes between classes, he said. For students, church kitchens are often not easily accessible.
“They are open for a limited period of time and are in a variety of locations,” said Jerad Sorber, vice president of student success. “Many students tend to come to campus and then they have to take care of their families or go to work. Making those extra stops can be very difficult for them. “
Before COVID hit, the college participated in a national survey and received data back on food and housing insecurity among students. The student population at the college does not appear to have faced this level of problem as high as other schools, but the information was eye-opening for college leaders. They began discussing what colleges and higher education foundations could do, a non-profit organization that provides philanthropic support.
The foundation has committed to providing some initial funding to start the pantry.
“They see a need beyond scholarships,” said Sorber.
With so many college classes operating online, there may be fewer students taking advantage of the new kitchen at the start. However, as part of the regional food banking system, the pantry must also be open to the public.
“Which I think is a great thing,” said Sorber, thinking of people who might be interested in returning to school but intimidated by the idea. Having a kitchen on site would, he thought, “hopefully break down some of that mystique and help people see colleges and colleges as more accessible than they are today.”
It is not yet known how many households in Oregon are struggling to provide food because of the pandemic. However, estimates suggest about 1 million Oregon residents experienced food insecurity in May, according to an analysis by Oregon State University.
Last March, many kitchens on the North Coast saw a surge in new people in need of help after Governor Kate Brown announced the first round of restrictions on large gatherings, restaurants, bars and other businesses.
Since the holidays, the number of households served in Cannon Beach pantries has averaged around 40 a week – around 140 to 150 people a week.
“And this tells us that the inn is open,” said Lolly Champion, a Cannon Beach resident and member of the pantry board. But restaurants still only offer take-away food, he added, and many employees at inns and restaurants are experiencing reduced working hours.
At the South County Community Food Bank on Seaside, kitchen workers can tell without looking at the news whether there is another stop: The number of visitors in the pantry is decreasing or increasing accordingly.
It can be difficult to plan how much food is available, said Maureen Casterline, vice president of the board of food banks. One day a kitchen worker may need 50 loaves of bread to share; other days they might only need 20.
Some people are still struggling to get unemployment benefits and pantry workers say the number of people living in RVs or working with families appears to have increased. And there are still people who come to the pantry who have never been there before.
“Some of them are always working people and they have responsibilities like mortgages and car payments, so for them it’s really tough,” said Casterline. “I always feel bad because there is nothing they can do to prepare something like this.”
Community donations continued to flow steadily and the pantry received strong support from local businesses. These days, the concern at the forefront of Casterline’s mind is how to get food bank staff vaccinated.
Martin and other staff working at a regional food bank warehouse in Warrenton come under the umbrella of Clatsop Community Action. They just received their second dose last week. Workers in soup kitchens are not covered in the same way.
Under Oregon’s tiered approach to vaccination and depending on the individual situation, some may be left waiting for the vaccine.
“We didn’t miss a single day distributing the entire pandemic,” said Casterline, “but if we had someone who caught COVID… we wouldn’t be available, which means hundreds of people won’t get food, which, I don’t ‘I don’t know about you, think of me as priority. “
The launch of a vaccine in Oregon has been controversial, with some resentful about the way distribution prioritizes certain groups over others.
Martin was well aware of the controversy, but for him it highlighted how difficult it is to separate communities based on who matters.
“We hear a lot of talk about essential workers and I’m scratching my head: Who isn’t essential worker?” he says. “This really cemented the idea in my mind: Everyone matters.”
Overall, it’s good to see a vaccine come out, albeit slowly, he said. It provides a bit of collateral now in regional food banks as they continue to serve hundreds of people and – which is very important to Martin – provides a way for the economy and schools to reopen more fully.
“Their main impact is a reduction in biodiversity. Native fish and native aquatic plants have declined, ”said Ivor Stuart of the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, the biodiversity research organization for the Australian state government of Victoria.