Fighting Great Lakes Invasives on YouTube

Fighting Great Lakes Invasives on YouTube
July 9, 2017 Bill Kubota
Photo courtesy of Bill Kubota

If you give Tom Alwin a minute of your time, he’ll show you an invasive you ought to know.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality aquatic biologist is the star of some short and snappy explainer videos rolling out now.

He talks about aquatic plants and animals that shouldn’t be here, and how you can keep an eye out for them.

Alwin’s latest MDEQ Minute explains the yellow floating heart. They’re like water lilies but produce distinctive yellow flowers.  His video shows ways to identify them.

Yellow floating heart is native to Eastern Asia and the Mediterranean, brought to North America in the late 1800s as an ornamental plant, according to Michigan State Extension.

It was originally discovered on the campus of University of Michigan-Dearborn, but was eradicated a few years ago.

Alwin tells Great Lakes Now the invasives he talks about in the videos are not a threat in Michigan yet,  but he says he hopes if viewers spot them they will  report back to the MDEQ.

He says, “If you catch them early enough, you might be able to eradicate them.”

Alwin is a native of Houghton, Michigan and has a master’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University. He’s been with MDEQ since 2011.

The YouTube videos came about when Alwin was tasked with explaining invasives to others at MDEQ along with people with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. That’s when  they realized they should take the message public.

Last year,  Alwin hosted a series of longer videos about invasives and one did so well it has more than 15-thousand views.  It was suggested shorter videos could do even better.

That begat the MDEQ Minutes which are not big budget, Hollywood productions. The videos are done in-house, according to Alwin, who gives credit to talented producer Katrina Robinson.

The goal was to produce one every month or so, depending on the staff’s workload.

Alwin says to expect more videos from MDEQ, not just about aquatic invasives but about forest pests like oak wilt and hemlock woolly adelgid.

Check out MDEQ’s YouTube channel, you might see them soon. More about invasives can be found at michigan.gov.


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