The COVID-19 pandemic has changed practically everything about our lives, and that includes work on and around the lakes. Industries from shipping and fishing to tourism and cruising are all affected, and so is scientific research on the lakes’ coastal wetlands.
This month, Great Lakes Now checks in with some of the people we’ve met over the last year — and a few new faces too — to find out how their lives, businesses, and industries are weathering the pandemic and its economic fallout.
We also take you inside several Great Lakes aquariums to see how staff are adapting to new circumstances, and how they’re reaching across the social distance that now separates their visitors from their residents. Who knew that in 2020 the tables would be turned, with all of us staying inside while the penguins finally get to go out?
WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN MAY
Watch Live on DPTV
Tuesday, May 26 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mount Pleasant Michigan
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
Ports and Pandemics
SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois, Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, Bay Port, Michigan, Lansing, Michigan, Toronto, Ontario
The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared businesses and industries of the Great Lakes region.
In this segment, Great Lakes Now checked in with people we met in previous episodes of the show to see how they’re coping and what effects the pandemic may continue to have on their operations and summer season.
Ports are taking safety measures to keep from spreading infections, even as they see shipping traffic decline due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to keep people healthy and safe,” says Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District. “Even after things open up, I think it’s wise… that we just keep the face masks on for a couple months beyond what’s going on.”
Harris appeared in the Great Lakes Now premiere episode’s “Shipping News” segment. Watch HERE.
Onboard a Fishing Boat:
With processors and restaurants all but closed, the Great Lakes fishing industry faces a hobbled supply chain and a big hit to demand, says Lakon Williams, of the Bay Port Fish Company in Bay Port, Michigan.
“For the future, we’re trying to come up with a plan to only set one net in an area we think will get right around what we need, but we can set ten nets,” she says. “Do I think I can sell 6,000 pounds of fish right now? Absolutely not.”
Williams appeared in the “Net Income” segment. Watch HERE.
Travel and tourism face big uncertainties heading into the peak summer months. But with people reluctant to get on planes, travel in the Great Lakes region could be bolstered by locals staying local.
“People are going to be looking for open spaces, small towns, lesser-known places. Places that aren’t as busy,” says Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “And that’s OK with us, because we want to keep as many people here as we can.”
Watch the Great Lakes Now segment to learn more about how industries related to the Great Lakes are impacted by the pandemic.
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about the shipping industry:
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about travel and tourism in the region:
Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE.
In Isolation … At Aquariums
SEGMENT 3 | Brockville, Ontario, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan
When most public institutions closed their doors due to social distancing efforts, the buoyant residents of our region’s aquariums still required attention.
Caretakers of these animate museums had the same priority as many of us: they looked for supplies.
“The first thing that crossed our mind was really to stock up on some food items for animals,” says Jennipher Carter, an aquarist at the Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing in Brockville, Ontario.
As the pandemic progressed, administrators at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago wanted to offer wildlife encounters for the public through social media.
“We really want to try and provide these real-time videos and insights,” says Johnny Ford, the Shedd’s assistant director of public relations. “We can give a window for people to still see the animals that they love so much and understand that they’re still being really well cared for, even though the aquarium is closed.”
Within days of the shutdown, one penguin, Wellington, made a new friend: a beluga whale.
The video rippled throughout social media, to the delight of caretakers-turned-camera-crew.
“It’s just an opportunity to take them to different parts of the building that usually just are a little too crowded for penguins to do what they want to do,” says Senior Aquarist Eve Barrs,” While we wait for their fan club to return.”
The oldest aquarium in the nation, Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium, has its own spin on the animal field trip trend.
Aquarist Amanda Murray thought the Madagascar hissing cockroach deserved its 15 seconds of fame.
“I find that when people are at home wanting to experience the outside, that they are willing to maybe watch videos,” she says.
For more about Wellington, the cockroach and other creatures at Great Lakes aquariums, watch the Great Lakes Now segment.
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about aquariums and museums around the region:
- Inside Entertainment: COVID-19 has Great Lakes aquariums and museums offering online activities
- COVID-19 Changes: Great Lakes parks and tourist spots are closing, remaining open and waiting for summer
- Board a Ship, See Some Fish, Learn the History: Great Lakes Museums, Aquariums and Forts
Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE.
Videos from Episode 1014Subscribe on YouTube
Rebuilding Chicago’s iconic lakefront, managing Buffalo’s rainwater and sewage, and tracking the annual algal blooms in Lake Erie are all part of the Great Lakes region’s effort to manage the impacts of climate change. This month, Great Lakes Now takes you to meet the citizens, city leaders and scientists who are working on these issues.
This year’s warm winter boosted ice-fishing tourism in one part of the Great Lakes while potentially spelling disaster for businesses depending on colder weather. Catch up with the communities in our documentary “The Forever Chemicals,”…
Winter doesn’t stop work around the Great Lakes. See what happens at the Soo Locks when they close for maintenance, and drop into the chilly water with commercial divers who battle the zebra and quagga mussel invasions in the lakes. In a warmer setting, join us in the Mackinac Island school gym for a tournament just for island school teams.
Travel with Great Lakes Now to the remote Canadian research station where scientists are working to understand – and protect – freshwater. Go deep into Lake Huron to see mysterious sinkholes, and watch as some homeowners try to save their Lake…
Search for a meteorite on the bottom of Lake Michigan, learn how a little striped fish might help us understand the health impacts of industrial chemicals on people, and see how a Milwaukee community is…
Go underwater with a group of women who dove all five lakes in 24 hours, and learn more about the controversy about controlling water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. Get aboard a…
Household waste, lead and agricultural runoff are byproducts of modern life. In this episode of Great Lakes Now, get the down-and-dirty reality of what can happen when these substances get into the region’s water systems.
Floating islands on the Chicago River are creating habitats for fish, turtles and birds inside the city waterway, while up north in Lake Superior, scientists are working to protect a rocky reef from legacy mining…
Travel aboard one of the growing number of cruise ships as passengers visit First Nation communities on a Canadian island in Lake Huron. See who is winning and losing from the record-high water levels around…
The fight over an oil-and-gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac went to the courts, and microplastics were detected in waters around the region. The newest U.S. National Park on Lake Michigan’s shoreline means increased…
See how Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River has been cleaned up since it famously caught fire 50 years ago. Go fishing for Asian carp and learn to identify all four species in or near the Great Lakes, then find out how hydroponic farming is creating connections between sustainability, technology, water conservation and food.
Come aboard a boat that delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.
Learn what life is like on a Lake Erie island and how a Chicago port helps get one of your favorite candies made. We look at how Ann Arbor, Michigan, is dealing with industrial chemicals…
The potential environmental impacts of the flood are wide ranging.
Scientists and activists fear some of the progress made to clean up dioxin pollution has washed away with the floodwaters that overwhelmed two dams this week.
Catch the latest updates on what’s happening with PFAS in Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.
The National Weather Service forecasts the Illinois River will reach major flood stage Saturday morning at Meredosia, about 50 miles west of Springfield.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.