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Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1019: Looking Up and Out

In the Chicago River, fish populations have suffered since the river became a steel-lined channel, but can floating garden islands restore a more natural habitat? Our region offers spectacular night sky views, but will new satellites mar their beauty? And how are Great Lakes parks coping with COVID-19 and record-setting lake levels?

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Looking Up and Out – Episode 1019

In the Chicago River, fish populations have suffered since the river became a steel-lined channel, but can floating garden islands restore a more natural habitat? Our region offers spectacular night sky views, but will new satellites mar their beauty? And how are Great Lakes parks coping with COVID-19 and record-setting lake levels?

WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN OCTOBER



 

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Premieres on DPTV

Tuesday, October 27 at 7:30 PM

STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES


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Detroit, Michigan

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Akron, Ohio

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Alliance, Ohio

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Alpena, Michigan

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Bay County, Michigan

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Bowling Green, Ohio

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Buffalo, New York

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Cadillac, Michigan

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East Lansing, Michigan

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South Bend, Indiana

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University Center, Michigan

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Watertown, New York for Ontario signal

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Watertown, New York for U.S. signal

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Wausau, Wisconsin

In the Month of October on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1019.

Kayakers enjoying the Chicago River’s “Wild Mile.” Great Lakes Now Photo.

Chicago waterfront map

Chicago waterfront map

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Chicago’s Floating Islands

SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois

Many rivers in urban areas have been channeled and dredged for shipping, and the result has been detrimental to the ecosystems of fish and wildlife. 

To help undo the damage on the Chicago River, the organization Urban Rivers has created a mile-long eco park project called the “Wild Mile” to expand fish and wildlife habitats.

In partnership with the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Urban Rivers installed floating garden islands along the “Wild Mile.” The plants on the islands have roots that add oxygen to the waterways and provide new habitats for fish and other wildlife.

The Shedd Aquarium is encouraging volunteers to help collect data on wildlife and collect trash along the river through a program called, “Kayak for Conservation.” Jackie Majdov, the Shedd’s manager of conservation stewardship, said the project also helps the community understand the river and be involved.

“The connection to the river is so important because in order to continue improving the Chicago River, we need people who care for it, and in order to have people who care for it, they need to have a relationship with it,” she said.

In the summer of 2020, Urban Rivers added 170 islands to the original 60. 

Austin Happel, a Shedd research biologist, has been monitoring the islands and collecting data on the fish population. He has discovered 10 different fish species spawning on the islands.

Happel is optimistic that more floating habitats will mean more fish along the stretch of the Chicago River. 

“They’re expanding the surface area that these wetlands take up,” he said. “Hopefully that means even more space for fish to hang out and spawn and I’m interested to see if we have more and more of that happening.”

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories involving the Shedd Aquarium:


The Shedd Aquarium is located on Chicago’s lakefront. To see more museums — and aquariums, forts and historical sites — along the Great Lakes, check out our interactive map of them HERE.

Night Sky Photography by Shawn Malone /Lake Superior Photo

Night Sky Photography by Shawn Malone /Lake Superior Photo

Episode 1019 - Shooting Superior Skies

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Shooting Superior Skies

SEGMENT 2 | Marquette, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois

Shawn Malone is a landscape photographer based in Marquette, Michigan, which is on the south shore of Lake Superior. 

She’s drawn to the Great Lakes’ wide open expanses and constantly changing weather. In addition to filming the beauty of the region, for decades she has worked to capture the emotion of the water. 

The technological advancements of digital cameras truly opened up the night sky for photography work, Malone said.

While some people might doubt the color spectrum of Malone’s images, “It is, in fact, real,” according to Nick Lake, manager of theatre experience and presentations and host of the weekly podcast Sky Watch at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. 

The Great Lakes region, Lake said, is one of the best night sky viewing destinations in the lower 48. Why? Partly because of a lower level of light pollution or what astronomers and photographers call “unwanted light.” The relatively unpopulated coastlines of the Great Lakes means fewer light sources block out the night skies.

Displaying this, the walls of Malone’s gallery in downtown Marquette are lined with stunning images of the northern lights: the kaleidoscopes of colors; reflections off the lake’s surface. They’re much more vibrant than the typical whisper of pale greens most commonly associated with the aurora. 

To learn more about the Adler Planetarium’s SkyWatch Weekly program, click HERE.

Milwaukee Public Radio shared this collection of tips for viewing skies above the Great Lakes this fall. 

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories involving the Adler Planetarium:

As a new national park, the Indiana Dunes gets more visitors to its beaches and trails.

As a new national park, the Indiana Dunes gets more visitors to its beaches and trails.

 Indiana Dunes Map

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The Newest National Park

SEGMENT 3 | Chesterton, Indiana

When the Indiana Dunes transitioned from being a National Lakeshore to a National Park, more visitors came to enjoy its beaches and trails. 

To the staff — those khaki-clad park rangers in the iconic Smokey-the-Bear-type hats — the change didn’t mean much. Renaming the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to National Park did not mean more funding, administrative changes nor greater environmental protections.

But then the people came in 2019, the year of the new designation, and continued in 2020 as the pandemic sent people seeking more outdoor opportunities.

“We didn’t really realize how important it was going to be to the public, the higher profile, the number of people who are coming here,” says Bruce Rowe, park public information officer. “Literally the day that the change happened we started getting emails and phone calls from all over the country.”

Increased visitors could mean increased environmental threats, for example when people veer from the prescribed trails and trample grasses holding the sands in place. But park staff say they are working to minimize the threats from people — along with other potential dangers to the park’s ecosystem like invasive species of plants, industrial pollutants and increased lake levels.

Here is some other Great Lakes Now work on national parks, cultural institutions and historic sites to visit near the Great Lakes:

Bruce National Park Line

Cars and visitors wait to enter the Bruce National Park in Ontario in August 2020. (Photo courtesy Bruce National Park.)

1019 - Get Out There Segment Map

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Get Out There

SEGMENT 4: Bruce Peninsula, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; Detroit, Michigan

Great Lakes Now News Director Natasha Blakely and Great Lakes Now Contributor Sharon Oosthoek checked in with U.S. and Canadian parks about the challenges they’re facing in 2020. 

Both record-high water levels and the COVID-19 pandemic have presented problems that national, state, and provincial parks have had to cope with.

Oosthoek recently visited the Bruce Peninsula, a Canadian park that has turned visitors away multiple times in the past few months. Plus, many of Oosthoek’s favorite beach spots are now under water.

“In Ontario, the parks around the great lakes saw a 7% increase in their car camping,” despite limiting booking to maintain social distancing, Oosthoek said, “and a 29% increase in backcountry camping.”

On the U.S. side, most parks saw increases.

“Many entertaining options have been closed to people, and as a result a lot of people have been turning to outdoor recreation,” Blakely says. “That’s really shown in the visitor numbers at national parks around the country but especially in the Great Lakes area.”

National parks like Indiana Dunes and Cuyahoga Valley have seen increased traffic 2020, but more remote places like Isle Royale National Park and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which are reached by boat, had fewer visitors and the pandemic limited transportation to them.

Here is other Great Lakes Now work on national parks, cultural institutions and historic sites to visit near the Great Lakes:

Videos from Episode 1019

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Digital Credits
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.