After storms wreak havoc with a waterfront park in Duluth, the city rebuilds — but will the new park withstand the next storm? Chicago is a tough place for birds, but at one sanctuary on the city’s shoreline, endangered birds are finding a home. And in creeks on Lake Michigan’s western shore, researchers track the movements of suckers, a Great Lakes fish that’s misunderstood and underappreciated.
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Premiered on DPTV
Tuesday, June 29, 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
Green Bay, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Menomonie-Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
Park Falls, Wisconsin
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
Plovers Come Over
SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois
About five miles north of downtown Chicago is a sanctuary that is a haven for birds and the humans who love to watch them.
The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary allows birders to get up close and take some astounding photos. Some 350 bird species have been identified at Montrose.
But stealing the spotlight lately are two little birds named Monty and Rose. They are piping plovers, an endangered bird that hasn’t been seen in the Chicago area since 1948.
Monty and Rose have caused quite a stir within the bird-watching community. Their mere presence inspired a documentary film, and another one in the works. Bob Dolgan is the filmmaker, and a life-long birder. “I think birds open us up to a whole nother world,” he said. “You see a migratory bird species here in Chicago, that bird might be going all the way to the Arctic Circle in the summertime and then in the winter go down to somewhere in South America.”
Dolgan says birds play a vital role in helping us better understand our world. “If we know more about birds, that tells us so much more about the environment, about the challenges we have in terms of habitat loss, climate change, pollution, pesticides, you name it,” he said. “So birds are really a window into so many other issues.”
The story of Monty and Rose begins in 2019 when birders first saw they nesting on the busy beach and worked to create sanctuary space for them. Since then, Monty and Rose have attracted a huge following. In addition to a large group of bird watchers and children who come to Montrose on a regular basis, a team of more than 200 volunteers work on a rotating schedule to keep a close watch on the birds almost around the clock.
“I think these birds have been tremendous ambassadors to birding and birds,” said Tamima Itani, who is with the Illinois Ornithological Society. “Having wildlife within your city, it’s a great story of engaging people and bringing them on board.”
Here is other Great Lakes Now work on bird conservation:
SEGMENT 2 | Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth’s Lakewalk is a major destination, both for locals and the more than 6 million people who visit the city every year. The paved trail hugs several miles of Lake Superior shoreline, with sweeping views of the waters and the city.
But three storms hit Duluth in 2017 and 2018, doing millions of dollars of damage to the waterfront and the walkway.
“It’s humbling,” said City of Duluth Construction Projects Manager Mike Lebeau. “I was down here, kind of during the first part of this last big storm, and people were leaving the area, the whole Canal Park district was flooding. Big stones were moving around, boardwalk sections flipping around.”
It’s an expensive project. Rebuilding just the half-mile section of the Lakewalk in Canal Park will cost about $17 million, but Duluth sees the Lakewalk as important enough to make the investment worthwhile.
“This is a key piece to not only local enjoyment, but the tourist trade for Duluth. So it’s definitely a payback,” LeBeau said. “And if it lasts 50 years in good shape. That’s a pretty small cost.”
But if more intense storms are part of our “new normal,” can we really expect to get 50 years out of anything built on the lakefront?
“I tend to answer that question by saying, we may not have seen the worst the lake can throw our way,” LeBeau said.
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Here is other Great Lakes Now work on resilient infrastructure:
Best Supporting Fish
SEGMENT 2 | Highland Park, Illinois; Multiple Wisconsin locations.
For five years, Karen Murchie has been visiting some 17 sites along lakes Michigan and Superior shorelines to learn about a lesser-known fish: the sucker.
As the director of freshwater research at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, Murchie’s work will help build understanding of the migration patterns of suckers — a native fish population that is important to the creeks and streams that feed the Great Lakes.
“The suckers move from each individual Great Lake,” Murchie said. “They take a quiet creek and bring it to life in the spring. Not long after the ice is off the lake and starting to warm up, the fish start showing up and they’re here to spawn.”
Suckers’ eggs and excrement add nitrogen and phosphorus to creeks and streams, where they can be used by other organisms in the ecosystem, but suckers aren’t fished commercially or recreationally, so Murchie says we don’t know so much about their biology. That’s what Murchie—aided by a team of volunteers—is aiming to change, by collecting data, and even listening to the sounds of sucker spawning with an underwater microphone.
“They’re a really important fish,” says Murchie. “I say if there was an academy award for fishes… I would give suckers the academy award for best supporting fish because of these amazing services they provide.”
Here is other Great Lakes Now work on other native fish species:
Videos from Episode 1026Subscribe on YouTube
Birds vs. buildings in Chicago, algae blooms on Lake Superior, and aquariums re-open.
Marine sanctuaries protect shipwrecks while volunteers guard sturgeon against poachers.
Plovers nest on a Chicago beach, suckers spawn in Wisconsin, and storms rage in Duluth.
One lakeside town struggles with PFAS pollution from a local Air Force base, while cities around the region race to remove and replace thousands of lead water pipes. And after a year-long delay, Great Lakes…
Carrying oil through the waters of the Straits of Mackinac, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is arguably the biggest international, political and environmental issue in the Great Lakes region. Now, with a state-ordered shutdown, rigorous…
Invasive mussels are hastening the deterioration of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, like the submerged Prins Willem V off Milwaukee. Zebra and quagga mussels are also a big problem for water treatment and power plants. But…
Who are the people in this old freighter movie? And where could PFAS be in your home?
The White House and the U.S. Senate change hands. What will it mean for the Great Lakes?
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 that you don’t necessarily need a scuba tank to see in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.
Lake levels rise, COVID’s in wastewater and invasive species weave new food webs.
Nature is both fragile and fearsome. 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?
The health of the Great Lakes is inextricably linked to the health of the rivers that feed them. In northern Minnesota, one river faces environmental threats from a proposed mine. In Michigan, a second river is unleashed when aging hydroelectric dams are removed. In Indiana, a third river is protected from invasive Asian carp, which have infested rivers further south.
Learn more about a little-known Chicago shipwreck that took more lives than the Titanic. Check in on the Kalamazoo River’s wildlife 10 years after the Line 6B pipeline spilled over a million gallons of oil there, and find out if COVID-19 means no basketball tournament in 2020 for four Great Lakes island schools.
“The take home is always, always, always water,” Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, said during a preview of the United Nations COP26 event.
A Lake Superior lighthouse plans to welcome visitors back for an annual memorial honoring the sailors who died when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank.
Drinking Water News Roundup: Second US Steel spill, new water purification method, Pennsylvania water treatment plant flood
From lead pipes to PFAS, drinking water contamination is a major issue plaguing cities and towns all around the Great Lakes. Cleaning up contaminants and providing safe water to everyone is an ongoing public health struggle. Keep up with drinking water-related developments in the Great Lakes area.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed Debra Shore, a wastewater treatment official in Chicago, to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Midwestern office.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.