Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review: Great Lakes Nature: An Outdoor Year

Great Lakes Nature: An Outdoor Year
By Mary Blocksma
Illustrations by Robin Wilt

Follow Mary Blocksma through a year of "naming the nature" in her backyard and neighborhood. This field guide of Great Lakes nature begins January 1 with an entry on snow and ends on New Years Eve with the blue moon. Make 2009's resolution to be more aware of your surroundings.

This book and many other field guides are available at Wisconsin's Water Library. We have guides on water quality, wetlands, aquatic plants, freshwater fish and many more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ice anglers urged to follow VHS rules

With a new statewide poll showing that some anglers aren’t taking all needed steps to prevent spreading VHS fish disease, state fisheries officials are asking angler to redouble efforts year-round, including during winter when water temperatures are the coldest and the disease is most active in fish. Information on the poll is available on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Web site.

“The good news from the Badger Poll results is that the vast majority of anglers and boaters took some steps to prevent the spread of VHS,” says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin’s fisheries director. “Our sampling in 2008 showed that VHS hadn’t spread beyond Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan, and that’s a great credit to everybody who followed the VHS rules. But the problem hasn’t gone away, and the survey results suggest that we can do better and we must do better if we want to protect Wisconsin’s great fishing.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book Review: Cajun Night Before and After Christmas

Cajun Night Before Christmas
By "Trosclair", edited by Howard Jacobs, illustrated by James Rice

Christmas down in the Louisiana Bayou isn't the quite the same: no snow and no reindeer. Instead, Santa Claus wears muskrat fur and has 8 alligators to pull his "skiff" from door to door. This adaptation of the Night Before Christmas is written in Cajun vernacular and the illustrations have a charm and Christmas spirit all their own.

Cajun Night After Christmas
By Jenny Jackson Moss and Amy Jackson Dixon, illustrated by James Rice

What do Santa and his alligators do after a long Christmas night of drifting in the swamps, delivering presents to the young children of Louisiana? This tale looks at one of Santa's alligators, Pierre, and his life on the 364 days after Christmas. His adventures include going to live with a family, finding love and marrying alligator Louise, and having children of his own. Every year, Santa stops by on Christmas night to catch up with his old pal and share the holiday spirit with Pierre and his family. Also written in Cajun vernacular with beautiful illustrations by James Rice.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tips to help reduce waste, save energy and keep the holidays green

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource provides some tips on how to make your holidays greener. Some of our favorites include:

Give gifts that help your friends and family live greener. Possibilities include bus tickets, state park passes, compost bins, reusable grocery bags, rechargeable batteries and chargers, live plants and seeds or coupons for spring gardening.

Don’t throw away your holiday or greeting cards; use them to make new cards next year.

Reduce waste by wrapping gifts in comics, old maps, wallpaper scraps, reusable cloth, or your own artwork drawn on the back of scrap paper. Or, make wrapping part of the gift. For example, wrap a kitchen gift in a colorful hand towel, or place a set of earrings in a new pair of gloves.

To see more tips...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Abrupt Climate Change: Will It Happen this Century?

News Release
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
For release: December 16, 2008

John McGeehin, 703-648-5349,
Jessica Robertson, c 202-821-2698, w 703-648-6624,

The United States faces the potential for abrupt climate change in the 21st century that could pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt. “Abrupt” changes can occur over decades or less, persist for decades more, and cause substantial disruptions to human and natural systems.

A new report, based on an assessment of published science literature, makes the following conclusions about the potential for abrupt climate changes from global warming during this century. Climate model simulations and observations suggest that rapid and sustained September arctic sea ice loss is likely in the 21st century. The southwestern United States may be beginning an abrupt period of increased drought.

It is very likely that the northward flow of warm water in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean, which has an important impact on the global climate system, will decrease by approximately 25–30 percent. However, it is very unlikely that this circulation will collapse or that the weakening will occur abruptly during the 21st century and beyond. An abrupt change in sea level is possible, but predictions are highly uncertain due to shortcomings in existing climate models. There is unlikely to be an abrupt release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere from deposits in the earth. However, it is very likely that the pace of methane emissions will increase.

The U.S. Geological Survey led the new assessment, which was authored by a team of climate scientists from the federal government and academia. The report was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program with contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation. “This report was truly a collaborative effort between world renowned scientists who provided objective, unbiased information that is necessary to develop effective adaptation and mitigation strategies that protect our livelihood,” said USGS Director Mark Myers. “It summarizes the scientific community’s growing understanding regarding the potential for abrupt climate changes and identifies areas for additional research to further improve climate models.”

Further research is needed to improve our understanding of the potential for abrupt changes in climate. For example, the report’s scientists found that processes such as interaction of warm ocean waters with the periphery of ice sheets and ice shelves have a greater impact than previously known on the destabilization of ice sheets that might accelerate sea-level rise.

To view the full report, titled Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.4: Abrupt Climate Change, and a summary brochure on abrupt climate change, visit

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Book Review: The Historic Christmas Tree Ship

The Historic Christmas Tree Ship: A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love by Rochelle M. Pennington

Captain Herman Schuenemann became affectionately known as "Captain Santa" for his yearly voyage from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago with a load of freshly cut Christmas trees. Families would wait anxiously at the docks for their choice of the best Christmas trees. The Captain's last voyage was in 1912 when the ship was unable to withstand the gales of the Great Lakes and went down off the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. After the death of their beloved husband and father, the Captain's wife and three daughters continued to bring evergreens into Chicago for another twenty years.

Rochelle Pennington gives life to this Christmas legend and tradition. Using resources from various maritime museums of the Great Lakes, historical society archives, and newspaper articles, the tale of the Schuenemann family remains a beloved piece of Great Lakes history and holiday spirit.

Also, check out a children's version titled The Christmas Tree Ship: The Story of Captain Santa. Both are available to check out from Wisconsin's Water Library. Send an email to Ask water to have either book sent directly to you.

Pennington is a freelance author and newspaper columnist from Wisconsin. Illustrations by artist Charles Vickery. Vickery is best known for his renditions of the sea, its coastlines, ports and majestic sailing vessels.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poll: Boaters and anglers taking steps to prevent spread of invasive species

The vast majority of Wisconsin residents say that preventing the spread of VHS fish disease and other aquatic invasive species to new lakes and rivers is very important, a recent statewide poll shows.

Boaters and anglers, however, had a mixed track record in taking the required steps to prevent accidentally spreading the invaders. Boat traffic between lakes, and the transfer of infected baitfish from one water body to another, are the major ways that invasive species and VHS, respectively, are introduced to new waters.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Man-made chemicals found in drinking water at low levels

Low levels of certain man-made chemicals remain in public water supplies after being treated in selected community water facilities. Water from nine selected rivers, used as a source for public water systems, was analyzed in a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most of the man-made chemicals assessed in this study are not required to be monitored, regulated or removed from water treatment facilities. Scientists tested water samples for commonly used chemicals, including pesticides, solvents, gasoline hydrocarbons, personal care products, disinfection by-products, and manufacturing additives.

A public briefing hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the Water Environment Federation to announce the new USGS findings and implications for treated and untreated water at different settings and areas of the country was held December 5, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the study and public briefing, visit USGS.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Great Lakes Compact goes into effect Dec. 8

MADISON – The Great Lakes Compact takes effect Dec. 8, ushering in a new era of cooperation and conservation among those states that border the five Great Lakes, which hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.
The historic agreement binding Wisconsin and seven other Great Lakes states largely prohibits water from being diverted outside the Great Lakes basin while committing residents and businesses within the basin to sustainably use that water.

Read more from Wisconsin's DNR...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winter activities in Wisconsin

Looking out the window today here in Madison, one might question their ability to get through another Wisconsin winter. What will one do for recreation now that the snow is falling? Plenty! Ice fishing is just one hobby of the winterloving population across the Great Lakes region. Wisconsin's DNR has a section devoted to tips, reports, conditions and safety for ice fishermen and women. Included is a video from a devoted Monona Bay ice fisherman.

For more books on ice fishing, check out the Water Library's collection on the topic. We have books such as Fishing on Ice by Noel Vick, Hooked on Ice Fishing: Secrets to catching winter fish, beginner to expert by Tom Gruenwald, and Ice Fishing Secrets by Dave Genz, Al Lindner, and Doug Stange. Also, check out Let’s Go Fishing on the Ice by George Travis for the younger ice fishermen and women.

Monday, December 1, 2008

EPA sponsors climate change symposium for tribes

Chicago, Ill. - Nov. 24, 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 is sponsoring a symposium on climate change in the Great Lakes basin for tribal officials and others Dec. 1-4 at the Forest County Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 1721 W. Canal St., Milwaukee. The symposium will provide an opportunity to discuss health and cultural effects of climate change in tribal communities around the Great Lakes such as its impact on water supplies and threats to native species important to indigenous cultures and economies.

Stephen Wittman, Communications Manager of the UW Sea Grant Institute, will be presenting on the summary report Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Starting a Public Discussion. To see his presentation slides and other presenters' at the symposium, click here.