March 18 2013 12:00 AM

MSU grads specialize in reporting on nature’s ‘urinary tracts’

Wednesday, July 27 — Two Michigan State University journalism graduates are turning their love for the outdoors into a newsworthy, informative past time.

Andrew McGlashen and Jeff Brooks Gillies, recent graduates of MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, co-founded the website Michigan River News, which devotes original and aggregated content on Michigan’s rivers and streams. Or, as McGlashen put it, nature’s “urinary tracts.”

“The Great Lakes Echo (the Knight Center’s online publication) had a book review that said something like rivers are like urinary tracts,” he said. “The same way a doctor might test your urine to find out what your overall health is, rivers indicate the overall health of the environment.”

Gillies graduated this spring — McGlashen in 2009 — and the two created the website in June. The website provides news and scientific explanations about what exactly is going on with our water systems, McGlashen said. At this point, the two maintain the site when they’re not working full-time jobs: McGlashen with the Michigan Environmental Council and Gillies with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Research Laboratory. Various contributors also submit material. The goal is to ultimately have the news site generate revenue on its own.

Stemming from a year-old idea of a website on the conservation of Michigan forestry and recreational activities, the two reporters didn’t want to try to cover more ground than they could handle and opted for a more focused concentration on rivers, McGlashen said.

“We think that there is really something to news about rivers,” he said. “We do want a decent sized audience that cares about the rivers to come back to our site regularly.”

While original stories like the unearthing of buried waterways in Detroit or the decreasing rate of potentially cancer causing chemicals in the Saginaw River are hard-hitting, Michigan River News hopes to inject a little entertainment in its environmental stories as well. Who wouldn’t want to jump into a story with a headline like: “Live lamprey-on-salmon action, in the privacy of your own home”? (The story is about a “Fishcam” used by Lake Superior State University’s Aquatic Research Laboratory to study invasive species.)

Future stories will cover prehistoric sturgeon fish that spawn in the Black River in Michigan that are being poached for their caviar eggs and the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, McGlashen said.

“It’s a really grueling race, and we’d like to be able to cover that well,” he said. “Talking to people on the ground, getting photos ourselves, kind of that old-school reporting.”

Check out the website at