Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy team wins award for excellence

The Illinois Water Resources Center (IWRC) and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) are pleased to be among the group of researchers and outreach professional to receive the 2016 Team Award for Excellence from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Science. The award recognizes the team’s ongoing collaboration on the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy

“We are proud to have facilitated the development of the most comprehensive and collaborative approach to nutrient loss reduction in the state’s history,” said Brian Miller, IWRC and IISG director and one of six staff members named in the award. “We look forward to working with the University of Illinois team, state agencies and other stakeholders to ensure strategy goals are met in the coming years.

Award winners also include University of Illinois Extension Director George Czapar as well as researchers from the departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and Agricultural and Consumer Economics who led a scientific assessment of current nutrient loads and cost-effective reduction strategies. 

Released in 2015, Illinois' strategy is a blueprint for improving water quality at home and in the Gulf of Mexico by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus losses from farm fields, city streets, and wastewater treatment plants. It’s suite of voluntary and mandatory practices are expected to ultimately cut nutrient loading to rivers and streams by 45 percent.

The plan was developed by a working group facilitated by IWRC and IISG for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois Department of Agriculture. Group members included representatives from state agencies, agriculture, non-profit organizations and sanitation districts.

To learn more about the strategy, visit the Illinois EPA website. Additional information on IWRC’s efforts to reduce nutrient losses and improve water quality can also be found at ilwaterresources.org/nutrientlossreduction.


2016 Knauss Fellow Lauren Fields gets started with NOAA

I have always been interested in fish biology, growing up and scuba diving in Massachusetts, but I became interested in fisheries policy through my graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

My doctoral research focused on Antarctic fish physiology, specifically the blood antifreeze proteins that these fishes have in order to survive in the extreme cold temperatures of the Southern Ocean. 

My dissertation research showed a link between environmental temperature and antifreeze protein activity and concentration in different, commonly caught fish species in the Antarctic. One of the largest Antarctic fish species which possesses antifreeze proteins is the Antarctic toothfish (also known as the Chilean seabass).

We caught just seven of these fish during my first field season, and I learned about the toothfish fishing industry and the international politics regarding Antarctic resource management which falls under the jurisdiction of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). I wrote grants to study this little-understood fish while at the University of Illinois and tried to learn as much as I could about CCAMLR and the research that goes into making policy decisions.

I am very excited to be a 2016 Knauss Fellow in the National Marine Fisheries Service Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection. I was placed within this office after a grueling but rewarding week of presentations and interviews in Washington, DC. I traveled to DC with 53 other incredible finalists for placement with hosts in the federal government. We heard presentations from the 56 possible host offices on projects ranging from fisheries, satellites, climate change, habitat, and many more. Over the next two and a half days I interviewed with 15 different offices, the majority of which were within NOAA, and by Friday I selected placement in the Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection.

Though I do not know specifically what I will be working on, some of the projects could include the US-Mexico and US-Canada bilateral trade agreements, work with the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, work with CCAMLR, and fishery bycatch policy. I will have a year of intensive international fisheries policy training where I am sure to learn a lot.

Lauren Fields, University of Illinois’ 2016 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow, received her PhD from the Department of Animal Biology at the University of Illinois in May. She started on February 1, 2016 with NOAA in Maryland.

The deadline for applications for the next session of Knauss Fellowships is February 12, 2016. Find out more about the program at http://bit.ly/IISG Fellowships.


Friday video: Lake Guardian teacher tour inspires science series

Indiana science teacher Jed Allen Freels was one of 15 teachers who worked along side scientists on the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian on the Lake Michigan Shipboard Science cruise this past summer. The week-long workshop inspired him to create a series of engaging science videos, including this one about monitoring microplastics in the lake. The deadline for signing up for this summer's tour on Lake Superior is coming soon--March 2. And if you want to learn more about microplastics, IISG was a key player in a study that found high levels of microfibers in southern Lake Michigan.


What's in your water garden? Learn more about AIS!

Members of IISG’s aquatic invasive species team are introducing their newest risk assessment suite of products today at the Illinois and Wisconsin Landscape Show in Schaumburg, Illinois.

The brochure, wallet card, and poster distill all the complexities of the species assessments done by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, Loyola University Chicago, and the Nature Conservancy. IISG facilitated the meetings between the researchers and retailers to ensure that the tools developed for them to use to assess the risk for invasion met the states’ needs.

These assessments provide retailers and hobbyists with information about whether a plant or animal imported for the aquarium and water garden trades poses a threat to the states’ waterways.

Greg Hitzroth, IISG aquatic invasive species outreach specialist will be urging retailers at the conference to not sell or grow plant species that are known to be invasive.

“The retailers and wholesalers—the types of folks who are at this trade show—want to do the right thing,” Hitzroth said. “And we're here to help them.”

You can download the materials for free from these links! If you need a specific quantity, contact Danielle Hilbrich, aquatic invasive species outreach specialist, at hilbrich@illinois.edu.


IISG is now a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is now a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador as part of a national effort to improve the readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience regarding extreme weather, water, and climate events.

The Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) initiative was formed in 2011 in response to deadly tornadoes that struck Joplin, Missouri and Birmingham, Alabama. At that point, the National Weather Service realized the need to better understand how to motivate people to respond to warnings.

The goal of WRN is to save lives and livelihoods by providing better information for better decisions. NOAA is directing research to focus on improving scientific understanding of severe weather, developing new technologies, improving models, as well as addressing sociological challenges that may improve the likelihood people will take prompt action to save lives when they receive a warning.

One groundbreaking WRN technological development is Wireless Emergency Alerts. Since 2012, these weather warnings go directly to WEA-capable cellphones—no sign up required. These alerts saved lives during the November 2013 tornado outbreak in Illinois.

The WRN plan involves the collective effort of the whole community, including other government agencies and emergency management, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector. That’s where ambassadors come in.

Ambassadors are charged with being agents for change and leadership in a community—promoting WRN messages, engaging NOAA in potential collaborations, sharing success stories, and serving as an example by initiating workplace preparedness.

“Weather Ready Nation is a very important initiative for our country and I am happy that Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is now a recognized ambassador,” said Molly Woloszyn, IISG Extension climate specialist. “A lot of the work that we do directly relates to the goals of the initiative, so this is a good opportunity to recognize that and to continue to explore how we can incorporate WRN and the National Weather Service into our efforts.” 

Through Resilient Chicago, Woloszyn provides information for decision makers in the region to incorporate climate adaptation in local planning efforts. She is also leading a study to help critical facilities in Chicago, like hospitals, to assess their vulnerability to flooding and to adopt changes that reduce the risks.


Clinton County has two new medicine collection sites

IISG's Medicine Take-Back initiative is off to a strong start in 2016 with the addition of three new permanent collection sites. In Shelbyville, Indiana a collection box became available to residents as the new year began and two in Clinton County, Illinois starts today (Clinton County Sheriff's Office and the Trenton Police Department). All three are located in law enforcement buildings and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These sites are designed to accept prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including veterinary pharmaceuticals, but not illicit drugs, syringes, needles or thermometers. All collected drugs are incinerated—the environmentally preferred disposal method. 

“It's so exciting that we’re in our ninth year we’re still adding more locations,” said Adrienne Gulley, pollution prevention outreach specialist. “The program started in 2007, and all the continuing interest shows that there’s a real need for this.”

Altogether in 2015, six new drop-off sites were initiated and almost 20,000 pounds of unwanted medications were collected from over 50 locations in the four states. IISG provides each location with the drug collection box and works with community partners to ensure the program's success. The take-back program is a partnership between IISG and University of Illinois Extension.

Storing unneeded medications in the home is the cause of thousands of accidental poisonings in children and pets each year. Flushing medications down the toilet or throwing them in the trash threatens the safety and health of humans, pets, and the environment. Recent studies have also found a wide-range of pharmaceutical chemicals in rivers, groundwater, and drinking water throughout the country.

“The problem is that wastewater treatment plants do not completely remove pharmaceutical chemicals,” said Laura Kammin, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program outreach leader. “While the long-term impact on human health is unclear, there’s a long list of medicines that have been linked to impaired development, behavior, and reproduction in fish and other aquatic wildlife.”

If you're interested in starting a take-back program in your community or finding one near you, contact Adrienne Gulley.


Friday foto: The ice cometh

Along Lake Michigan on the south side of Chicago, a cold January brought ice to the nearshore. As waves froze and shattered on the beach, what was created was a beautiful delicate frozen design.