Website of the week: A picture's worth a thousand words

A closer look at web tools and sites that boost research and empower Great Lakes communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. 

Even in the gloomy winter months, the beauty of southern Lake Michigan's natural and urban landscapes is undeniable. But you don't have to take our word for it. Our photo bank is chock full of stunning images of some of the area's most celebrated sites—Illinois Beach, downtown Chicago, the Indiana Dunes, and more. 
To see the full range of galleries, visit iisg.photoshelter.com or click on 'Photos' on our homepage. 

If you see one you'd like to include in your own print or online resources, click on 'Contact' at the top of the page and send us a request. 


New program teaches rainscaping practices

Stormwater management in Indiana is getting a shot in the arm next month with the launch of the Rainscaping Education Program.  

A collaboration between Purdue Extension, IISG, and others, the program provides how-to information and resources on landscape design and management practices that help prevent polluted stormwater from reaching local waterways. Practices are appropriate for both residential gardens and small-scale public spaces, including schools and community centers. 

It all starts April 14 with the first in a series of workshops focused on rain gardens. Over the course of five three-hour sessions, participants will visit and discuss existing rain gardens in the community and learn how to design, construct, and maintain one with a focus on community education. They will also get a chance to test their knowledge by collaborating on a demonstration rain garden with community partners. 

The Rainscaping Education Program is open to Purdue Master Gardeners, personnel at conservation organizations, stormwater professionals, and landscape professionals and consultants. For more information and to learn how to register, visit the program website

***Photo: The plants and soil in rain gardens help absorb stormwater and filter out pollutants. Courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana Residents for Raingardens and BioSwales. 


Friday Foto: Subzero temps put Great Lakes in a deep freeze

This week's freezing temperatures have pushed the Great Lakes to near-record levels of ice coverage. Roughly 85 percent of the basin is under ice right now. If the cold weather continues, we could break the 1979 record of 94 percent. 

With these large sheets of ice preventing evaporation, it's safe to assume this summer will see another rise in water levels. This is good news for many Great Lakes habitats and communities. Before last year's harsh winter, water levels were on a 15-year decline that had taken its toll on commercial shipping, navigation, and nearshore wildlife. 


Hands-on science connects students with local habitats

Earlier this year, AP science students at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep traded in their textbooks for field equipment to study water quality in the North Branch of the Chicago River. The Hydrolab allows students to monitor water characteristics like dissolved oxygen, pH, and conductivity with sensors similar to those used by scientists at the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. The teacher, Dianne Lebryk, borrowed the equipment through the Limno Loan program to help students better understand the connection between water quality and man-made landscapes. 

Several students wrote in to share their experiences working with the Hydrolab. We'll kick things off with Timie Ogutuga.
Taking an AP Environmental Science class really causes you to become more aware of the environment in which we live. It is so easy to overlook the effects our habits and lifestyles can have, not just on us, but also on other forms of life that also call Earth their home. Specifically with the Hydrolab, I learned that the toxins that we emit seep into bodies of water and settle there, producing various hazardous chemicals and toxins. This results in increased death rates in the ecosystem. I also noticed that a great eutrophication effect occurred. Because of this, there was also an increased amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients in the water. There were low oxidation levels and we noticed that many fishes were dead, floating on top of the gray-greenish water. This observation emphasized the fact that if we do not take steps to lower the amount of chemicals and toxins dwelling in the atmosphere, more of what we noticed in this particular area would get worse and our environment as a whole would deteriorate. 
I found this lab to be very fun, and it was nice to utilize the equipment. As a person who has such a great interest in the environment, using the equipment to find the condition of certain ecosystems really excited me. It made me really feel like I could make a difference and take initiative in helping to improve our environment. Seeing the excitement in my classmates also made me happier because as the future generation, we can be proactive and produce a healthier environment. 
This lab showed me that human activity can speed up the rate in which nutrients enter the ecosystem. We are not the only ones that call Earth our home, and we need to ponder on the effects our actions can have on our home.
***Photo: Students in New York use the Hydrolab to test local water quality. Courtesy of Sandy Cunningham. 


Join the team as a summer intern

Undergraduate students and recent graduates with an interest in water issues and environmental studies can now apply for our summer internship program. Successful applicants will spend 12 weeks working closely with an IISG specialist on key issues affecting the Great Lakes region. 

Internships are available in the following areas: 
  • Communications
  • Field sampling
  • Human dimensions
  • Outreach
  • Website development
As student employees of Purdue University or University of Illinois, interns will be paid $12/hour for 37.5 hours a week. Some travel and weekend work may be required. Specific start dates will depend on school calendars, but all internships are expected to run May–August 2015. 

To apply, submit a CV, goal statement, unofficial transcript, and letter of recommendation to Angela Archer by March 16. 

For complete details on available positions and application requirements, visit our internship page. You can also read more about past internship projects and what the students are up to now. 

***Photo: 2012 intern Naoki Wada does a final check before the inaugural launch of our Michigan City nearshore buoy. 


Join the fight against aquatic invaders

It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week, and we’re celebrating with fun facts about Great Lakes invaders and tips for how you can help halt their spread.

Roughly 200 non-native species have already made a home in the Great Lakes region, and many more lurk on the horizon. Some, like zebra mussels and hydrilla, permanently impact the health of every new area waterway they invade by crowding out native species and altering water clarity, oxygen levels, and other key environmental characteristics.

Thanks in part to Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, scientists and government agencies have taken great steps in recent years towards controlling aquatic invasive species. For example, researchers at Notre Dame created tools to identify potential invaders and pinpoint where they may first take root. Collaborative projects like PhragNet are helping natural resource managers identify the most effective management and restoration strategies. And state and federal regulations are closing off some of the most common invasion pathways.  

But there is still a lot individuals can do to fight the spread of aquatic invaders. Next time you go fishing, boating, or even swimming in a lake or river, remember these three easy steps:
  • Remove any plants, animals, and mud from all equipment.  
  • Drain all water from your boat and gear.      
  • Dry everything thoroughly with a towel.
Water gardeners and aquarium hobbyists can also help by choosing native or non-invasive species. And we can all do our part by making sure we never dump plants, fish, animals, or the water they've been in into any waterbody.

We’ll have more facts, important resources, and even chances to test your knowledge of aquatic invasive species all week on Facebook and Twitter

You can also take part in daily webinars hosted by University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. For more information and to register, visit www.nisaw.org/2015webinar.html


Friday Foto: Pullman one of Chicago's South Side jewels

In the late 1800s, Chicago's Pullman neighborhood was a carefully-planned company town with as many as 20,000 residents. Many worked for the Pullman Palace Car Company building luxury railroad sleeper cars. Others made a living in the trade school, library, bank, and shops built to support the workers and their families. This week, the Pullman Historic District became a national monument celebrating the role this South Side community played in America's industrial labor movement. 

Like many communities in the Calumet region, Pullman is a reminder of the rapid industrial growth that helped make Chicago the nation's Second City. But urban history is not the only thing that sets this region apart. The southern tip of Lake Michigan is also home to rare vegetation and a wide variety of habitats. In fact, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most biodiverse areas of the country.  

***Photo courtesy of Josh Ellis.