9/19/14

Friday Foto: Centennial Fountain


Along the Chicago River, the Centennial Fountain becomes a water cannon every hour on the hour. While the weather is still nice, download the Chicago Water Walk app and head to the water to learn more about the Chicago River and the downtown lakefront. Photo courtesy of Gregg Woodward. To see more of our photos, visit iisg.photoshelter.com.

9/18/14

Social science leads to community stewardship in Wisconsin's Lincoln Park

Exciting changes are coming to Wisconsin’s Lincoln Park, part of the Milwaukee River Area of Concern. Phase two of Great Lakes Legacy Act efforts to remove historical contaminants from the river bottom is set to begin next month. And park neighbors and stakeholders from across Milwaukee County are already well on their way to launching a Friends of Lincoln Park group that will help foster greater community stewardship.

More than 20 neighbors came together for the first time earlier this month to get to know each other, discuss potential group goals, and brainstorm ways to achieve them. They were joined by numerous local and regional organizations interested in protecting Lincoln Park, including University of Wisconsin Extension, Milwaukee County Parks, the Park People, and the Illinois-Indiana and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs.

Nothing is official yet, but the meeting ended with two main goals on everyone’s mind: fostering a sense of community with the park at the center and protecting the local environment.

“For a long time, the park was very community centered, but it has become more of an outsider attraction in the last few decades,” said Caitie McCoy, IISG’s social scientists and co-host of the meeting. “The group had great ideas for re-energizing community interest with events that bring locals out to enjoy all the resources the park has to offer.”

The idea for a Friends group took shape during focus groups conducted this spring by Caitie and UW-Extension’s Gail Epping-Overholt. They spoke with a variety of people living or working near Lincoln Park to better understand community perceptions of the park and ongoing sediment remediation efforts. When the results of the needs assessment were in, it was clear that residents were interested in forming the Friends of Lincoln Park.

The results will also play a key role in shaping public outreach and project messaging as dredging kicks off again this fall for phase two of the remediation. More than 120,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment have already been removed from the Lincoln Park segments of the Milwaukee River, and this next round of dredging is expected to remove another 35,000 cubic yards. Together with cleanup efforts in nearby Blatz Pavilion lagoon, the two Lincoln Park projects are expected to reduce the amount toxic PCBs flowing into the Milwaukee River system by 70 percent, a drop that will go a long way towards delisting the AOC. 

To learn more about recommendations to come out of the needs assessment, download the full report from our products page. And if you live in the area and are interested in joining the Friends of Lincoln Park, come out to the next meeting on October 9. Contact Caitie McCoy at cmccoy2@illinois.edu for more information.   

Special thanks to IISG interns Erika Lower and Mark Krupa for their help analyzing and the results of the needs assessment and to Jane Harrison at Wisconsin Sea Grant for taking notes during the focus groups and helping to coordinate the Friends meetings. 

***Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Extension.

9/17/14

Reducing the use of lawn chemicals prevents pollution in nearby waterways

Lawn care decisions play a large role in local water quality and the health of aquatic wildlife. The fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals we put on our lawns can be washed into nearby lakes and rivers in stormwater runoff. Once there, these pollutants spur algae growth, clog gills, decrease resistance to disease, and suffocate eggs and newly hatched larvae. 

The IISG-led Lawn to Lake program continues to educate homeowners, landscapers, and master gardeners on natural lawn care practices that can improve soil health and protect water quality. The program works with community partners across the region to conduct training workshops and provide 'how to' resources for a range of audiences. 

Lawn to Lake outreach has led to management changes on an estimated 22,415 lawn acres. These changes are expected to reduce the use of lawn care chemicals, including weed and feed, by more than 3 million pounds a year, protecting nearby aquatic ecosystems from chemical-laden runoff while fostering healthy lawns. 

To learn more about how IISG is empowering communities and individuals to secure a healthy environment, check out our 2013 program impacts

9/16/14

Nab the Aquatic Invader! now a one-stop-shop for AIS projects

Our education team is at it again! Allison Neubauer wrote in with this exciting announcement: 

Teachers across the Great Lakes region—have we got a treat for you! You can now explore creative projects from all-star educators to spark new ideas and read important tips for getting your students involved in the effort to “nab” local aquatic invaders.

The IISG education team has been working hard to compile model projects that successfully tie together AIS education and community stewardship. Our revamped Nab the Aquatic Invader! website will help you up your game—and the new-and-improved Top Desk Administrator is your one-stop-shop for project ideas.

Community stewardship projects like the ones highlighted here are an exceptional tool for pushing students beyond rote memorization and providing them with an opportunity to apply their knowledge in ways that have positive impacts on their communities.

Preview outstanding examples of student work, ranging from fun informational activity books to catchy musical compilations. When you’re done perusing, read the summary reports written by the teachers responsible for these successful activities for information on how to plan and implement similar projects in your own classroom.

The Nab the Aquatic Invader! website is the place for the latest and greatest invasive species project models, information, and activities. For more terrific educational materials, check out IISG’s education products.

9/15/14

In the news: Grass carp may be the Asian carp most likely to establish in Lake Erie

When researchers and the media talk about Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes, they are typically referring to bighead and silver carp, the two voracious phytoplankton eaters that are wreaking havoc in places like the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. But the species most likely to establish in Lake Erie may actually be a third member of the Asian carp family: grass carp

From The Voice

“Grass carp are a different kind of fish and pose different kinds of risk than bighead and silver carp,” said Jeff Tyson, administrator of the Lake Erie Fisheries Program Administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Tyson addressed a meeting of environmental writers at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab in Lake Erie on Aug. 18. “We know we have some grass carp in the system. Grass carp impact the system through their impacts on structure and vegetation. They consume huge amounts of vegetation.”

Grass carp could put Lake Erie at risk “by damaging habitats and damaging fish in communities given the documented reproduction of grass carp in large rivers,” according to the Ohio Asian Carp Tactical Plan, 2014-2020. “Grass carp can also decimate submersed aquatic vegetation that is critical to migrating waterfowl and other water birds.” Read more


**Photo courtesy of Eric Engbretson, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bugwood.org. 

9/12/14

Interns Catherine and Jennifer tackled key water supply planning issues

Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Catherine Kemp and Jennifer Egert spent their summer working with Margaret Schneemann, IISG's water resource economist. 

Catherine's work this summer focused on outdoor water conservation and natural lawn care outreach. As part of this, the University of Illinois student teamed up with Kane County and the Northwest Water Planning Alliance to create library displays highlighting a few easy steps homeowners can take to conserve water and reduce landscaping pollution. 

"I also organized a composting workshop for gardeners and worked on a white paper exploring the connection between sustainable look food systems and water. My projects covered such a diverse range of topics that my internship was really engaging and enjoyable. It was so great to work on issues that I am passionate about. 

There are so many organizations that inform and implement environmental policies in the Chicagoland area. I have learned a lot about the work they do and the importance of the large amounts of collaboration that occur here. My internship really opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me in the future." 

Jennifer, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, dedicated her internship to creating a new, condensed version of the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook using updated data.

"I worked with Margaret to collect water rate data from 284 municipalities in northeastern Illinois and used GIS software to design effective visuals and maps summarizing municipal water rate changes over the past five years. I also included supplemental policy recommendations based on the visuals created along with best management practices for incorporating full-cost water pricing across the region. 

What I enjoyed most about this internship was having the chance to use skills gained from my environmental science education and apply them to a project that has real implications for citizens in the area. I got to go home every day feeling like I had accomplished something worth-while that will benefit our environment and precious natural resources." 

Both Jennifer and Catherine say they will continue working on environmental issues after they graduate. Catherine plans to join the Peace Corps's environmental program, while Jennifer hopes to work in environmental law and policy. 

9/11/14

Take a minute to learn about pollution prevention

Laura Kammin, our pollution prevention specialist, has some exciting news. Let's let her tell you about it:

If you only had a minute, what would you say?

Just one minute to explain what pharmaceutical waste is and how people can help reduce it. That was the challenge posed by our new pollution prevention team members Erin Knowles and Adrienne Gulley

Challenge accepted! Here it is, the first installment of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Pollution Prevention Minute.



We know it’s a long name. But don’t worry, the content isn’t. They're one—ok, maybe sometimes closer to two—minute videos that give easy-to-understand answers to some of the more complicated questions surrounding the use, storage, and disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

Why videos? We are always getting asked questions like “what happens to the medicine that gets collected?” and “what are microbeads?” We think these new videos are a fun way to share the answers.

If you like them too, send us more questions. Contact Erin Knowles at eknowles@illinois.edu or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch for the next episode of IISG’s Pollution Prevention Minute.  

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