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Friday Video: The Pollution Prevention Minute is BACK!

After a much too-long hiatus, our "Pollution Prevention Minute" video series is BACK! We've moved our filming location from a conference room to a studio, but we've made sure to keep the fun in the process (expect a bloopers reel later this year)!

In Episode 4, Pollution Prevention Outreach Specialist Adrienne Gulley tackles the subject of microbeads (also sometimes referred to as microplastics or even microfibers, though the latter is actually not exactly the same). If you follow issues related to water quality, watch or read the news, or follow governmental happenings, you've been hearing a lot lately about these teeny, tiny little particles and the potential havoc they are causing in our environment. Adrienne takes a minute (or two) to explain why this is, and what they look like. She also talks a bit about research that is happening in this area (and that we are proud to fund and support).

So grab your coffee, kick back, relax, and take a few minutes out of your day to learn more about these pesky little bits. And remember, sharing is caring, so please pass this along to your friends and neighbors.


Hey teachers: Be the scientist! The classroom is your lab!

With over 200 sessions spanning three days and an Exhibit Hall featuring leaders in the STEM industry, the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. Conference is the premier professional development and networking opportunity for science teachers in Indiana. This year, science teacher Jed Freels shared lessons learned over his 34-year teaching career.

Jed was one of 15 teachers who worked alongside scientists on the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian on the Lake Michigan Shipboard Science cruise this past summer. His enthusiasm and captivating style clearly represent his teaching goal: You should feel good about yourself and the job you’re doing. 

“You are the scientist and the classroom is your lab,” he stated. “What do your students see when they walk in your class? Is there something new, different, and engaging that wasn’t there before? Does your room convey a sense of passion and enthusiasm about science?

“It’s essential to keep students on their toes. The challenge for teachers is to constantly keep them guessing about what to anticipate next. Your role is to encourage kids to become scientists—to do science, not just talk about it.” 

Jed came with great examples of going the extra milevolunteering at organizations to make connections and obtain educational resources; or finding a research project that you can be a part of as a volunteer. Once you’ve established a partnership, he explained, reach out and ask if the organization or researcher would be willing to provide your students with materials or a field-based experience.

He prompted teachers to be the gateway to our park systems. “Take an active photo of yourself at a local park and share the picture with your students to provide an opportunity for them to see you as a scientist.

“Think locally about your field-based experiences. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that will spark your student’s interest in you as a scientist.” 

While on the Lake Guardian this past summer, Jed took the opportunity to record a video series, Science Quest, for the classroom and beyond.

--By Terri Hallesy, IISG education coordinator, pictured above with Jed Freels (and a skeleton).


Apply now to work as a IISG social scientist

IISG has an opening for a social science outreach assistant under the direction of environmental social scientist, Caitie Nigrelli. The successful applicant will spend the summer and fall semester working on issues affecting the Great Lakes. 
The position will include outreach, communication, and education components.

This is a great opportunity to gain professional experience among accomplished scientists and engineers. The position will provide excellent networking opportunities, as the assistant will interact with individuals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sea Grant programs, state natural resource agencies, private industries, and environmental NGOs.

The position is based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. Some work-related travel is expected and will be paid by IISG. The intern will periodically visit EPA at 77 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago to collaborate with employees at the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office. The position may also include overnight travel to restoration sites around the Great Lakes, such as Muskegon, Michigan.

Application packets are due on March 6, 2016. Find the full job description on greatlakesmud.org.


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.