Community spotlight: Macon County

Permanent medicine collection programs make it easy for people to rid their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals, but they can be difficult to get off the ground. That's where our Unwanted Meds team comes in. They have helped communities across Illinois and Indiana purchase collection boxes and raise awareness of drop-off programs, including Illinois' Macon County. 

From Rx for Action: 
A few months back, IISG was contacted by Laurie Rasmus of the Macon County Environmental Management Department. She was aware of the issues surrounding improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and wanted to know how we could work together to provide Decatur residents with a convenient way to safely dispose of their unwanted medicines. IISG has found that partnerships like this work really well. So we wanted to start sharing the stories of communities with medicine take-back programs with people who may be thinking about staring a program in their area. Laurie took a few minutes of her time to answer some of our questions about Macon County's need for prescription take-back boxes and why they are so important to the community.
How did you learn about safe medicine disposal, and how did this initiative come about? 
Our department first learned about safe medicine disposal through the one-day take-back collections sponsored by the DEA. 
Our office receives many inquiries from residents who want to learn how to dispose of unused and expired medicine in a safe manner that is not harmful to the environment. We informed these residents of the drop-off box operated by the Maroa Police Department. Most were pleased to learn about the Maroa drop-off site but many mentioned that a Decatur-based location would be more convenient. So, we inquired with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant about the possibilities for a collection site in Decatur and received encouraging information. We then approached Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider about a drop-off site at his office. Sheriff Schneider was enthusiastic about establishing a collection box in the lobby of the Macon County Law Enforcement Center. 
Why do you think this is an important issue?   
Safe, secure medicine disposal reduces the risks of accidental poisonings, drug misuse and pollution. Read more. 


In the news: Stormwater forum brings out North Shore residents

Residents of Chicago's North Shore packed a high school auditorium earlier this week to hear from several local stormwater experts. Discussions
hit on the most pressing issues surrounding stormwater—pollution, flooding, and management—but one topic in particular drew the crowd's attention. 

From Winnetka Talk: 
One of the largest and most discussed projects in the north shore remains Winnetka’s proposed Willow Road stormwater tunnel. The tunnel would run underneath Willow Road from Glendale Avenue east to Lake Michigan. 
Residents have raised concerns of more than 1,000 acres of drainage area feeding into the tunnel, and its possible affect on Lake Michigan’s water quality. 
“The goals that were laid out for this project were to limit the risk of structural flooding,” said Joe Johnson, vice president of MWH Americas, Inc., which is designing the tunnel. “We’re trying to limit the flooding that gets into people’s homes and causes structural damage.” 
Johnson said the village would use its current stormwater infrastructure during smaller storms, while the tunnel proposal is designed to accommodate larger rain events, such as a 100-year storm. 
According to Johnson, the tunnel is being pursued due to Winnetka’s west side acting as “a shallow bowl” and that some areas of the west side are below the 10-year flood level of the Skokie River, making them susceptible to flooding. 
“There is a real challenge to draining that part of the village,” Johnson said. “Areas east of Hibbard Road in Winnetka have very low permeability soil. That affects our thinking in how we address flooding in those areas.” Read more


This bobber sports an important AIS message

Following up on yesterday's message that prevention is key to stopping aquatic invasive species (AIS), we share this image of a Be a Hero, Transport Zero bobber (no, it's not a Christmas tree ornament).

AIS can be introduced and spread through a variety of activities including those associated with recreational water users. For example, when an angler releases bait fish at the end of a day’s fishing or a water gardener disposes of excess plants in a local waterway, they could also be accidentally introducing AIS.

If you plan on enjoying the fall colors while out on the water, keep in mind the three simple steps to do your part to prevent aquatic invasive species from moving from one waterbody to another: 

·        Remove plants, animals, and mud from all equipment.
·        Drain water from live wells and bait buckets.
·        Dry items thoroughly with a towel. 

If you would like more information about AIS and the Be a Hero, Transport Zero campaign, visit our website.


AIS detective work involves species profiling

Last week's Science Friday on NPR, broadcasting from the University of Notre Dame, included an interview with David Lodge, a biologist who has been a key investigator in assessing the pathways and risks of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. In fact, the interview focused on Lodge as an "environmental detective" due to his work with environmental DNA. This technique allows invasive species trackers to detect the trace presence of a fish through water sampling. Most recently, Asian carp DNA has been found in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

But, in the struggle to cope with these invaders, prevention is crucial. The interview also
touched on extensive work at Notre Dame to develop species profiles and risk assessment tools. This research helped inform efforts in Indiana to be proactive, and led to a ban on 28 plant species in the state.

From a 2012 HELM article:
To determine which plants imported for the aquarium and water garden trades posed the greatest threat to the state’s waterways, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR) relied on a risk assessment tool developed by the Aquatic Plant Working Group. The group was formed, organized, and facilitated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant at the request of IN DNR and included representatives from the aquatic plant industry, aquarium and water garden hobbyists, state agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. They used information provided by University of Notre Dame researchers to develop a tool that evaluates a plant based on factors such as its history of invasion, its ability to survive in Indiana habitats, and how difficult it is to control.
Many of the plants that made the list have been used in aquariums or water gardens in Indiana for years. Others have already been discovered in waterways throughout the state, sparking large-scale eradication projects. For example, efforts to remove the fast-growing weed Hydrilla verticillata from Lake Manitou have been ongoing for more than six years and cost the state millions of dollars. Hydrilla is believed to have entered Lake Manitou through trade.
This work has not been limited to Indiana plants. For starters, in 2013, Illinois added the designated Indiana plants into its Injurious Species List. And there's more:
The success of the risk assessment tool in Indiana has sparked interest from officials in the Great Lakes region and at a national level. In fact, researchers at the University of Notre Dame (and Loyola University Chicago) were awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to develop risk assessment tools for commercially sold fish, mollusks, crustaceans, reptiles, and amphibians. IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach specialists are working with researchers to coordinate and facilitate regular working meetings with state and province resource managers to develop a single set of tools that can be used in each of the eight states and two provinces that make up the Great Lakes region.


Friday Foto: Bye bye buoy for 2014

A sure sign that fall is here, the IISG buoy was relieved of its duty to collect data in the nearshore waters of Michigan City, Indiana. This season, the buoy webpage had more than 3,000 visitors, with an average of 23 a day. In 2014, the buoy added a new featurereading temperatures every three feet from the surface to the bottom of the lake. This data is useful for researchers and anglers alike. Buoy data has also aided the National Weather Service, improving the accuracy of wave height predictions and small craft advisories.


In the news: Native mussels are surviving the zebra mussel invasion

Even before zebra and quagga mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s, the future looked a little bleak for native mussels. The invaders came close to wiping them out entirely. But small populations in Lake Erie appear to not only be surviving the invasion, but thriving. 

From The Voice
Average density of native mussels before the arrival of zebra mussels was two per square meter in Lake St. Clair. By 1990, zebra mussel density was at 1,600 per square meter. 
“By 1992, native mussel populations are almost gone from the southeastern portion of the lake and declining rapidly in the northwestern portion of the lake,” said [Dave] Zanatta, [a biologist at Central Michigan University]. 
By 1994, there were almost no native mussels left in the lake, with zebra now at 3,000+ per square meter. 
“But there was reason for hope,” said Zanatta. “Remnant populations of native mussels were beginning to be found in coastal wetlands in western Lake Erie in the late 1990s.” 
More recent research funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative also reveals that native mussels have maintained genetic diversity, a key to any species' long-term survival. 
Again from The Voice: 
Zanatta’s research adds further evidence that progress continues to be made on one of the impairments of the St. Clair River – the degradation of fish and wildlife habitat – that led to its classification as an environmental Area of Concern in 1985. 
His work also sheds light on the complex ecological impacts of invasive species generally. 
With some environmental observers predicting a doomsday scenario for native game fish if Asian carp are able to establish themselves in the Great Lakes, for example, Zanatta’s mussel research suggests that the outlook for native fish might be significantly more positive than forecasts suggest.
To read the full article, click on the link above. 

**Photo of zebra mussels courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant. 


Video series takes behind-the-scenes look at marine careers

Ever wonder what it’s like to live and work on the Great Lakes? Curious what a marine technician aboard a research vessel does exactly? Or an able-bodied seaman for that matter?

You’re in luck. Our marine career videos give you a unique look at the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian and the crew, scientists, and students behind its yearly research cruises. Whether you’re an educator looking to inspire students or are interested in a career in aquatic sciences yourself, these are a must-see.

Each of the nine videos features a different person talking about everything from their role on the ship to the best part of their job to the career steps that brought them there. Videos and photos shot on-location by then-intern Allison Neubauer in 2013 bring Great Lakes monitoring alive and provide a rare look at life on the water.

Listen to the complete five-minute interviews or jump to the questions that appeal most to you using the links in the description. Full transcripts are also available.

The videos are part of a new Lake Guardian website slated to launch later this fall. The site will feature facts, videos, and photos showcasing research conducted on board and the sometimes-unusual equipment used to collect samples. Educators will also find information on upcoming workshops and resources for incorporating Great Lakes science into the classroom. Visitors will even be able to get answers to all their Great Lakes questions directly from Lake Guardian scientists.

The project is led by IISG’s KristinTePas with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.