7/24/14

Knauss Fellow Sara Paver shares her experiences at NSF

It’s been a few months since IISG-sponsored graduate students Sara Paver and Katerine Touzinsky began their Knauss fellowships. We were curious to hear about their experiences so far and thought you might be too. First up is Sara, an alum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is spending the year at the National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences. 
“I have officially reached the halfway point in my fellowship. I am having a wonderful experience, and the time has passed unbelievably quickly. I would consider the best aspects of being a Knauss Fellow to be (in no particular order) the abundance and breadth of opportunities—no two fellowship experiences are the same, and there is quite a bit of flexibility to tailor your experiences to your interests—and the awesome people you have the opportunity to interact with along the way. I really enjoy working with my colleagues at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and spending time with the other fellows. 
My fellowship placement is in the Division of Ocean Sciences, where I have been working to facilitate the review of grant proposals submitted to the Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) program and the Biological Oceanography core program. I submitted a few grants to NSF as a graduate student, and it has been very illuminating to see the grant review process from the other side. I especially enjoy meeting and interacting with the scientists who serve on panels.

My position at NSF has also enabled me to improve my science communication skills. I revised the 2014 Coastal SEES award abstracts to make them accessible to a non-specialist audience. I have also been writing NSF Highlights to describe the broader impacts of research accomplishments funded by the NSF Biological Oceanography program.
Outside of my work at NSF, I have been using my non-stipend fellowship funds to travel. I recently returned from Waterville Valley, NH, where I attended my first Gordon Research Conference. The theme of the conference was “Ocean Global Change Biology: Interactive Effects of Multiple Global Change Variables.” In May, I had the opportunity to travel to the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, ME to participate in an Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry scoping workshop focused on improving predictive biogeochemical models through single cell-based analyses of marine plankton. These experiences provided me with opportunities to network with researchers—including scientists whose work I cited in my dissertation and had specifically hoped to meet—as well as the chance to watch collaborations form and new research areas emerge. 
The Knauss Fellowship has also provided me with unique extra-curricular experiences. For example, I recently viewed Saturn through a telescope at the Naval Observatory during a special tour for Knauss Fellows set up by Justine Kimball, the fellow currently serving as policy liaison to the Oceanographer of the Navy. Earlier in the year, I went bowling with my NSF colleagues at the Truman Bowling Alley in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is near the White House. I also went on a road trip with some of the other Knauss Fellows, including IISG fellow Katherine Touzinsky, to Horn Point Laboratory on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where we completed an Integration and ApplicationNetwork (IAN) science communication course.

I am excited to see what is in store for me in the next six months and would encourage anyone interested in the intersection of science and policy to seriously consider applying to be a Knauss Fellow.
Be sure to check back here next week to hear how things are going for Katherine Touzinsky. 

**Photo A: Sara (left) and three other Knauss Fellows take a break from Capital Hill Ocean Week events to pose for a photo. 
Photo B: Sara enjoying her visit to East Boothbay, ME. 

7/23/14

Join us in welcoming our new graphic arts specialist

We are excited to announce that Joel Davenport has joined the team as IISG's graphic arts specialist. Joel helps shape the look of the program and works closely with the communication team and program specialists to produce our newsletter, flyers, displays, and other print and online outreach materials.

Joel brings seven years of experience in publication design, organizational branding, illustration, and web design. He has a Bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis on marketing.

7/22/14

Asian carp jump into new markets

A physical barrier to stop Asian carp from making their way into Lake Michigan won't be happening any time soon, but there are other ways to reduce the risks of these fish becoming established in the Great Lakes. From the latest issue of IISG's The HELM: 

The men behind a new fish processing plant in Illinois aren’t veterans of the fishing industry. They are a lawyer, alloy company owner, and restaurant builder who saw Asian carp jumping in the Mississippi River and thought, “There must be something we can do with these things.” 

That thought became a reality this April when American Heartland Fish Products opened its doors in Grafton, IL, a small town near the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The plant uses a unique production process to turn Asian carp into fish and bone meal and Omega 3 oils. The high-protein meals are primarily sold to animal feed producers. Their biggest seller, Omega 3 oil, is used for everything from cosmetics to dietary supplements.

“There is a demand for these products that never quits,” said Ben Allen, who co-owns American Heartland Fish Products with Gray Magee and Bryan Lebeau. “I have been involved in a lot of businesses, but never one where there is such a demand for the product.” Read more.

7/18/14

Latest climate report details the lasting effects of this past winter's weather

It probably comes as no surprise to those living in the Great Lakes region to hear that this spring was one of the coldest on record. Since 1948, there have been only four years with lower spring temperatures. And these unusually cold temperatures—and the snow that came with them—had significant impacts on Great Lakes ecosystems, communities, and economies. 

These impacts are the focus of the latest edition of the Great Lakes Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook report. Released in June, the report details how the long winter helped lake levels rebound from record lows, forced cities to invest more in winter operational expenses and infrastructure maintenance, and has left some farmers concerned about this year’s crop. It also provides a look at expected temperatures and precipitation levels for the coming months. 

The Great Lakes Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlooks is developed by NOAA and Environment Canada. Past editions, as well as reports for other regions, are available at the U.S. Drought Portal.

7/17/14

From industry to rebirth: Student video presents history of Buffalo River

Interested in the comeback of the Buffalo River? You're in luck. AP biology students at the Global Concepts Charter School in Lackawanna, NY have created a video PSA explaining cleanup efforts and their importance in one of the nation's most industrialized rivers. 
Their teacher, Amanda Jasper, has put local environmental issues center stage in her AP course for several years. Last year, students explored Lake Erie aboard the Spirit of Buffalo and researched everything from algal blooms to zebra mussels. She got the idea for the video after attending a workshop hosted by the New York and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs introducing a new curriculum that connects students in living near the Buffalo River to environmental projects in their community. “The students took this project very seriously and told me they really enjoyed learning about something they are so close to,” said Jasper. “I am very proud of them.” 
 
Remediation projects have been underway in the Buffalo River since 2011. The latest phase of the project is expected to get rid of approximately 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, bringing the total to around a million. The Great Lakes Legacy Act project also includes planting native species to help restore underwater habitats.

7/16/14

Web-based tipping points tool will help communities protect and grow at the same time

For land use planners, balancing community growth and environmental health is always a challenge. But after months of pilot testing, IISG is putting the final touches on a new web-based tool that will help them do just that. 

The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses the latest watershed research and cutting-edge technology to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their area are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in how they function. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps, simulators, and recommended response strategies to develop watershed-specific plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair. 

Specialists from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs have spent the last few months testing the tool in broad range of communities and divers audiences. Planning groups from the industrialized southern Lake Michigan to the more preserved northern Wisconsin and Minnesota can now use the decision support system to kick off the watershed planning process. In Indiana, Ohio, and New York, facilitators have also introduced planning consultants and state employees to tool modules so they can take the process back to their own communities. 

Experiences so far have been positive, with many users expressing excitement about the role Tipping Points and Indicators could play in improving watershed planning. Community members, local officials, and consultants were particularly interested in the tools’ recommended policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts tailored to local needs. In fact, a watershed advocacy group from the Duluth area mentioned they could have spent a whole day on that module alone. 

To further enhance the tool, users also recommended making maps and planning strategies more watershed-specific. Many of these refinements are being made now. Others, including the addition of the new land cover data and models that predict future tipping points, are expected in the coming months. 

And as the project grows, so does the lead team. Last month, IISG brought Purdue software developer Brandon Beatty onboard to help boost the usability of Tipping Points and Indicators and ensure it continues to rely on the latest research and technology. 

The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network.

7/15/14

Stay up-to-date on this week's dangerous lake conditions with the Michigan City buoy

Boaters, anglers, and swimmers, you many want to think twice before heading out into Lake Michigan today. Forecasters are predicting waves swells as high as 7 ft, creating dangerous conditions for any one in water.

The high waves are the result of an unusual weather pattern expected to continue into tomorrow. A small piece of the polar vortex has dropped down to the southern Great Lakes, bringing fall-like weather to parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

The cool air may be a welcomed break from July heat, but the shifting weather is not without its downsides. Right now, parts of the lake are actually warmer than the air above it, creating the perfect conditions for waterspouts. The wave swells created by gusty winds also bring a higher chance of rip currents, especially along Michigan's western shore.

Whether you are planning a trip to the lake or not, you can track wave height and other lake conditions in southern Lake Michigan as the strange weather continues with the IISG real-time buoy.

*The week's strange weather brings a chance of waterspouts like this one captured near Winthrop Harbor in 2013. Photo by Phil Mathis.

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