In the News: U.S. Steel confronts benzene leak into lake

From the Post-Tribune:
For several years, benzene-laden groundwater has been seeping into Lake Michigan from an old tank farm at U.S. Steel Gary Works.

The company plans to install a $1.4 million system that would treat the benzene starting in August or September. Officials will present the plan to the public at a meeting on Tuesday in Gary. Read more.


In the News: Barrier to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes almost complete

From the Chicago Tribune:
A long-awaited permanent electric barrier built to keep invasive Asian carp in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal out of the Great Lakes could be up and running by the end of April, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday. Read more.

For more information about Asian carp, visit the Illinois Aquatic Nuisance Species site.

Earth Hour, Saturday March 28 8:30-9:30 pm

Last year, more than 2.7 million Illinois residents turned off their lights for Earth Hour, a global initiative of the World Wildlife Fund. This year, Chicago returns as an Earth Hour flagship city, with more than 20 other municipalities across Illinois officially signed on to participate in this year's event.

We hope that you will participate in the 2009 Earth Hour event by turning off your lights on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 pm. For more information go to Earth Hour.


In the News: Drugs in fish: Pharmaceuticals found in fish caught near North Side sewage treatment plant in Chicago area

From the Chicago Tribune:
Prescription drugs used to treat depression, high blood pressure, seizures and other ailments are turning up in fish caught downstream from a Chicago sewage treatment plant, according to a new study that highlights some unintended consequences of our medicated lives.

Little is known about the potential effects of drugs in the water on people and wildlife. But scientists and regulators increasingly are concerned about long-term exposure, even at very low levels. Read more.

For information about how to start an unwanted medicine collection event in your community, visit here.


In the News: Scientists: Less ice on Great Lakes during winter

From an AP story in the Plains Dealer:
Ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined more than 30 percent since the 1970s, leaving the world's largest system of freshwater lakes open to evaporation and lower water levels, according to scientists associated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read more.


Learn Urban Fish Farming at Upcoming Workshop

IISG aquaculture marketing specialist is bringing fish farming to the city with his upcoming Urban Aquaculture/Aquaponics Workshop.

“I received a number of calls from people in Chicago wanting to raise fish in their garages so that inspired me to develop this workshop” said Kwamena Quagrainie, who has been working at Purdue University since 2005. “Although many of these calls came from hobbyists, the focus of the workshop will be on business ventures.”

The workshop is free to all participants and is directed towards agriculture teachers and people looking to raise fish in a metropolitan area. Speakers include Quagrainie, fish farmer Myles Harston, and a representative from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The workshop will be held on Saturday, April 18, at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, located at 111th St. and Pulaski Rd. Check in and late registration begins at 8:00 a.m. Talks will run from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with an hour for lunch, which is provided. Please pre-register by April 13 by calling 217-333-6444 or e-mailing klomax@illinois.edu.


COSEE online workshop a success

COSEE Great Lakes recently completed another successful online workshop—“Great Lakes Alive!”—in which scientists and educators were brought together to exchange information about the biological aspects of the Great Lakes.

The workshop—held in February—is the third in a series of workshops started in 2006. Among its components are streaming video presentations from university scientists and educational resources pertaining to the topics discussed.

“These workshops are a great opportunity for educators to converse with scientists, collect exemplary teaching resources, share varied experiences, and expand their understanding and knowledge of Great Lakes science,” said IISG education specialist Terri Hallesy.

Over 155 people participated in this year’s workshop and 26 received graduate credit for their participation.

“The lessons have been extremely popular with students and teachers,” said participant Wendy Lutzke, who used resources from the workshop in her own classroom. “I highly recommend the ESCAPE lessons.”

“It is amazing how many people were able to benefit from this online workshop,” said participant Corista Nichols.


In the News: Bill Authorizes Great Lakes Toxic Clean-up

From the Petosky News Review:
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday, March 12, that triples the authorization for Great Lakes restoration from $54 million to $150 million to clean up toxic pollution in the lakes.

The Water Quality Investment Act of 209 (H.R. 1262), passed by a vote of 317 to 101. The bill will now go to the Senate. Read more.

This bill authorizes more than $150 million a year for five years for the Great Lake Legacy Act. To find out more about these projects, visit the U.S. EPA web site.


In the News: Congress Approves Funds For Invasive Species Prevention

Congress has granted nearly 1–million dollars to help slow the spread of invasive species into the Great Lakes Chain.

President Obama signed the bill into law this week, which will help researchers test various ways to treat ballast water before it's discharged into the lakes. Read more.


New IISG WATCH Card Features Two Invasive Plants

IISG recently released a new WATCH card featuring two new invasive species—the Brazilian elodea and hydrilla. These costly noxious weeds have been invading and causing harm in parts of the U.S.

“They have the potential to crowd out native species, alter habitat, and hinder recreational activities such as boating and fishing,” said IISG aquatic invasives extension associate Kristin TePas.

Costs have quickly added up in Indiana in efforts to control these invaders. According to TePas, in 2006 an infestation of hydrilla was found in a 735-acre lake that is expected to cost the state $1.5 million to remove. This followed a previous infestation of Brazilian elodea in a 109-acre impoundment, which cost the state $135,000 to eradicate.

Both hydrilla, native to Asia, and Brazilian elodea found their way into U.S. waters through aquarium trade. Recently these plants have been spread to new waters via boats and recreational equipment and as a hitchhiker on other plant materials.

Boaters and anglers can help by regularly cleaning their boat equipment when they leave a water body and by reporting any sightings. Hobbyists can help by purchasing plants other than Brazilian elodea and disposing of unwanted aquarium and water garden plants in the trash rather than nearby water bodies.

The new WATCH card provides a brief description of the plants as well as illustrations and a photograph of the two species. It also includes a clear description of how to tell them apart from native elodeas, as they are similar in appearance. The card also provides useful information to help prevent the spread of these invaders and what to do to report a new sighting.

For more information or to purchase the Brazilian elodea and hydrilla WATCH cards, which are $5.00 for a package of 50, visit here or contact marketing specialist Susan White at 217-333-9441.


Sea Grant Invasive Species Website Selected for Smithsonian Kiosk

Nab the Aquatic Invader!, an educational web site about aquatic invasive species (AIS), will be featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as part of the Ocean Today Kiosk in the Sant Ocean Hall. It will also be on display at Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers throughout the country.

The web site was created by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), which is part of University of Illinois Extension, along with Sea Grant programs in New York, Louisiana, Connecticut, and Oregon to provide the latest information about AIS through colorful characters and a crime-solving theme. Since its inception, the project has expanded to include species from coastal regions around the country.

"In addition to being clever and fun, the site is rich with curriculum for teachers, ideas for stewardship projects, and creative educational activities for students and other online audiences," said Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education.

The Ocean Today Kiosk, developed by NOAA in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution , presents news, video stories and in this case, interactive pages that highlight some of the most interesting, surprising, and pressing issues facing our ocean today. Through a large touch-screen interface, kiosk visitors are offered a variety of information about ocean life, current science and technology, and recent discoveries. The kiosk also features a 'current news' section, presenting users with near real-time data about ocean and weather conditions around the U.S.

The Nab the Aquatic Invader! feature will focus on the suspects--aka the invasive species--in four regions of the country: Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Great Lakes. In each region, visitors can see read interrogation interviews with the 10 Most Wanted AIS and learn their origin, problems they cause, and some control methods used to slow the spread of these species.

“The Ocean Today Kiosk team is excited to partner with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to turn content from the Nab the Aquatic Invader web site into an interactive feature,” said Katie Snider, kiosk executive producer at NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “The Ocean Today Kiosk was designed to educate the public on fundamental ocean literacy concepts. There's no better way to teach kids (and big kids!) about invasive species than by letting them "touch screen" their way through the crimes and profiles of invasive "suspects" around the country.”

In addition to the Sant Ocean Hall, Ocean Today Kiosks will be located at a growing network of aquariums across the nation through the Coastal America's Ecosystem Learning Centers, including one already installed at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. This partnership will ultimately provide opportunities for 20 to 30 million people to engage with Nab the Aquatic Invader! and many more ocean resources.


In the News: U. of I. students developing creative ways to re-use electronic waste

From the University of Illinois News Bureau:
What’s in your closets, basement, garage or attic?

If you’re like many Americans, chances are you have at least one piece of electronic waste – an obsolete or non-functioning computer, printer, television, DVD player, cell phone or other electronic device – stashed somewhere.

“Each person stores their computers for an extra two years before they give or throw (them) away,” estimates Willie Cade, the chief executive officer of PC Rebuilders & Recyclers, based in Chicago. Cade’s comments appear in a draft report compiled by University of Illinois industrial design students who studied electronic waste, often referred to as e-waste.

The reason for keeping e-waste around is simple: People don’t know what else to do with old electronic equipment. Although some communities have recycling sites, in many cases, e-waste gets carted off to the local dump or landfill. And even if it is “recycled,” the end result may not be nearly as environmentally sound as one might expect. Read more.

IISG's website ecyclingtools.com is rich with information on how to buy, manage, and get rid of computers and other electronics.


In the News: Reopening state parks tops new DNR director’s long list

From The State Journal-Register:
For Marc Miller, new director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, reopening state parks closed last year as a result of budget cuts was just No. 1 on his to-do list.

It’s a long list, he says, that also includes restoring staff morale, boosting natural resources funding and improving trust with cooperating agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And then there are all the varied constituent groups — kept on the sidelines for years — who now hope someone at DNR will see it their way. Read More.


In the News: Choppy waters on a great lake

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
If change truly is the only constant, then proof is at our doorstep.

In the last century, Lake Michigan has seen its native fish stocks depleted, an onslaught of exotic species, and the rise and fall and tenuous rise again of a world-class trout and salmon fishery.

Now, with the forage base at a record low and a tentative plan by a lake-wide committee to increase lake trout stocking, many in the sportfishing community feel the multibillion dollar fishery is at a crossroads. Read more.