Seminar Looks to Northwest Indiana Environmental Past, Present and Future

The Great Lakes and northwest Indiana landscapes will provide the backdrop for a Coast Week seminar at Purdue University Calumet. On Thursday, September 10, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Mark Reshkin will discuss the region’s geology and the history of human settlements, bringing the story up to today’s environmental concerns related to water. This talk is free and open to the public.

The seminar will touch on lake levels, climate change, water quality and quantity concerns, as well as ways that some environmental issues are being addressed. “In the end, I hope to convey that right now we are in a time of great problems, but also in a time of great opportunities,” said Reshkin, an Indiana University Northwest (IUN) professor emeritus of geology and public and environmental affairs. “With the Great Lakes initiative and other investments in the region, we can affect great change, but communities will need to work together in ways they haven’t in the past.”

In addition to his position at IUN, Reshkin has engaged in research for the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. He was also a senior scientist and chief of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Science Division.

The seminar is sponsored by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and Purdue University Calumet. It is part of “Coast Week 2009: Discover Your Coast,” which is organized by the Lake Michigan Coastal Program, and takes place during the week of September 5-13. Coast Week features a wide variety of events to celebrate the diversity and splendor of the Lake Michigan Coastal Region.

“Wherever your interests lie, I’m sure there is an activity or two during Coast Week that you’ll find interesting and exciting,” commented Leslie Dorworth, IISG aquatic ecology specialist.

Mark Reshkin’s seminar will take place in the Student Union and Library Building on the Purdue University Calumet campus. If you would like more information, contact Dorworth at 219-989-2726 or dorworth@calumet.purdue.edu


In the news: Enviros warn of weed-killer in water

From the Post-Tribune:
A common weed killer used on lawns and farm fields is wreaking havoc on wildlife and possibly human health, according to a report released by a national environmental group Monday.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's report on the pesticide atrazine in rivers and drinking water shows Indiana is one of five states where contamination was most severe. Read more.


IISG at the Illinois State Fair

Our new exhibit Getting Rid of Stuff Sensibly is on display in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair, which runs through Sunday. While the marble game is fun and informative for kids, adults can learn some sensible ways for disposing of medicine, old computers, and more. Plus we are handing out mailing envelopes for old cell phones and pill boxes with the message "Don't flush pills."


Boats,nets, fish and Lake Michigan research

Children attending the "Boats, Nets, Fish and Lake Michigan Research" event hosted by IISG, the Illinois Natural History Survey and COSEE Great Lakes learned about the different organisms that inhabit the lake and the various sampling equipment used by scientists. In this photo, Shelley Berlincourt, Sea Grant summer intern, shows the children how to use a zooplankton net to collect tiny organisms in the water column.

This Science Saturday event, which took place last month, was part of Science Chicago, a yearlong Museum of Science and Industry initiative that aims to establish the crucial value of science and math in its residents. The final Science Chicago event will be a Lab Fest in Millennium Park on August 21. (Photo above courtesy of Steve Lichti.)


Teachers educate IISG about classroom plants and animals

Aquatic invasive species make their way into our waters through a variety of means. One is through classroom specimens that end up released into local rivers and lakes when the class work is done.

"Live Plants and Animals in the Classroom: Developing Teacher-Based Solutions” is the name of a focus group meeting that was held on August 12 at the Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo. Ten educators representing elementary, middle, and high schools in Illinois and Indiana, as well as two school librarians and a zoo educator participated in the discussion.

This event is one important component of a grant from NOAA-Sea Grant coordinated by the Oregon Sea Grant Program. The goal of the project is to develop appropriate solutions that will help prevent new introductions of organisms into local waterways. Wei Ying Wong, Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Connecticut College, facilitated the four-hour focus group discussion. Several IISG staff members planned and attended this event--Robin Goettel, associate director for education, Terri Hallesy, education specialist, Pat Charlebois, aquatic invasives specialist and Kristin TePas, aquatic invasive extension associate. Lanis Petrik, senior education specialist at the Brookfield Zoo, arranged for the room, lunch, and our conference equipment.

The goal of the focus group was to obtain input from educators who use live organisms in their classrooms. These educators shared perspectives on ways that they use live species in the classroom and why they feel they are important in helping students learn. They also discussed where they get their organisms and their concerns about using live species in the classroom such as how do deal with long-term care and disposal.

Many of the educators expressed concern with the option of euthanizing these animals after use. The focus group concluded with an interesting discussion about what types of resources on invasive species would be helpful to them, what might lead them to use the resources, and how IISG and others can best reach out to teachers and students regarding information about invasive species as they relate to live organisms used in the classroom.

Here are a couple quotes from two participants:

"I am an elementary general teacher and I want to learn more. We don’t have a science specialist coming to our bi-lingual school. It’s difficult to go in depth into something as valuable as science. It can become an overwhelming issue."

"I am amazed at how much I do not know! Glad to know there are other teachers out there that are better versed, but there is still a lot that they need to know."


Come Find Sea Grant at the Illinois State Fair

Let's all go to the fair!
As the Illinois State Fair kicks off today, IISG introduces a new exhibit, Getting Rid of Stuff Sensibly, or GROSS, as we've come to call it.

This exhibit informs audiences of all ages about environmentally wise ways to recycle, reuse, or dispose of medicines, electronics, fish and aquatic plants and more. For the kids, the exhibit includes a colorful marble game that provides a fun way to think through getting rid of stuff.

For those who take part in our exhibit, we have complimentary pill box cases and mini-frisbees--both made from recycled plastic--that have useful information on them. We will also have free mailing envelopes for recycling old cell phones.

Look for us in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources tent in Conservation World. (Photo above courtesy of creativecommons.org.)


New Study on Green Infrastructure to Assess Stormwater Management

Green roof tops are sprouting up around Chicago. But what is the most useful way to incorporate green infrastructure into urban settings? Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Environmental Planning Specialist Martin Jaffe recently received a $300,000 grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assess the use of green infrastructure for urban stormwater management in Illinois.

Green infrastructure is a growing movement toward sustainable, environmentally-friendly approaches to land use planning. Popular practices include rain gardens, permeable pavements, and green roofs, which seek to maximize on natural resources while maintaining environmental health. Jaffe’s team will be collecting data and monitoring the performance of such practices in urban environments.

"This study should help state officials decide which green infrastructure proposals ought to be funded and which should be given lower priority, based on the proven effectiveness of the various best management practices in different settings," said Jaffe, who is also an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jaffe’s results will also be used by IISG to develop a plan to inform local officials, municipal engineers, and planners about the proper role of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management.

The 18-month grant is the result of recent legislation, mandating a statewide study of green infrastructure in Illinois. Jaffe’s co-principal investigators will be studying the effect of wetlands in various landscapes on pollution control.

This study also coincidentally comes on the heels of a rise in flood peaks in Chicago metropolitan areas, due to growing urbanization, as documented by IISG-funded research by Momcilo Markus, Illinois State Water Survey.

“We are not focused on urban flood peaks,” Jaffe said. “However, flood peaks have a complex relationship to green infrastructure. Some green infrastructure best management practices, such as wetlands, can provide flood storage, and practices encouraging infiltration and on-site storage can potentially reduce such peaks through minimizing runoff to surface waters.”

The study’s consultants include Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, who will be examining the legal standards of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management and whether measures used in the study will be transferable to downstate rural counties and small towns.


In the News: Carp detected near barrier

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Asian carp are on the move north and are likely within about 10 miles of an electric barrier designed to keep the giant filter feeders from invading the Great Lakes.

A new type of DNA testing indicated last week that silver carp had cleared one of the last physical obstacles standing between the fish and Lake Michigan, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

For several years, the northern migration of the silver carp, which can grow to 50 pounds, had stalled in a pool just above the Dresden Island Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River southwest of Joliet, Ill. - about 20 miles downstream from the barrier.

Now it looks like they have cleared the upstream Brandon Road Lock and Dam, leaving only about 10 river miles and one navigational lock between the fish and the barrier - the last line of defense for the Great Lakes. Read more.


In the News: Critics say little change since BP permit issued

From the Post-Tribune:
It's been two years since the Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued the controversial water permit for BP Whiting, allowing the refinery to increase pollution into Lake Michigan.

An independent report by Indiana University professor Jim Barnes concluded that unclear state laws on when, and by how much, a facility can increase its discharges into Lake Michigan led to the controversy over the permit.

But critics say the problems Barnes pointed out have yet to be resolved.

"I'm really concerned, based on the history in Indiana, that as the rules exist now, BP could happen again," said Brad Klein, attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. Read more.