In the News: Obama EPA adviser on Great Lakes says climate change will dictate restoration efforts

From the Metro-Cleveland:

Cameron Davis, Great Lakes 'czar' for the Obama administration, said today that climate change will drive future clean-up efforts on the lakes.
"I look at the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as a climate change adaptation effort," Davis said in Cleveland this afternoon at a press briefing at the Great Lakes Science Center prior to the final public hearing of the a federal task force on oceans and the Great Lakes. "Everything that we're trying to do -- we, meaning the EPA and its 15 federal partners -- is designed to address the kind of stressors that we're likely to see coming to the Great Lakes as a result of climate change." Read more.


In the News: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative clears congressional conference committee

From the Great Lakes Commission:
One of the most ambitious environmental restoration efforts ever proposed for the Great Lakes appears imminent following the emergence from a House-Senate conference committee of legislation providing $475 million for a comprehensive Great Lakes restoration and protection initiative.

“We call on the House and Senate to approve, and the President to sign into law, the conference committee report. Our region is well prepared and ready to get to work cleaning up polluted hot spots and restoring recreational opportunities that are vital to local economies,” said Great Lakes Commission Chairman Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was proposed by President Barack Obama in his 2010 budget to focus on the most critical environmental concerns facing the Great Lakes, including invasive species, toxic sediments, nonpoint source pollutants and wildlife habitat loss. Following passage by the House at the $475 million funding level sought by President Obama, the measure was approved by the Senate at $400 million. A conference committee announced agreement yesterday on $475 million to support the first year of the Initiative. Read more.


In the News: Freshwater species making comeback in Great Lakes region

From the Toledo Blade:
The mighty lake sturgeon - an odd-looking North American fish that has been on Earth no fewer than 150 million years and that coexisted with dinosaurs for at least 85 million years - is making a comeback in the Great Lakes region after nearly going extinct in the early 1900s. Read more.


Bringing more local fish to a market near you

Kwamena Quagrainie, IISG aquaculture marketing specialist, has been awarded $60,000 by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to help fish farmers develop new marketing strategies. He will assess the preferences for fresh-on-ice fish at ethnic markets, traditional meat and fish markets, and independent grocery stores. He will also study processor purchase requirements of wild-caught fish from the Great Lakes. The goal of this project is to encourage processing of farmed fish and aid the development of marketing strategies that integrate fresh farm-raised fish products into existing fresh seafood markets in Chicago and the larger region.


In the News: Obama's EPA cracks down, orders more tests for BP refinery

From the Chicago Tribune:
The Obama administration is cracking down on BP as the oil company overhauls its massive refinery in northwest Indiana, one of the largest sources of air pollution in the Chicago area.

In response to a petition from environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday ordered Indiana regulators to revamp a new operating permit for the Midwest's biggest refinery. The groups, along with elected officials in Illinois, contend Indiana had allowed the oil giant to avoid stringent requirements under the federal Clean Air Act. Read more.


Zelda and Helga Put in an Appearance at Midwest Teachers Conference

IISG education specialists are offering two workshop presentations as part of the Midwest Environmental Education Conference that is taking place October 14-17 at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign, Illinois.

Robin Goettel
and Terri Hallesy will join with Natalie Carroll, Purdue University Extension and Madonna Weese, University of Illinois Extension, to discuss “Students as Stewards for Change: Informing Their Community about Proper Disposal of Unwanted Medicines.” Goettel and Hallesy will also have some fun discussing costumes characters as learning tools in the workshop “Zelda Meets Helga on the Aquatic View” in which a “spokesmussel” and invasive hydrilla tell stories of their population explosion in the Midwest and southern regions.

For more information about the conference, visit the conference website.


Invasive Hydroid May Strain Food Source of Young Fish

As if Lake Michigan fish don’t have enough competition for resources. An Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant study has found that the diet of an invasive freshwater hydroid includes organisms that are an important food source for young-of-the-year and bottom-dwelling fish.

Cordylophora caspia typically eats larval zebra and quagga mussels,” said Nadine Folino-Rorem, Wheaton College biologist. “However, when those sources are not readily available, the hydroid can feed on other invertebrates, which potentially affects prey availability for fish.” Folino-Rorem, along with Martin Berg, a Loyola University Chicago biologist, studied the distribution and diet of C. caspia in Lake Michigan.

The hydroid lives in freshwater and brackish or slightly salty habitats. The freshwater colonial hydroid is native to the Caspian and Black Seas. C. caspia colonies consist of several polyps or individuals approximately one millimeter long that are interconnected by their gastrovascular cavities. Colonies grow on hard surfaces; in southern Lake Michigan, C. caspia can be found in harbors on rocks, piers, pilings, and on clusters of zebra and quagga mussels.

The researchers found C. caspia in all eight Chicago harbors sampled as well as at two offshore sites. In fact, the population of the freshwater hydroid is growing in Lake Michigan. Folino-Rorem speculates that this may be due in part to street salts washing into the lake and changing water quality. “C. caspia thrives in higher salinity,” she explained.

The researchers also found that the freshwater hydroid can eat organisms—chironomids-- that are two to three times its size. “This was often accomplished by working together,” said Folino-Rorem. “When one polyp gets a hold of a chironomid, the organism can continue to thrash about until another polyp latches onto it too. The two polyps engulf the chironomid, sometimes meeting in the middle.”

C. caspia is limited in its range due to its need to colonize on hard surfaces—Lake Michigan’s muddy bottom does not provide a hospitable habitat. However, the recent spread of quagga mussels may increase the amount of available substrate for attachment. Unlike zebra mussels, quagga mussels can colonize the soft, muddy bottoms found in deeper areas. According to Tom Nalepa, a NOAA biologist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 99 percent of what his team finds when sampling offshore in southern Lake Michigan waters is quagga mussels.

“They are more efficient than zebra mussels in using food resources,” he said. “And they tolerate cooler temperatures. We found that the number of quagga mussels in deep and in shallow waters far exceeds zebra mussel numbers even at their peak.”

For C. caspia, the spread of quagga mussels may prove beneficial in terms of expanding their range to offshore waters. For fish populations, this may prove to be more bad news.


IDEM offers free unwanted medicines workshop

Due to advances in medical technology, more people are using medication to maintain their health and vitality, but for many reasons, entire prescriptions are not always entirely consumed.

Because their disposal is becoming an environmental, public safety, and criminal concern, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and other organizations are facilitating a free, unwanted medicines workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, at the IUPUI Campus Center in Indianapolis. Registration deadline is Nov. 12, 2009.

“Public health, natural resource and environmental experts have determined that flushing unwanted medicines is no longer an acceptable practice,” said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. “Many medicines pass through wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems, ending up in streams, lakes and groundwater. We want to help educate collection sites about how to properly dispose of the pharmaceuticals.”

This workshop will provide information and tools for community unwanted medicine collection programs, as well as for pharmacies and medical facilities to safely manage unwanted medicines. Presenters will focus on alternatives to flushing, including best practices from solid waste facilities in Indiana and surrounding states.

Topics to be discussed include: why unwanted medicine disposal is a problem, wastewater treatment issues, unwanted medication handling and disposal, and an update on legislation regarding unwanted medicine collection and disposal.

In addition to IDEM, sponsors include: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program, Indiana Board of Pharmacy, Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force, Indiana Pharmacists Alliance and Eli Lilly.

For more information, contact IDEM’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Technical Assistance at 1-800-988-7901, e-mail: kbrier@idem.in.gov or sboggs@idem.in.gov, or visit the IDEM web site.


In the News: Climate change report details impact on Indiana Dunes

From the Post-Tribune:
Climate change could increase the number of invasive species at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, limit the number of trout and salmon, and reduce the opportunity to snow shoe at the park, according to a report released Thursday by two environmental groups.

As the Post-Tribune reported Wednesday, the report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization says climate change is a threat to the park's diverse ecosystem. The report ranks the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as one of the 25 national parks most threatened by climate change. Read more.