12/20/10

In the news: High levels of chromium found in Chicago-area tap water

From the Chicago Tribune:
The cancer-causing metal made infamous by the movie "Erin Brockovich" is turning up in tap water from Chicago and more than two dozen other cities, according to a new study that urges federal regulators to adopt tougher standards.

Even though scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program have linked the ingestion of hexavalent chromium to cancer, the EPA doesn't require Chicago or other cities to test for the toxic metal. Nor does the EPA limit the dangerous form of chromium in drinking water.

To take a snapshot of what is flowing through taps across the nation, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, hired an independent laboratory that found the metal in treated drinking water from 31 cities. The amount in Lake Michigan water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs was 0.18 parts per billion, three times higher than a safety limit California officials proposed last year. Read more.

12/17/10

In the news: $47 million in new projects to fight Asian carp

From the Detroit Free Press:
Federal and state agencies announced $47 million worth of new projects Thursday to combat Asian carp and prevent their spread to the Great Lakes.

The 13 projects include a new laboratory in Wisconsin that will do increased DNA sampling for Asian carp around the lakes, aiming to take 120 samples per week. Scientists also will try to find genetic markers in the fish that can be used to help determine where they are.

The agencies also are looking at 18 risky pathways from New York to Minnesota that the fish could use to get into the lakes, hoping to find ways to block them. They also will study whether steel-hulled barges passing through electrified barriers near Chicago might be providing the fish a free ride, protecting them from the electric charge that is meant to repel them. Read more.

12/16/10

In the news: EarthTalk: What is Global Dimming?

From the Environmental News Network:
Global dimming is a less well-known but real phenomenon resulting from atmospheric pollution. The burning of fossil fuels by industry and internal combustion engines, in addition to releasing the carbon dioxide that collects and traps the sun's heat within our atmosphere, causes the emission of so-called particulate pollution—composed primarily of sulphur dioxide, soot and ash. When these particulates enter the atmosphere they absorb solar energy and reflect sunlight otherwise bound for the Earth's surface back into space. Read more.

12/13/10

Wednesday NOAA Brown Bag: Medicine collection programs and beyond

As part of the NOAA Brown Bag Series, this Wednesday, December 15, IISG Coastal Sediment Specialist Susan Boehme will provide updates and insights into efforts to prevent unwanted medicines from ending up in lakes, rivers, and drinking water. Her talk will be held from 12:00-1:00 p.m. EST in the NOAA Central Library.

You can see her talk via webinar by signing up here a few minutes before it the scheduled time. Afterwards, you can also find Susan's talk archived.

Here is her abstract:

Unwanted Medicines and Educating our Communities: What Have we Learned, How are we Doing and What are the Next Steps? Experiences from the Great Lakes States
Medicines are produced in increasing volumes every year. With this growth comes concern regarding environmental fate of unwanted medicines. Recent studies identified pharmaceutical compounds in fresh and marine waters nationwide, and several of these bioactive compounds are potentially harmful to aquatic organisms, even in small quantities. Additionally, improper medicine disposal poses poisoning risks to children, the elderly and pets and can lead to drug/identity theft. Unused medicines may accumulate in homes or be flushed, placed in the trash, or given to others, all of which have significant disadvantages. One approach for decreasing amounts of unwanted medicines reaching the environment is the organization of collection programs that ensure safer methods of disposal. This presentation will describe the status of our efforts in the Great Lakes Region including collection programs, outreach and education with an eye toward what is still needed, and what should be our next steps to expand the program nationally. Should we focus more on the front end of the cycle including drug manufacturing, and reducing the amounts of waste from the home, or should we focus on non-residential waste of pharmaceuticals including confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), hospitals and clinics? Where do we go from here?

12/9/10

IISG announces new research Request for Proposals

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute issues this joint call for proposals to continue to address the most pressing data gaps for modeling the effect of aquatic invasive species (AIS) on Lake Michigan food webs. Several important factors that drive Lake Michigan food webs (i.e., nutrient cycling, event responses, light gradient effects, temperature, circulation patterns, etc.) were identified during a 2008 Lake Michigan Food Web Workshop. The workshop was organized by the Great Lakes Regional Research Information Network, a collaboration of U.S. EPA-Great Lakes National Program Office, NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, and the Sea Grant programs.

Collaborative proposals between Illinois, Indiana and/or Wisconsin-based researchers are preferred. Illinois and Indiana-based researchers should submit preproposals to IISG. Wisconsin-based partners should submit an identical preproposal to Wisconsin Sea Grant. Research is to be conducted in the 2012–2013 biennium. Up to $125,000 per year for two years will be available for funding the Illinois-Indiana portion of research projects. The funds requested by Illinois and Indiana researchers must be matched by at least one nonfederal dollar for every two federal dollars requested.

Preproposals are due January 24, 2011. See the full RFP for more information.

In the news: Lake Michigan: home to almost 900 trillion quagga mussels

From Medill Reports:
Asian carp get all the headlines lately, but another invader, present in the trillions, is already devastating the ecosystem in Lake Michigan: the quagga mussel.

“Asian carp is a concern, in terms of what it’s going to do to the Great Lakes basin,” said Gary Fahnenstiel, senior ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Muskegon, Mich. “But right now, Lake Michigan is being devastated by the quagga mussel.” Read more.

12/8/10

NOAA Brown Bag talks star two IISG speakers

In the span of a week, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will have two speakers at NOAA Brown Bag seminars. Today, December 8, Priscilla Viana, IISG Knauss Fellow, will give a talk titled Transport of contaminants from sediments to the water column and environmental remediation strategies. On December 15, Susan Boehme, coastal sediment specialist, will present Unwanted Medicines and Educating our Communities: What Have we Learned, How are we Doing and What are the Next Steps? Experiences from the Great Lakes States.

These talks are held from 12:00-1:00 p.m. ET in the NOAA Central Library. For remote access via webinar, you can register even as late as a few minutes before. You can also find these talks archived.

Here is Priscilla's abstract for today's talk:
Transport of contaminants from sediments to the water column and environmental remediation strategies

Contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metal contaminants have accumulated on the bottom of rivers and lakes due to chemical interactions and transformations and due to their relatively long environmental persistence. Gas ebullition, in addition to normally occurring diffusive and advective transport of contaminants, increases contaminant availability to the bioactive zone and water column. Increased incidences of fish disease and decreased species biodiversity in pollution-impacted benthic/aquatic environments are some of the costs to ecological and human health posed by these contaminants.

My study focuses on quantifying and modeling the transport of contaminants from sediments to the water column and on investigating the effectiveness of active capping as a mitigation strategy to minimize the release of these contaminants. Active capping both isolates contaminated sediments from the water phase while offering degradation and/or sequestration of contaminants by the active materials. I modeled the transport of Cd, Cr, Pb, Ag, As, Ba, Hg, CH3Hg and CN through sand (25 cm), granular activated carbon (GAC, 2 cm), organoclay (2 cm), shredded tires (10 cm) and apatite (2 cm) caps by deterministic and Monte Carlo methods. Sand caps performed best under diffusion due to the greater diffusive path length. Apatite had the best advective performance for Cd, Cr and Pb. Organoclay performed best for Ag, As, Ba, CH3Hg and CN. Organoclay and apatite were equally effective for Hg. Monte Carlo analysis was used to determine output sensitivity. Sand was effective under diffusion for Cr within the 50% confidence interval (CI), for Cd and Pb (75% CI) and for As, Hg and CH3Hg (95% CI). Under diffusion and advection, apatite was effective for Cd, Pb and Hg (75% CI) and organoclay for Hg and CH3Hg (50% CI). GAC and shredded tires performed relatively poorly. Although no single cap is a panacea, apatite and organoclay have the broadest range of effectiveness.
I am also quantifying and modeling metal contaminant and PAH transport from the sediment to the water column due to gas ebullition as recent research suggests that another important factor affecting cap performance is gas ebullition due to organic matter biodegradation primarily under methanogenic conditions. Gas bubbles may damage the cap layer, opening preferential holes in the cap or even rupture the cap. Additionally, my results demonstrate that gas ebullition may be an important pathway for release of PAH and heavy metal pollutants to the water column. Comparison of diffusive and advective release rates (measured through a benthic chamber study) to field ebullition facilitated rates suggest that PAHs are released at >10 times greater rates by biogenic gas production. Although the increase in release rate is not as great for metals, ebullition facilitated release rates are frequently much greater.

Using our field study and modeling results, we worked with the Wetlands Initiative and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD-GC) to improve the stewardship of the highly contaminated local aquatic resources. We proposed placement of an organoclay mat with an underlying sloped sand layer and a high permeability gas venting system to allow biogenically-produced gas migration to shoreline collectors through an innovative support grid. The project design included an overlaying wetland to remove nutrients from the adjoining Chicago River and to provide a public recreational space.

12/7/10

Do you know what an invasive species is?

Laura Hlinka's 8th grade class at Urbana Middle School created this public service announcement about invasive species. They worked closely with University of Illinois students who took part in a community stewardship course this semester.

12/3/10

Watch the premiere of "Scrub Scrub Your Boat before You Float"

Here is the video of the premiere of "Scrub Your Boat before You Float," an new exhibit at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum in Champaign, Illinois. The students from Zanne Neuman's 4th grade class from Stratton Elementary School in Champaign, Illinois presented a skit to highlight the main points of their exhibit.

In the news: Judge won't close Chicago locks to keep out Asian carp

From Chicago Breaking News Center:
A federal judge blocked a third and perhaps final attempt today to close Chicago area shipping locks, saying Asian carp do not appear to be an imminent threat and closing the locks might not keep them from reaching Lake Michigan anyway.

In a long-awaited ruling, U.S. district court Judge Robert M. Dow said "the bottom line is that even giving every benefit of doubt ... squeezing that testimony for every ounce of weight ... plaintiffs cannot establish a showing of irreparable harm" that would justify a preliminary injunction closing the locks. Read more.

12/2/10

"Scrub Your Boat before You Float!" Premieres at Orpheum Children's Science Museum



"Scrub Your Boat before You Float!" premiered as a new exhibit at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum on November 30th. The students from Zanne Neuman's 4th grade class from Stratton Elementary School in Champaign, Illinois presented a skit to highlight the main points of their exhibit. A key feature of the exhibit, the students designed a hands-on activity of scraping off "simulated zebra mussels" from a boat so they will not spread to other waterways.

12/1/10

In the news: Shoreline future could use input

From the Post-Tribune:
How can the National Park Service protect the shoreline of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the next two decades?

How can park managers keep out Asian carp and invasive plants? How could water quality be improved? Should the park work harder on getting communities to reduce combined sewer overflows? And do you have an idea for a long-term solution to the problem of sand moving away from the beaches east of Michigan City that's better than paying to replenish the sand every several years?

Now's the time to voice your ideas and concerns. The National Park Service is collecting public comments before putting together a draft plan to address those issues for the next 15-20 years. Read more.

11/29/10

Community Stewardship Fair Highlights Invasive Species Projects

University of Illinois students will be teaming up with local elementary and middle school students on December 2 at a Community Stewardship Fair in the Robeson Pavilion at the Champaign Public Library from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

The fair is the final event in a service-learning course—NRES 285: Community Stewardship through Environmental Education—in which 16 students use Nab the Aquatic Invader!, a science-based website, and other interactive resources to bring the issue of aquatic invasive species to local schools, including Stratton Elementary School, Franklin Middle School and Urbana Middle School.

Under the guidance of their student leaders, the local school children formed community partnerships with local organizations, such as the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and a WILL radio spot—Environmental Almanac —to create community stewardship projects, which will be used by the partners in the future.

One partner, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, will provide the location for “Scrub Your Boat Before You Float!,” a new ongoing exhibit and community stewardship project. The children have also written a skit that they will perform on November 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the museum. Other partnership projects include public service announcements and public information materials.

The fair—hosted by the U of I Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, IISG and the U of I Center for Teaching Excellence—gives the University students and the children an opportunity to present their projects to the public. “This is an empowering opportunity for the students to showcase their exemplary work and to interact with family, friends, and the public in an educational forum that is both engaging and meaningful,” says IISG Education Specialist Terri Hallesy.

In the news: Lake invaders may be killing birds

From the Chicago Tribune:
The hunt is on in the upper reaches of Lake Michigan to count what's believed to be thousands of bird carcasses that have washed ashore this fall — a staggering toll blamed on the disruptive powers of invasive species that have taken root in the Great Lakes.

The great debate in the Asian carp crisis, still playing out in federal court and the halls of Congress, is whether the feared fish has the capability of establishing a thriving population in the Great Lakes. If so, bighead and silver carp will almost certainly, and dramatically, alter commercial and recreational fishing in the nation's largest freshwater body.

But what if, as some scientists suggest, the Great Lakes' natural defenses — plankton shortages, lower water temperatures, greater water depth and swift-moving currents — keep Asian carp from sustaining themselves in large numbers? Will the threat have been avoided?

The answer is that all invasive species bring consequences that few can predict, leading scientists to ponder the thousands of gulls, loons, mergansers and other migratory birds whose remains wash ashore along the white-sand beaches in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula each fall.

There is a somewhat controversial theory for this annual die-off, which by some estimates has claimed more than 100,000 birds in the last 15 years, and it involves a type of naturally occurring but deadly botulism linked to the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which entered the Great Lakes decades ago aboard ocean vessels. Read more.

11/22/10

It's fellowship application season!

IISG is pleased to announce five fellowship opportunities for 2011. Please visit our fellowship page for more information. For questions, please contact Angela Archer.

John A. Knauss Fellowship
The Knauss fellowship provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, costal and Great Lakes resources and in national policy decisions. The program matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branches of government in the Washington, D.C. area for a one year paid fellowship.

Application deadline – February 18, 2011

National Marine Fisheries Service/Sea Grant Fellowship in Population Dynamics
Doctoral candidates interested in the population dynamics of living marine resources and the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing their status can receive up to three years of funding.

Application deadline – January 21, 2011

National Marine Fisheries Service/Sea Grant Fellowship in Marine Resource Economics
Doctoral students studying marine resource economics, concentrating on the conservation and management of living marine resources, can receive two years of funding.

Application deadline – January 21, 2011

Coastal Management Fellowship
This fellowship program matches postgraduate students with state coastal zone programs to work on projects proposed by the state and selected by the fellowship sponsor, the NOAA Coastal Services Center. This two-year opportunity offers a competitive salary, medical benefits, and travel and relocation expense reimbursement.

Application deadline – January 28, 2011

Great Lakes Commission/Sea Grant Fellowship
One fellow will work for one year with members of Great Lakes' science policy and information/education communities to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development goals of the Great Lakes states. The fellowship is located at the Great Lakes Commission office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Application deadline – January 31, 2011

11/18/10

IISG announces another call for 'seed' project proposals

IISG has limited discretionary funds to invest in promising research, outreach and graduate student projects. IISG is especially interested in investing in programs that would benefit from “seed” or “completion” funds, or in graduate students who will use funding to enhance thesis or dissertation research. Funding can be used in one of the following three ways:

• To conduct preliminary data collection that will be used to submit an expanded proposal to another funding source (seed projects).
• For development or implementation of an outreach component that would bridge the gap between research and an impact, e.g. behavior change, policy change (completion projects).
• To provide support for graduate student research that would improve a thesis or dissertation (graduate student projects).

All projects should focus on one of our ten core topic areas. The topics include:


• Aquaculture
• Aquatic Invasive Species
• Climate Change
• Coastal Restoration
• Fish Consumption
• Great Lakes Health (especially Lake Michigan
• Land Use Planning
• Pharmaceuticals
• Water Quality
• Water Supply

Special consideration will be given to projects addressing IISG’s most recent research topic area, Climate Change, and projects investigating issues related to emerging contaminants (e.g., pharmaceuticals, personal care products and coal tar sealants). Visit our research page for more information on these core topic areas.

We anticipate funding 3-8 seed or completion projects and 3-8 graduate student projects depending on how well the pre-proposals meet IISG objectives and demonstrate rationale, rigor, and potential for growth. Selected pre-proposals meeting award criteria will be invited to submit full documentation through appropriate institutional mechanisms (i.e., appropriate institutional grants and contract office).

Funding will be provided for approximately one year beginning January 15, 2011, or the date of the award, and must be completed by December 30, 2011.

You can read the whole announcement here. Questions regarding eligibility or pre-proposal requirements may be directed to Carolyn Foley, assistant research coordinator.

11/16/10

In the news: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas

From the New York Times:
Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.

But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.

As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over. Read more.

11/15/10

IISG is searching for a new Great Lakes ecosystem system specialist

This specialist will maintain and expand an extension and technology transfer program emphasizing problem-solving assistance and the delivery of research-based information to coastal community decision-makers, policy makers, natural resource managers, and agency professionals. Responsibilities include Engaging university scientists, GLNPO, agency personnel, and Sea Grant staff to improve access to and use of Great Lakes data and facilitate indicator development, indicator reporting, and applied research needed to inform policy and management decisions. This specialist will lead programs and develop products to transfer indicator and monitoring results to targeted client groups to inform policy and management decisions that can sustain or improve ecosystems. This full time position will be located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago, Illinois.

For more information, visit the Purdue University employment page

11/11/10

Ensuring future water supply includes conservation

Margaret Schneemann (left), water resource economist with IISG and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and Bud Mason (center), technical assistance provider for the Rural Community Assistance Program, have partnered together to help address financial management and rate setting issues faced by local utilities. This partnership came about through the northeastern Illinois water supply plan, WATER2050, developed by CMAP and the Regional Water Supply Planning Group, and the continuing partnership between IISG and CMAP.

Earlier this month, CMAP launched the region’s new comprehensive plan, GOTO2040. GOTO2040 emphasizes that our communities can be more livable if, among other things, we combine land use and water supply planning, and if we implement water conservation and efficiency strategies described in WATER2050. Meanwhile, the population in the region is predicted to increase by 25 percent by 2040. CMAP’s Tim Loftus, who directed WATER2050, explains, “Therein lies the central issue … How does the region accommodate millions more people with water supplies that are constrained? To avoid future shortages, water providers need to work together and consumers need to increase conservation.”

These are issues with which McHenry County Water Resources Manager Cassandra McKinney (right) is very familiar. McKinney worked over the past three years to develop the McHenry County Groundwater Resources Action Plan (WRAP) and is now bringing a series of speakers to the county to address the plan’s key implementation areas, including water conservation and rate setting.

On October 14, Schneemann and Mason spoke to the McHenry Groundwater Task Force on Water Conservation and Rate Setting on their technical assistance efforts in the region and how these could help the county implement WRAP. “Key to our efforts” McKinney said, is “proactively reaching out to stakeholders to ensure that our water supply planning efforts are coordinated with state and regional planning efforts through events such as this.”

11/4/10

IISG has opening for community decisionmaking specialist

This is a visiting 12 month, 100 percent time academic professional position working as an outreach specialist through IISG and located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) in Chicago, Illinois. This individual will work closely with GLNPO personnel, faculty and staff from the University of Illinois, Great Lakes Sea Grant programs, and other federal agencies.

This specialist is responsible for working with coastal communities and targeted client groups to assist them in making informed science-based decisions relative to:

* Options for management, monitoring, protection, and restoration of coastal habitats.
* Local policies and programs needed to reduce pollution and toxics reaching the community’s surface waters.
* Local policies or programs needed to improve indicators of Great Lakes quality.
* Options for delisting Beneficial Use Impairments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

Closing date for this position is November 30, 2010. For job details and other pertinent information, visit the position announcement page or contact Lisa Merrifield.

IISG is looking for an environmental social scientist

IISG announces the opening of a new position in the program--Visiting Environmental Social Scientist. This is a visiting 12 month, 100 percent time academic professional position working as an outreach specialist through IISG with a 0 percent time appointment in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. This position is located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office(GLNPO) in Chicago, Illinois. This individual will work closely with GLNPO personnel, faculty and staff from UIUC, Great Lakes Sea Grant Programs, and other federal agencies.

Closing date for this position is November 30, 2010. For job details and other pertinent information, visit the position announcement page or contact Lisa Merrifield.

IISG 'Hööks' new research coordinator

IISG’s new research coordinator is Tomas Höök, an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. Höök received his BS, MS and PhD from the University of Michigan and prior to coming to Purdue he worked at the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research and as a visiting scientist at Stockholm University, Sweden. His area of expertise is fisheries and aquatic sciences with a focus on fish and fisheries ecology in the Laurentian Great Lakes.

11/1/10

Too little, too late: Not enough food in Great Lakes to support Asian carp?

The threat of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes may not be as dire as some fear. According an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant study, the lakes’ open waters do not provide sufficient food for the fish to grow.

Asian carp species—for example, bighead and silver carp—are filter feeders. They eat microscopic plankton that provides the base of the food chain. Since these fish grow quite large, they potentially pose a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem if they thrive in these waters.

With funding from NOAA-National Sea Grant College Program, Sandra Cooke and Water Hill, Illinois Natural History Survey ecologists, sought to answer the question of whether Asian carp can survive and thrive in the nutrient-poor Great Lakes. They estimated the energy required for the carp to survive and grow, taking into account varying body sizes, swimming speeds and reproductive stages. These numbers were analyzed in light of available food sources in the Great Lakes.

According to their modeling results, there may be sufficient plankton in some harbors and other near shore areas, but not in open waters. “Flourishing populations of filter-feeding Asian carp are historically associated with conditions that feature abundant phytoplankton and zooplankton,” said Hill. “Most areas of the Great Lakes feature relatively low abundances of these plankton.”

Ironically, the carp may just be late to the Great Lakes plankton buffet because other invasive species have already depleted the supply. “Prior invasions of the Great Lakes by zebra and quagga mussels have reduced the potential for the carp to establish populations because these mussels have reduced plankton biomass,” said Hill. “They are filter feeders too.”

But don’t write the carp off in the Great Lakes altogether. Cooke and Hill speculates that bighead and silver carp may still have significant impact on fish communities in areas where there is sufficient plankton—in harbors and nearshore areas, as well as other productive locations such as Green Bay and western Lake Erie. “Many nearshore habitats can serve as important nurseries for larval fish, including walleye and alewives,” said Cooke.

The situation is also subject to change. For example, climate change may lead to conditions in which plankton are more abundant. An increase in nutrient levels can have the same effect. As plankton numbers increase, so does the likelihood that the carp will grow and thrive.

Hill does not see these results as a reason to relent on efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. “Given the potential consequences to Great Lakes ecosystems if these filter feeders do prove capable of establishing reproducing populations, efforts to keep Asian carp out the Great Lakes must not be lessened,” he said. Rather, this work can provide insight for resource managers to direct their monitoring and prevention efforts to areas that are most at risk.

Results from this research are published in the October 2010 issue of Freshwater Biology (55).

10/27/10

IISG Knauss fellow working on key NSF ocean issues

Priscilla Viana is a Knauss Sea Grant fellow in the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) at the National Science Foundation. She is involved in several programs related to aquatic sciences, and their interactions with earth and atmosphere.

Here is her latest report:
During the first months of my fellowship, I worked in the Ecology of Infectious Disease (EID) and in the Ocean Acidification (OA) Programs. These activities enhanced my ability to write grant proposals. I have learned how to address the NSF intellectual merit and broader impact criteria, how panelists and program officers evaluate a proposal and the main components of an awarded proposal.

The EID program is supported by the Biological Sciences and the Geosciences/OCE Directorates of the NSF and by the NIH. I helped in the proposal review process and attended a workshop at Atlantic City, NJ, where principal investigators presented ongoing and past EID project results. This year we reviewed about 70 proposals and 10 grants were awarded with a total investment of about $12 million.

After my first contact with the NSF proposal review process, I worked in the OA Program, which is a new competition supported and managed by the Office of Polar Programs, Directorate for Geosciences, and Directorate for Biological Sciences of the NSF. It was very useful to gain knowledge of all steps related to the implementation of a new program. I participated in the expert panel, responsible for reviewing about 120 proposals, and in the funding decision process. 22 grants were awarded with a total investment of about $24 million.

After the OA program, I became involved in the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification (IWG-OA). The IWG-OA is composed by members of the NSF, as well as from NOAA, U.S. EPA, U.S. FWS, U.S. Navy, Department of State, NASA, USGS and BOEMRE. We are preparing the strategic research plan on OA requested by the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 (FOARAM Act). This report will be submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, and to the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives. Its objectives are to understand the current research status, identify gaps that need to be filled and establish near and long term OA monitoring, research and modeling priorities. This strategic plan will also identify technology development and data management needs, assess the socioeconomic impacts of OA and recommend strategies to conserve marine organisms and ecosystems. It has been a very rewarding experience to learn about the role of different agencies and organizations in planning policy initiatives, while also being in contact with academic and agency scientists.

I also worked with my supervisor Phil Taylor (Head of the NSF Ocean Section), NOAA, USGS, BOEMRE and NIH to coordinate the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill Principal Investigator’s Conference held in St. Petersburg on October 5-6, 2010. The meeting was sponsored by the National Science and Technology Council’s Joint Sub-Committee on Ocean Science and Technology (NSTC JSOST). The conference was a joint effort of multidisciplinary parties. Researchers were invited to summarize recent advances from the current studies associated with the DWH spill, to identify research challenges, and to foster collaboration. Agencies actively conducting DWH oil spill related research, monitoring, and sampling, as well as representatives from the NSTC JSOST agencies, focused on identifying in conjunction with researchers short and long term research directions, and on developing recommendations to improve future oil spill response action. More information about this meeting can be found at: http://www.marine.usf.edu/conferences/fio/NSTC-JSOST-PI/

I am starting the ninth month of my fellowship. I have now a better idea of how policy is made and the importance of having scientists contributing to the policy making process. The effective management of marine resources can only be achieved when scientists are included in policy debates and are able to inform policy makers about the importance of their findings. I have gained a broad experience helping to coordinate scientific meetings and helping to set research priorities on ocean acidification and on the DWH oil spill crisis.

Being a Knauss fellow involved in all these different activities has been an exciting and intensive learning experience. This fellowship is certainly enhancing my skill set to address issues of public policy and academic fields.

10/22/10

Earth Force teachers commit to medicine disposal project

Teachers from the Calumet region recently attended an Earth Force Watershed Workshop to learn about the issue of proper disposal of medicines as part of a Calumet Environmental Education Program at the Field Museum. In her presentation, IISG Education Specialist Terri Hallesy discussed two recently published curricula, Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines 4-H Guide and The Medicine Chest.

The workshop focused on leading teachers through the Earth Force six-step process, which incorporates democratic decision-making, to develop a community action project around the topic of watersheds. Teachers voted and selected to design a project on the issue of pharmaceutical contamination in our waters.

This project is funded by the U.S. EPA through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

10/21/10

Asian carp for sale: Marketing invasive species

The best way to fight the invasion of Asian carp may be to visit the fish counter at your local supermarket, if recommendations from the Asian Carp Marketing Summit come to pass. One conclusion from this gathering of experts is that filleting bighead and silver carp may prove a key tactic in the war against these fish.

Bighead and silver carp are thriving in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and as DNA traces and individual fish are found in or near Lake Michigan, concerns are high regarding the potentially devastating impact of these fish on the Great Lakes. The search is on for solutions.

“The summit was convened to identify obstacles and opportunities associated with commercial marketing of Asian carp as a way to reduce their numbers in the Mississippi River Basin, “ said Pat Charlebois, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) aquatic invasives specialist. This two-day event took place at the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. It was organized by IISG, with sponsorship from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.

Gathered together in one room were representatives from restaurants, commercial fishing, processing and related businesses, plus agencies, and academic institutions. Altogether, experts from eight states shared their insights and ideas.

"The tricky aspect about creating a marketing plan for an invasive species such as Asian carp is that we ideally want to eradicate them or at least greatly reduce their populations, so a sustainable fisheries is not the end goal," said Kristin TePas, IISG aquatic invasives extension associate. "Because large-scale marketing has not been used like this before, we have to be careful how we proceed. There is not precedence for what we're trying to achieve."

The experts agreed that high value Asian carp fillets marketed to restaurants and retailers may provide the financial incentive for extensive harvesting of these fish. Looking to have immediate impact, they also recommended that whole fish be exported in high numbers to Asian markets, where these species are popular food fish. Because they are filter feeders, bighead and silver carp are regarded as tasty fish and are generally low in contaminants.

Finally, they recommended converting Asian carp by-products into pet food or treats to eliminate waste and maximize profit opportunities.

“Over the course of the two days, the participants came to a consensus on next steps needed to go forward,” said Charlebois. “They concluded that it’s necessary for people with different expertise, for example, natural resource professionals and entrepreneurs, to work together to successfully market Asian carp.

“Nonetheless, this process will ultimately be driven by those who make their livelihood from the market itself,” added Charlebois. “Natural resource agencies can play a role by reducing commercial fishing restrictions and protecting natural resources. Government agencies focused on business can help a company obtain funding. But, ultimately the success of this is in the hands of business people.”

When the final summit report is completed, a summary of recommendations will be available online and updated as information progresses.

10/15/10

New IISG publication: Fend Off Flying Fish

Bighead and silver carp (aka Asian carp) don’t just pose an ecological threat, they pose a safety threat to boaters, especially in waters where their numbers are thick. Because Asian carp often jump several feet in the air when disturbed by boat motors, they can harm people who travel in infested waters.

IISG has a new downloadable factsheet--Fend Off Flying Fish--that provides nine practical safety tips for boating in Asian carp waters that can help you protect yourself and your passengers.

10/14/10

New IISG publication: Asian Carp Cuisine

In many parts of the world, Asian carp are known as dinner--these fish have a mild flavor that belies their unfortunate name. So perhaps we can try and eat our way out of the ecological threat they pose. IISG has created a publication--Asian Carp Cuisine--that provides a variety of recipes for preparing bighead and silver carp, including Jamaican Jerk Carp, and Silverfin Cakes, as well as smoked and fried Asian carp.

10/12/10

COSEE Great Lakes recognizes U.S. EPA's Paul Horvatin

On behalf of COSEE Great Lakes, Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education, presented Paul Horvatin, program manager with the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, with the Outstanding Partner Award in recognition and appreciation of his leadership and support. The dynamic partnership between U.S. EPA GLNPO and COSEE Great Lakes resulted in five successful R/V Lake Guardian workshops from 2005-2010. Dedicated Service Awards were also given to Beth Hinchey Malloy and Jackie Adams for their outreach work during the Lake Guardian training sessions. “They made the science of the Great Lakes come alive for our participants,” said COSEE Great Lakes Director Rosanne Fortner.

10/7/10

COSEE Great Lakes Enhances Knowledge, Teacher-Scientist Partnerships


The 5-year COSEE Great Lakes Project has led to significant knowledge gain, as well as a deeper understanding of the connection between the Great Lakes and the people in the region, including how they impact each other, according to the project’s evaluation results. COSEE Great Lakes curriculum has also enhanced teacher capabilities for accessing science information and integrating Great Lakes research into the school curriculum.

COSEE Great Lakes collaborators gathered at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio September 24-25 to celebrate the project’s successes. COSEE (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) Great Lakes is a National Science Foundation- and NOAA Sea Grant-funded project that paired classroom teachers and informal educators with university and agency researchers to inspire citizens to become more scientifically literate and environmentally responsible through standards-based science curricula and programs bridging ocean and freshwater sciences. This project has brought the science of the Great Lakes to “salty” coasts, while immersing students in the Great Lakes with new ocean literacy concepts and understandings.

COSEE Great Lakes has sponsored over 60 workshops, conferences, online learning opportunities, and other events throughout all five Great Lakes, including experiences on the U.S. EPA research vessel, the R/V Lake Guardian, as well as shoreline excursions led by scientists, natural resource managers, and representatives from Native American communities. The science-based experiences provided participants with knowledge about pressing issues in the region and opportunities to gain hands-on training in data collection and analysis.

At the summit, scientists expressed appreciation for opportunities to enhance their capability to engage in educational outreach to achieve broader impact. “I realize now and appreciate that the methodology of how to apply science concepts is more important than simply just supplying the content to educators,” said Nadine Folino-Rorem, COSEE Great Lakes scientist and summit panel member, Wheaton College.

“At the summit, there was a real commitment by the 53 educators, scientists, and COSEE Great Lakes staff to further our work together to foster Great Lakes literacy,” said Rosanne Fortner, COSEE Great Lakes director. As the grant ends, the COSEE Great Lakes team will explore new funding opportunities. COSEE Great Lakes staff members, who represent Sea Grant programs from around the basin will continue to foster collaborations through professional development opportunities for educators; scientist-educator partnerships (professional education and science conferences, science labs, research vessels, and schools); and student programming.

In the photo above, the educator and scientist participants at the summit each received a certificate of appreciation.

10/4/10

Illinois Water 2010 kicks off Wednesday

The Illinois Water Conference is just around the corner. Illinois Water 2010 will take place October 5-7 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign.

Conference highlights include: a featured talk by Robert Glennon, author of Water Follies and Unquenchable; sessions on Asian carp policy and management practices; the Green Infrastructure Act and implications for water supply; a student career panel; and much more. This year’s conference includes presentations by three IISG specialists—Martin Jaffe, environmental planning specialist, Margaret Schneemann, water resource economist, and Kristin TePas, aquatic invasives extension associate.

The Illinois Water Resource Center (IWRC) hosts this biennial event. Over the last 12 years, the conference has drawn agency personnel, academics, students, educators and community members from across the state for a glimpse at the latest scientific discoveries related to Illinois water systems. This year’s conference will focus on all aspects of water sustainability in the state.

IWRC is part of a nation-wide network of university-based water centers funded by the U.S. Geological Survey. IWRC facilitates research, promotes technology transfer, provides training of scientists and engineers through research support, and provides for competitive grants to be awarded under the Water Resources Research Act.

Visit the Illinois Water 2010 conference page or contact Lisa Merrifield for more information.

10/1/10

In the news: Water bills soak many in Chicago

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Last year, 68-year-old Anna Falco paid the City of Chicago $339.43 for water and sewer service for her home, a one-story bungalow in Bridgeport.

Just across the street, her neighbor, plumbing contractor Michael DiFoggio, paid only $175.59 -- a little over half as much -- even though his 7,231-square-foot home, complete with an indoor swimming pool, is five times the size of Falco's.

"I don't understand why my bill is bigger than his," said Falco. "He's got a bigger house. He's got a pool."

DiFoggio also has something else -- a water meter.

Falco does not. If she did, she would almost certainly pay less than she does now.

In Chicago, 71 percent of single-family homes, two-flats and other residential properties aren't charged for water on the basis of how much they actually use. Instead, the city calculates their water bills using a flawed, century-old formula that's based largely on the widths of their buildings and lots.

So Falco, who lives alone, and many of those 313,993 other homeowners without meters appear to be paying too much for water. And City Hall knows it. Read more.

9/30/10

In the news: Asian carp get competition

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
If huge, hungry Asian carp end up reaching Lake Michigan, their long-dreaded invasion might turn out to be less ferocious than once expected because a tiny competitor is gobbling up their primary food source, some Great Lakes researchers say.

The quagga mussel -- a thumbnail-sized foreign mullosk first spotted in the lakes two decades ago -- has devoured so much plankton in southern Lake Michigan that the entire food web is being altered, federal and university scientists say in a series of newly published articles. Read more.

9/27/10

In the news: Experts back feasibility of Lake solar facility

From the Post-Tribune:
Is it feasible to make electricity from the sun in often-cloudy northern Indiana?

"Yes," according to Joe Verrengia, senior administrator of Public Affairs for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Verrengia and other solar experts weighed in on whether a proposed $75 million, 137,000-panel solar energy plant planned for Schneider could be a viable source of energy. Read more.

9/17/10

In the news: Pines residents want EPA to take action on coal ash

From the Post-Tribune:
Residents from around the Great Lakes have lived with the effects of coal ash contamination for years: In Pines, Jan Nona's drinking water well was contaminated with cancer-causing pollutants from coal ash. In Illinois, the ash came down like snow on Mary Parks' house.

On Thursday, Nona and 17 of her fellow Pines residents trekked to Chicago to convince officials from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it's about time they begin to regulate the disposal of coal ash so others don't end up experiencing the same "devastation." Read more.

9/8/10

IISG Impacts: Today and Tomorrow

Did you know that Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant played a key role in the collection of four million medicine pills and four million pounds of ewaste in the Great Lakes region? Did you know that IISG’s educational website Nab the Aquatic Invader! is featured at the Smithsonian Museum?

IISG has four new impact statements that describe program actions, success stories, and new projects related to critical coastal issues. The publications--Sustainable Development, Aquatic Invasive Species, Medicine Collection Programs, and Water Resources--cover issues from Asian carp to smart growth, as well as water supply and pollution prevention. Learn about IISG’s research, outreach and education projects that empower local communities and individuals to sensibly manage southern Lake Michigan natural resources.

9/2/10

Knauss fellow pitches in on Deepwater Horizon crisis

Mike Allen is a 2010 IISG Knauss fellow who is situated in the Office of Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes in the NOAA Research Office. He is the primary liaison between NOAA's administrative headquarters and the three "wet labs" - the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL), the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab (AOML), and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab. Here is his latest dispatch from the field:

In the seven months of my fellowship, I’ve been exposed to a variety of opportunities and assignments in the world of NOAA. Early in my fellowship, I spent my time learning about the agency and planning for major headquarters events at the laboratories. For example, I visited the Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colorado (twice!) and the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, Florida. In mid-March, the ESRL team hosted a science review, presenting talks and posters highlighting their work on climate and weather observations, modeling, education, and technology. For example, ESRL is an incubator for many weather and climate technologies of the present that we take for granted and for those of the future (weather observations and models used by the national weather service, climate models used for the IPCC reports). Additionally, the lab has developed innovative educational tools, including Science on a Sphere® and Virtual Worlds, which bring science to millions of people across the world. If you get a chance to visit one of the 47 sites (and growing) around the world, I highly recommend it.

Similarly, I organized a visit to Miami in April to develop better ties between headquarters staff and laboratory staff and researchers. We spent a day listening to and engaging AOML scientists on their ongoing work: hurricane observations and forecasts, physical oceanography, and ecosystem scale studies in South Florida and on coral reefs. On our second day, we spent time talking about pressing issues facing the laboratory and all of NOAA.

Currently, I am organizing trips to the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Life took a left turn in April when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform “erupted” in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA headquarters kicked into high gear organizing response activities, and I was brought onboard to help organize the NOAA Research Office’s collection of activities. For the better part of the last four months, I have worked with leadership to track our activities, and with our laboratories to develop and submit science proposals and to secure reimbursement and new funding for completed, ongoing and proposed activities. The crisis has given me a new perspective on the role and magnitude of governmental action in the face of a crisis, and exposed me to a variety of new and unexpected endeavors (e.g., finance and budget). As the crisis mode winds down, I find myself reflecting on how much has happened and what progress has been made to understand the influence of oil on the Gulf ecosystem. We will surely be evaluating the impacts of this tragedy for years to come.

So with less than half of my fellowship left to go, the time quickly approaches to start considering future prospects. Throughout the fellowship program, we have been offered opportunities to learn about different organizations, expand our knowledge of the Federal sector, and increase our skill set through trainings and seminars. In fact, we have a jobs seminar coming up at the end of September. While I am unsure where I may be in six months, I am confident that this fellowship has placed me in a much better position for the future. I am certainly more aware of the opportunities available to scientists outside academia. I strongly encourage others to consider applying for the Knauss Fellowship. Spend a year in DC… you won’t regret it!

9/1/10

IISG in the news: Area is one of the richest in biodiversity

IISG's Aquatic Ecologist Leslie Dorworth quoted in the Post-Tribune about the ecological richness of the Little Calumet region:
The flood control levee protecting residents and businesses along the Little Calumet River between Interstate 65 and the Illinois state line is more than just a concrete and earthen barrier.

State and local environmentalists, conservationists and wildlife biologists say it harbors rare and endangered flora and fauna species and offers tremendous recreational potential in the backyard of an urbanized area.

"It's one of the best kept secrets around," said John Ervin, a coastal ecologist in the DNR's division of nature preserves. Ervin said, botanically speaking, the Calumet Region at the southern tip of Lake Michigan has the highest concentration of plant diversity on the continent.

"We're in a botanical gold mine," he said. "The Dune Swale is a rare and unique thing noticed early on by botanists. And the Little Calumet River is an important waterway and its shoreline highly productive."

He said last year a cougar was spotted near Chicago and bobcat traces have been found in the area for the first time in decades.

"The whole region surrounding the Little Calumet is a national treasure," he said. "There's this string of pearls of natural areas and 13 preserves and land trusts throughout the region and people need to go out and experience them."

Leslie Dorworth, an aquatic ecology specialist at Purdue University Calumet who works for the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant, a bi-state research and outreach program, said the Little Calumet corridor includes endangered plant species and a wealth of birds, mammals and reptiles.

"And most people barely notice it's there," Dorworth said. "They don't seem to know what's around them or maybe they just don't bother looking up. It has the full opportunity to be something more than a forgotten local river." Read more.

8/31/10

In the news: After 25 years, Lake Michigan refuge fails to nurture wild lake trout

From the Great Lakes Echo:
Any lake trout pulled from the wild blue waters of Lake Michigan now was probably born in a government building.

That’s despite a 45-year-old, multi-million-dollar program aimed at restoring a self-sustaining, naturally reproducing population of what was formerly the Great Lakes’ top predator.

Lake trout were wiped out in most of the Great Lakes by the mid-1900s as a result of overfishing, invasive species and habitat destruction. Managers started stocking them in Lake Michigan in 1965.

After little success, a 1985 revamp of the plan focused stocking on two relatively shallow, rocky sections of Lake Michigan where fishing for the species was banned.

At least part of that overhaul has proven fruitless, according to a study published recently in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Read more.

8/23/10

Illinois State Fair visitors learn how to get rid of stuff sensibly

IISG's Web Specialist Angela Archer explains the Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly marble game to a young fair goer. Altogether this year, about 775 visitors stopped by the IISG exhibit and learned more about recycling, reusing, and sensible disposal. Download the display flyer to read about disposal problems and solutions, and find handy web resources for recycling and more.

8/20/10

In the news: State, feds moving to require cleanup of Chicago River for recreation

From the Chicago Tribune:
In virtually every other city in the nation, it would be illegal to pump out partially treated sewage teeming with the amount of disease-causing bacteria that churns endlessly into the Chicago River.

That may soon change for Chicago. But as a state rulemaking panel moves closer to requiring its fetid waterways to be more like other rivers, a simmering dispute among scientists and policymakers is becoming more intense.

Earlier this month, the Illinois Pollution Control Board tentatively agreed to designate stretches of the river system as suitable for "limited contact recreation," a legal term for activities other than swimming. Now the obscure but influential panel must decide if anything needs to be done to protect people when they are on the river.

Most experts think the ruling will force the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to disinfect wastewater from its three massive treatment plants — an important germ-killing step that every other major U.S. city is required to take. Read more.

8/17/10

In the news: Carp explanation may be a fish story

From the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel:
In the wake of a government news release that pointed a finger at humans for planting an Asian carp near Lake Michigan, facts are coming to light that indicate Illinois officials may have stretched their own science to sell a whopper of a fish tale.

When netting crews hunting for Asian carp above an electric barrier on the Chicago canal system in June pulled a three-foot long, 20-pound mature bighead carp from Lake Calumet - just six miles south of Lake Michigan - the question was: How did it get there?

If it swam on its own, that would spell trouble for Lake Michigan because it could indicate that the electric fish barrier about 35 miles downstream from the lake was not doing its job, and more fish had perhaps breached this last line of defense.

If it were determined that the fish got there with human help, then it could more easily be explained as an isolated find, and not evidence that additional steps should be taken on the canal system to protect the Great Lakes. Read more.

8/12/10

Learn about recycling at the Illinois State Fair

Look for IISG's Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly display in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair. The fair opens today, August 12 and runs through August 22. Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly provides helpful information about recycling, reusing or sensible disposing of a variety of items, including medicines, electronics, and aquarium fish and plants.

On August 13, 20, 21, and 22, Sea Grant staff members will be there to answer questions, hand out informational prizes, and provide the opportunity for kids to play our educational marble game.

8/11/10

In the news: EPA clamps down on cement plant pollution

From the USA Today:
After 12 years and four lawsuits, the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday for the first time set rules governing how much mercury and other pollutants existing cement plants can release.

The agency says the rules will cut mercury emissions by these plants by 92%, particulate matter by 92% and sulfur dioxide by 78%, saving $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs.

Cement plants are the United States' third-largest airborne source of mercury, after coal-fired power plants and industrial and commercial boilers, the EPA says. Read more.

8/5/10

In the news: Asian carp spent its life in Great Lakes waters

From CBS News:
A bighead carp caught near Lake Michigan in June likely lived nearly its whole life in waters from the Great Lakes, tests show.

The nine-kilogram fish captured in Lake Calumet on June 22 was the first Asian carp caught on the wrong sRead moreide of underwater electric barriers near Chicago intended to keep the invasive species from moving up the Mississippi River system into the Great Lakes and adjoining waters.

Researchers at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center analyzed the chemical markers in the inner ear bones of the fish and released the results Thursday. Read more.

7/27/10

Educators have hands-on experience with new curriculum

Educators from Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania engaged in an experiment at an IISG/COSEE Great Lakes workshop session at the 2010 National Marine Educators Association Conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee last week. Through a filtration exercise, they sampled the first inquiry-based lesson, “So What’s the Big Deal?” in IISG’s new Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines 4-H curriculum guide. They also received tips on how to start service-learning projects in their communities.

The workshop also featured IISG’s The Medicine Chest, a curriculum collection that addresses the issue of safe disposal of unwanted medicines. This collection describes a variety of successful community stewardship projects developed by students, including art projects, science experiments, creative songs, YouTubeTM videos, eco-poems, and more.

7/26/10

Lake Superior, a Huge Natural Climate Change Gauge, Is Running a Fever

From the New York Times:
The Great Lakes are feeling the heat from climate change.

As the world's largest freshwater system warms, it is poised to systematically alter life for local wildlife and the tribes that depend on it, according to regional experts. And the warming could also provide a glimpse of what is happening on a more global level, they say.

"The Great Lakes in a lot of ways have always been a canary in the coal mine," Cameron Davis, the senior adviser to the U.S. EPA on the Great Lakes, said last week. "Not just for the region or this country, but for the rest of the world."

And it seems the canary's song is growing ever more halting.

Lake Superior, which is the largest, deepest and coldest of the five lakes, is serving as the "canary for the canary," Davis said at a public meeting of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force last week, pointing to recent data trends.

Total ice cover on the lake has shrunk by about 20 percent over the past 37 years, he said. Though the change has made for longer, warmer summers, it's a problem because ice is crucial for keeping water from evaporating and it regulates the natural cycles of the Great Lakes. Read more.

7/22/10

In the news: Governors, mayors to do own study on plugging Chicago canal

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Great Lakes governors and mayors - including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley - are banding together to explore big changes for the Chicago River to protect the world's largest freshwater system.

Just three days after five Great Lakes attorneys general filed a lawsuit to force Chicago to plug the canal system to protect Lake Michigan from the advancing Asian carp, a coalition of regional leaders announced plans Thursday to embark on a $2 million study to determine just what it will take to get that job done.

The idea of damming the canals is considered anathema to the Chicago business community because of the impact it could have on the barge industry and the way wastewater flows in the Chicago area. But political leaders across the region are taking the idea seriously. Read more.

7/21/10

In the news: U.S. Urban Residents Cut Water Usage; Utilities are Forced to Raise Prices

From Circle of Blue:
Last week the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the nation’s largest municipal water suppliers, announced that along with requiring its customers to use less water under mandatory conservation measures it also would hike up the price for water by 15 percent over the next two years.

The board of the Los Angeles-based water district, which supplies drinking water to nearly 19 million people in parts of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, anticipates a public push back.

Indeed as water sales have declined because of the recession and conservation, water utility boards all across the country have raised rates, prompting civic dismay. A growing number of raucous council meetings, street protests and petition drives in opposition to higher water prices have occurred in cities large and small–Detroit; San Diego; Joplin, Mo.; Prairie Township, Ohio.

In effect, in too many American cities to count, water consumers are dramatically reducing the amount they use only to be hit with higher water rates. Existing designs for deciding water rates are the culprits. A handful of cities are restructuring their billing systems to benefit conservation-minded consumers who deserve to be rewarded rather than penalized. Read more.

7/20/10

In the news: Rip currents create danger in the water

From WGN-TV:
The cool Lake Michigan waters on a hot summer day can be irresistible but with a simple change in the winds comes a potentially dangerous situation.

Rip currents are normally thought to occur in oceans, but they happen in the Great Lakes as well. They are strong columns of water which push you away from the beach. More than 100 people every year die from drowning in rip currents.

WGNTV wants to show you what to do to get out of one. Watch the video.

7/19/10

Announcing the 2010-11 Great Lakes Long-Term Fellowship Program

he Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER), located at the University of Michigan, announces the 2010-11 Great Lakes Long-Term (12 months) Fellowship Program. The 2010-11 program is a cooperative effort that includes CILER, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) in Ann Arbor, MI, Purdue University (www.purdue.edu), Indiana-Illinois Sea Grant (www.iisgcp.org), the University of Minnesota (www.d.umn.edu), and Minnesota Sea Grant (www.seagrant.umn.edu).

This fellowship program provides individuals with an exciting opportunity to conduct research in the Great Lakes Region under the mentorship of university and federal scientists.

CILER is offering two Long-Term fellowships (one located at Purdue, one at the University of Minnesota-Duluth). Applications must be submitted by July 23, 2010.

Learn more about this Fellowship program.

7/16/10

After a week together aboard the Lake Guardian they are still smiling!

Here is the crew of educators, organizers, and leaders that set sail on the COSEE Great Lakes Lake Michigan Workshop aboard the R/V Lake Guardian July 6-12. See the blog from the trip and read teacher comments here.

7/15/10

IISG in the news: Cleanup efforts bring life back to Grand Calumet River

Here is Leslie Dorworth's second article in Grist Magazine about the Grand Calumet River. This time she talks about restoration efforts:

The first time I saw the Grand Calumet River, I was driving down the Indiana Toll Road. It was 1996, and I had just arrived in northwest Indiana from North Carolina to take a new job as an aquatic ecology extension specialist with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program.

All around me I could see steel mills and processing plants, and the Grand Calumet, meandering slowly through this highly industrialized landscape like a rare natural jewel. There were herons, egrets, and other birds wading along the banks, and abundant, luscious greenery such as cattails and phragmites (reeds), a common invasive species across the country. Since that day, I have had a chance to canoe portions of the Grand Calumet. From the water, I got a better view of wading birds and ducks diving in the river. Sadly, from up close I could also see that the ducks resurfaced with a layer of oil on their faces and necks.

In a canoe, you also notice something else that so many urban rivers have in common: the extent to which the river's natural course has been manipulated by humans over the years. The Grand Calumet is frequently diverted through culverts, impassable by boat. When we came to a culvert, we would have to portage the area (pick up our canoes and carry them around) before continuing on our travels along the river.

As an aquatic ecologist, I study the health of ecosystems like rivers, streams, and lakes. The Sea Grant program fosters research and education in the communities of south Lake Michigan. My position is located at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., specifically so that I can participate in local water quality efforts. Read more.

IISG in the news: How a river went from diversity to dumpsite

Leslie Dorworth, IISG aquatic ecology specialist has written several articles for Grist magazine about the Grand Calumet River. This one describes how things got so bad for this polluted waterway:

The Grand Calumet River is about 13 miles long and flows through one of the most industrialized areas in the United States. At one time, the river’s branches and tributaries flowed throughout northwest Indiana and supported globally unique fish and wildlife. Today, thanks to being moved and manipulated by humans over the years, the Calumet river system is one of the smallest watersheds in the region, and there are stretches of river that support nothing but sludge worms.

How did this happen? Two words: people and industry. Read more.

7/13/10

How do they prevent oil contaminated fish from reaching a store near you?

In response to consumer concerns about oil contaminated seafood from the Gulf of Mexico reaching the marketplace, Louisiana Sea Grant has produced a short video outlining the precautions taken to ensure tainted shell and finfish don’t end up on the table.

The one-minute video – demonstrates how trained inspectors detect oil contaminated seafood as part of the daily screening process. A high-definition version of the video also can be viewed or downloaded from Louisiana Sea Grant’s website. The HD video is an AVI file and may require a plug-in for your media viewer.

7/12/10

Educators learn shipboard science on Lake Michigan

This morning, 15 teachers and non-formal environmental educators finished a week-long, hands-on learning cruise aboard the federal research vessel the R/V Lake Guardian. The teachers worked alongside scientists that regularly monitor the Great Lakes aboard the Environmental Protection Agency ship, which is the only self-contained, nonpolluting vessel on the Great Lakes.

COSEE Great Lakes scientists Helen Domske and Jim Lubner worked in tandem with Purdue University scientist Tomas Höök to lead the workshop designed to promote Great Lakes and ocean sciences and to forge lasting relationships between science researchers and educators. Stephanie Crook, a high school teacher from Portage, Indiana has been keeping a blog of daily activities aboard the 180-foot-long research vessel.

6/30/10

IISG wins two APEX awards

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is proud to announce that the program has won two 2010 APEX Awards for Publication Excellence.

The Medicine Chest, a new curriculum collection addressing the problem of disposal of unwanted medicines, won in the category Green Materials. This award is shared by Robin Goettel, associate director for education, Terri Hallesy, education specialist, Susan White, graphic designer, and Tracy Colin, communication assistant. The Medicine Chest gives educators a tool to create service-learning experiences for their students, while tackling an important environmental and human health concern.

The second APEX award went to the display Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly in the category One-of-a-Kind Green Publications. Named in this award are White and Irene Miles, communication coordinator. This display informs audiences of all ages about how to recycle, reuse, or sensibly dispose of medicines, electronics, fish and aquatic plants and more. It includes a colorful marble game that provides a fun way to think through ‘getting rid of stuff.’ On display at the Illinois State Fair and other venues, Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly has thus far engaged 4,600 people on the issue of sensible disposal.

Summer aquaculture workshops offer on-farm training

Returning participants to Purdue University Extension’s advanced aquaculture workshops this summer will exchange pencils and paper for a pair of boots, as the workshops will now be primarily on-the-ground training.

Kwamena Quagrainie, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquaculture marketing specialist and organizer of the workshops, altered the structure in response to feedback from the previous year’s workshops, which were held in classrooms and led by university faculty and agency representatives.

This year, three of the four workshops will be instructed by aquaculture producers on their farms in Indiana. Each of the three on-farm workshops will be focused on an aquaculture production system: cage system (Peru, July 20), pond system (Floyds Knobs, August 21), and indoor systems (Ladoga, September 11).

“If you really want to get into fish production, you need this training,” Quagrainie said. “You get the opportunity to work with actual fish farmers and learn how they operate day-to-day.”

The one classroom workshop, held on September 30 in Frankfort, will feature public and private industry partners who will teach about vital financial tools and practices in aquaculture.

The cost is $50 and includes one of the three on-farm workshops and the classroom workshop. USDA Risk Management, Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA), and Purdue University Extension will host the workshops. Lunches are included.

Sign up at www.indianafishfarming.com or call the ISA at 1-800-735-0195 for an application.

6/25/10

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant invites your comments

The Illinois Indiana Sea Grant College Program (IISG) will undergo a program site visit and review on July 28-29, 2010. If you would like to submit comments on any aspect of IISG's program or its work, please send your written comments by July 22, 2010 via email to oar.sg.feedback@noaa.gov or in paper copy to: Miguel A. Lugo, NSGO Program Officer National Sea Grant College Program NOAA R/SG, 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910.

IISG is one of 32 programs of the National Sea Grant College Program created by Congress in 1966. Sea Grant is a partnership of universities, government, business and industry that addresses marine and Great Lakes needs to enhance sustainable coastal economic development. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Sea Grant, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University.

IISG combines research, education and outreach to empower southern Lake Michigan communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. With a focus on ecosystem health, sustainable cities, safe seafood, and climate change in the region, IISG brings science-based knowledge to the decision making process.

6/24/10

In the news: Carp creeps into Lake Calumet

From the Chicago Tribune:
A commercial fisherman patrolling the calm waters of Lake Calumet netted a 19-pound Asian carp Tuesday, the first physical discovery of the feared invasive species in the Chicago waterway system north of the electric barriers.

Within minutes of the official announcement on Wednesday, lawmakers from Michigan and environmental advocacy groups were once more chastising Illinois' response to the Asian carp crisis and threatening a new round of legal action aimed at permanently closing Chicago-area shipping locks. Read more.

6/18/10

In the news: Great Lakes states’ 500 square miles of parking lots threaten water quality, walkability

From the Great Lakes Echo:
The combined parking lots of four Great Lakes states take up nearly 500 square miles, according to recent estimates by Purdue University.

That’s enough pavement to cover 30 percent of Green Bay in Lake Michigan, 40 percent of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron or twice the surface of Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

It also contributes to one of the biggest threats to Great Lakes water quality: Urban runoff. Read more.

6/16/10

In the news: Top 10 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant finalists account for 37 percent of funds

From the Great Lakes Echo:
Echo recently took a look at the finalists for $161 million worth of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, breaking them down by state and group type. Here we’ll check out two more metrics: Biggest winners and GLRI focus areas.

But first, remember that these numbers are still preliminary. Finalists have until the end of June to submit the last paperwork before they’re eligible for the awards.

Also, the totals don’t account for subcontracts within grants. For example, Michigan State University is in line for $3.3 million in grants that it won outright, but it could see more initiative funds from other grant winners who have partnered with the school. Read more.

6/14/10

In the news: Invasive species generate gloomy reports for Lake Michigan

From the Muskegon Chronicle:
A perfect storm of invasive species in Lake Michigan continues to clarify the water to historic levels and threaten the lake's forage base from bottom and top, according to new reports from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Analysis of current and historic data from Lake Michigan shows serious threats to sport fish brought on by quagga mussels, spiny water fleas and other invasive species that continue to thrive, although researchers remain uncertain how that will influence the lake's future. Read more.

6/11/10

In the news: Seaway tests ability to respond to hazardous spill

From the Watertown Daily Times:
As the Gulf region deals with the aftermath of the BP oil spill, officials here are working to ensure they are equipped to manage an oil or hazardous material spill on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Out on the water on a tranquil, sunny afternoon, it’s easy to forget the St. Lawrence River serves as a major highway for shipping traffic passing between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.

Passing ships from all over the world slip quietly by carrying a variety of cargo — from coal to grain to hazardous chemicals — and a large stock of fuel oil. Read more.

6/4/10

In the news: Army Corps rejects regular lock closures to foil Asian carp

From the Chicago Breaking News Center:
The Army Corps of Engineers has scrapped a proposal to close navigational shipping locks in the Chicago waterway system as many as four days a week to prevent migration of Asian carp into Lake Michigan.

The Corps, however, is recommending temporary lock closures at times when biologists use fish poisons or other methods to search for carp in the well-traveled shipping corridors.

These recommendations were released today as part of a three-year study into the state's and federal government's handling of the Asian carp crisis. The study looked at six scenarios for lock operation, including restricting boat and ship travel to three days a week or three weeks out of a month. In the end, Army Corps officials determined neither partial lock closure plan would prove much of a deterrent to Asian carp. Read more.

6/2/10

In the news: Obama, U.S. EPA push for cleaner Chicago River

From the Chicago Tribune:
Walled and fenced off from most of the city, the Chicago River for decades was widely seen as a putrid eyesore where fish and wildlife weren't welcome, let alone people.

But in a significant policy shift, the Obama administration is calling for a once-unfathomable idea: The Chicago River, an erstwhile prairie stream engineered into a sewage canal that flows backward from Lake Michigan, should be safe enough for swimming. Read more.

5/27/10

New hands-on 4-H curriculum pitches sensible medicine disposal

The 4-H program, whose slogan is “learning by doing,” left its mark on a new curriculum, Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines, which program leaders helped produce.

“The focus of the curriculum is on experiential learning,” said Natalie Carroll, Purdue University extension 4-H specialist. “It helps youth learn about proper disposal of unwanted medicines by giving them the resources and information to teach their community about it.”

When medications are flushed down the toilet, wastewater treatment plants can't always filter out the harmful chemicals that can affect wildlife and even get into drinking water supplies. Medicines disposed of in the trash can risk leakage into waterways from poorly-designed landfills.

The guidebook, designed for informal education audiences, provides five inquiry-based lessons to help high school youth understand the harmful effects of improper disposal of medicines and what they can do to help. Each lesson contains a complete instruction plan, centered on a hands-on activity for the students.

“It’s our hope that by engaging in these activities, youth will gain a new understanding about the subject matter and in the process will also tap into their creativity, while building leadership and communication skills, as well as self esteem,” said Robin Goettel, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) associate director for education.

Sea Grant educators will bring this curriculum to the attention of a national audience at the Project WET 2010 National Conference in Spencer, Indiana in early June.

Purdue Extension authored the publication with support from U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. Technical background and content review was provided by IISG.

For a free copy (plus shipping), contact IISG’s Susan White at white2@illinois.edu or 217-333-9441 or visit the IISG website.

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