In the news: H20, No! Medical Waste in Our Water

From Clinician Reviews:
Recently, a group of health care providers gathered to help Illinois lawmakers collect information for new legislation regarding medical waste. The law, which is now in effect statewide, bans health care institutions from flushing leftover tablets, capsules, and other nonliquid prescription drugs down the toilet. The Illinois legislature passed the law in an effort to prevent pharmaceuticals from polluting the Great Lakes, which are the source of many municipal drinking water supplies. Read more.


Healthy lawns can be pesticide free

Don’t be fooled by the name. Pests, such as insects and weeds, are not the only victims of pesticide application. Humans, especially children, are in danger of exposure to pesticides—linked to numerous diseases and adverse health conditions—from simply playing or walking barefoot on the lawn. These chemicals can also be tracked into homes and settle on carpets and furniture. Furthermore, pesticides pollute our air, water, and soil.

A new brochure, Natural Lawn Care for Homeowners, explains the advantages of natural lawn care and provides homeowners with the information necessary to maintain a healthy, aesthetically-pleasing lawn without the use of chemicals.

This publication provides step-by-step descriptions of the basic measures that help homeowners accomplish this, including soil testing, fertilizing, watering, and mowing. It also includes research-based explanations of how pesticides can be harmful to human and animal health, degrade soil, pollute water, and harm wildlife.

“Natural lawn care is easy and effective,” said Rachel Rosenberg, Safer Pest Control Project executive director. “You can have a healthy lawn simply by changing a few of your lawn care practices—like mowing higher, keeping your grass clippings on the lawn, watering deeply and infrequently and of course, stopping the use of herbicides and insecticides. A healthy and natural lawn will have the capacity to fight drought, disease and insects without the use of pesticides.”

This publication was developed by the Safer Pest Control Project with support from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. For more information or to download the publication, visit the IISG catalog or the Safer Pest Control Project.


IISG Knauss fellow gets down to work in NSF

IISG has two Knauss fellows. Here is a post from Priscilla Viana:

I was awarded a 2010 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship through Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant; it started in February 2010. The purpose of this post is to share some of my experiences as a Sea Grant fellow in Washington DC.

The Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship is usually awarded to 40 – 50 students. The selection process comprises two steps. The first selection takes place through state Sea Grant offices. Then, eligible students compete for the fellowship at national level. Finalist students participate in the placement week. It was very interesting to be interviewed by approximately 15 different offices both in the legislative and executive branches. I concluded that working under the guidance of Dr. Phillip Taylor at the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided the best prospects.

Working at NSF has been a very rewarding experience. NSF provides funding for approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research in U.S. I have contributed in the proposal reviewing process and in evaluating grant proposals based on the NSF merit-review criteria. Specifically, I am working on ecology of infectious diseases and I will work on ocean acidification in the near future.

This position offers me not only the experience of working in a federal agency with public policy, but also the benefit of exploring the important process of research funding in U.S. and understanding the necessary features of outstanding research projects. I am now more skilled to evaluate weaknesses and strengths of a research project and also better prepared to write grant proposals for my own research. Thus, it enhances my record of achievements in both academia and public policy. Fostering this knowledge will be helpful in either career I pursue.

This fellowship is very prestigious in Washington D.C. Fellows have the chance to network with researchers and government staff from many different offices, such as NOAA, EPA, USGS, Fish and Wildlife Services, Department of Energy and NSF. As a consequence, we are invited to participate in numerous conferences and receptions. Since February, I have participated in the Ocean Leadership 2010 Public Policy Forum at Capitol Hill and in a conference about ecology of infectious diseases at Atlantic City, NJ. In April, I will participate in a seminar about oceans and human health on Capitol Hill.

Being a Knauss Sea Grant fellow is a unique and gratifying experience. I am looking forward to share more of my experience in my next post!
(Priscilla Viana is finishing her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois - Chicago. Her research focuses on remediation of contaminated sediments. She can be reached at pviana@nsf.gov.)


In the news: Tools in sea lamprey fight adapted for Asian carp

From the Chicago Tribune:
The forecast was grim.

A parasitic invasive species that fed on healthy trout, salmon and catfish had entered the Great Lakes through its shipping canals, quickly asserted its dominance, and pushed the region's commercial and sport fishing industries to the brink.

The invader was the sea lamprey, a razor-toothed, eel-like monster that attaches itself to large fish and sucks the life out of them. And in the 1940s, with no known predators and no clear road map to stop them, many feared the sea lamprey would take over the largest freshwater body in the world.

More than 50 years after biologists launched an all-out assault on the sea lamprey — among the most intensive and costly invasive species eradication efforts in history — the war is all but over. With science, money and muscle, biologists have reduced the sea lamprey population by 90 percent and restored the natural balance to the Great Lakes.

Now, many of the tools scientists used to save the lakes' from the sea lamprey will be part of their defense against the Asian carp, the next in a long line of invasive species predicted to forever change life in the Great Lakes. Read more.


And now a word from a Knauss fellow

My name is Mike Allen, and I am one of two Knauss Sea Grant fellows from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant for the 2010 Fellowship class. I'll be sharing DC experiences on the IISG blog occasionally over the course of my fellowship year to highlight the fellowship and what a "policy position" in the federal government is really like.

In this first post, I'll share a little bit about my position. I am one of ~35 executive branch fellows in this year's class. (There are also 10 fellows serving in members or committees in Congress.) We all met in DC in November for a week of interviews to decide where we would be placed in the federal government. Each of us had 12 - 15 half-hour interviews with various offices across NOAA, the Dept. of Energy, the Navy, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Dept. of State, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies with an ocean, coast, or Great Lakes focus. I had an idea of what sounded interesting going into the week, but sitting down and talking with a variety of offices led me to the conclusion that working at NOAA's Silver Spring complex would be the right fit for me. I subsequently chose to work with Dr. Mike Uhart, executive director of the Office of Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes in NOAA's research office.

In this position, I act as the primary liaison between NOAA's administrative headquarters and our three "wet labs" - the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL), the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab (AOML), and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL). As an aquatic ecologist with a degree from the University of Illinois, this is a fantastic fit for me, as a primary responsibility of my position is to know all about the ongoing research activities and needs of these nationally-renowned research institutions.

What I have learned is incredibly fascinating. For example, PMEL is the world leader in tsunami research and developed the buoy systems that monitor potential tsunamis like the one that occurred after the recent Chile earthquake. AOML is a leader in hurricane research and forecasting, and flies research missions into hurricanes using NOAA's fleet of P-3 research aircraft. GLERL is the major center of research on the Great Lakes, and is at the forefront of our understanding of invasive zebra and quagga mussel invasions into the largest freshwater system in the world.

Over the course of the next year, I will share some of my perceptions and experiences from my fellowship year. Look for my next post on the Laboratory Review at the Earth Sciences Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado in the near future.

(Mike Allen recently completed his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, where he focused on population and community ecology of freshwater zooplankton. He can be reached at Mike.Allen@noaa.gov.)


Sign up for urban aquaculture workshop in Chicago

Looking to start a new business? On May 8, 2010 IISG will hold an urban aquaculture and aquaponics workshop at Chicago State University. The workshop includes presentations on practical aspects of these systems as well as visits to several aquaponic facilities. For more details and registration information, read more.


IISG RFP offers seed, completion or graduate project funding

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant seeks development proposals from researchers and graduate students. Researchers can request up to $10,000 of seed funding, or funding to complete research that has already been conducted. Graduate students can request up to $6,000 to enhance thesis or dissertation research. Proposals should relate to one of the ten topics of interest to IISG:
• Aquaculture
• Aquatic Invasive Species
• Climate Change
• Coastal Restoration
• Fish Consumption
• Great Lakes Health
• Land Use Planning
• Pharmaceutical Disposal
• Water Quality
• Water Supply

Proposals are due April 30, 2010. The full request for proposals is available here.


In the news: Unsafe river in Indiana faces long recuperation

From R & D Magazine:
The Grand Calumet River has the most problems of any river in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cleanup has progressed slowly since the river was designated as one of the nation's worst in 1987. Locals say it could take several decades before the river is restored to its pre-industrial state and can be a source of recreation for region residents, but several proposals are in the works. Read more.


New Plan Addresses Regional Water Supply

From the Executive Summary of Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply/Demand Plan:
The prosperity of the greater Chicago region and its status as a global center depend on water availability. Historically blessed with ample fresh water, the region can no longer assume that water supplies are infinite. While other parts of the country struggle to meet growing water demand and some cities are losing their economic competitiveness due to shortage or inadequate planning, the Chicago region must act now to carefully plan and manage its surface and groundwater resources in a coordinated fashion. Nothing less than economic development, environmental protection, and social equity is at stake. It is for these reasons that the region’s water supply plan is timely and important.

Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Supply/Demand Plan was unanimously approved by the Regional Water Supply Planning Group last month. The planning effort was led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). IISG Environmental Planning Specialist Marty Jaffe served as a member of the planning group and IISG Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann provided background and on water pricing for the plan. Ms. Schneemann will continue to assist CMAP in plan implementation going forward. You can download a copy of the plan and learn more about Water 2050 here.


In the news: Mayor Daley: Chicago shouldn't bear full cost of Asian carp

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley agrees that the Asian carp present an ecological and economic threat to the Great Lakes. But he disagrees with neighboring states that Illinois should lock down a historic canal that allows the fish to get to Lake Michigan.

In a letter published in the Washington Post this week, Mayor Daley argued that the invasive species – which experts say will destroy the lake ecosystem – is a “national problem that requires national solutions” and therefore Illinois alone should not have to foot the costs associated with addressing the problem. Read more.


Onboard workshop gives teachers real research experience

Teachers—grades 4-10—and informal educators will have the opportunity to learn about and contribute to Lake Michigan science on a week-long Shipboard and Shoreline Science workshop offered by COSEE Great Lakes (Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence).

The workshop—aboard the U.S. EPA’s 180-foot research vessel, Lake Guardian—coincides with the Lake Michigan Intensive Monitoring Field Year, which is a part of an agreement between EPA and Environment Canada to focus on and conduct intensive monitoring in one of the Great Lakes each year.

“Every workshop has its own sampling design,” said Jacqueline Adams, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) water quality extension associate. “But because this workshop is focused on Lake Michigan and the nearshore, it is very likely that the data collected will contribute to the EPA database for the Lake Michigan Intensive Year.”

Participants will work alongside scientists to explore firsthand a variety of disciplines, including ecology, geology, geography, weather and biogeochemical processes. Throughout the week they will be collecting planktonic and benthic organisms, as well as performing water quality data collection and analysis.

In addition, workshop attendees will have the opportunity to investigate and discuss curricula and other educational resources pertaining to Great Lakes and oceans.

“What the educators learn through their Lake Michigan monitoring and data analysis activities will be taken back and integrated into their classroom instruction,” said IISG Associate Director for Education Robin Goettel, who is coordinating the workshop. “The activities that they experience onboard the vessel complement the research they are doing. This experience also helps participating scientists broaden the impact of their research and better understand teachers’ needs for current scientific information to incorporate into classrooms.”

Fifteen educators will be selected from around the Great Lakes basin to participate in the workshop, which will take place from July 6-12, 2010. For more information or to fill out an application, visit the workshop page. If you have more questions, contact Robin Goettel. Applications are due by April 2, 2010.


In the news: Asian carp fight may close Chicago River

From the Chicago Tribune:
More than a million people each spring and summer pause to admire Chicago's architectural wonders and learn the history of this marvelous city with a relaxing boat tour up the twisting Chicago River and onto the placid waters of Lake Michigan.

But with the unofficial start of the boating season just weeks away, operators and owners of the most popular boat tours are bracing for a possibility that once was unthinkable — closure of the Chicago River. Read more