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.

In the news: No carp hit surface, so no problem?

From the Detroit Free Press:
With no carp found during the most recent poisoning of the Little Calumet River near Chicago, Illinois barge and tour boat owners say it is a sign that the much-feared carp are not the imminent threat Michigan and other states claim.

They questioned the validity of the DNA testing that led to the poisoning and said it's proof that the existing electrical barriers are sufficient to hold back the carp.

"There is no justification for contemplating a temporary or permanent lock closure and a shutdown of waterways in the region," said the American Waterways Operators, a coalition that represents barge owners.

Michigan's persistent call for lock closures through the courts is "a knee-jerk reaction that we can ill afford at a time when jobs are in great demand."

Another group called the DNA testing "shaky science."

The latest findings may make it politically more difficult to push for the permanent separation of the Chicago canals from the Great Lakes, a massive and expensive undertaking that would take years and disrupt current patterns of commerce on the rivers near Chicago. Read more.


IISG in the news: Chicago middle schoolers partake in Purdue Calumet-directed water festival Friday

From News@Purdue Calumet:
As part of their school year-long, life science curriculum, Chicago public middle school students will participate in a water festival, during which they will interact with scientists and other aquatics experts, Friday (5/28) from 10 a.m. to 1p.m. at Stockton Elementary School, 4420 North Beacon St.

Within their life science curriculum, “Exploration Earth: Aquatic Adventures Academy,” the students have studied aquatic environments and what organisms need to flourish in specific environments. The curriculum emphasizes interaction with practicing local scientists.

Workshops will be led by Leslie Dorworth of Purdue Calumet’s Department of Biological Sciences, an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Aquatic Ecology specialist; Dana Murphy of Friends of the Chicago River; and educators from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The event is administered through Purdue University Calumet of Hammond, Ind. and its Center for Science and Technology Education. The students’ involvement in the “Exploration Earth: Aquatic Adventures Academy” is sponsored by the Toyota USA Foundation.

Purdue Calumet’s Center for Science and Technology, part of the university’s School of Education, seeks to support P-12 education through development and dissemination of innovative technology platforms for science and mathematics, particularly in educational environments with a significantly underserved population.

Other information is available by contacting the center’s director, Robert Rivers, at 219/989-2335; 800/HI-PURDUE, ext. 2335; or riversr@calumet.purdue.edu.


In the news: Fish poisoning begins on Little Calumet River in search for Asian carp

From the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel:
Thursday was a rough day to be a fish in the Little Calumet River south of downtown Chicago.

Dozens of fishery crews took to the murky waters with barrels of fish poison in the latest effort to keep Asian carp from swimming up the heavily plumbed Chicago waterway system and into Lake Michigan.

"We're going to be able to kill damn near everything in here," said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy regional director Charlie Wooley at the beginning of a five-day, $1.5 million fish eradication program on a two-mile stretch of river.

Federal officials are hoping to confirm what environmental DNA testing has been telling them for the better part of a year: At least a tiny number of the voracious invasive carp have breached an electric barrier about 25 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.

"If there are Asian carp here, we should get confirmation of that this week," said John Rogner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Read more.


No bones about it: New video lays out easy steps for filleting tasty Asian carp

In the ongoing effort to prevent the invasive Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes, one solution keeps popping up: “If you can’t beat them, eat them.” For boaters in the Midwest, this is good news.

“These fish taste great,” said Pat Charlebois, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) aquatic invasives specialist, about Asian carp. Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel echoed this sentiment in a recent review. “I could eat this everyday,” Vettel said of the Asian carp dish offered at a local Chicago restaurant.

Boaters can now look to an IISG-funded instructional video—“Flying Fish, Great Dish”—for tips on filleting Asian carp.

In the 27-minute video, U.S. Geological Survey fish biologist Duane Chapman tackles the bones in Asian carp fillets, which make them difficult to eat. He shows step-by-step procedures for deboning the fish, as well as how to remove the bones after they are cut and cooked.

Most people are not aware of the high quality of meat in Asian carp, which Chapman refers to as the hamburger of Asia. According to Charlebois, boaters and anglers often associate Asian carp with common carp, a bottom-feeding fish, and are reluctant to catch and eat them. Rather, Asian carp—a collective term for numerous species, such as bighead and silver carp—feed on microscopic plants and animals that live in the water column so they have much higher quality meat.

Anglers who catch and eat Asian carp will be helping to rid the waters of these invasive species, which disrupt ecosystems and harm native fish populations. “We want people to reduce the number of Asian carp in our waters, and thus reduce their impact on the environment,” Charlebois said. “One way to do that is to encourage anglers to eat the fish.”

Although anglers are encouraged to catch and eat the fish downstream of the electric barrier installed in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, any Asian carp caught in Chicago area waters should be, if possible, frozen in a sealed plastic bag and reported to IISG (847-242-6440), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (618-435-8138 x123), or the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (317-234-3883).

Knowing whether Asian carp are in those waters will be useful in the ongoing debate about the measures necessary to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.

The video, produced by the Louisiana State University AgCenter, can be seen in three parts on YouTube and is available on DVD through IISG. For more information or to order a free copy visit the IISG website or contact Susan White.


IISG in the news: Waterways have their time in court

From Chicago Lawyer Magazine:
It was Dec. 21, 2009, when Michigan Attorney General Michael A. Cox launched his legal battle with Illinois over Asian carp, but a much older date appeared on Page 1 of his motions. "In the Supreme Court of the United States," the documents read - "October Term, 1966."

It wasn't a typo. Cox was asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reopen an old, old case. During that 1966 term, the Supreme Court issued a decree, limiting how much water runs out of Lake Michigan into the Chicago and Calumet rivers, flowing down canals toward the Illinois and Mississippi rivers - a flow known as "the Chicago Diversion."

Now, Cox wants the Supreme Court to revisit that decree - as a way of blocking voracious Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes through Chicago's canals and rivers.

But that 1966 date only hints at the epic duration of this litigation. This case began in 1922, when Wisconsin sued Illinois, blaming the Chicago Diversion for lowering the water level of the Great Lakes. The same case has come up time and again at the Supreme Court for almost eight decades. Read more.

In the news: Report pegs risk of air pollution

From the Post-Tribune:
Hammond and Whiting are the places in Northwest Indiana where lifelong residents have the highest risk of getting cancer from breathing air pollution.

So says "ToxWatch," a 2010 report about air toxics from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which assesses health risks from exposure to air toxics. The report is based on air monitoring results from 1999 to 2008. Read more.


IISG in the news: Drugs in the Environment: Do Pharmaceutical Take-Back Programs Make a Difference?

From Environmental Health Perspectives:
The state of Maine experimented with drugs last year. The state had already tested several methods
for collecting unused pharmaceuticals, with varying degrees of success. After tracking surprisingly high concentrations of pharmaceuticals in landfill leachate —raising the potential for eventual ground and surface water contamination—the state decided to pursue a new tool to keep drugs out of the waste stream. Maine wanted to establish statewide collection programs, mandated 
by legislation and paid for by manufacturers, that would intercept unwanted pharmaceutical products before they got to the trash.

Although the state legislation bogged down earlier this year, other states have introduced bills similar to Maine’s, with some success. Meanwhile, Europe and Canada have had systems for pharmaceutical take-back programs in place for a decade or so. At the same time, an increasing number of reports from across the world have tracked active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in surface waters and even tap water, leading environmental scientists and water utilities to look for ways to limit the amount of drugs entering the environment. Read more.


Nab the Aquatic Invader! reaches Smithsonian audiences

Robin Goettel, IISG associate director of education, (right) found plenty of interest in Nab the Aquatic Invader! at the Ocean Today Kiosk at the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History on her recent trip to Washington D.C.

Nab the Aquatic Invader! is an educational web site created by IISG, along with Sea Grant programs in New York, Louisiana, Connecticut, and Oregon to provide the latest information about aquatic invasive species through colorful characters and a crime-solving theme. Since its inception, the project has expanded to include species from coastal regions around the country.

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

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


IISG Strategic Plan 2009-2014

What are the goals of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant for the next four years? How do we plan to accomplish these goals? The program's strategic plan, which describes research, outreach and education goals, objectives and action plans, is available for download. Or you can request a free hard copy by contacting Susan White.


May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month

May 2010 is Invasive Species Awareness Month in Illinois (ISAM). ISAM provides opportunities for all citizens of Illinois to participate in invasive species awareness events around the state. Events and programs are being held across the state and everyone is encouraged to attend and learn more about invasive species (check out the calendar on this website for a schedule of events). During May, you'll be able to volunteer to help remove invasive species, join a nature hike to see invasive species firsthand, or attend presentations to learn more about what they can to do help fight these threats. Over 40 invasive species events are taking place across the state during May. Visit here for more information.


Sea Grant links to Gulf of Mexico oil spill updates

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil spill website, hosted by the four GOM Sea Grant programs, provides visitors with access to a wealth of data concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Website content will be continually updated, and visitors should check back often for new and revised information.

The spill involves a deepwater drilling platform approximately 50 miles southeast of Venice, La. An explosion and subsequent fire damaged the rig, which capsized and sank on April 22, 2010, after burning for hours. It is unclear how much of the estimated 700,000 gallons (approximately 16,700 barrels) of #2 fuel onboard burned before it sank. The rig is owned by Transocean and is under contract to British Petroleum (BP).