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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.