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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.