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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.