Community Stewardship Fair Highlights Invasive Species Projects

University of Illinois students will be teaming up with local elementary and middle school students on December 2 at a Community Stewardship Fair in the Robeson Pavilion at the Champaign Public Library from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

The fair is the final event in a service-learning course—NRES 285: Community Stewardship through Environmental Education—in which 16 students use Nab the Aquatic Invader!, a science-based website, and other interactive resources to bring the issue of aquatic invasive species to local schools, including Stratton Elementary School, Franklin Middle School and Urbana Middle School.

Under the guidance of their student leaders, the local school children formed community partnerships with local organizations, such as the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and a WILL radio spot—Environmental Almanac —to create community stewardship projects, which will be used by the partners in the future.

One partner, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, will provide the location for “Scrub Your Boat Before You Float!,” a new ongoing exhibit and community stewardship project. The children have also written a skit that they will perform on November 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the museum. Other partnership projects include public service announcements and public information materials.

The fair—hosted by the U of I Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, IISG and the U of I Center for Teaching Excellence—gives the University students and the children an opportunity to present their projects to the public. “This is an empowering opportunity for the students to showcase their exemplary work and to interact with family, friends, and the public in an educational forum that is both engaging and meaningful,” says IISG Education Specialist Terri Hallesy.

In the news: Lake invaders may be killing birds

From the Chicago Tribune:
The hunt is on in the upper reaches of Lake Michigan to count what's believed to be thousands of bird carcasses that have washed ashore this fall — a staggering toll blamed on the disruptive powers of invasive species that have taken root in the Great Lakes.

The great debate in the Asian carp crisis, still playing out in federal court and the halls of Congress, is whether the feared fish has the capability of establishing a thriving population in the Great Lakes. If so, bighead and silver carp will almost certainly, and dramatically, alter commercial and recreational fishing in the nation's largest freshwater body.

But what if, as some scientists suggest, the Great Lakes' natural defenses — plankton shortages, lower water temperatures, greater water depth and swift-moving currents — keep Asian carp from sustaining themselves in large numbers? Will the threat have been avoided?

The answer is that all invasive species bring consequences that few can predict, leading scientists to ponder the thousands of gulls, loons, mergansers and other migratory birds whose remains wash ashore along the white-sand beaches in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's upper peninsula each fall.

There is a somewhat controversial theory for this annual die-off, which by some estimates has claimed more than 100,000 birds in the last 15 years, and it involves a type of naturally occurring but deadly botulism linked to the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which entered the Great Lakes decades ago aboard ocean vessels. Read more.


It's fellowship application season!

IISG is pleased to announce five fellowship opportunities for 2011. Please visit our fellowship page for more information. For questions, please contact Angela Archer.

John A. Knauss Fellowship
The Knauss fellowship provides a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, costal and Great Lakes resources and in national policy decisions. The program matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branches of government in the Washington, D.C. area for a one year paid fellowship.

Application deadline – February 18, 2011

National Marine Fisheries Service/Sea Grant Fellowship in Population Dynamics
Doctoral candidates interested in the population dynamics of living marine resources and the development and implementation of quantitative methods for assessing their status can receive up to three years of funding.

Application deadline – January 21, 2011

National Marine Fisheries Service/Sea Grant Fellowship in Marine Resource Economics
Doctoral students studying marine resource economics, concentrating on the conservation and management of living marine resources, can receive two years of funding.

Application deadline – January 21, 2011

Coastal Management Fellowship
This fellowship program matches postgraduate students with state coastal zone programs to work on projects proposed by the state and selected by the fellowship sponsor, the NOAA Coastal Services Center. This two-year opportunity offers a competitive salary, medical benefits, and travel and relocation expense reimbursement.

Application deadline – January 28, 2011

Great Lakes Commission/Sea Grant Fellowship
One fellow will work for one year with members of Great Lakes' science policy and information/education communities to advance the environmental quality and sustainable economic development goals of the Great Lakes states. The fellowship is located at the Great Lakes Commission office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Application deadline – January 31, 2011


IISG announces another call for 'seed' project proposals

IISG has limited discretionary funds to invest in promising research, outreach and graduate student projects. IISG is especially interested in investing in programs that would benefit from “seed” or “completion” funds, or in graduate students who will use funding to enhance thesis or dissertation research. Funding can be used in one of the following three ways:

• To conduct preliminary data collection that will be used to submit an expanded proposal to another funding source (seed projects).
• For development or implementation of an outreach component that would bridge the gap between research and an impact, e.g. behavior change, policy change (completion projects).
• To provide support for graduate student research that would improve a thesis or dissertation (graduate student projects).

All projects should focus on one of our ten core topic areas. The topics include:

• Aquaculture
• Aquatic Invasive Species
• Climate Change
• Coastal Restoration
• Fish Consumption
• Great Lakes Health (especially Lake Michigan
• Land Use Planning
• Pharmaceuticals
• Water Quality
• Water Supply

Special consideration will be given to projects addressing IISG’s most recent research topic area, Climate Change, and projects investigating issues related to emerging contaminants (e.g., pharmaceuticals, personal care products and coal tar sealants). Visit our research page for more information on these core topic areas.

We anticipate funding 3-8 seed or completion projects and 3-8 graduate student projects depending on how well the pre-proposals meet IISG objectives and demonstrate rationale, rigor, and potential for growth. Selected pre-proposals meeting award criteria will be invited to submit full documentation through appropriate institutional mechanisms (i.e., appropriate institutional grants and contract office).

Funding will be provided for approximately one year beginning January 15, 2011, or the date of the award, and must be completed by December 30, 2011.

You can read the whole announcement here. Questions regarding eligibility or pre-proposal requirements may be directed to Carolyn Foley, assistant research coordinator.


In the news: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas

From the New York Times:
Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.

But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.

As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over. Read more.


IISG is searching for a new Great Lakes ecosystem system specialist

This specialist will maintain and expand an extension and technology transfer program emphasizing problem-solving assistance and the delivery of research-based information to coastal community decision-makers, policy makers, natural resource managers, and agency professionals. Responsibilities include Engaging university scientists, GLNPO, agency personnel, and Sea Grant staff to improve access to and use of Great Lakes data and facilitate indicator development, indicator reporting, and applied research needed to inform policy and management decisions. This specialist will lead programs and develop products to transfer indicator and monitoring results to targeted client groups to inform policy and management decisions that can sustain or improve ecosystems. This full time position will be located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago, Illinois.

For more information, visit the Purdue University employment page


Ensuring future water supply includes conservation

Margaret Schneemann (left), water resource economist with IISG and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and Bud Mason (center), technical assistance provider for the Rural Community Assistance Program, have partnered together to help address financial management and rate setting issues faced by local utilities. This partnership came about through the northeastern Illinois water supply plan, WATER2050, developed by CMAP and the Regional Water Supply Planning Group, and the continuing partnership between IISG and CMAP.

Earlier this month, CMAP launched the region’s new comprehensive plan, GOTO2040. GOTO2040 emphasizes that our communities can be more livable if, among other things, we combine land use and water supply planning, and if we implement water conservation and efficiency strategies described in WATER2050. Meanwhile, the population in the region is predicted to increase by 25 percent by 2040. CMAP’s Tim Loftus, who directed WATER2050, explains, “Therein lies the central issue … How does the region accommodate millions more people with water supplies that are constrained? To avoid future shortages, water providers need to work together and consumers need to increase conservation.”

These are issues with which McHenry County Water Resources Manager Cassandra McKinney (right) is very familiar. McKinney worked over the past three years to develop the McHenry County Groundwater Resources Action Plan (WRAP) and is now bringing a series of speakers to the county to address the plan’s key implementation areas, including water conservation and rate setting.

On October 14, Schneemann and Mason spoke to the McHenry Groundwater Task Force on Water Conservation and Rate Setting on their technical assistance efforts in the region and how these could help the county implement WRAP. “Key to our efforts” McKinney said, is “proactively reaching out to stakeholders to ensure that our water supply planning efforts are coordinated with state and regional planning efforts through events such as this.”


IISG has opening for community decisionmaking specialist

This is a visiting 12 month, 100 percent time academic professional position working as an outreach specialist through IISG and located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) in Chicago, Illinois. This individual will work closely with GLNPO personnel, faculty and staff from the University of Illinois, Great Lakes Sea Grant programs, and other federal agencies.

This specialist is responsible for working with coastal communities and targeted client groups to assist them in making informed science-based decisions relative to:

* Options for management, monitoring, protection, and restoration of coastal habitats.
* Local policies and programs needed to reduce pollution and toxics reaching the community’s surface waters.
* Local policies or programs needed to improve indicators of Great Lakes quality.
* Options for delisting Beneficial Use Impairments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

Closing date for this position is November 30, 2010. For job details and other pertinent information, visit the position announcement page or contact Lisa Merrifield.

IISG is looking for an environmental social scientist

IISG announces the opening of a new position in the program--Visiting Environmental Social Scientist. This is a visiting 12 month, 100 percent time academic professional position working as an outreach specialist through IISG with a 0 percent time appointment in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. This position is located at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office(GLNPO) in Chicago, Illinois. This individual will work closely with GLNPO personnel, faculty and staff from UIUC, Great Lakes Sea Grant Programs, and other federal agencies.

Closing date for this position is November 30, 2010. For job details and other pertinent information, visit the position announcement page or contact Lisa Merrifield.

IISG 'Hööks' new research coordinator

IISG’s new research coordinator is Tomas Höök, an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. Höök received his BS, MS and PhD from the University of Michigan and prior to coming to Purdue he worked at the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research and as a visiting scientist at Stockholm University, Sweden. His area of expertise is fisheries and aquatic sciences with a focus on fish and fisheries ecology in the Laurentian Great Lakes.


Too little, too late: Not enough food in Great Lakes to support Asian carp?

The threat of Asian carp invading the Great Lakes may not be as dire as some fear. According an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant study, the lakes’ open waters do not provide sufficient food for the fish to grow.

Asian carp species—for example, bighead and silver carp—are filter feeders. They eat microscopic plankton that provides the base of the food chain. Since these fish grow quite large, they potentially pose a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem if they thrive in these waters.

With funding from NOAA-National Sea Grant College Program, Sandra Cooke and Water Hill, Illinois Natural History Survey ecologists, sought to answer the question of whether Asian carp can survive and thrive in the nutrient-poor Great Lakes. They estimated the energy required for the carp to survive and grow, taking into account varying body sizes, swimming speeds and reproductive stages. These numbers were analyzed in light of available food sources in the Great Lakes.

According to their modeling results, there may be sufficient plankton in some harbors and other near shore areas, but not in open waters. “Flourishing populations of filter-feeding Asian carp are historically associated with conditions that feature abundant phytoplankton and zooplankton,” said Hill. “Most areas of the Great Lakes feature relatively low abundances of these plankton.”

Ironically, the carp may just be late to the Great Lakes plankton buffet because other invasive species have already depleted the supply. “Prior invasions of the Great Lakes by zebra and quagga mussels have reduced the potential for the carp to establish populations because these mussels have reduced plankton biomass,” said Hill. “They are filter feeders too.”

But don’t write the carp off in the Great Lakes altogether. Cooke and Hill speculates that bighead and silver carp may still have significant impact on fish communities in areas where there is sufficient plankton—in harbors and nearshore areas, as well as other productive locations such as Green Bay and western Lake Erie. “Many nearshore habitats can serve as important nurseries for larval fish, including walleye and alewives,” said Cooke.

The situation is also subject to change. For example, climate change may lead to conditions in which plankton are more abundant. An increase in nutrient levels can have the same effect. As plankton numbers increase, so does the likelihood that the carp will grow and thrive.

Hill does not see these results as a reason to relent on efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. “Given the potential consequences to Great Lakes ecosystems if these filter feeders do prove capable of establishing reproducing populations, efforts to keep Asian carp out the Great Lakes must not be lessened,” he said. Rather, this work can provide insight for resource managers to direct their monitoring and prevention efforts to areas that are most at risk.

Results from this research are published in the October 2010 issue of Freshwater Biology (55).