Recreational water users: Join the discussion and help fight AIS

Protecting the waterways of Illinois and Indiana requires everyone’s involvement. Now is your chance to voice your opinion, and help shape statewide education and outreach efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) is conducting two focus groups with area boaters, anglers, & waterfowl hunters--in Springfield, Ill., on Monday, January 9, from 6-8 p.m. and in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday, January 10 from 6-8 p.m.

AIS can easily be spread by recreational water users from one infested waterbody to another. The goal of these discussions is to learn what you think about practices to reduce the spread of Asian carp, Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and other AIS. Practices include: inspecting craft for hitchhikers, not releasing live bait in water bodies, and flushing motors.

The results of these focus groups will instrumental in designing future campaigns that are effective and speak to the people of Illinois and Indiana.

“The negative effects of AIS are often seen first by those who recreate on lakes, rivers, and ponds,” said Sarah Zack, IISG aquatic invasive species specialist. “For example, invasive aquatic weeds can choke waterways, preventing fun activities, like boating, fishing, and swimming.” Food web changes caused by AIS can trigger declines in game fish populations, impacting recreational fishing. Asian carp, a fast growing invasive fish, has even been known to jump out of the water and strike boaters and personal watercraft users.

Most people will use a lake, river, pond or creek for recreation at some point or another in their lives – there are over four million registered boats and two million anglers in the Great Lakes region alone. All types of boaters, anglers, waterfowl hunters, and other water users are invited to take part in the focus group.

A small monetary compensation for participation will be provided. The specific meeting location will be disclosed upon registration. For more information, contact Sarah Zack at szack@illinois.edu. To register, please contact Erin Seekamp by phone at (618) 453-7463 or email at eseekamp@siu.edu.

IISG is one of 32 programs nationwide that address a number of coastal issues through research, education and outreach. The program is committed to informing the public about the problems posed by AIS as well as how to prevent their spread.


IISG in the news: Macon County residents get rid of unwanted medications safely

It isn't always easy to do the right thing. Especially when it comes to properly disposing of unused medicine. But, in Macon County, Illinois residents can now get unused controlled substances, such as pain medications, out of their houses. IISG recently purchased a collection box for the Maroa Police Department. This program is, in fact, the only place in Macon County that can accept controlled substances. All medications collected will be incinerated; keeping the drugs off of the streets and out of the water.
Read more about the collection program in Macon County at the Herald-Review.


Illinois Water Resources Center is seeking proposals

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources, is seeking proposals for research on topics related to improving and enhancing the nation’s water supply, including (but not limited to): enhancement of water supply infrastructure, development of drought impact indicators, evaluation of the dynamics of extreme hydrological events and associated costs, development of methods for better estimation of the physical and economic supply of water, integrated management of ground and surface waters, the resilience of public water supplies, and the evaluation of conservation practices. Proposals are sought in not only the physical dimensions of supply, but also the role of economics and institutions in water supply and in coping with extreme hydrologic conditions.

Proposed projects can be 1 to 3 years in duration and may request up to $250,000 in federal funds. Successful applicants must match each dollar of the federal grant with one dollar from non-federal sources. Proposals must be filed on the Internet at https://niwr.net/ by 4:00 PM, Eastern Time, Thursday, February 23, 2012.

Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center.

The full RFP is available at https://niwr.net/competitive_grants/RFP. In Illinios, contact Lisa Merrifield, lmorrisn@illinois.edu or 217-333-0045 for more about the Illinois Water Resources Center.

In Indiana contact Ron Turco, rturco@purdue.edu or 765-494-8077, for more information. 


FAQs on the Buffalo River remediation get answers

The Buffalo River was subjected to a great deal of industrial contamination years ago. Efforts at pollution prevention and cleanup have helped to rehabilitate the water way, but a great deal of contamination still exists in the sediment at the bottom of the river. These contaminants can still have a negative effect on economic, social, and environmental uses of the river, but an ongoing collaboration between a number of agencies is working right now to clean up and restore the river bottom.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, Honeywell and several other affiliated public and private entities have teamed up to complete a two-year dredging project that will remove 1.2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment, which will provide a clean and supportive environment for local, native species to flourish.

Part of the work is being performed under the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which revitalizes once-thriving waterways through sediment cleanups and restoration. The act requires at least 35 percent of the project cost to come from non-federal partners. IISG’s Environmental Social Scientist Caitie McCoy has provided expertise for the project. For example, she prepared the publication The Buffalo River Restoration Project: Frequently Asked Questions. The FAQ gives detailed information on the Buffalo River Restoration Project, including the project’s timeframe, funding, impact, and more.


Aquaponics makes the most of water safely and naturally

What do you get when you combine an aquarium, a greenhouse, and a fish farm? The answer is aquaponics.

Aquaponics is the process of operating fish farming and hydroponic plant farming in a contained system where the water is circulated, filtered, and reused between both. Here's how it works. The water in the fish tanks builds up waste that need to be filtered out to keep the fish healthy. But this waste can actually provides nutrients for plant growth so in an aquaponic setup, that water is used to hydroponically grown plants. The plant roots filter the water by taking up and using these valuable nutrients. By circulating the water through the system in this way, both the plants and the fish benefit, and the water is reused. The system also provides a natural environment where vegetables, herbs, and fish are all raised organically.

For a great explanation of the process, as well as a tour of what an aquaponic system can look like, watch this video from the Purdue University Extension office.

If you would like to learn more about aquaponics, contact IISG Aquaculture Marketing Specialist Kwamena Quagrainie.


Indiana planners take action on climate change, green infrastructure

As the year ends, top ten lists begin to crop up, putting the year's events in perspective and celebrating accomplishments. IISG has put together our own list of successes from projects that have come to fruition in recent years, and here is an example: 

IISG presented a seminar on climate change, land use, and human health impacts to the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) Environmental Management Planning Committee. The seminar led to the development of a climate change steering committee, which drafted a resolution on climate change for the NIRPC Board of Trustees. Sea Grant also participated in this process.

The NIRPC Board of Trustees approved the resolution requiring that any future planning and funding efforts that NIRPC puts forth incorporate climate change components, especially green infrastructure. This kind of action provides positive action on climate change issues, both in the near term and in the future planning. It also fosters an impact at the local level, where communities and residents will benefit directly from the improvements.

To read more about the NIRPC’s commitment to the environment, visit their website here. For more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here.


IISG provides medicine collection boxes to 15 communities

Join IISG in taking a look at some of the projects we’ve been involved in during the past year or two. There have been a number of important initiatives that are already benefiting communities throughout the Great Lakes region, and here is just one example:

Flushing unused medicines is a bad idea. for aquatic wildlife, and for us--these chemicals can end up in local rivers and streams as well as drinking water sources.  IISG has been at the forefront in efforts to to raise awareness on this issue and to help communities organize local medicine collection programs.

IISG and the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program created permanent medicine collection programs in several Great Lakes communities, and Sea Grant has purchased 15 medicine collection boxes for communities that now have ongoing pharmaceutical collection programs in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

As a result of the program, 15 Great Lakes communities collected 4,600 pounds of medicine in 2010 alone, preventing all of that from entering the water supply and negatively impacting the environment.
Pictured here is the drop box in Peru, Illinois and the local team that worked to make it happen. For more information on medicine collection programs and proper disposal of pharmaceuticals, visit the IISG webpage on Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. And or more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here.


IISG in the news: UW, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Programs Team Up to Produce Area of Concern Video

IISG  and Wisconsin Sea Grant and are teaming up teaming up to produce a public information video that’s designed to inform anglers, boaters, marina operators and local businesses of the benefits that can come from cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC).
From the WSG website:
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are currently 49 Great Lakes AOCs, sites where water and sediment quality have become severely degraded. And chances are good that residents have absolutely no idea they may be living in one.
The video, funded by a grant from the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, will feature several Great Lakes AOCs, including the Sheboygan River AOC, the Milwaukee Estuary AOC, the Muskegon Lake AOC, and the Grand Calumet River AOC (pictured here). Caitie McCoy, a social scientist with IISG, will interview people who live and work in these AOCs, and UW Sea Grant videographer John Karl will shoot and edit the footage into a five- to seven-minute video. Read more here.


Green infrastructure becomes policy in Illinois

As 2011 winds down, top ten lists begin to crop up, putting the year in review and celebrating recent accomplishments. IISG has put together our own list of successes that have come to fruition in recent years. Here is just one example:

Illinois EPA provided funding to IISG to study the costs and effectiveness of green infrastructure as a way to replace or supplement existing stormwater management. The study showed that on average, green infrastructure practices are equally effective in managing stormwater, while costing less to establish and maintain. Martin Jaffe, environmental planning specialist, presented these findings to the Illinois General Assembly.

As a result, the Illinois General Assembly established a $5 million discretionary fund to support green infrastructure projects in communities throughout the state. In addition, because of this study, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning 2040 Regional Comprehensive Plan, adopted in the fall of 2010, recommended incorporating green infrastructure practices in future development.

Managing urban stormwater is a significant matter facing communities throughout the U.S. – including northeastern Illinois and surrounding areas. Increasing storm intensity and aging infrastructure are combined threats to existing stormwater management, but green infrastructure may provide a useful and effective approach to these issues.

For more information on IISG projects and their positive impacts, view our fact sheet here. And to learn more about the Green Infrastructure Plan for Illinois, view the State’s EPA website, complete with details on the plan, here.


Visitors to the Washington County Fair learn about disposing of medicines properly

Katie Vercek (pictured here) and Emily Allen are 4-H Teen County Council members with the Penn State Cooperative Extension 4-H Program. Pamela Paletta, Penn State Extension educator in Youth Development/4-H, asked the girls to use the IISG guide Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicine to learn about the concerns that improperly disposed of medicines can pose to waterways and community health, and then create informational posters to display at the Washington County Fair in Pennsylvania. 

Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicine, which was developed by Purdue Extension Youth Development, is being circulated to state 4-H programs in the Great Lakes region to help spread awareness and inspire action, and provided the basic information for the posters. Katie shared the information on what people can do with their unwanted medicines with many of the visitors to the fair, and helped spread the word about preventing these medicines and related substances from entering water supplies. 

This project was made possible through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


Sea Grant and AVMA join forces to raise awareness on medicine disposal

The most common poisons that threaten our beloved pets are our own medicines—ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antidepressants, and ADHD medications. Any medication, even those prescribed for a pet, can pose a risk to dogs or cats who decide to eat what they find.

For this reason and more, the National Sea Grant College Program and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have forged a formal partnership to raise awareness about the need for proper storage and disposal of unused medicines.

Pets, of course, are not the only victims of accidental poisonings. The Journal of Pediatrics recently reported that between the years 2001-2008, more than 430,000 children five years or younger were brought to emergency rooms due to self-ingested medicines. And, in the larger picture, drug-related deaths now outnumber motor vehicle fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What’s more, pharmaceuticals are turning up in the environment. “Medicine disposal has become an emerging issue as numerous studies have found pharmaceuticals in drinking water and in lakes and rivers,” said Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention specialist. “The long term impacts are not known, but it’s clear that flushing medicines or throwing them in the trash contributes to the problem.”

"We are excited about this collaborative effort involving the AVMA and NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program," said Mike Liffmann, Extension leader for the National Sea Grant Office. "Our Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant colleagues will, on behalf of the National Sea Grant College Program, lead this joint outreach and education effort aimed at ensuring that leftover or unused medications for animals are disposed of properly so they cannot harm people, the animals or the environment."

For the past six years, IISG has worked with communities to develop local medicine collection programs. Through workshops and the IISG toolkit, the program provides information and support so that these efforts are safe and successful.

Now, alongside the AVMA, the information campaign can grow to encompass new audiences, including animal owners who, along with many in the general public, may need to dispose of unused and expired medicine.

“By increasing the general public’s awareness of options available to them for the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and the environmental consequences of improper disposal, it is hoped and anticipated that fewer and fewer medications will flushed or poured into our waters,” said Kristi Henderson, AVMA assistant director of scientific activities.

For more information about medicine collection programs, visit unwantedmeds.org. There, you can download the toolkit Disposal of Unwanted Medicines: A Resource for Action in Your Community.


In the news: Des Plaines River runs red for research

From NBC Chicago:

Scientists dumped a red dye "tracer" into the river between Route 83 and the Lockport area beginning late Tuesday night to study Asian carp and other species migrating to Lake Michigan. Read more.


IISG booth offers AIS info for science teachers

Sarah Zack and Danielle Hilbrich organized an aquatic invasive species outreach booth October 27-28 at the Illinois Science Teachers Association Conference in Tinley Park, Illinois. The theme was  “Never Release Classroom Plants and Animals,” and the information was aimed at explaining how even common classroom plants or animals can endanger the environment if not properly cared for and disposed of. They reached approximately 260 science teachers, with many engaging in conversations about how to prevent classroom specimens from becoming harmful invasive species.

Sarah and Danielle display some of the informational materials they provided for the conference.

IISG welcomes Jason Brown to the communication team

This month we welcome Jason Brown as our new media specialist at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Jason received his BA in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois, and has extensive experience in writing and editing for a variety of outlets. He also has several years’ experience in the radio industry, and has developed web content and social media strategies for other environmental causes. Jason will be working closely with Irene Miles and the rest of the Sea Grant group to keep the public informed and active in helping to protect Illinois and Indiana waterways.


Elementary school kids learn the latest on invasive species

IISG’s Danielle Hilbrich conducted an outreach event at Walt Whitman Elementary School in Wheeling, Illinois earlier this week. She presented information about aquatic invasive species (AIS) to an enrichment group of third, fourth, and fifth grade students that was tasked with researching the effects of AIS and communicating them to their school. Danielle presented information on Asian carp, answering student-developed questions about where Asian carp came from, how they got here, why they could be a problem, and how we can control them. The presentation concluded with a hands-on demonstration of many AIS specimens.

Students at Walt Whitman Elementary learn about invasive species and share info with their schoolmates.


In the news: Quagga mussels threaten Lake Michigan ecosystem

From WTTW Chicago:
Scientists believe the Quagga mussel first stowed away in the ballast water on transoceanic ships from the Caspian Sea. The mussels made their way into the lakes when that ballast water was purged.

The tiny fingernail-sized mussels closely related to another invasive, known as the Zebra mussel, first appeared in lake waters here in 1988.
The Quagga mussel is now the most pervasive and destructive invasive species ever to enter the Great Lakes. Over the last 15 years, the Quagga population has exploded, eclipsing the Zebra mussel and infecting all five of the Great Lakes. Read more.


Chicago River provides teachers a hands-on AIS experience

IISG continues working to get students to become active stewards of the Great Lakes. On November 5, we held an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) workshop, “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers,” which provided 15 teachers with valuable information and resources they can use to educate students about keeping the Great Lakes healthy.
Teachers indicate origin and destination of Great Lakes invaders in “Where in the World?” mapping activity.

Educators Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy conducted the workshop for geography and environmental science teachers in Chicago. The afternoon field trip offered an up-close experience with the Chicago River and its organisms, as well as a tour of the riverbank area to see examples of best management practices for water conservation. Attendees participated in many hands-on activities and learned the latest about spread, impact, and control of common aquatic invaders in the region. They also learned how to incorporate problem-based learning about invasive species into their lesson plans.
High school teachers George Hill and Mike Littmann compare their river species.

Many of the teachers plan to involve their students in community stewardship projects that will help them learn best practices to prevent further spread of these invaders. 
Dianne Lebryk shows one of the many rusty crayfish that teachers collected during the field experience.

 This workshop was sponsored by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and COSEE Great Lakes, in collaboration with the Illinois Geographic Alliance and Friends of the Chicago River.


IISG specialists attend 3rd National Sea Grant Academy

The National Sea Grant Academy was established to provide continuing education for Sea Grant Extension faculty, to give a national perspective on the role and importance of each Sea Grant program, and to further the work of studying, improving, and protecting America’s waterways.

In March 2011, IISG specialists Paris Collingsworth, Carolyn Foley, Laura Kammin, Caitie McCoy and Kristin TePas attended the first half of the 3rd National Sea Grant Academy in Washington, D.C. This week-long training event gave participants the opportunity to interact with other Sea Grant staff from around the globe, learn how to better design their projects, and begin to understand the inner workings of the National Sea Grant Program Office.

Caitie and other Sea Grant specialists search for frogs in the Columbia Gorge. Back L to R: Greg Berman (Woods Hole Sea Grant), Jeffrey Brodeur (Woods Hole), Holly Abeels (Florida), Julie Anderson (Louisiana), Front L to R: Juliet Simpson (MIT), Sara Grise (Pennsylvania), Mike Spranger (Florida), Karla Kaczmarek (Pennsylvania), Caitie.
During the week of October 23-29, 2011, Carolyn, Laura and Caitie attended the second week’s events in Portland, Oregon. These sessions offered information on how to plan projects aimed at achieving meaningful outcomes, and solidified the connections made during the first week’s sessions by allowing participants to share their thoughts, experiences, and resources with other Sea Grant specialists. During the week, participants had the opportunity to learn about and be inspired by the work being done by other Sea Grant programs around the country, especially in the host state of Oregon.

Caitie and Laura participate in a trip to Washington Park, at 410 acre urban park located within the city limits of Portland. From L to R: Mike Liffman (NSGO), Karla Kaczmarek (Pennsylvania Sea Grant), Julie Anderson (Louisiana Sea Grant), Holly Abeels (Florida Sea Grant), Susanna Musick (Virginia Sea Grant), Laura Kammin, Chelsea Lowes (NSGO), Caitie McCoy, Sara Grise (Pennsylvania Sea Grant).
These recent graduates of Sea Grant Academy are looking forward to using the skills and connections made during these two training weeks as they work to create interesting, useful programs in the Great Lakes region and beyond.

Sea anemones at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (hmsc.oregonstate.edu/).


Sustaining Water Systems Webinar

On Tuesday, Nov.8th, the Wisconsin and Illinois Sections of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) will cohost a webinar entitled Ensuring Sustainable Water Systems through Innovative, Full Cost Water Pricing from 1:00pm to 2:30pm.

The webinar will give water utility staff and local elected officials an overview of how careful planning for conservation can recover costs, ensure adequate revenue to replace and maintain critical infrastructure, and enhance water conservation efforts by promoting environmentally sound consumer decisions. Presenters will include Drema Gross (Austin Water Utility), Margaret Schneemann (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning/Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program), and Jan Beecher (Institute of Public Utilities, Michigan State University).

This webinar follows the City of Chicago’s recently proposed 2012 budget, which includes increases in water rates to fund infrastructure improvements. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) highlights the proposed rate increases in their policy blog, Facing up to the Need for Investment in Water Infrastructure.

While Chicago’s customer utilities have been vocal on the proposed increases, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation Act of 1889 requires the city to charge the suburbs that depend on Chicago-produced water the same rate that they charge city residents. The City of Chicago also has a public campaign called MeterSave, which enables residents to become more water efficient.

The Nov. 8th webinar will further inform the region about the need for cost-beneficial water conservation and rates that recover the full costs of water supply.


In the news: From invasive species to fertilizer

As one solution to the threat posed by Asian carp, workers are investigating using the fish to create organic fertilizer.

From the Chicago Tribune:
Workers along the Illinois River are hunting for invasive fish to turn into organic fertilizer, fillets and other commercial products.

The hope is to reduce the population of Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes. Originally imported to cleanse ponds in the South, Asian carp made it into Mississippi River waterways and have traveled north. The voracious fish can starve other species by consuming their food.
Read more here.


In the news: Scientists head to D.C. with mercury findings

From the Great Lakes Echo:
Scientists are in Washington D.C. today to present to federal lawmakers research suggesting the Great Lakes region has more problems with mercury than previously thought.

Their visit comes just weeks after the GOP-led House of Representative passed two bills that would handcuff the EPA from limiting mercury emissions.

As Echo reported, scientists reviewed research on mercury in the Great Lakes region and found despite overall decreases in the pollutant, concentrations are rising in some species and health risks are occurring at lower levels than expected. Read more.


In the news: Study: Basins separation could hurt water quality

The Alton Telegraph:
A hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins would send Asian carp swimming back downstream, but also alter water quality.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study under way by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago District aims to find a solution that would halt migration of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species into Lake Michigan. But a hydrological separation also could affect other things, such as water quality or flooding.
So far, research indicates that while a separation of the waterways likely would not affect the degree of flooding Downstate, it could change the quality of water flowing toward Alton and St. Louis. The water now flowing this way contains treated wastewater and storm water runoff.
The feasibility portion of the federal study, anticipated for public review in draft form by early 2015, requires the corps to build models to test its theories before publishing any findings. Read more.


Clear Out Your Medicine Cabinet on October 29

Do you have unwanted medicines taking up needed space in your cabinets? Have you been waiting for a better disposal option than flushing them down the toilet or tossing them in the trash? Then mark your calendar for Saturday, October 29. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be partnering with communities around the country to host another medicine collection event that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This is an opportunity to dispose of your expired or unneeded medicines in a way that protects people, pets, and the environment.  To find a collection event near you go to the DEA website. IISG will be hosting two collection events in Illinois: in Mahomet (601 E. Main Street), and in Maroa (120 S. Locust St).

Controlled, non-controlled, and over-the-counter medications will be collected. You can bring in liquids and creams as long as they are in their original containers with the cap tightly sealed to prevent leakage. Intravenous solutions, injectibles, and syringes will not be accepted.

This event builds on the previous two DEA sponsored National Prescription Drug Take Back days, held in September 2010 and April 2011, in which more than 309 tons of medicine were collected.

A goal of the collection event is to help curb the rising trend of drug-related injuries and deaths, both accidental poisonings and overdoses. But it also serves to help protect the environment.

Pharmaceuticals that are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash eventually reach our rivers, streams, and lakes. Ultimately this can contaminate our drinking water and has been proven to harm wildlife. While the long-term impacts on human health are not known, there’s a long list of pharmaceuticals that are causing negative ecological effects. Progestin, a common contraceptive, has been shown to disrupt reproductive development in frogs. Trenblone, a steroid used in veterinary medicine, causes irreversible fish masculinization. And antidepressants have been found to impair predator avoidance in larval fathead minnow and in shrimp.

All of the medicine collected at the events will be incinerated by the DEA. For more information about this event, or permanent medicine collection programs, contact Laura Kammin.


In the news: Suburbs would get soaked by water-rate hike too

From the Chicago Tribune:
The ripple effects of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to hike water rates are spreading quickly into far-flung suburbs.

Residents and businesses in about 130 area suburbs and subdivisions that rely on city-supplied Lake Michigan water will also be hit by big rate hikes that Emanuel wants to impose on city dwellers to overhaul the water delivery system, the mayor acknowledged Friday. Read more.


In the news: Report says farm runoff declining near Great Lakes

From the Chicago Tribune:
Farmers are making significant cutbacks in erosion of soil and nutrients into the Great Lakes, where runoff is suspected of being a leading contributor to rampant growth of algae that damages water quality, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report said.

The study estimated that because of changes in cultivation practices, the amount of sediments washing into rivers and streams that feed the lakes is 50 percent less than it would have been otherwise. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff is about one-third lower than it would have been without the improvements. Read more.


IISG in the news: Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Solutions

A blog post from the Metropolitan Planning Council:


Invasive species workshop provides teachers Chicago River tour

Since youth are the future, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has been working hard to get students actively engaged in becoming tomorrow’s stewards of the Great Lakes. On November 5, IISG will hold the “Stop the Aquatic Hitchhikers” workshop, which will give teachers the information and resources they need to educate students about keeping the Great Lakes healthy.

“We will supply teachers with tools to help them provide authentic, issue-based learning opportunities for their students,” said Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education. “This workshop will give teachers first-rate classroom activities. It will also provide them with field-based experience on the Chicago River to help them understand the biology, spread, and impacts of aquatic invasive species, as well as the best approaches for the public to take action and control them.”

IISG is also partnering with the Friends of Chicago River for an afternoon field trip that will give workshop attendees an up-close and personal experience with the Chicago River and its organisms, as well as tour of the riverbank area to see examples of best management practices for water conservation.  

Teachers will also explore how to incorporate problem-based learning about invasive species, how to involve their students in a community stewardship project, and how to integrate content about aquatic invasive species in their biology, geography, and environmental science units.

Teachers who attend will receive a $200 stipend upon completion of their classroom stewardship projects. Plus they will receive classroom resources, including posters, the Great Lakes Invasion curriculum guide, the Stewardship Projects on Exotic Aquatic Species guide, as well as Continuing Professional Development Units.

Also, the best stewardship project will qualify one teacher to win free registration at the National Geographic Council for Education 2012 Conference in San Marcos, Texas.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will meet at the Volunteer Resource Center at Edgebrook Woods in Chicago, Ill. To register for this workshop, contact Terri Hallesy. To see more educational resources and student activities, visit Nab the Aquatic Invader!.

For this event, IISG has also partnered with the Illinois Geographic Alliance, and the Chicago Geographical Society. Funding is through the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


SOLEC 2011 expands on the land-water connection

Researchers over the past three years have been studying the chemical, biological, and physical indicators of the Great Lakes ecosystem’s health, and this information will be presented in the upcoming two-day State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC).

“This conference brings people together who make decisions that affect the Great Lakes. This brings to them the most up-to-date science of this ecosystem, which lays the foundation for them to make decisions about the future,” said ParisCollingsworth, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Great Lakes ecosystem specialist, who also serves on the SOLEC Executive Committee. IISG has been working to provide support and promote the conference.

SOLEC is being hosted by U.S. EPA and Environmental Canada. This year’s theme is “Linking Land to the Lakes,” which will expand on the 2008 conference’s focus on the nearshore. The event will also highlight land-based issues that relate to the Great Lakes’ water quality.

The keynote speaker is Robert Glennon, who will talk about the actions required to improve the United States’ water crisis. He is also the author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to do About It.

The event is being held Oct. 26 and 27 at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, Penn. For more information, or to register, visit the SOLEC 2011 web page. Registration is open until Oct. 14, and the full event costs $190.

Purdue Green Week hosts medicine collection event

From Carolyn Foley, IISG assistant research coordinator:
Green Week is a week-long event, sponsored by the Purdue University Sustainability Council, intended to teach faculty, staff, students and local citizens how to lead greener, cleaner lives. On September 30, as part of Green Week 2011, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant hosted a booth at the Sustainable World Expo. Angela Archer and I demonstrated the good work being done by IISG specialists and provided information on stopping the spread of invasive species, keeping unwanted chemicals out of the waterways, and developing sustainable aquaculture practices.

Students from the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Purdue Chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association collected unwanted medicines and educated expo-goers about how to dispose of their unwanted medicines in responsible ways. Although just about 10 people brought in medicines, those that brought, brought a lot. We heard from more than one, “I’ve been waiting for an event like this for a long time!”

 In spite of the windy weather, many participants learned something along the way and new partnerships were forged between IISG and members of the Purdue community. 


In the news: Voracious invasive quagga mussels gobbling Great Lakes' food chain

From the Detroit Free Press:
They eat as much as 98% of their weight each day, multiply rapidly and could alter the Great Lakes forever.

No, they aren't Asian carp. They are the true scourge of the lakes: quagga mussels. Their exploding numbers and rapid spread are leading scientists to use words like "startling," "dramatic" and "unprecedented."

"Quaggas are causing the biggest changes we've ever seen in Lake Michigan," said Tom Nalepa, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory who has studied the lake for more than 30 years. "The numbers are still going up. We are going to see more severe impacts." Read more.


Who is eating whom in Lake Michigan?

The Lake Michigan food web has under gone some changes in recent years—one reason is a dramatic influx of invasive species. So how does the food web function at this time? Who is eating whom?

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, the Lake Michigan Biological Station in Illinois and the Water Research Institute in Wisconsin are using state-of-the-art methods, including stable isotopes, fatty acid signatures and fish gut contents, to examine the Lake Michigan food web. In the end, they hope to put all of the results together to understand linkages in the food web.

The two-year project, funded by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Michigan Sea Grant and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, spans 11 sites around the lake. 

Wisconsin Sea Grant has developed a video that takes you aboard a research vessel as samples are collected, and back to the lab for analysis.