IISG and Earth Force introduce medicine disposal issue to Calumet region classrooms

IISG’s education team, Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy, visited Laura Senteno’s 7th and 8th grade classroom at NiƱos Heroes Elementary School and Rosemary Reddice’s 7th grade classroom at George Pullman Elementary School on February 18. Angie Viands, Windy City Earth Force coordinator, asked Terri and Robin to visit these two classrooms to enrich students’ understanding of the pharmaceutical disposal issue and to help the teachers and students come to a decision regarding which Earth Force community issue they plan to tackle. This process is integral to the Earth Force-Sea Grant partnership in which students are led through a six-step process of community action and problem solving to address important community issues.

After talking to students about the problems posed by improperly disposed of medicines and good alternatives, they engaged the youth in a Jeopardy game, a vocabulary word scramble game, and a marble labyrinth game, Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly. Activities were selected from IISG’s Medicine Chest curriculum materials. Once the students select their issue, they will work on projects that will be exhibited at a culminating youth summit, coordinated by Earth Force.

Following this visit, Laura Senteno commented on the students’ response: “The information you presented helped very much, especially in terms of motivation. After you left, quite a large group of them really got busy with their personal care product assignment, and I overheard them discussing some of the information from your workshop.”

This effort is part of a larger project funded by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


In the news: Grand Calumet River dredging brings benefits

From Dredging Today:
Thomas Simon knows first hand what a terrible condition the Grand Calumet River has been in. When he first sampled it for fish in 1985, his findings were scary.

“The only fish we caught, it was a carp, it had no fins. It was completely bloody,” recalled Simon, then in his first year with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “There was no (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) at the time. It was the health department. All the guys started cheering. There was a fish and it was alive. That was the first fish we caught.”

Three years later, Simon went back. That’s when he found Blinky — a fish who got his name because he was so severely deformed that he had no eye on one side of his mouth.

Fish deformities are part of what led scientists to list the Grand Calumet River as impaired for all 14 possible uses in 1972, earning it the title of the most polluted river in the nation.

This summer, Simon hopes to start changing that by proving that the river is in much better condition than government data shows. Now a researcher for Indiana State University, Simon will be sampling a 10-mile stretch of the river and areas nearby. Read more.


Natural lawn care workshop highlights healthy alternative

Looking for a way to grow your business in the expanding field of natural lawn care? Interested in transitioning your parks and municipal properties away from conventional lawn care? Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP), with the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association, along with partners on a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, University of Illinois Extension, and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning—will host a one-day workshop on Natural Lawn Care on March 23, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois. Registration information and the full agenda are available at www.ilca.net.

“Growing public demand for safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly lawns has created a prime opportunity for turf pros and for those looking to get into this field to address customers’ concerns” said Rachel Rosenberg, SPCP executive director. Natural lawn care emphasizes building healthy soil, encouraging soil biology, selecting the right grass, watering properly and managing pests naturally. The topics the workshop will cover include: Sustainability and Natural Lawns, Soil and Healthy Landscapes, Transitioning to Natural Lawn Care, Budgets and Saving Money, and Public Messaging.

The featured speaker is Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, with more than 30 years of experience in the turf and horticulture industry, as well as experience managing athletic and municipal turf fields naturally. Osborn lectures nationwide on natural turf management, both to homeowners and municipalities, and has addressed the National Sports Turf Managers Association. Additional experts include: Mike Nowak of "The Mike Nowak Show" on WCPT820 AM, Chicago; Richard Hentschel, U of I Extension green industry programming specialist; Laura Killian, Lake Champlain Sea Grant water quality educator at the University of Vermont; Steve Neumann, owner of Logic Lawn Care; and Tom Lupfer, owner and Founder of Lupfer Landscaping.

Workshop participants will be able to choose from two specialized topic areas: “Implementing Natural Lawn Care on Your Property” or “Running a Natural Lawn Care Business.” The cost of the workshop is $150, with lunch included. Group discounts are available. Funding is provided by a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, with additional support from workshop sponsors.

For a complete agenda, presenter biographies and registration materials, visit www.ilca.net.


In the news: Climate projections show human health impacts possible within 30 years

From Newsroom America:
A panel of scientists have unveiled new research and models demonstrating how climate change could increase exposure and risk of human illness originating from ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems, with some studies projecting impacts to be felt within 30 years.

"With 2010 the wettest year on record and third warmest for sea surface temperatures, NOAA and our partners are working to uncover how a changing climate can affect our health and our prosperity," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "These studies and others like it will better equip officials with the necessary information and tools they need to prepare for and prevent risks associated with changing oceans and coasts."

In several studies funded by NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative, findings shed light on how complex interactions and climate change alterations in sea, land and sky make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic algal blooms and proliferation of harmful microbes and bacteria.

Climate change could prolong toxic algal outbreaks by 2040 or sooner. Read more.


In the news: Study: Climate change linked to extreme rain

From the USA Today:
John Fogerty once crooned "Who'll stop the rain?" Not humanity, apparently, as new research shows that human-caused climate change has significantly increased the chances of extreme rain- and snowfall around the world, along with the deadly floods that follow.

This is according to two new studies published Wednesday in the British journal Nature.

While other studies have suggested that global warming may be partly responsible for an increase in heavy precipitation, what's new in this study is the formal finding that human influence has "likely made intense precipitation stronger, on average, over the second half of the 20th century," says study co-author Francis Zwiers of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Read more.


Teacher workshops at the Field Museum moved to March

Chicago’s winter blues has provided a second chance for teachers to participate in two Great Lakes science-based workshops that take place on the same day—March 24. These workshops at the Field Museum were rescheduled due to the recent blizzard, so you can still sign up. The morning workshop concentrates on Great Lakes data and the afternoon turns the focus to student stewardship.

"Teaching with Great Lakes Data"

What: In this workshop you will learn about dead zones, climate & weather, storm surges, and fish habitat in the Great Lakes as well as how to use real-time and historical data to teach about these topics. Lessons are aligned with Illinois and Indiana Science Standards and National Science Education Standards.

Who: Teachers in grades 5-7 who are interested in using Great Lakes data in the classroom. Limited to the first 20 registrants, so register soon!

When: March 24, 9:00 am until 1:00 pm

Where: The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Stipends: Each participating teacher will receive a $200 stipend for participating in post-workshop evaluations.

“Reduce Aquatic Invasions through Student Stewardship”

What: In this workshop you will incorporate problem-based learning about invasive species; integrate content about aquatic invasive species in your science units through a creative website, Nab the Aquatic Invader! and involve your students in a community stewardship project.

Who: Teachers in grades 5-7 who are interested in enhancing existing curriculum, while involving students as agents for change to address this real-world issue. Limited to the first 20 registrants, so register soon!

When: March 24, follows the “Teaching with Great Lakes Data” workshop, from 1:00-3:30 p.m.

Where: The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Stipends: Each participating teacher has the option to receive an additional $200 stipend for creating an aquatic invasive species activity and facilitating a student stewardship project.

These workshops are funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA-Sea Grant. Stipends are provided by COSEE Great Lakes. For more information or to register, contact Robin Goettel, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant associate director of education.


IISG has an opening for a climatologist

The Division of Illinois State Water Survey within the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is seeking one full-time Extension climatologist. The primary functions of this position will be to foster relationships with users of climate data and information in the Midwest regarding agriculture, Great Lakes coastal issues, and other climate-sensitive issues and to help stakeholders improve their decision-making processes with regard to climate. This is a joint position with the Midwestern Regional Climate Center and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. See the announcement for more information. The deadline for consideration is March 11.


New IISG community decision-making specialist will provide on the ground support

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Kristin TePas recently began her new position at the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) in Chicago. As of Feb. 1, she is IISG’s Great Lakes community decision-making specialist. In this position, Kristin will assist coastal communities and other clients in making informed decisions, strengthening policies, or implementing programs that improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. She will be working with GLNPO scientists to use their monitoring and research data to make products and publications for community leaders.

Kristin previously worked as the program’s aquatic invasives extension associate for almost 10 years, conducting outreach focused on preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species.

“I’m very excited about this new opportunity,” Kristin said. “I’m looking forward to working with the Great Lakes communities and broadening my focus beyond aquatic invasive species.”

One project she is currently working on is acting as a liaison between EPA and Purdue University, which is developing indicators for land use change and agricultural lands. The project is being done in the hopes that EPA will adopt the indicators.

Kristin holds an M.E.M. in coastal environmental management from Duke University and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Notre Dame.


In the news: Detecting Pathogens in Waterways: An Improved Approach

From Science Daily:
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have come up with a way to detect pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella bacteria in waterways at lower levels than any previous method. Similar methods have been developed to detect pathogenic E. coli in meat products, but the approach by the scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) represents a first for waterways. Read more.


In the news: Is it Time to Modify the Lakefront Again?

From NBC Chicago:
From the day the first French explorers arrived in what would become Chicago, human beings have tried to mold Lake Michigan into a more user-friendly body of water.

Grant and Millennium Parks sit in what used to be open water, filled in a hundred years ago by city fathers anxious to give Chicago a magnificent front yard. And up and down the lakefront, repeated modifications have been made in an effort to corral the lake's fury. Read more and watch the video.


Eye-Opener: Sea Grant Fellowship Gives Illinois Grad Up-Close Look at Oil Spill

Mike Allen’s interest in biology and nature flourished at a young age as a Boy Scout spending his time camping and exploring the woods of New York state. However, at the time he probably couldn’t have envisioned that his youthful fascination with the environment would lead him to play a role in the United States government’s response to one of the worst environmental crises in decades – the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010.

Allen was in the third month of his Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant fellowship with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) when there was an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010 that killed 11 workers and resulted in oil being pumped in the Gulf for almost three months.

“We won’t know the full effects and the real answers for years,” said Allen, who received his Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. “It is very disheartening because the Gulf is already a stressed ecosystem, and (the spill) is one more major kick in the gut. It is going to be interesting to see what happens over the next five to 10 years.”

The National Sea Grant College Program established the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship in 1979. Graduate students accepted into the program travel to the Washington, D.C. area to work on marine policy in legislative and executive offices.

Soon Allen’s office, the Office of Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, located in Silver Spring, Md., was tasked to put together a group that would coordinate major components of the science and research response to the oil spill disaster.

“NOAA is the lead science agency for oil spills, so all aspects of the enterprise came into play,” Allen said, adding that they worked on researching seafood safety, dispersants, oil properties in the water, and more.

Allen worked with the federal agency’s leadership to track activities in the Gulf; develop and submit science proposals with the laboratories; and secure reimbursement and new funding for completed, ongoing and proposed activities.

While Allen was never sent to the actual site of the spill, he said the experience gave him a new perspective on how the government responds to a crisis of this magnitude.

“We were just one agency among many that had a mandate from Congress to respond to a spill like this,” he said. “Setting up the coordination mechanism across government agencies to make this happen was just incredible to see.”

During his fellowship, Allen also worked as the primary liaison between NOAA’s administrative headquarters and the three “wet labs” – the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Allen’s yearlong fellowship ran through the end of January 2011, when the program allowed him to transition to a contract position with 2020 Company, LLC, which has placed him in NOAA as a policy analyst.

“(The fellowship) has been an absolutely fabulous experience for me,” he said. “Being here in D.C. and seeing how the agency works and interacts with other agency offices has been very eye-opening for how the government functions and how people get things done.”

He also said the fellowship gave him the opportunity to travel to various offices and laboratories as well as develop valuable contacts.

“I encourage other people in Illinois and Indiana to consider applying for this fellowship because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience policy in Washington, D.C.,” Allen said. “It will open your eyes to the way government works.”

Applications for the 2012 Knauss fellowships are due by Feb. 18. For more information, go to our Fellowship page.

Social scientist joins the IISG team

IISG’s new environmental social scientist is Caitie McCoy. Caitie will focus on communities interested or involved with the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which provides resources to clean up U.S. EPA Areas of Concern. She will be working on outreach related to contaminant remediation and restoration (including economic and societal benefits), user needs assessments, communications plans, and case studies.

According to Caitie, she will work closely with local residents so that remediation projects are in line with community interests. She will bring together scientists, landowners, and other participants, including underserved audiences in the community, to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

She is located in the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago.

Caitie recently finished her M.S. in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. Her graduate work combined communication, collaborative conservation, and education to build the adaptive capacity and resilience of local communities. She has participated in a number of research projects focused on the connection of people and nature. She has some teaching experience and has worked for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.


Outdoor show a great way to spread the word about Asian carp

At the America's Outdoor Sports Show in Rosemont, Illinois, IISG engaged boating, fishing and other enthusiasts about the issue of invasive species, especially Asian carp. Through a game in which players spin the wheel and fish for questions, participants of all ages tested their knowledge about aquatic invasive species.