Teachers learn Great Lakes science, develop stewardship action plans

Twenty educators from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan were actively engaged in many activities shared at the March 24th COSEE Great Lakes workshop, “Catch the Wave!” at the Field Museum in Chicago. At the morning workshop, Steve Stewart, Michigan Sea Grant, demonstrated the many ways teachers could incorporate real-time and historical data to teach about fish habitat, climate, and dead zones. Steve's presentation was based on the Great Lake Lessons website.
The afternoon session, led by IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy, was filled with hands-on activities that teachers can use in their classrooms and nonformal education centers, along with a tour of the Nab the Aquatic Invader! website. The workshop began with a presentation by Notre Dame University biologist Matt Barnes (pictured here) who provided the latest information on common Great Lakes invasive species Including pathways of introduction. The educators wrapped up the day by developing preliminary action plans to implement community stewardship projects that help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.


Upcoming Purdue aquaculture and sustainable seafood webinars

The Purdue University Aquaculture group, in collaboration with the Purdue University Food Sciences seafood group is organizing a series of webinars in April. The topics include:

Fish Waste Utilization, Wednesday, April 13 • 2-4 pm
Aquaculture Food Product Safety, Wednesday, April 20 • 2-4 pm
Preparing Aquaculture Production for Processing, Wednesday, April 27 • 2-4 pm

Visit the webinar page to see the flyer or for more information about registration.

The cost is $50 per webinar or $100 for all three webinars. Those in the aquaculture community in Indiana and Illinois will receive a discount and pay $30 per each webinar or $60 for all three webinars. Please use the discount code “INILAQUA” when you are ready to check out.


Don't release the class pet! Sea Grant talks to science teachers

The use of live organisms in classrooms is a valued tool for engaging students. However, it is not wise for a class to release organisms into the wild or for teachers to allow students to take organisms home as pets (if they are later released). These organisms are often distributed to teachers through biological supply houses, frequently with widely-used science curriculum packages. Sometimes these plants and animals are documented invasive species.

In an ongoing national project, funded through NOAA-National Sea Grant, IISG is working with Sea Grant programs around the country as well as several Canadian entities to address this AIS pathway from two fronts—in classrooms and through supply houses.

At the recent National Science Teacher Association meeting in San Francisco, project leaders talked with teachers about how they can help prevent the spread of invasive species using an exhibit titled “Don’t Release Classroom Organisms! They Can Become Invasive Species.” The exhibit was coordinated by Sam Chan and Tania Siemens of Oregon Sea Grant.

In the top photo, Linda Chilton (on left), Oregon Sea Grant, shares classroom resources that will help students understand this issue. IISG's Pat Charlebois (bottom photo, on right), along with Robin Goettel, helped develop the exhibit.


In the news: Lamprey Numbers Shot Up Again Last Year In Lake Michigan

From Interlochen Public Radio:
The number of sea lamprey in Lake Michigan shot up again last year. The fight against the parasite is 50 years old, but lately the lamprey has been getting the upper hand. Its population has been on the rise for a decade, and is now estimated to be about 50 percent higher than fishery biologists would like.

A new study estimates there are about 90,000 adult lamprey in Lake Michigan. Lake managers would like there to be less than 60,000. Still it's better than 2007, when the number was close to three times the target.

Lamprey are the oldest invasive species in the Great Lakes. The parasite attaches to large fish such as salmon and lake trout and is one of the main reasons trout are doing so poorly in Lake Michigan. Read more.


IISG features public engagement at the U of I

At the recent University of Illinois Public Engagement Symposium, IISG featured its unwanted medicine collection program and a University course, Community Stewardship through Environmental Education, in which students bring the issue of aquatic invasive species to elementary and middle school classrooms in Champaign and Urbana. Under the guidance of their student leaders, the local school children formed community partnerships with local organizations to create community stewardship projects, to be used by the partners to inform the public. In this photo, Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education, is sharing the course description with two U of I students who were interested in learning more about the course.


In the news: Carp, It’s What’s for Lunch

From the Middlebury Magazine:
It’s 10:30 in the morning and Proctor Dining Hall has been serving lunch for half an hour already. There are maybe 40 students sitting in groups of two or three, some with their laptops open while others are talking or reading or studying their notes, highlighters at the ready.

Meanwhile Richard O’Donohue, the Proctor chef, is busy preparing an Indian dish with basmati rice, coconut, sesame seeds, currents, spices, and Asian carp. Yes, Asian carp – the same freshwater fish that has invaded the Mississippi River and other waterways of the Midwest. The same species that eats plankton, puts pressure on popular game fish like bass and walleye, grows to be 80 pounds or more, and is getting perilously close to entering the Great Lakes. Read more

In the news: Feds probe chronic sewage overflows into lake, streams

From the Chicago Tribune:
Billed as an engineering marvel and national model, Chicago's Deep Tunnel was designed to protect Lake Michigan from sewage overflows and put an end to the once-frequent practice of dumping human and industrial waste into local rivers.

But nearly four decades after taxpayers started paying for one of the nation's most expensive public works projects, billions of gallons of bacteria-laden sewage and storm runoff still routinely pour into the Chicago River and suburban waterways during and after storms, according to records obtained by the Tribune. Read more.


In the news: Lake Zurich reaches agreement for water plan

From the Lake Zurich Courier:
The Lake Zurich Village Board approved an agreement with Metropolitan Planning Council for the development of an integrated water resources plan.

The scope of services recognizes that Lake Zurich is at a critical decision making time where it has to weigh the substantial financial costs and benefits of major water infrastructure investments to meet existing and future demand; an assessment of possible storm water management and other water-related impacts from redevelopment of its downtown; and opportunities for economic and resource use efficiencies gained through water reuse.

“This really is a leading up to the future of all things water in Lake Zurich,” said Village Administrator Bob Vitas. Read more.

IISG is seeking a pollution prevention and restoration outreach specialist

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is seeking a pollution prevention and restoration outreach specialist to develop Extension programs related to pollution prevention and educate communities in Great Lakes Areas of Concern by building programs to improve their environment. This position requires a Master’s degree (PhD preferred), with five years of experience. This is a full-time, academic professional position. Salary is commensurate with experience. This person will be located in the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago. To view the full job description and qualifications and to create your candidate profile, go to the University of Illinois jobs page and upload: a cover letter, resume and references by April 15, 2011. For additional information, contact Lisa Merrifield.


Lawn to Lake program promotes natural lawn care

As World Water Day quickly approaches on Tuesday, March 22, now is the time to start thinking about how our lawn care practices affect local lakes.

Many landscapers and residents who manage lawns and other landscapes overuse chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and water. The “Lawn to Lake” program is working to improve awareness on this issue, and will be holding a “Natural Lawn Care for Landscape Professionals, Homeowner Associations, and Municipalities” workshop from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.

Lawn to Lake focuses on outreach to multiple audiences, including municipalities, landscape professionals, homeowners, master gardeners, teachers, retailers, and commercial property owners.

“We propose to change the practices of those responsible for the creation and upkeep of lawns and landscapes,” said Margaret Schneemann, a water resource economist for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, which is leading the project. “Not only can this benefit the health of our waters, but it can also open new markets for lawn and landscape companies, help municipalities save money while meeting sustainability initiatives, and reduce the chemicals and water required for lawn maintenance.”

Lawn to Lake is funded by a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the three-year project aims to reduce the amount of toxins entering Great Lakes Basin waters. For this project, IISG has partnered with Safer Pest Control Project, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, and University of Illinois Extension.

“Our goal is to protect water quality in the Great Lakes by reducing the amount of pollution from fertilizers and pesticides. We can prevent pollution more easily than we can clean it up,” said Susan Ask, an IISG watershed specialist. “What we put on the land, winds up in the lake.”

Rachel Rosenberg, Safer Pest Control Project executive director, offers tips for maintaining a healthy lawn without over-relying on chemicals. She suggests that using organic fertilizers and leaving grass clippings on the lawn can help capture and deliver nutrients to the lawn, improving both soil and plant health. Also, mowing high will increase root strength and create healthy grass that better withstands drought.

During the March 23 workshop, the featured speaker will be Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, who has more than 30 years of experience in the turf and horticulture industry. Participants can also choose between two specialized workshop tracks: “Implementing Natural Lawn Care on Your Property,” or “Running a Natural Lawn Care Business.” The event is co-sponsored by the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association. The cost is $150, with lunch and a take-home binder with all program materials included. Discounts for groups and affiliated organizations are also available.

For more information on the workshop, visit the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association website. Also, go to lawntolake.org for more information on natural lawn care.

IISG has an opening for an Extension 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.

For more information read the position description on the University of Illinois job board. The position number is A1100053 and it closes March 31, 2011.


In the news: Great Lakes phosphorus levels rising, report warns

From the CBC:
A mysterious resurgence of phosphorus in the Great Lakes is endangering the aquatic food chain and human health, says a binational agency that advises Canada and the U.S.

Fifteen years after the last programs to control phosphorus runoff ended, the International Joint Commission urged on Wednesday a renewed effort to get the oxygen-depleting chemical out of the water.

The call to action was one of 32 recommendations the commission made to both governments in its biennial report on the state of the Great Lakes at Detroit's Wayne State University.

The report specifically urges the two governments, which are currently renegotiating a binational water quality agreement, to include human health language in the agreement.

The report underlined a growing problem with phosphorous in the Great Lakes, especially in Lake Erie, which over the last few years has seen an increase in algal blooms caused by excessive nutrient runoff such as phosphorous. Read more.


DEA announces second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day—4/30

This spring, the Drug Enforcement Administration and its national and community partners will give the public another opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Last September, Americans turned in over 242,000 pounds—121 tons—of prescription drugs at nearly 4,100 sites operated by more than 3,000 of the DEA’s state and local law enforcement partners. The agency hopes to collect even more this spring by opening the event to long-term care facilities.

This year’s event will take place Saturday, April 30th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time when DEA and its partners will hold the second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day at sites nationwide. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

The public can find collection sites closest to them by visiting www.dea.gov, clicking on the “Got Drugs?” icon, and then following the links to a database, and entering their zip code. Law enforcement agencies interested in operating one or more collection sites can register with the DEA by calling the DEA Field Division office in their area.

IISG will be working with communities to help facilitate local collection events. For more information about Sea Grant efforts on this issue, visit www.unwantedmeds.org..


In the news: Former Gary landfill may get Superfund status

From NWI:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to clean up a long-dormant Gary landfill that is leaking hazardous waste into a neighboring wetland near the Grand Calumet River.

On Tuesday, the EPA added the former Gary Development Landfill, at 479 Cline Ave., to a list of 15 properties nationwide that it wants to classify as Superfund sites.

The former landfill operated from 1975 until 1989, EPA officials said. It legally accepted solid waste, as well as hazardous materials such as volatile organics, metals and insecticides that it wasn't permitted to handle, said Patrick Hamblin, who oversees the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List for the Great Lakes region. Read more.


In the news: Asian carp fight gets boost in Washington

From the Detroit Free Press:
Two Michigan members of Congress say legislation that would force the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a plan to keep invasive Asian carp out of Lake Michigan in the next year-and-a-half has a good chance of passage, with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin on board.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, held a news conference today on the legislation which she is writing along with U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, Midland Republican who will push the bill in the House.

Critics have complained that the Army’s five-year study into how to ensure Asian carp – a voracious species found in the Mississippi River and the Illinois River – is too long, with the health of the Great Lakes being threatened. Stabenow and Camp’s bill would require the Corps to begin work on a action plan for hydraulic separation between Chicago-area waterways and the lake immediately, with reports due six months and a year from enactment. The plan would have to be complete in 18 months. Read more.


New climate change factsheets can inform, inspire local planners

Warmer summers, milder winters, more heat waves, more extreme rainfall events, and a drop of as much as two feet in Lake Michigan water levels. These are some of the long term predictions for the region due to climate change.

IISG’s Planning with POWER project has just released three new factsheets that offer land use planners ideas and insights into incorporating climate change concerns into local priorities. These free publications can be downloaded from our website.

Climate Change: Are you prepared for it?
This six-page factsheet provides an overview of climate predictions for northwest Indiana, including temperatures, precipitation, and lake levels. Strategies for local planners to prepare for climate change include: local food production; smart growth; and green infrastructure.

Climate Change: Where does it fit in your future plans?
How do you make the case for including climate change issues into future planning? Local planners should consider how they are framing the issue for the public and for policy makers. This four-page factsheet provides insight into useful and practical approaches.

Climate Change: How will you manage stormwater runoff?
This four-page fact sheet is chock full of ideas for communities to prevent stormwater runoff, flooding, and soil erosion. The ideas range from ambitious (incorporating smart growth) to simple (encouraging tree planting).