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. 


In the news: 17 state AGs favor watershed divide

From the Associated Press:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he and his counterparts in 16 other states want to demand quicker federal action on preventing invasive species such as Asian carp from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Schuette told The Associated Press that a coalition of state attorneys general reaching from West Virginia to Nevada would push Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite a plan for severing the connection between the two giant drainage basins that engineers constructed a century ago in Chicago rivers and canals.

Supporters contend it's the only way to slam the door on species invasions that have disrupted aquatic ecosystems and cost billions in damages in both basins. Local cargo shippers and their allies say such a move would cause massive flooding and job losses in the Chicago area. Read more.


Workshop spotlights natural lawn care benefits and practices

Natural lawn care is an important way municipalities and landscapers can make an impact on water quality. An upcoming workshop will be held on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the College of Lake County to provide education and practical solutions that will reduce the impact of pesticides and fertilizers in our region. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Safer Pest Control Project, Liberty Prairie Conservancy, College of Lake County, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and University of Illinois Extension will be presenting this workshop, which runs from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Natural Lawn Care and Sustainable Landscapes Workshop is a program of Lawn to Lake, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The three-year project aims to reduce the amount of toxins entering Great Lakes Basin waters.

“A natural lawn is a healthy lawn. A perfectly weed-free and green lawn should be a warning sign that it has been chemically treated. Using pesticides on your lawn is not a sustainable practice,” said Safer Pest Control Project Executive Director Rachel Rosenberg, who is also a speaker at the event.

The workshop is geared specifically to municipalities, professional landscapers, homeowner associations, and park district managers that manage lawns and landscapes.

“Not only can natural lawn care and sustainable landscaping benefit our water quality, but it can also open new markets for lawn and landscape companies and help municipalities save money while meeting sustainability initiatives,” said Margaret Schneemann, IISG water resource economist.

Some of the other topics that will be covered are: greening municipal ordinances, creating rain-friendly landscapes, what to look for in contracts, and more.

“These practices can save time and money. That is part of the reason why this is becoming a national and regional trend,” said Sarah Surroz, conservation and outreach manager for Liberty Prairie Conservancy. “People want to do the right thing, but they aren’t always sure what that is. This workshop will provide information and resources.”

The workshop costs $25 to attend, but College of Lake County students can come for free. The event will be held in Room C005 of the College of Lake County’s Workforce and Professional Developmental Institute, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, Ill. 

For registration information, go to Liberty Prairie Conservancy's website. For additional information, call Schneemann at 312-676-7556.


In the news: 5 chemical threats to the Great Lakes

From the CBC:
The Great Lakes have faced various threats for years, from industrial pollution to invasive species, but another challenge worries many researchers these days — the emerging chemical threat.

It’s not just pesticides, as scientists are finding worrying levels of pharmaceutically active compounds such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, anti-epileptics, and beta blockers in lake water. As well, hormones, pesticides and alkylphenols have been identified as threats. Read more.


In the news: Governors speak out against Great Lakes regulations

From The Badger Herald:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and several other governors are joining the federal government and Canada in demanding New York reconsider shipping regulations that protect waters from invasive species but could damage Wisconsin’s economy.
In a letter sent to New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, Walker joined forces with the Republican governors John Kasick of Ohio and Mitch Daniels of Indiana to argue that unless the New York Department of Environmental Conservation regulations are amended, the regulations could require the St. Lawrence Seaway to close down, resulting in thousands of martime-related job losses in the Great Lakes states and in Canada.
Read more.


IISG informs 2,000 visitors at the Illinois State Fair

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant once again participated in this year’s Illinois State Fair with a booth that educated fairgoers about the sensible ways to recycle, reuse, and dispose of household items and medications. Children were able to play the Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly  or GROSS game, while adults were given brochures, pillboxes, as well as mailers for their old medication and cell phones.Throughout the week, almost 2,000 people stopped by at the IISG exhibit. 


IISG spreading the word about medicine collection programs

In Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s ongoing effort to educate the public about ways to prevent medicines from getting into our water, IISG Pollution Prevention Program Specialist Laura Kammin will be one of the invited speakers at an upcoming workshop.

The “Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Solutions” panel discussion is organized by Openlands and the Metropolitan Planning Council. It will be held from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at North Banquet Facility at The Centre in Elgin, 100 Symphony Way, Elgin, Ill.

Kammin will be talking about IISG’s work in reducing contamination by chemicals known as endocrine disruptor compounds through the use of medicine take-back programs. IISG’s toolkit The Disposal of Unwanted Medicines: A Resource for Action in Your Community helps communities wisely dispose of unwanted medicines by providing background information on the topic, by describing how to hold a successful collection event, by proving materials for public outreach and education, and more.

“This is a great opportunity to discuss solutions to this problem with prominent researchers and water treatment professionals,” Kammin said. “The roundtable helps get the word out about the work that we are doing. There will be many city planners and leaders of municipalities present at the event, so this is an exciting way to connect with people and let them know that we are there to help them.”

Also speaking are U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist Dana Kolpin, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toxicologist Carole Braverman, and Fox Metro Water Reclamation District Pretreatment Supervisor Debra Ness.  

For more information on proper disposal practices and collection programs, contact Laura Kammin or go to our website. For more information about the workshop, visit the Metropolitan Planning Council.


Fun and games lead to learning at the Clean Water Celebration

The Clean Water Celebration 2011 in Gary, Indiana on Saturday, September 3 offered an opportunity for IISG’s Leslie Dorworth and Carolyn Foley to talk with visitors about what they can do to reduce unwanted inputs into waterways. However, this was not a dry lesson--learning took place by playing the Watershed Game, which was developed by Northland NEMO, Minnesota Sea Grant, and University of Minnesota Extension. In this game, participants apply plans, practices, and policies that help them achieve a water quality goal for a stream, lake, or river.

People of all ages joined in to play the game. They chose best management practices to employ in different landscapes (farmland, city, residential, or parks and open space areas) to help reduce phosphorus inputs into a fictional lake.

This was the seventh annual event, which took place in Marquette Park. In addition to fun, the focus of the Clean Water Celebration is water sports safety and protecting water quality.


Kiosks keep Milwaukee residents up-to-date on river clean up

The residents around Lincoln Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have always used their expansive park to its fullest. It is intersected by Lincoln Creek and the Milwaukee River, which provides an opportunity for fishing and other activities. It also has a golf course, picnic areas, a water park, and trails for walking, biking and cross country skiing.

So when it was announced that contaminated sediment in a section of the river in the park was going to be cleaned up through the Great Lakes Legacy Act, local residents had many questions—they wanted to understand what was going to be happening in their park.

IISG, working with all the project partners (U.S. EPA, Wisconsin DNR, Milwaukee County Parks, Milwaukee County, University of Wisconsin Extension, Department of Health Services - State of Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee and its Health Department, North Shore Health Department, the Area of Concern Community Action Group, and local representatives) developed a plan to ensure the community was part of the process and they had ample opportunities to learn about what was taking place and why. 

This process began with a series of town hall meetings where U.S. EPA and the State of Wisconsin provided a description of the project through presentations, posters and one-on-one discussion. The questions from the community were gathered and combined into a document and responses were provided both in written form and at a second meeting.

In an effort to ensure that anyone visiting the park would have an opportunity to learn about the project, the team developed a series of three signs or kiosks. Each has a different focus: 
  1. The Department of Health Services is providing clear guidance on contaminants in local fish--which ones are safe to eat and how often. This sign includes some simple safety tips during the project construction. 
  2. The U.S. EPA Areas of Concern (AOC) kiosk describes all the clean-up projects going on within the Milwaukee region to link this project to the larger goal of delisting the AOC. This kiosk provides direction for cleaning up after your pet and the potential impacts of pet waste to the waterway in its “Pick up your pet waste–it’s your doodie” campaign. 
  3. The Great Lakes Legacy Act kiosk provides specifics about this project including the activities that will occur, a timeline, and a weekly update. A dump truck that fills up over time will illustrate progress of the project.

There are two sets of kiosks in the park – one along a well-used bike path and a second near the picnic area. The signs were designed so that at the end of the project, they can be repurposed for other topics, used in other parks, and for other outreach activities.   

In the news: Solution to Asian carp problem may be in kitchen

From the Carmi Times:
Illinois residents know the Asian carp as an undesirable invasive species that is ruining state waterways, crowding out game fish and, occasionally, knocking out boaters by hurling their considerably large bodies out of the water.

But researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who are studying the problem fish are looking into the possibility that residents might instead come to know the ugly critter by another name: "Dinner."

Working with a $1.1 million grant they received last year, the researchers are studying the economics of turning this river menace into a cash cow. And for one day in September, the researchers will join forces with a Louisiana-based chef who believes the fish's mild flavor is a perfect canvas on which to paint flavorful dishes. Read more.