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.