12/21/12

The 12 days of A.I.S.-mas

Making a Great Lakes-themed riff on a holiday classic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has compiled some aquatic invasive species information in the form of a modified "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Seven carp a-leaping, perhaps? Check out the full article, written by our friends at Wisconsin Sea Grant, and learn a little more about aquatic invasives in the process. 

From everyone at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.

12/20/12

In the news: Mapping the threats to the Great Lakes

There are a number of different threats to the environmental health of the Great Lakes. 34 threats, to be precise.

That number is according to a study and accompanying map made by researchers at the University of Michigan. The map helps to identify the environmental stresses to each of the Great Lakes, and provides a snapshot of all five lakes as a system.

From WZZM 13 Online:
"Among the biggest threats: Invasive mussels and lamprey that threaten the food chain, climate change that can affect water temperature and water levels, ballast water from ships that may introduce more uninvited species, a buildup of urban areas along the coast that sweeps auto and human waste into the waters during rainfall, and a continual runoff of phosphorous from farmlands.

In contrast, mining and a dwindling ice cover in the winter remain a threat to Lake Superior, said David Allan, the project's lead researcher and a professor of aquatic sciences at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment."
Read the complete article at the link above, and listen to an interview with project lead David Allan of the University of Michigan here.

12/19/12

IISG receives grant funding to expand AIS prevention work

Activities associated with the purchase, sale, and use of commercially available organisms or “organisms-in-trade” can potentially result in the introduction of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to waterways such as the Great Lakes. Preventing these introductions is a much more cost-effective way to protect waterways, as opposed to the cost and effort involved in controlling or managing them once they become established.

Building on a University of Notre Dame-led project to examine the environmental risks posed by certain “organisms in trade” (OIT), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has been awarded grant funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for a project titled “GLSGN OIT Initiative – Expanding Risk Assessment Outreach.”

By creating an opportunity to remove these potentially invasive species from circulation, risk assessment is one way to prevent non-native species from becoming invasive. Risk assessment information is also important to AIS education, because studies have shown that education and outreach encourage and shape the behavioral changes necessary for preventing species introduction. For example, horticulturists decided against purchasing a given species once they learned it had the potential to become an invasive species.

This new GLRI grant provides for the creation of new risk assessment and OIT outreach tools including webinars, a training video, non-technical summaries of state laws and regulations, and publications for people involved with fish, reptile, and amphibian commerce. Development of these tools will be guided by a survey that assesses the needs and preferences of OIT user groups. The goal of all these efforts is to reduce the introduction of potentially invasive species, thereby helping to protect and preserve waterways from invasive threats.

This initiative, a collaboration among the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, North Carolina State University (NCSU), the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law (NSGLC), and IISG, will also help educate and inform the public about alternatives to high-risk aquarium, water garden, bait, live food, and classroom species.

For more information, visit our webpage about aquatic invasive species, and read more about the 2012 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative awards here.

12/18/12

Two IISG-sponsored students selected for Knauss Fellowships

Will Tyburczy, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Chicago, and Najwa Obeid, a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Charles Werth at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, were the two IISG-sponsored graduate students selected for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, each of them spent a week in Washington, DC interviewing with leaders in marine policy and were selected for positions related to their research and career interests.

Will Tyburczy writes, “I ultimately selected a fellowship position in NOAA’s Office of Program Planning and Integration. Specifically, I’ll work with a nationwide network of employees across NOAA’s various offices and centers known collectively as the Regional Collaboration Network. The network specializes in finding collaborative solutions to achieve NOAA national and regional priorities. As a fellow, I will help to further develop the existing regional network and synthesize input from each of the network’s eight regions in order to brief NOAA leadership on how efforts are progressing across the country. I will also have the opportunity to meet with top administrators throughout NOAA and gain a working knowledge of how policy is used to effectively manage our oceans.”

Najwa Obeid also wrote to share her experience and her excitement at being selected for one of the fellowships. “Like many of my fellow fellows, I found Knauss placement week to be like speed dating or rush week. Every 30-minute interview was an experience in itself - from traveling to a host office to learning more about what each does. Placement week allowed me to learn in more depth about the breadth of topics and research related to the Great Lakes, coastal waters, and atmosphere that NOAA undertakes, and gave me the opportunity to meet a dynamic group of people dedicated to upholding NOAA’s mission and vision of the future.

My placement at National Science Foundation meshes well with my current research, which takes a multidisciplinary approach to managing urban stormwater runoff in communities around the Great Lakes. I will be working in the Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability Program (SEES) where I will be exposed to all facets of coastal ecosystems. These include land that is closely connected to the sea, with its beaches, cities, wetlands, and maritime facilities; the Great lakes, the continental seas and shelves; estuaries; and the overlying atmosphere. A goal of the Coastal SEES is identification of natural and human processes that will better inform societal decisions about the use of coastal systems. Likewise, my research contributes to assessing the impact that restoration activities have on hydrologic processes, and also provides insights on decision making through economic evaluation. In general, it presents a modeling approach based on the concept of coupled human-natural systems.”

Congratulations to both Will and Najwa on being selected as Class of 2013 Knauss Fellows. To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website.

12/17/12

In the news: A database of Great Lakes invaders

Information is only useful when you can find it, and that's especially true when you're dealing with invasive species and other environmental threats. That is part of the motivation for the creation of a searchable online directory of Great Lakes invasive species by scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

From Michigan Public Radio:
"More than 180 non-native species have already made a home in the Great Lakes basin, and more could make their way in.

Scientists and government officials have their eyes on a watchlist of 53 species that are most likely to become established in the Great Lakes region if they get in."
You can visit the EPA's Great Lakes Invasive Species webpage for more information about species, and find pamphlets, links, and additional material at our aquatic invasive species website.

12/13/12

NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship accepting applications

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now accepting applications for their Coastal Management Fellowship. 

Graduate students and PhD candidates in natural resource management or environmental-related studies who will complete their studies between January 1 and July 31 of next year are eligible to apply. The fellowship provides a two-year position with competitive salary, benefits, and travel and relocation reimbursement. 

To be considered, read about it at our fellowship page, and visit the NOAA Fellowship description for more information and submit your application before the January 25 deadline. 

For questions related to the fellowship and submission of applications, please contact Fellowship Program Leader Angela Archer.

12/12/12

In the news: Pharmaceutical and runoff dangers not just a concern in the U.S.

Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other potentially dangerous chemicals can enter watersheds, rivers, and lakes all over the globe, and can present a significant threat to environmental and human health. 

In addition to concerns about these substances entering the Great Lakes, researchers in Montreal are worried about these same substances finding their way into the St. Lawrence River. 

“This is not the first time SauvĂ©’s team has sounded an alarm about substances slipping through the municipal water-treatment system. In 2009, they reported finding hypertension and cholesterol drugs in treated water from the water treatment plant emptying into the St. Lawrence. And last year they found traces of antidepressants in the livers, brains and flesh of fish exposed to effluent from Montreal’s waste-water treatment plant.

The vast majority of pharmaceuticals and hormones found in the water from the water-treatment plant comes from human consumption, SauvĂ© said. He added that expired or unnecessary medication should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain, but rather returned to a pharmacy or one of Montreal’s eco-centres.”
Read the complete article at the link above, and find out more about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products at our Unwanted Meds website.

12/11/12

In the news: Fertilizer fees provide funding for clean water research

A 75-cent-per-ton charge on fertilizer sales was implemented this fall in the state of Illinois, with the goal of providing funding for further research on runoff, water pollution, and water protection. 

“The 75-cents-per-ton charge has the backing of both farm and environmental groups. It raises funding for research into fertilizer and other runoff that contribute to water pollution…

The fee is in addition to a 25-cents-per-ton charge used to pay the cost of Illinois Department of Agriculture regulation of fertilizer quality and safety. Department spokesman Jeff Squibb said the department continues to oversee the programs, but the 75 cents charge goes to the foundation.

Fertilizer and animal-waste runoff are major contributors to excessive nitrogen and phosphates that create hazards to wildlife and humans in water supplies, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also has been pushing states to adopt stricter requirements on all types of runoff, including agricultural, storm water and wastewater.”
Follow the link above for the complete article.

12/10/12

Wisconsin students learn about Great Lakes cleanup

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s environmental social scientist Caitie McCoy informs and engages communities about important Great Lakes cleanup and restoration projects that affect them, and works with students to teach them more about Great Lakes ecology. One of her most recent opportunities to work with students was in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where she provided information and lessons about a project close to home.

Caitie writes, “I visited Sheboygan, Wisconsin last Tuesday and spoke to high school biology students, answering questions about the Great Lakes Legacy Act dredging project happening just two miles from their school. This was my final school to visit in Sheboygan as part of a 12-school, countywide tour, which began this past October and reached about 600 high school science students. Now the students know the purpose of a cleanup happening right in their downtown, and they understand the science behind it.

IISG is a collaborating member of Sheboygan's ‘Testing the Waters’ program, through which students visit some of the Sheboygan River cleanup and habitat projects and learn techniques for testing water quality. My classroom visits helped set the stage for this program, and IISG also provided water sampling instruments for their use.

Some of the specific topics that we discussed with students included the chemical qualities of the pollution, the effects that pollution has on the food web, and the cleanup process under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. I also spoke with them about habitat restoration projects, which are removing invasive species, creating natural, softened shorelines, and improving filtration of runoff.

This project is part of a larger effort to provide students with stewardship opportunities and supplemental hands-on education about remediation and restoration efforts throughout the Great Lakes. It has been great to work with students in Sheboygan and Northwest Indiana, and I look forward to bringing this program to more Great Lakes students soon.”

For more information about Great Lakes educational programs and opportunities, visit our education page and follow our posts here on the blog.

12/7/12

Social marketing training helps communities inspire action

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s environmental social scientist Caitie McCoy is partnering with NOAA’s Coastal Services Center to offer the sixth edition of the Great Lakes Social Science Network training, Community-Based Social Marketing. 

This particular session is the second time that community-based social marketing has been the focus, and it will take place Dec 14 from 9:30 - 11 AM CST. The training is geared toward Sea Grant professionals and their colleagues to help them incorporate social science into their daily work. 

Caitie writes, “Social science research shows that initiatives to foster behavior change are most successful at the community level, where people are in direct contact with one another. CBSM is a tool to promote sustainable behavior, and is very appropriate for the scale at which Sea Grant professionals operate. This training will introduce CBSM concepts and go through the steps of creating a CBSM campaign.”

Interested individuals can contact Caitie via the link above for more information or to register for the training.

EDIT - This training will be available online as an interactive webinar, and registration is encouraged. Contact Caitie for further details. 

12/6/12

U of I’s Lawn Talk website now offers natural lawn care info

While it may not be lawn care season in many parts of the country, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year and the best methods, tools, and information that are available to ensure healthy lawns and healthy ecosystems. 

The University of Illinois’ website “Lawn Talk” is a useful and popular site offering an abundance of information to homeowners, property managers, and landscape professionals throughout northern Illinois. 

Now updated and redesigned, the website’s new look and content were made possible in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Lawn to Lake program. Incorporating information and resources from these two entities has made it possible for the site to move beyond traditional, chemical-heavy lawn care advice by recommending natural lawn care resources. Additionally, the relationship between lawn care and water quality is better represented and respected by the up-to-date information on the site, creating a resource that helps protect the environment while ensuring the health and beauty of lawns and landscapes. 

This site update also allows University of Illinois Extension to offer even more multimedia content, including instructional videos, interactive activities and features, and more. 

Visit the site at the link above to see the new design, and for even more information about natural lawn care and its benefits, visit our Lawn to Lake website.

12/5/12

IISG summer intern awarded for AIS research efforts

University of Illinois Junior Lainey Pasternak, who interned this past summer with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach Team, wrote a guest blog about her experience working with IISG and, more importantly, about an award she received for her work. 

Lainey writes, “Over the summer I worked to help increase recreational water user knowledge of AIS through survey research and outreach. I designed and conducted a survey to help investigate the prevalence of AIS-preventative behaviors among boaters and anglers, a key demographic in the effort to prevent AIS spread. By the end of the summer, I had formulated a formal research report and academic poster presentation based on the final survey results. All efforts in the research and poster presentation were collaborated with my internship supervisor and coauthor, Sarah Zack. The final project of the internship was a presentation of my poster “Evaluation Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Outreach Efforts in the Southern Lake Michigan Watershed” at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference.

On September 24-25, I attended the Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. After submitting my research abstract and poster at the conference, I was awarded a student scholarship and honorable mention award for an undergraduate student poster. I had the opportunity to present my summer research at the student poster session throughout the duration of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant 30th Anniversary Reception, courtesy of the Illinois Chapter of the American Water Resources Association. Among the 30 registered students of the poster competition, I was one of the two conference award recipients, and the only undergraduate to receive mention.

My internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant marked an important beginning step in my environmental science career. Attending the Illinois Water Conference not only provided me the opportunity to display my research project, but also emphasized AIS as an important issue affecting Illinois’ waters. I was immersed in a learning atmosphere of networking and the active exchange of new ideas to utilize in possible future research. This conference was the first research opportunity I participated in, and I consider it a major scholarly, professional, and personal success. Receiving a student scholarship and undergraduate honorable mention at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference marked the end to a very rewarding and fulfilling student internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. I will be continually proud of all my work and the impact I was able to make.”

Congratulations to Lainey on her award, and we look forward to your continued research and outreach efforts to keep our waters safe.

12/4/12

IAGLR 2013 now accepting paper submissions

The International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) 2013 conference has put out a call for papers. Scheduled to take place June 2-6, 2013, in West Lafayette, Indiana, the annual conference’s theme this year is “Great Lakes Restoration and Resiliency.”

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University will jointly host the 56th Annual International Association for Great Lakes Research Conference (IAGLR 2013) in West Lafayette, IN, from June 2-6, 2013. The conference theme is Great Lakes Restoration and Resiliency and a group of co-host institutions are helping us craft a great program. 

Abstract submissions for scientific presentations are now being solicited. Authors can submit abstracts for poster or oral presentations to any one of 65 separate sessions. Themes include: invasive species, climate change, land-use and eutrophication, contaminants, nearshore health, fisheries, data management and modeling, food web and ecosystem ecology, physical processes and stakeholder engagement. Presentations will cover a broad range of topics related to world-wide Great Lakes research. Abstracts should be submitted online via the conference website. You can also view the full call for papers online (PDF).

12/3/12

IISG’s Kwamena Quagrainie recognized for his outreach and extension efforts

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquaculture marketing specialist Kwamena Quagrainie was recently recognized for his many years of work in developing and improving the business practices, marketing, and success of aquaculture operations both in the state of Indiana and internationally through his efforts in several African nations. 

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Specialist Association’s (PUCESA) mid-career Award “recognizes an Extension specialist with 11-20 years of service. Recipients would have demonstrated extension leadership; excellence in delivering public education programs; innovative approaches to program development; outreach efforts to county Extension educators; research that benefits Extension clientele through practical application; or demonstrated collaboration with county educators, agencies, or community leaders.”

The text of the nomination provides more detail on Dr. Quagrainie’s work: 
“Since joining Purdue in 2005, Dr. Kwamena Quagrainie has revitalized the aquaculture industry in Indiana and overseas. Through applied research and Extension he has expanded aquaculture funding and improved business for thousands of fish farms.

Kwamena’s leadership led to reorganization of the state aquaculture Extension team and development of a business management program for farms producing yellow perch, hybrid striped bass and freshwater prawns. Kwamena’s leadership was a driving force in the Indiana Soybean Alliance funding a 5-year Indiana Aquaculture Strategic Plan in 2007 resulting in up to $1 million annually in soybean check-off funds for aquaculture research and education in Indiana. Kwamena obtained additional research funding from USDA and Purdue to support Indiana aquaculture development. He actively collaborates with Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Board of Animal Health, and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. Kwamena is Indiana’s state coordinator for USDA’s North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, state representative on the National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators and serves on USDA’s aquatic task force that is formulating standards for organic aquaculture nationally.

Dr. Quagrainie’s domestic program is closely integrated with international activities through the USAID-funded Aquaculture and Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program (AquaFish CRSP). As the Africa AquaFish CRSP project director, Kwamena secured $1.13 million since 2004 for research and outreach, including training in pond record keeping and business management. About 2,000 fish farmers in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana can now use their farming records to secure bank financing…”
For more information about Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s aquaculture resources, visit our Aquaculture Economics & Marketing Resources page.

11/30/12

Learning about and connecting with IISG online

Communicating with people far and wide about the importance of the Great Lakes and the work that we do to ensure safe, healthy, and vibrant economies and ecosystems around Lake Michigan is one of our most important jobs. By informing and involving more people in our efforts, we can continue working to keep the Great Lakes great. 

The latest addition to our effort is the Wikipedia entry for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The IISG Wikipedia page is an important piece of our overall communications because it provides an encyclopedic explanation of IISG as well as references and links to additional information. 

The page that you are visiting right now, our blog, is another way to communicate with our audience, and to share timely information about workshops, seminars, fellowships, community projects and events, and more. And of course our Facebook and Twitter pages allow us to offer even more immediate interaction with individuals and organizations that care about the lakes. 

Feel free to share our pages and help us spread the word about what makes Lake Michigan, and all of the Great Lakes, just so great, and how together we can keep them that way.

11/29/12

In the news: What’s on tap for water policy?

One issue that cuts across local, state, and federal levels in terms of importance is our need for water. Water issues have been in the news, especially with regards to old systems and infrastructure that need to be upgraded and repaired to meet growing future needs.

Situated along the shore of Lake Michigan, metropolitan Chicago has benefitted for centuries from an abundance of fresh water. The infrastructure for delivering water is primarily underground: out of sight, out of mind. But awareness of the existing infrastructure’s condition and the challenges faced by community water suppliers has grown in recent years due to service and budget concerns. 

IISG’s Margaret Schneemann, water resource economist with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) recently wrote a blog about water policy and the 2012 elections. Schneemann explains “Addressing our aging water infrastructure and funding investment needs are top concerns of our communities here in northeastern Illinois.”

From the blog
“Given the post-election climate, the AWWA predicts that a proposed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) -- patterned after the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) -- will be the most likely vehicle for federal investment in water infrastructure… While the WIFIA is an important strategy to make large-scale water infrastructure investment more affordable for local communities, the AWWA continues to believe that local rates and charges are the best funding sources.
Read the complete blog post at the link above.

CMAPs regional comprehensive plan, GO TO 2040, recommends that communities adopt full-cost pricing to help address the need for investment in water infrastructure at the local level. CMAP and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will release a full-cost water pricing guide for local leaders this winter.

11/28/12

IISG teacher workshop offers Great Lakes info and hands-on learning for the classroom


Educators from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin attended IISG’s workshop Nov. 9-10 to increase the presence of Great Lakes science in their classrooms and to improve student awareness of issues related to the Lakes. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and the National Park Service Great Lakes Research and Education Center and the Dunes Learning Center to host the workshops, which provided opportunities for teachers to engage in science and math data collection and hands-on field work. Educators previewed Sea Grant’s Greatest of the Great Lakes and Fresh and Salt curricula to familiarize themselves with the diverse range of learning formats to enhance their science, math, and engineering units, as well as activities from Great Lakes in My World by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Also, as part of the new Center for Great Lakes Literacy, workshop attendees learned how to help protect and restore coastal areas in the Lake Michigan watershed through a variety of teaching methods.

All of the teachers who attended this year’s workshop were excited to learn about programs like the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach, as well as the many exciting student stewardship activities offered by the Shedd Aquarium, the Dunes Learning Center, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore botanists. They also enjoyed the hands-on activities, including using the Enviroscape model to learn about point source/non-point source pollution, and learning how to use GLNPO’s Hydrolab water quality monitoring instrument. 

The feedback and comments from teachers was especially positive. Said one attendee, “You've given me great ideas about water quality, drinking water, invasive and noninvasive species, habitat restoration, and stewardship projects I can provide for my kids to become ‘Great Lakes literate.’”

To learn more about IISG’s educational programs and resources, visit our education webpage, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more events, workshops, and information. 

This Center for Great Lakes Literacy project was funded through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.

11/27/12

In the news: The importance of preventing Great Lakes contamination

A recent report from the Alliance for the Great Lakes details the importance of remaining vigilant against contaminating the Great Lakes waters for a number of obvious reasons and a few that might be less obvious. 

From their news room
“An Alliance report released today notes that since the production of synthetic chemicals took off after World War II, the waters of Lake Michigan – which take a century to refresh -- have yet to see a complete turnover.  

Halfway through this cycle, scientists are beginning to see alarming trends of an increasing multitude of chemicals found in the water. In southern Lake Michigan, one of the most urbanized and industrialized areas in the Great Lakes Basin and home to approximately a third of the Great Lakes population, these contaminants are a steady source of chemical exposure for aquatic species, and affect the quality of the waters we rely upon for drinking and look to for recreation.”  
Read more at the link above, which includes information on some of the contaminants that pose risks to Lake Michigan. Among them are common landscaping chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other common substances.

11/26/12

In the news: Algae and invasives threatening Erie and other Great Lakes

Lake Erie is under attack, but from threats that we may be able to fix. 

“The major threats to all the lakes include invasive species that throw a delicate ecosystem out of balance. In Erie, more so than the other lakes, toxic algae threaten the health of visitors and create “dead zones” where no aquatic species can survive.

At least 136 invasive species — plants, fish and mussels — have forever changed the lakes. But it’s the potential 137th invader that officials fear the most. The Asian carp wants nothing more than to spread through the Great Lakes and continue its feeding frenzy. Though a live fish has yet to be found, DNA tests suggest that they might already have infiltrated Lake Erie.”
Follow the link above to read the complete article, which includes interesting information about dead zones, toxic algae, and other growing threats to the delicate ecosystems of the Great Lakes.

11/21/12

In the news: Climate change affecting Indiana Dunes ecosystems

Lower water levels and warming temperatures have begun to have an effect on the Indiana Dunes area of Lake Michigan, according to recent research. 

From the Post-Tribune
“From lower water levels in Lake Michigan to declining food sources for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, climate change is having an impact on the national park.

That was the message Saturday during a program at the Douglas Center in Gary’s Miller neighborhood presented by Joy Marburger, a research coordinator with the Great Lakes Research and Education Center based at the lakeshore. It’s one of 19 research centers located in national parks across the country.”
Read the complete article at the link above. You can also read another recent study specifically about the Karner Blue butterfly on the IISG website. 

11/20/12

2012 Chicago Wilderness Conference brings together environmental organizations

Last week, representatives from over 260 member organizations, students, educators, were joined by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant staff at the Chicago Wilderness Congress 2012. The overall theme of the congress was “Shaping the Future of Regional Conservation,” and numerous presentations and panels offered information on green infrastructure, climate action, research, restoration, and more. 600 attendees from northeastern Illinois, northwest Indiana, and southeast Wisconsin helped make the event exciting and educational, bringing in examples of their conservation and environmental work.

IISG’s Caitie McCoy and EPA research fellow Nishaat Yunus presented “Making the Invisible Visible: Engaging Children in Sediment Remediation of the Grand Calumet River,” which fit into the coalition’s education initiative and focus. The presentation described an educational program at two schools in Northwest Indiana designed to connect local youth to the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern while building scientific literacy. One challenge was to make a seemingly “invisible” problem like contaminated sediment “visible” and relevant to children living near the river. The students participated in the educational program from early February to June 2012, and attended a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press event about the Great Lakes Legacy Act in June. Through presentations, engaging activities, and field trips, more than 120 students in 4th and 9th grades became familiar with Great Lakes Legacy Act remediation and restoration work and important ecological concepts. The 4th grade students learned about habitats, sediment, pollution, and invasive species, and the 9th grade class learned how to perform data collection, analysis, and reporting with the water samples they collected on a field trip to the river.

At the congress, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was also able to exhibit several education and outreach projects focused on community stewardship, including aquatic invasive species, proper pharmaceutical disposal, and habitat restoration, as well as program initiatives and accomplishments.

IISG’s Kristin TePas summed up the event by saying, “The Chicago Wilderness Congress was a great opportunity to connect with conservation practitioners in the Chicago region and to learn about the various projects occurring locally."

You can read more about the conference, including detailed presentation descriptions, at the Chicago Wilderness website.

11/19/12

In the news: Stopping invasive species by...giving your dog a bath?

The ways for aquatic invasive species to be spread or introduced to waterways run the gamut, from bait buckets to trailers to...your loyal companion.

Wildlife Forever, a non-profit organization, has launched a campaign to let hunters know how they can help prevent the spread of AIS.

From The Great Lakes Echo

"The non-profit Wildlife Forever received a $233,830 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help teach hunters how to prevent aquatic hitchhikers.

The campaign will teach hunters to properly clean waders, waterfowl decoys and even hunting dogs to avoid transporting invasive species. The clean, drain, dry technique is the most effective way to prevent the transport of invasive species between different bodies of waters, according to the group."
Visit the link above to find out more about the campaign, and to see some PSA videos that were recently produced about the Clean, Drain, Dry message.

11/16/12

Indiana Water Resources Research Center 2013 request for proposals now open

The Indiana Water Resources Research Center has just issued their request for proposals for water research projects for 2013. 

The project areas that can be submitted for potential funding include:
“…all areas related to water, including: biology, microbiology, ecology, hydrology, civil engineering, agriculture, irrigation, geology, wildlife management, and aquatic chemistry. Project areas of particular importance to Indiana this year include: (a) enhancement of the quality of Indiana’s rivers with a priority interest in work in the Wabash River Watershed, (b) water treatment, (c) cutting edge areas such nanomaterials, (d) riparian area protection, (e) water reuse, including a consideration of status of water reuse laws and (f) outreach and extension work pertaining to protection of water supplies.”
You can contact director Ronald Turco for more information or for the complete RFP.

11/15/12

National Institutes for Water Resources request research funding proposals

The National Institutes for Water Resources, in conjunction with the U.S. Geologic Survey, has issued a request for proposals for grant funding in the 2013 fiscal year. 

Research priorities include:

 - Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure design, retrofitting, maintenance, management and replacement

 - Exploration and model development of the dynamics of extreme hydro-meteorological events and associated economic, environmental, social, and/or infrastructure costs

 - Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both surface and groundwater, at gaged and ungaged sites, including estimation of the physical supply and of the economic supply of water

 - Development and evaluation of alternative approaches and governance mechanisms for integrated surface/ground water management

 - Evaluation and assessment of the effects of water conservation practices, as well as adoption, penetration and permanence


Visit the link above for the complete RFP, including the details and objectives of the grant program, and specific requirements.

11/14/12

In the news: Great Lakes lawmakers consider a ban on harmful pavement sealant

Coal-tar sealant, a commonly used application in parking lot and other pavements, is known to be harmful to humans, and threatens to enter watersheds and Great Lakes waterways as well. That is why lawmakers in three Great Lakes states are considering or proposing a ban on the substance in order to protect those waters. 

“Negative effects on fish and other aquatic animals include inhibited reproduction, fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts and death, according to Geological Survey reports.

Coal-tar sealcoat makes up about half of the PAHs in lake sediment, according to Environmental Science and Technology. It is why PAH levels have increased in the sediment of urban and suburban lakes since 2000 even when other major PAH producers, like power plants, have been decreasing emissions.”
Read the complete story at the link above.

11/13/12

Request for research preproposals for 2014-2015 now accepting submissions

IISG and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant program have issued a joint request for preproposals dealing with Lake Michigan food web research projects. These preproposals should be for research to be conducted in 2014-2015, and should respond to the following priority areas: 

- Nearshore-offshore food web connections
- Food web differences across Lake Michigan regions or habitats (e.g., rocky vs. sandy substrate)
- The influence of short-term episodic events in structuring the Lake Michigan food web
- Food web interactions during the understudied isothermal winter period

From the RFP
“Preproposals must demonstrate plans for collaboration between at least one Illinois- or Indiana-based researcher and at least one Wisconsin-based researcher. Illinois- and Indiana-based researchers should submit preproposals to Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (guidelines below). Wisconsin-based partners should submit a preproposal for the same project to Wisconsin Sea Grant. See WI submission guidelines here.

Research is to be conducted in the 2014–2015 biennium. Up to $120,000 per year for two years will be available for funding the Illinois-Indiana portion of research projects. The funds requested by Illinois and Indiana researchers must be matched by at least one nonfederal dollar for every two federal dollars requested.”
For more information, including submission guidelines, visit the link above (PDF).

11/9/12

National workshop on pharmaceuticals and proper disposal scheduled for Feb. 6-7

Mark your calendars for February 6-7, 2013, as Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant invites educators, community members, environmental professionals and others to a national workshop on pharmaceuticals, personal care products, their dangers, and their proper disposal. 

From our Unwanted Meds site
"Sea Grant is well positioned to help communities reduce the amount of PPCPs making their way to local water bodies. IISG invites all Sea Grant specialists, educators or communicators who have strong interest in this issue to attend the Keeping Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) out of the Environment workshop to be held in Florida in February 2013.

The workshop will include information on:

 - Current research on PPCPs
 - Pathways to the environment
 - Risks to people, pets and wildlife
 - Waste minimization efforts"
And additional items. Visit the link above for complete information, including the link to register for the workshop online.

11/8/12

Knauss Fellowship now accepting applications from graduate students

The National Sea Grant College Program is now accepting applications for the Knauss fellowship program. Graduate students with an interest in policy and governmental work related to coastal issues are eligible and encouraged to apply. 

The Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship offers outstanding graduate students the opportunity to serve a one-year paid fellowship in either a legislative or executive branch office in the nation’s capital. Students get the chance to work directly on issues related to their areas of study and research while also networking and making connections for future positions or research pertaining to the coastlines and water resources of the U.S. 

You can find more information about the fellowship at the link above, and by watching this terrific video featuring previous fellowship winners. Past participants have worked for and with a variety of offices and agencies, including work on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, ocean acidification and the ecology of infectious diseases, and several other projects.

11/7/12

IISG workshop helps Blue Island educators bring watershed lessons into the classroom

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's education team led a workshop for teachers and administrators in the Blue Island, Illinois school district recently, offering lessons, materials, and training on bringing Great Lakes science to their classrooms.

Susan Ask, who works with IISG’s Lawn to Lake program, sent along some details about the workshop and the enthusiastic reception from the teachers: 

“We had a fun and energetic workshop with teachers and principals in the Blue Island School District. The workshop focused on water quality and drew on three major initiatives within Sea Grant: Lawn to Lake, the Great Lakes Field Experiences for Watershed Educators (B-WET), and Increasing Citizen Involvement and Great Lakes Literacy (Center for Great Lakes Literacy).

We began with the basic definition and ecology of watersheds, then moved to an exploration of watershed and water quality issues brought on by urbanization, landscaping practices, and waste disposal. Teachers learned basic ecology that they can teach in their classrooms. We identified point- and non-point sources of pollution and talked about available solutions for individuals and communities to adopt. 

After a presentation and discussion, we toured the recently installed rain gardens in the courtyard at Blue Island Elementary School so we could see theory put in to practice. The courtyard contains a rich variety of native plants that creates a beautiful garden throughout the year while also managing and controlling rainwater. Runoff from the roofs will be collected in rain barrels all around the building, and can then be used  on the landscape as needed.

The watershed model was a big hit. We used a three-dimensional model of a watershed, with rivers and lakes, houses, farms, factories, water treatment facilities and other developments, to see how water and pollutants move through the community. Teachers will be able to borrow this model for use in their classes, helping students understand the connection between people, land use, and water. But we didn’t just look at problems. The model also let us see how natural lawn care, rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavement, and other practices can help prevent pollution and reduce runoff.

We showcased many of the program’s Great Lakes curricula - Fresh and Salt, Greatest of the Great Lakes, and Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. Teachers broke into groups to experience some of these classroom activities and share how they might incorporate them in their lessons. They also learned how the Great Lakes Literacy Principles will be a great way to introduce current Great Lakes issues to their students.

Most of the teachers told us that they haven’t yet integrated Great Lakes information in their educational activities, but that they plan to do so now after learning more about water quality and educational resources at the workshop. 

We’re very excited to see these dedicated teachers assist and guide their students to learn more about the Great Lakes, water quality, and practical stewardship of water and land.”

In addition to Susan, the workshop was also led by IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy. If you are interested in educational materials and opportunities for yourself or teachers in your school/district, contact Robin or Terri at the links above or visit us online to learn more.

11/6/12

Early data from Michigan City buoy helps scientists, anglers, and boaters

The research buoy launched off the coast of Michigan City, IN earlier this fall has been brought inland for winter, but will return to the water next spring for its first full season monitoring environmental conditions in Lake Michigan’s nearshore waters. 

It has been less than two months since the buoy began feeding real-time data to the IISG website. In that short time, though, the data has been used by scientists, anglers, and boaters alike to better predict weather conditions, target where to fish, and identify the safest times to be out on the lake. Many of these users have reached out to IISG with feedback on the buoy and the website.

“We have heard from so many different groups of people, from recreational paddlers to research scientists, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Carolyn Foley, IISG assistant research coordinator. “People are grateful to have data for an area that was previously not being monitored.” 

More than 500 people have visited the website since it went live in early September to see real-time snapshots of lake conditions or to examine trends shown over 24-hour and 5-day periods. IISG staff members have heard from sailors, kayakers, anglers, and local residents who say they plan to regularly use the information collected on wave height, water temperatures, and wind speed before venturing from shore. Sailors from Indianapolis told IISG that the up-to-date information on lake conditions will help them more safely make their seasonal trip from St. Joseph, MI to Michigan City. The same data will also be used by fisheries researchers at the Purdue University West Lafayette campus to determine when to make the two-hour drive up to the lake for sampling trips.

The collected data has also been used by researchers to improve models used to predict weather and current changes. For example, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Northern Indiana was able to adjust its forecast for wave heights by several feet in mid-October based on the real-time data from the buoy. Engineers from other federal agencies have also requested data to use in models designed to examine the movement of water and heat in lower Lake Michigan. 

The buoy’s launch also attracted regional press coverage that continued well after it was placed in the water. Indiana TV and newspapers were joined by news outlets from Illinois and Michigan—including the Detroit Free Press—in their coverage. The launch was also featured in trade blogs such as the Environmental Monitor and recreational forums like the Great Lakes Angler Forum. 

Although real-time data will not be available while the buoy is in winter storage, an archive of the information collected from early September to late October of this year will be released in the coming months. Visit www.iiseagrant.org/buoy for more information.

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