In the news: Testing Lake Michigan water to maintain a safe shoreline

With the Lake Michigan lakefront now open to swimmers for the season, the Chicago Park District will be using a new system to monitor bacteria level and ensure a safe swimming environment for visitors. 

From The Chicago Tribune: 
“Chicago's new elaborate system of buoys and statistical models will monitor 16 of the city's 24 beaches, and Park District officials are seeking grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand the system to cover all beaches by next summer.

The model will predict the levels of harmful bacteria at each beach using data on the location of sources of contamination, like colonies of sea gulls or sewer outlets; the motion of waves that can disturb bacteria growing in the sand; lake-current speeds; water temperature; and sunlight.”
Read more about the city’s new system for monitoring Lake Michigan here.


In the news: Increasing Asian Carp surveillance for the season

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is working to remove Asian Carp from several Illinois waterways, even those not connected to the Great Lakes. 

From the Traverse City Record-Eagle: 
“The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee plans to spend $12 million this year on efforts to stop the voracious eaters from reaching Lake Michigan, where scientists fear they could out-compete native fish for food and wreak havoc on the Great Lakes fishing industry. Plans include sampling urban fishing ponds, surveying fish markets for live fish and random electrofishing and netting along a network of canals that connect Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.

McCloud said the DNR will visit bait shops and fish markets to make sure there are no live carp, and will sample around 20 lagoons. He said anyone who nets an Asian carp should get it out of the water and make sure it's dead. He also asks that they take a photo of the fish and call the DNR.”
These efforts are all part of the larger goal of protecting Illinois waterways, and Lake Michigan in particular, from the threat posed by Asian Carp. 

Read the complete article here.


Keeping our waters clean and safe this holiday weekend

Memorial Day weekend is a holiday that lots of people look forward to. For many, it’s the first chance they get to head out to the beach, take the boat out on the water, fish and swim, and just enjoy a little time outdoors. And it’s also a perfect opportunity to get out and spend some quality time on Lake Michigan. 

With that in mind, there are tons of ways to have a great time on the water this weekend and help us keep the Great Lakes clean all at the same time. Listed below are a number of links with tips on how you can help us protect our waterways without missing a moment of fun this weekend.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has put together this great PDF with clean boating tips. It offers some quick and easy ways you can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species when you head out on the water. 

The U.S. EPA also has some information on how boaters can help reduce pollution while setting sail. 

The folks at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have an even more extensive list of pollution prevention information on their Eco-Friendly Boating Fact Sheet.  

If you’re heading out to spend some time on the beach instead, brush up on these easy tips for keeping beaches clean from our friends at the Great Lakes Information Network.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a website complete with photo gallery that identifies some of the non-native species to keep an eye out for while you’re enjoying the water. 

And of course, you can find a number of valuable resources here on our website, including our Illinois Aquatic Nuisance Species website where you can learn about and report sightings of nuisance species. Be on the lookout this weekend for our Clean Boats Crew too – volunteers will be out at several marina locations handing out information to boaters and recreational water users about how everyone can help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!
If you’re planning to spend some time this weekend tending to your lawn or garden, you can still have a positive impact on our waterways. Take a look at our brochure about natural lawn care for homeowners, and view some informative videos about healthy lawn care practices produced by the U.S. EPA. 

No matter how you spend it, have a safe and fun weekend while helping us protect and preserve our waterways.


In the news: Worldwide fish populations headed towards depletion?

The World Wildlife Fund has recently released a map that contrasts the most intensively fished areas of the world’s oceans between 1950 and 2006. The resulting graphic clearly illustrates the startling growth in fishing, and helps to demonstrate the potential for severely depleted fish populations worldwide. 

From The Washington Post: 
“Between 1950 and 2006, the WWF report notes, the world’s annual fishing haul more than quadrupled, from 19 million tons to 87 million tons. New technology — from deep-sea trawling to long-lining — has helped the fishing industry harvest areas that were once inaccessible. But the growth of intensive fishing also means that larger and larger swaths of the ocean are in danger of being depleted.”
The article includes a number of links that provide additional information, including a link to the complete report from World Wildlife Fund in PDF form.


Muskegon Lake cleanup project celebrates completion

Community members, stakeholders, and several agencies have been involved in an extensive cleanup project in Muskegon Lake for the last few years, and just this month they celebrated the project’s completion. 

The Great Lakes Legacy Act project began with the development of a master plan and secured funding, with the goal of cleaning and restoring the lake’s natural habitats. By doing so, fish and wildlife populations can be restored, and the lake will be cleaner and safer for recreational use as well. 

Caitie McCoy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s environmental social scientist, has been heavily involved in several remediation and community outreach projects, including outreach for the EPA during the entire Muskegon Lake cleanup and restoration.
Caitie wrote to update us on the great progress that they’ve made restoring the lake. “The project removed 43,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and mercury from Muskegon Lake, which flows into Lake Michigan. It also included habitat restoration in the area.” 

Muskegon Lake is one of several designated “Areas of Concern” that the International Joint Commission identified for cleanup and restoration. Funding for the project was provided by the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, with efforts and support from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership

Caitie was onsite for the project completion, and worked with John Karl from Wisconsin Sea Grant to compile video footage. That footage will be part of a video being produced about Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup projects including Muskegon Lake. Check back here to the blog later this year when we'll have the video posted.

(Pictured above is Dennis Kirksey of Muskegon Lake Watershed Partnership, a landowner in the area who played a large role in helping the project reach completion.)


In the news: Lake Michigan water trail promises more access for recreation

A proposed water trail along Lake Michigan’s shoreline would improve access to 450 miles of the lakeshore, making it easier for recreationists to enjoy the water. 

From the Journal Sentinel
“The trail will eventually run from the Wisconsin-Illinois border north to the tip of the Door County Peninsula and south along the Green Bay shoreline to the city of Green Bay.

The Lake Michigan Water Trail was selected as one of the top 100 state projects as part of President Barack Obama's America's Great Outdoors program that encourages increasing outdoor recreation opportunities close to home.”
The project involves several agencies and could provide expanded opportunities for businesses near the lakeshore.


In the news: Federal study to help Great Lakes communities prevent floods

A data collection project is currently underway that would help communities prepare for and prevent flooding in the Great Lakes basin. There are also six technical workshops for coastal management and associated professionals to be held next month at several locations around the Great Lakes. 

From the Great Lakes Echo
“Federal officials are studying how to help Great Lakes communities better prepare for hazardous floods.

‘It will be the most comprehensive study ever conducted of shoreline flooding,’ said Ken Hinterlong, a senior engineer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So far, only ‘…the first phase of the project is done, which is a basin-wide data collection for Lake Michigan and Lake St. Clair.’”
Visit the link above for the full article including a link to the full workshop schedule.


Asian Carp not the only invasive concern for Lake Michigan

Asian Carp get most of the press when it comes to invasive species concerns for Lake Michigan. But the Lake’s unique ecosystem, as well as tourism and other industries that rely on the Lake, face a number of threats from non-native species. One such aquatic invasive species (AIS) is the Sea Lamprey. 

From the Journal Gazette, Ft. Wayne: 
“'Sea lamprey have been a disaster for Lake Michigan,' said Bill James, the DNR's chief of fisheries and a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. 'Sea lamprey really changed the way of life for Great Lakes fisheries.'
James said sea lamprey have no predators in the Great Lakes and nearly destroyed regional fisheries in the 1960s. Though barriers and application of lampricides have slowed their progression, sea lampreys still threaten the $7 billion Great Lakes fisheries industry, he said.”
Read the complete article here.


Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant science writer position available

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has an immediate opening for a Visiting Science Writer. This is a 55%-time, 12-month academic professional position working in and with the communication team at IISG.

Qualified applicants should have a Bachelor’s degree in communications, natural resources, or a related field, and experience writing and editing material that relates scientific information to a broad audience in an easy to understand way.

Science writers work in a variety of mediums and outlets, and the successful applicant can expect to write for web, pamphlets, newsletters, e-mail, and several other types of communication pieces.

For complete details on this position, including qualifications and application instructions, visit the University of Illinois job listing. For questions or additional information, contact Lisa Merrifield.


Chicago green roofs help protect Lake Michigan

Loyola University in Chicago is committed to the environment in a number of ways, and one of their approaches holds benefits for Lake Michigan as well.

The University recently installed their seventh green roof system, this one on Cuneo Hall. Green roof systems provide a number of benefits, but one of them is the reduction of rainwater runoff. By providing natural materials to absorb, filter, and utilize the water, it reduces pollution and runoff volume that can wind up negatively impacting the Lake.

From the article on Earth Techling: 
“A green roof acts like a natural sponge that absorbs stormwater and curtails runoff,” Aaron Durnbaugh, the university’s director of sustainability, explained in a statement. He went on to note that the university’s Chicago campus is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, which makes reduced runoff a real priority for protecting local water quality.”
Read the complete article here.


In the news: Further research on Lake Michigan-based wind power

Grand Valley State University successfully deployed their wind research buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan last week, 37 miles off shore. The buoy, a joint project between Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan, is one of only two in existence, and the only one operating in the Great Lakes. 

Researchers are looking forward to data on a variety of factors related to possible wind energy generation in the Great Lakes. In addition to studying wind velocity and related factors, the research takes into account water temperatures, wave activity, and animal life in order to provide the most complete picture for potential wind farm development offshore.


In the news: Study on keeping Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan to be sped up

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that it would speed up its five-year study on potential options for preventing Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan. 

While a number of different methods have been proposed over the years, with some of them in use already, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeks to provide Congress with a number of options, and will now work to do so by next year. Previously the expected date had been 2015. 

Asian Carp are an aggressive, invasive species, and are currently being kept out of the lake by electric barriers and certain other methods. 

Learn more about the Asian Carp threat on our site, and by visiting the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.


Invasive fish could be a food solution for Haitians in need

Sometimes, what can be considered a problem in one area of the world might prove to be a solution to a problem somewhere else on the globe. One such case is the use of Asian Carp as a high-protein food source for Haitian children impacted by the devastating earthquake in January of 2010.

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 
“Some innovative thinking is now turning the problem fish into a high-quality protein source for the children at Zanmi Beni, run by Operation Blessing International. Researchers at NOAA’s Louisiana Sea Grant program and the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter have successfully produced canned Asian carp pleasing to the Haitian palate. Ultimately, the product could deliver high-quality protein to people in need, be a boon to fishermen, provide a new opportunity for canneries, and reduce the population of an unwanted invasive species.” 
Louisiana Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist Julie Anderson attended IISG's Asian Carp summit and was able to network with several people including Carol Engle of the University of Arkansas. Carol's work had involved developing a USDA-approved process for canning Asian Carp, making it possible to safely prepare, store, and ship the food where it was needed. 

You can learn more about this mutually beneficial program at NOAA’s website, and read more about potential food uses for Asian Carp here and here.


New Discovery Grant projects - Green infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, and more

Much like a gardener hopes that the seeds they plant will eventually bloom into a lush garden, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant awards Discovery Grants, or “seed” grants, to a number of projects in the hopes that the initiatives will grow into something larger. In recent years, IISG has funded 35 projects focused on key concerns the program is committed to address; here are six new projects for 2012:

- Charles Werth, a civil engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will study the potential benefits and cost-effectiveness of installing green roofs in urban areas, considering effects on runoff, water quality, and other factors.

- Nandakishore Rajagopalan of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center will explore the feasibility of establishing saline aquaculture in Illinois – in other words, a saltwater fish farm. This initial study will focus on the economics of establishing such an industry and explore the possibilities for a few key species.

- Daniel Larkin, a conservation scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, will establish a network of researchers and professionals who manage phragmites, an invasive reed grass, to discuss recent advances in control and collaboratively develop management plans to reflect the newest science and best techniques available.

- Maria Sepulveda, an ecotoxicologist at Purdue University, will build on previous IISG studies that looked at the distribution of pharmaceuticals or personal care products in Lake Michigan by examining the effects that these chemicals have on species throughout the food chain, both individually and in potentially toxic combinations.

- Marcelo Garcia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use results from an Asian Carp egg survival model to develop a tool that identifies where and how to implement targeted control methods. The tool would help decision makers prevent the spread of the invasive species.

- Brian Murphy of the University of Illinois Chicago will examine Lake Michigan as a potential source of bacteria that might be used in new medicines.

These Discovery Grants provide funding for initial research that has the potential to grow into larger future projects, or for projects that bring research results to a broader audience and could be expanded on by fellow researchers and agencies.


    Aquaponics workshop scheduled for May 11-12 at Chicago State University

    IISG’s Aquaculture Marketing Specialist Kwamena Quagrainie will be just one of the presenters at an upcoming aquaponics workshop scheduled for May 11 & 12 at Chicago State University. Designed with prospective operators and investors, governmental and non-profit organizations, and community organizations in mind, the workshop will feature hands-on activities, a tour of currently operational aquaponics facilities, information on marketing and selling the fish and produce, and more. 

    Kwamena has been involved with aquaponics for a number of years, and is a strong advocate for research and implementation in the field. He was also involved in producing a very informative and interesting video about aquaponics that has helped to get more people involved in the possibilities. 

    Aquaponics systems use the nutrients that are emitted from fish to nourish plants, creating a habitat that is self-sustainable and eliminating waste. As a result, aquaponics does not require a large amount of space. 

    The workshop flier is below, and includes some more details about the upcoming workshop. To see if spaces are still available, or to learn more about future aquaponics workshops, use the contact information on the flier.


    May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month

    Invasive species, as you probably know, can have devastating effects when they take hold. They can negatively impact, and in some cases permanently alter, entire ecosystems, disrupting industry and tourism, and affecting home and business owners near those areas.

    With summer on the way, there’s no better time than now to spread the word about invasive species and how we can stop them. And that is why May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month. 

    There’s a website with links and information about invasive species in Illinois, as well as a Facebook page for Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month. Educational materials, tips on what you can do to stop invasive species, and a media tool kit are just some of the things available.

    Now is the perfect time to get people involved in the work of preventing the damage they can do right here in Illinois.

    In addition to the links above, don't forget to visit our Clean Boats, Clean Waters web page for simple and useful ways that boaters can join in the fight to prevent invasive species from spreading. You can also find information on how to volunteer for our Clean Boats Crew and provide in-person advice and tips at local boat ramps and marina. 


    Clean Boats Crew getting ready for the summer season

    As a part of the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ Clean Boats Crew program, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has been hiring Site Leaders and volunteers to work at boat ramps and marinas in both states. The Clean Boats Crew Site Leaders will be out and about during the height of the boating season, talking to boaters, fishermen, and all recreational water users about simple and effective steps they can take to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). 

    Among the available resources, Clean Boats Crew members will have a watercraft checklist – a short list of items to inspect or actions to perform before leaving a body of water. Each one helps reduce or eliminate the possibility of transporting potentially invasive species between waterways, which in turn helps protect and preserve the environment and keeps those locations readily available for recreational activities. 

    "I’m very excited about this year’s Clean Boats Crew program.  Six enthusiastic people have been hired to serve as Site Leaders, and I’m confident that they’re going to reach a lot of water recreationists and do a lot of good this summer to slow the spread of AIS,” said Sarah Zack, IISG’s AIS specialist.

    The  program will be starting up Memorial Day weekend, and is always looking for volunteers to help. You can check out the summer schedule, the updated volunteer training schedule, and the information on how to volunteer. Volunteering for the program is not only a great way to help the environment, but excellent hands-on experience for students and teachers alike. 

    If you’d like to learn more, or if you have any questions about the program, you can contact Cathy McGlynn at the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership.


    Hands-on water quality projects continue for NW Indiana students

    Following up on our post from March 12, Caitie McCoy and Terri Hallesy visited with students in East Chicago to see how their projects studying the Roxana Marsh area were going. Terri sent along some details: 
    On April 19, Caitie McCoy invited Education Specialist Terri Hallesy, to visit Andrea Bock’s 4th grade science classrooms at East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School. The students have been learning about the Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup project at Roxana Marsh and how to design a habitat. Jack Brunner, an EPA contractor whose employees work on-site at Roxana Marsh, was invited as a guest speaker to share his restoration work with the students. Caitie McCoy and colleague, Nishaat Yunus, actively engaged students in a discussion about key concepts associated with habitats and restoration projects. Students participated in a hands-on activity to design their own Roxana Marsh habitat by constructing a colorful classroom mural. Students were divided into groups and provided with photos depicting various elements contained within a habitat. Selected photos included nonliving elements, such as the sun and oxygen; above water living plants like black-eyed Susan and wild bergamot; and above water living animals such as the great blue heron and Peregrine falcon. Using various art tools, students designed and illustrated some of the components that comprise the Roxana Marsh habitat. Caitie McCoy and Terri Hallesy affixed the students’ creative illustrations onto a mural, which is now proudly displayed in their classroom. As a culminating event, Jack Brunner surprised the students by presenting a painted turtle that was found on the Roxana Marsh site and has been kept as a pet during the cleanup. The next step in this exciting restoration project will involve the students actually visiting Roxana Marsh to plant natives they’ve been cultivating in their classroom.
    All of the students had a great time getting involved and learning about the marsh, and they're looking forward to planting the native species they've been growing in the class.