Educators set sail on Lake Huron

Fourteen teachers from throughout the Great Lakes basin embarked on the learning opportunity of a lifetime this month, taking part in a week-long workshop aboard the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s research vessel Lake Guardian. They explored first-hand Lake Huron’s geology, limnology (freshwater science), and ecology, with a special focus on the food web as it relates to Huron’s fisheries. 

The teachers worked side-by-side with scientists learning a great deal about what comprises research on the Great Lakes. They assisted with the collection of planktonic and benthic organisms, as well as gathering water quality data. They also explored Great Lakes curriculum and discussed how to integrate this information in their classrooms. You can see visit their blog and learn more at cossegreatlakes.net. This program is offered annually by EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network. If you are an educator, consider applying next year for the cruise on Lake Ontario!


New science writer will help IISG expand its outreach efforts

Anjanette Riley has joined the IISG as the new science writer. She will work closely with the communication team and researchers to create materials that communicate research results and inform the public of IISG initiatives and outreach-projects. In addition to developing regular press releases, newsletter articles, content for brochures and web pages, Anjanette will serve as technical writer in the development of a mobile app tour of the Chicago lakefront focusing on critical issues facing the Great Lakes and initiatives underway to improve the health of the Chicago watershed.  
Anjanette comes to IISG after serving as a project manager and technical writer for an Illinois-based safety consultancy specializing in the maritime industry. In her prior tenure as a reporter, she has written for several newspapers and magazines, work that earned her two national journalism awards. She holds a MA in English Studies from Illinois State University.


Summer interns helping to move IISG projects from paper to practice

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant researchers and specialists have been able to extend internship opportunities to four students this summer. Working directly with our staff and researchers, the students will get hands-on experience in their field while helping us pursue ongoing projects. Read more about this year’s group of interns and the issues they’ll be helping us address and investigate below.

Naoki Wada

Naoki Wada is a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student studying at Purdue University, and is interested in how ocean waves can be harnessed as a sustainable energy resource. 

As a native of Japan, Naoki was particularly struck by the results of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami: “My home country, Japan, where the supply of natural resources is very scarce, experienced one of the largest earthquake and tsunami last year, putting most of their nuclear power plants out of operation due to the safety concerns and…forcing the nation to rethink their future energy security. As an island nation surrounded by the ocean, utilizing oceanic energy by means of wave/tidal/current/power generation can be a remedy.” Naoki feels that the United States can also benefit from technology related to ocean-generated power; in addition to providing sustainable energy, it doesn’t require as much land as solar or wind farms and may be more palatable to planners and developers. After his graduation at the end of this year, Naoki intends to pursue graduate work in this field.

During his 2012 summer internship, Naoki is working with IISG-funded researcher Cary Troy of Purdue University and IISG staffers Carolyn Foley and Angela Archer to deploy a real-time monitoring buoy off of Michigan City, IN. The buoy will beam information about wave height, water temperature, wind direction, and other variables to the web every 10 minutes. Naoki is responsible for getting the buoy up and running so that IISG and Purdue University can continue to deploy it every year in the same location. 

Sahana Rao

Sahana will be a senior at the University of Pennsylvania next year, and is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Psychology and Economics. Sahana grew up in the Chicago area and considers Chicago her home, making this internship a terrific opportunity to work on issues close to her heart. 

Sahana is working at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) this summer with IISG/CMAP Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann to create an outdoor water use manual for the 80 member-communities of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA) in Illinois. The NWPA Outdoor Water Use manual is meant to educate homeowners about the consequences of outdoor water use and provide information on various approaches that homeowners or their communities can take to conserve water by reducing their outdoor use. The manual also contains information on a lawn-watering ordinance that the NWPA is recommending its member communities to adopt. 

Meredith Brackett

Meredith is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems Environment and Society. While planning to attend graduate school in the future, her internship with IISG will allow her to gain hands-on experience in the field as well as helping her find areas and issues for future study. 

Meredith explains more: “I am working with Dr. Paris Collingsworth this summer and we are conducting a study to compare zooplankton community data collected by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) with data collected by the Interagency Lower Trophic Level Monitoring Program of the Lake Erie Committee Forage Task Group (LEC-FTG). We are using statistical models to calculate zooplankton community similarity metrics at specific sample sites through time and space. This study will determine whether the LEC-FTG survey is capturing zooplankton community characteristics that are unique to those captured by the GLNPO data set.”

Lainey Pasternak

Lainey will be entering her junior year at the University of Illinois this fall, majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology.

As an intern with IISG, Lainey will be working to help increase recreational water user knowledge of and education about steps to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading in the Southern Lake Michigan area. She will also be designing and conducting a survey to evaluate Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s current outreach efforts, and use those results to formulate a formal research report and academic poster presentation by the end of the summer. Lainey will then be presenting the findings and the entire scope of her internship work at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. 

“Becoming an intern with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach team has allowed me to acquire a stronger knowledge base about the general AIS issues and management in the Great Lakes area, the role of recreational water users in their spread, and the importance of evaluating outreach campaigns,” Lainey says. “By surveying and speaking directly with the public, I will gain further insight into how to communicate current complex environmental issues with and to others. Overall, I am very excited to be a part of the Illinois-Indiana Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Team this summer and expect to make a difference in this area for our future clean waters.”

We look forward to the results of the hard work from our interns, and sharing their efforts in another post later this year. Check back to see how these projects are progressing.


Alameda County first to require pharmaceutical companies to pay for disposal

Great news in the effort to prevent unwanted medications from entering water supplies and the environment from UnwantedMeds.org blog
“Today the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass the Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance. This makes Alameda County the first in the U.S. to require pharmaceutical producers to pay for the collection, transportation and disposal of unused or expired medications from residential sources. The ordinance is based on a producer responsibility model and would be similar to the successful medicine collection programs operated in Canada, France and Australia.”
For this and other stories about developments in proper disposal, as well as information on collections and events in your area, visit UnwantedMeds.org.


New specialist will bolster awareness of invasive species introduced through trade

Greg Hitzroth is IISG’s new aquatic invasive species specialist, working out of the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe, Illinois. Greg will design and implement public outreach programs and resources designed to increase awareness of the spread of invasive species introduced to the waterways of Illinois and Indiana through commercial trade. He will also work closely with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species team to identify and partner with outside stakeholders, including suppliers of non-native species, to ensure greater public awareness of the impact of organisms in trade and strategies for reducing their movement into the Great Lakes region.

Greg holds a MS in Biology from Northern Arizona University. He joins IISG after a three-year tenure as a research assistant for the Plants of Concern Program at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.


A few tips can make Great Lakes kayaking safer and more fun

A little bit of technology and some planning can make hobbies and locations even more enjoyable. Such is the case with “water trails,” which are designated routes on and along a body of water for kayaking, canoeing, and other paddling activities. With a small GPS unit or smartphone or an online map, boaters can enjoy scenic views and trips that vary in length and challenge level. 

But whether you’re new to these types of activities or have been kayaking/canoeing for years, there are a number of important safety tips to keep in mind, because the best part of an adventure is the safe and successful completion of it. 

“Water trails—a designated route along a river, lake, canal or bay specifically designed for people using small boats—along Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline are increasing in popularity. Paddling on the Great Lakes is a fun way to see the coast and take in Michigan’s abundant natural resources; but it can be different from paddling on inland lakes and rivers.”
Follow the link above to read their 10 tips for staying safe while paddling on and around the Great Lakes.


IISG education team wins APEX award

The APEX awards are given each year to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields by Communication Concepts, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was chosen as one of this year’s winners!

From their website:
“…(Communication) Concepts sponsors the APEX Awards, the annual Awards for Publication Excellence, an awards competition providing recognition for outstanding publishing efforts from newsletters and magazines to annual reports, campaigns, social media and websites.”
IISG’s Terri Hallesy and Robin Goettel were chosen for the “Education & Training Publications” category. Their “Fresh and Salt” project, a collaboration with Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence Great Lakes, collected activities, lessons, and other materials that joined Great Lakes and ocean topics in a cohesive way.

Designed for students in grades 5-10, the “Fresh and Salt” curriculum incorporated multiple facets of science education. Students learn about and even work on interactive mapping, investigation, experimentation, and additional concepts related to the science of both fresh and saltwater.

The curriculum’s 14 activities were structured  for effective science learning, and to prepare students as future decision-makers and leaders. Activities were carefully selected based on a distinct set of criteria that would help students apply science process skills needed for effective learning.

Aligned with Great Lakes and Ocean literacy principles, timely issues include:

•    Dominant physical features and their interconnections
•    Geological phenomena
•    Influence on weather and climate
•    Human-environment connections and impacts
•    Sustaining life on earth
•    Biodiversity, food webs, and energy flows
•    Exploration and technology innovation

“The COSEE Great Lakes Team accomplished our goal of providing educators with a science-based education resource that makes learning engaging,” said Hallesy. “It provides creative ideas to teach students about the Great Lakes and our oceans. Our intention is to educate students about ways to preserve and protect our aquatic ecosystems, while promoting environmental stewardship. ‘Fresh and Salt’ allows teachers to access relevant and timely science information leading to global awareness and environmental change.”

The entire Fresh and Salt curriculum can be downloaded from IISG’s education webpage.

Teachers are encouraged to incorporate relevant activities and lessons into their planning. In addition, educators can contact Terri Hallesy or Robin Goettel to learn about other opportunities and materials for their classrooms.

Communication Concepts is a firm that works with firms to improve communications, PR, marketing, and more. They also provide reports on current trends and give annual awards to projects and organizations for their outstanding publications.


Indiana DNR continues building on Healthy Rivers INitiative

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Great news continues to come in regarding the work done by Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources. The DNR has added another 450 acres of floodplain and riverfront land to their Healthy Rivers INitiative, continuing on their goal of creating a “permanent conservation protection of 43,000 acres along the floodplain of the Wabash River and Sugar Creek” and additional acreage along the Muscatatuck River. 

From the Indiana DNR website
“The latest acquisitions include two tracts (27 and 70 acres) in Vigo County and one (74 acres) in Vermillion County as part of the Wabash River/Sugar Creek project area.

In the Muscatatuck project area, the acquisitions include 123 acres in Scott County, 64 acres in Washington County, and tracts of 40 and 66.5 acres in Jackson County.

To date, HRI has closed on the purchase of 6,131 acres in the Wabash River/Sugar Creek project area and 2,570 acres in the Muscatatuck project area.”
Read the complete details of the announcement and find out more about the Healthy Rivers INitiative at the link above.


Retailers join the effort to offer natural lawn care options

The Lawn to Lake Program has been growing lately, with the goal of encouraging homeowners, property managers, and landscapers to implement natural lawn care methods and products into their work. By using and promoting natural lawn care options, the potential chemical runoff to water supplies is reduced, which in turn can help prevent invasive plants from crowding out native species, and also reduces substances that would otherwise find their way into our water supply. 

The program has recently made tremendous progress in partnering with retailers to carry and recommend natural lawn care products – products that work every bit as well as other lawn care methods, but which help the environment at the same time. There are dozens of retailers throughout the Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana areas that offer lawn care supplies that meet the needs of plants and landscapes in the region. 

To find one of these retailers near you, there is a Google Map that lists the retailers and shows their locations. This map will be updated as more retailers partner with us to promote products and processes for lawn care that protect the environment and meet the lawn care needs of the area.

To find out more about natural lawn care and how it can have positive impacts for our water supply, visit the Lawn to Lake Webpage linked above, and find their page on Facebook.


Recent report details Great Lakes vulnerability to Asian carp

According to some of the latest research, a population of Asian carp as small as 20 in number could be enough to establish a damaging population of the invasive species in the Great Lakes. 

“The report notes that this small population would have a greater than 50 percent chance of successfully spawning if they were to find a viable river access point to the lakes. Lake Michigan is the most likely target, and the Chicago Area Waterway System of rivers, sanitary canals and locks would be the most likely entry point. Already, the environmental DNA of carp has been detected as close as six miles from Lake Michigan. Some worry that the carp's entrance into the Great Lakes is inevitable.”
Read more, including links to the full report and additional information, at the link above.


More research needed to protect Great Lakes from Asian carp

In order to truly assess the threat to native fish species, there needs to be much more research into just how Asian carp and similar invasive species impact local and regional ecosystems. John Chick, a researcher whom IISG has provided past funding for, is one of the people working to gain a clearer picture of just what’s happening under the surface. 

"'We suspect at some point there will be a real crash in the populations of some of these native fishes,' said John Chick, an aquatic ecologist with the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center on the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

While years of study have turned up ominous signs that the carp are capable of crowding out other species and changing ecosystems, the worst-case scenario scientists expect to unfold hasn't yet been realized. Some scientists say that dire predictions about the damage carp can do may be premature. That makes the research Chick and his colleagues are conducting critical: It likely will influence how the debate over managing waterways made vulnerable by carp plays out in Congress and the courts."
Find out more about the need for further research and how it could impact possible prevention methods and legislation at the article linked above.


Low rainfall isn’t necessarily a problem for your lawn

Large portions of both Illinois and Indiana continue to experience very low rainfall and drought conditions, and many homeowners are wondering what to do about their lawns. With water in high demand, several  communities place watering schedules or restrictions in effect in order to conserve the available water. But what to do about your lawn? 

According to Richard Hentschel, a horticulture educator who works with our Lawn to Lakes program, the simple answer is – nothing. 

From the Chicago Tribune
“'If your lawn is brown, it's not dead,' says Richard Hentschel, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in St. Charles (urbanext.illinois.edu/hort). 'The grass has just hunkered down into survival mode. The plants have stopped growing and given up on their leaves to conserve water and are concentrating all their resources on keeping their roots and crowns alive.'”
Lawns are capable of surviving the conditions, but one area of concern is trees. 
“Lawns are easily replaced, but trees are not. Even large trees need help to survive a drought – and if they die, it can take 20 or 30 years to replace that shade. Stress from the 2005 drought killed trees over the next several years. So put trees at the top of the list for watering.

Let the hose trickle for a good long time in several places under the tree's canopy. Or spiral a soaker hose loosely around a tree trunk. Or buy a soaker bag at the garden center that will slowly ooze water to the roots. Most of a mature tree's roots are within 6 to 8 inches of the soil surface.”
Richard Hentschel and Rachel Rosenberg (who is also quoted in the article) are both involved in our Lawn to Lakes program, which provides information to retailers, homeowners, and landscapers about natural lawn care alternatives and their benefits.

For more information about gardens, lawns, and ways to maintain them in these conditions, head to the link above for the complete article, and find lawn care tips and specifics for Northern Illinois, including information about watering, drought conditions, weed issues, and more at the new Lawn Talk website.


Ecosystem restoration takes a big effort and big engineering

One of the unsung agencies that is heavily involved in restoring coastal ecosystems just happens to be one of the biggest and most crucial – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their Ecosystem Restoration Program are heavily involved in planning, developing, and executing projects that restore damaged ecosystems and areas and provide environmental benefits to communities, including several projects in and around the Great Lakes.

From the U.S. Army website
“The USACE works to restore degraded ecosystems to a more natural condition through large-scale ecosystem restoration projects, such as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration, Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration, Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Beneficial Use of Dredged Material (restoration of marsh critical to the endangered Whooping Crane), and Houston Ship Channel Beneficial Use of Dredged Material (marsh restoration in Galveston Bay), and by employing system-wide watershed approaches to problem solving and management for smaller ecosystem restoration projects.”
Read more about this terrific program and about the substantial work that goes into these projects at the article linked above.


In the news: Intensive search underway after traces of Asian Carp found

A four-day search for evidence of Asian Carp was announced last week after genetic traces of the invasive species was found in a Chicago lake. 

From the Detroit Free Press
“The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee’s plan calls for what it calls a Level 1 response following three consecutive rounds of Asian carp DNA being detected in Lake Calumet. A Level 1 response adds to the regular monitoring both commercial fishing crews as well as added craft that use electrical shocks to stun and capture fish. There will also be larger sweeping nets used and additional sampling gear over a four-day period beginning Tuesday.”
Read more about the search, including the specific details regarding the recent findings, at the link above.


Lake Michigan inspires more than fish tales

The Great Lakes have always proven to be spectacular scenery, and have provided inspiration for countless works of art, great adventures, and more. Recently, though, the idyllic summer settings on and around Lake Michigan provided a different inspiration for two individuals on similar missions. 

Iowa resident Steve Cannon looked to Lake Michigan and thought of going for a run – all the way around the lake. Over the course of 40 days, Steve ran 1037 miles around the entirety of Lake Michigan, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research. 

From the Des Moines Register
“The Des Moines man finished the last leg of his 40-day, 40-marathon trek Thursday at Harry Caray’s Tavern in downtown Chicago, the same Navy Pier bar where he started. He ran 26 miles, clockwise around the lake, each day since May 27 — the first individual to do so.”
Meanwhile, a Michigan woman who now lives in Chicago is currently underway in her quest to row a custom boat around Lake Michigan – 1500 miles in a scheduled 2 months. The purpose of her adventure is to raise money for and increase awareness of breast cancer research. 

“A Battle Creek, Mich. native, Gibbons moved to Chicago seven years ago, and in 2008, co-founded Recovery on Water (ROW), a rowing team for breast cancer survivors that has grown from four women to 40. The women, coached by Gibbons and two others, practice four days a week on the Chicago River.

Gibbons’ story is a fascinating one as she propels her boat from port to port. She left Chicago June 15 is expected to leave Green Bay for Oconto around 5 a.m. Friday, making the 25-mile or so row by early evening, weather permitting.”
The Great Lakes provide a terrific setting for a lot of activities and ideas, and these are just two examples of people drawing inspiration for personal missions and great causes from them.


Record water temps follow recent heat wave

People and pets weren’t the only ones getting warmed up by the recent heat wave. Even Lake Michigan felt the rising temps and hung on to some of it, as evidenced by a recent post from the NOAA National Weather Service. 

From their website
“In fact, the south mid lake buoy reached 80 degrees on Friday, July 6th. This is rather rare, as in the 31 years of data, a temperature of 80 degrees has only been recorded during six prior episodes. This is also the earliest 80 degrees has ever been recorded at the south mid lake buoy.

It is also worth noting that during the past warm period between, July 1st and July 6th, the water temperature rose 10 degrees!”
Read more about these record water temps at the link above.


Proposed legislation seeks to reduce Great Lakes pollution

In a continuing effort to pass legislation that would prevent pollution from being dumped into Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk and U.S. Representative Bob Dold released a list of the Great Lakes Dirty Dozen – the top 12 polluters placing significant sewage into the lakes. 

Over the last few decades a lot of progress has been made in reducing the amount of pollution that enters the Great Lakes. But for a variety of reasons, large amounts of untreated pollution and sewage still finds its way into the lakes, contaminating the source of fresh water for millions of people. 

The list of the top twelve polluters brings attention not only to the issue, but to the legislation that Senator Kirk introduced last year, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act. Senator Dick Durbin is a co-sponsor of the bill

On a related topic, the U.S. EPA recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of Safe Water Drinking Standards, which went into effect on July 25, 1977. The standards came about as a result of the Safe Water Drinking Act, which was signed into law in 1974.