In the news: Progress being made controlling aquatic invasive plants

Phragmites is an invasive grass that has found favorable conditions on and around Lake Michigan, and it can be very difficult to treat or control. But good news in the fight against the plant comes from Emmet County, Michigan.

From PetsokeyNews.com
“After almost three years of hard work, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Emmet County and Lake Michigan shoreline owners have nearly knocked phragmites down.

The program began in 2010 with close to 300 separate stands of phragmites spread across almost 7.5 acres in Emmet County.

Now, after a recent survey, Petoskey's Tip of the Mitt has found that only 87 stands remain, spread over 3 acres.”
Read the complete article above to find out more about how this invasive plant is being effectively controlled near the shores of Lake Michigan, and learn more about aquatic invasive plants with our pamphlet.


Green infrastructure helping cities manage more than water

Aging pipes and pollution runoff are big concerns in any city, and the cost to repair or replace old systems is very high. Often it means downtime for entire streets and systems, and a very big price tag to boot. 

But cities worldwide are adopting green infrastructure elements to help manage numerous factors, from excessive burden on old systems to pollution management and more. 

“Gray infrastructure is the system of pipes and ditches that channel storm water. Green infrastructure is the harnessing of the natural processes of trees and other vegetation — so-called ecosystem services — to carry out the functions of the built systems. Green infrastructure often intercepts the water before it can run into streets and become polluted and stores the water for gradual release through percolation or evapotranspiration. Trees also clean dirty water through natural filtering functions.

Advocates say green infrastructure isn’t just about being green — it makes financial sense, as well. Its cost-effectiveness depends on how benefits are assigned and valued, and over how long a time scale, but green has been shown to be cheaper than gray.”
The article (linked above) features much more information about green infrastructure examples, from Seattle to Sweden and many points in between.


Fishing and learning are fun at the Illinois State Fair

Visitors to Conservation World this year left the Illinois State Fair with a wide range of new knowledge on environmental issues facing local waterways thanks to IISG’s interactive display. In a twist on a classic fishing game, kids and adults were given a chance to answer educational questions on one of six topics—aquatic invasive species, the Great Lakes, climate change, lawn care, medicine stewardship, and green spaces—and learn practical strategies for protecting the state’s marine and coastal areas. 

During the fair’s nine-day run ending on August 19, the "Spin to Win: Sea Grant’s Wheel of Information" exhibit saw just under 3,000 visitors, many coming to play the game after hearing about it from others. Most of the players in the fishing game were children. After answering their first question, the “anglers” would often ask to play again for a chance to answer a question in a different topic. One youngster got so excited that she had caught a Sea Grant “fish” that she ran quickly to the other end of the large tent to show her mom her catch. Fortunately, her older sister ran after her and retrieved our fish and pole. 

Parents got into the game as well by helping their kids read and answer questions. IISG employees working the exhibit heard from many of these parents that they had learned something new about managing water resources. 

For the adults, one of the most popular features of the exhibit was step-by-step information on how to sensibly dispose of unwanted medication, including a postage-paid takeback envelope. After learning with their kids about the dangers of flushing and throwing away pharmaceuticals, several parents asked for envelopes so they could safely return old medication. And IISG’s pharmaceutical disposal brochure will soon be on display in the waiting room of one doctor who asked for more copies after seeing the brochure while visiting the exhibit. 

For more information on the topics discussed at the state fair, visit www.iiseagrant.org
"Phil the Pill Bottle" courtesy of St. Anthony's Hospital, Rockford, IL.


Ridding the Great Lakes of invasive lampreys with odiferous options

Eel-like lampreys are an invasive species found in the Great Lakes, and one that can have a very negative impact on native fish. The lampreys attach themselves to host fish (often commercially valuable species) and extract blood and nutrients from them weakening and often killing the fish.

A student at the University of Windsor has been studying how lampreys detect and process scents. That information could lead to better and more effective traps for the lamprey, which would in turn allow officials to remove them from the lakes and reduce the threat to native fish. 

From Metro News
“Green’s study is an extension of his academic supervisor Professor Barbara Zielinski’s work, which found a pathway that links the sense of smell to the locomotive circuit in lampreys’ brains. That circuit, the medial region in the olfactory bulb, allows them to smell something and move towards or away from that odour.”
Read more about the findings and the potential solution at the article linked above.


Climate change on the Great Lakes touches all areas

Changes in weather patterns, such as warmer winters and lower rainfall averages, can have large effects on water availability, lake levels, plant and fish life, and more. Because so many people and industries rely on the Great Lakes, those changes can have a significant impact beyond the obvious, as is the case for the shipping industry. 

“For decades, the mathematics of waterborne transport here were simple. For every 10 to 11 metric tons of cargo that moved into and out of the Toledo port, about one metric ton of sediment left the channel. (Last year, 10.4 million metric tons of cargo were handled at the port.)

But with climate change, the equation is almost certain to get more complex and more expensive, say scientists and port managers. More mid-winter snow melts and rainstorms — and more frequent heavy rainfalls, especially in spring — may lead to higher soil-erosion rates, meaning that Great Lakes rivers are likely to carry more soil into harbors. Higher air temperatures already are warming the Great Lakes, blocking ice from forming, and increasing rates of evaporation that may lead to lower lake levels.”
Follow the link above to read the complete article on these potential consequences for the Great Lakes, the shipping and transportation industry, and the communities that rely on these resources.


New invasive plant poses a threat to Upper Mississippi River

Aquatic invasive species are a primary concern near any body of water, and Lake Michigan and surrounding waterways are no exception. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified a new aquatic plant as an invasive species, and one that is posing a threat to the upper Mississippi River area. 

From their news release
“It was speculated that any undiscovered plants would not survive the freezing temperatures of winter and would be eliminated. However, on July 26, 2012, a large infestation of nearly 10,000 plants was discovered in a secluded backwater bay. While the density of plants was alarming, even more troubling was the discovery of an additional plant, Parrot Feather also known as Brazilian water milfoil, among the water lettuce and hyacinth.  Parrot feather is even more aggressive than Eurasian water milfoil and can quickly fill-in an area and choke-out native species.”
Read the complete release at the link above, and find out more about common aquatic invasive plants at our aquatic nuisance species site.


Unique coastal concerns bring unique invasive concerns

Coastal communities across the country need to be concerned about aquatic invasive plants as well as animals. But preventing their spread and growth brings unique challenges depending on the area. 

One such example would be in Delaware and other Atlantic coastal communities where salt water contamination of fields can allow invasive species to move in. 

"Once salt water kills off farmland, it makes a great opportunity for invasive plants like phragmites to move in, said Gallagher, an expert in salt-tolerant plants called halophytes and co-director of the university’s Halophyte Biotechnology Center."
Read more at the article linked above to see how a native plant might provide a buffer to prevent the invasive species' spread. 


Saving water is just a click away

Most people understand that conserving water is important to a sustainable future of clean water for everyone. But how do we know how much we are using, and how do we identify ways that we can conserve water or reduce our usage? It might come as no surprise that technology offers new and easy ways to find that out. 

Several smartphones applications and online resources have been developed that can help identify wasted water, recommend water-saving measures, or log your water use for a more accurate picture. 

Drip Detective is an app for iPhone that lets users identify just how much water a leaky or drippy faucet is costing them through a variety of measures. It can also then calculate the amount of money those lost drops cost the user on their water bill. 

The Responsible Bathroom App provides a simple way for users to find out how much water they can save with various fixture changes in their bathrooms, or with simple changes in use. It also offers a tool to locate local rebates for fixtures, and find the nearest retailer where they can purchase water-saving items. 

A free app called Waterprint allows smartphone users to calculate how much water they’re using, and also provides descriptions that explain what the numbers mean in practical terms. It has tips on how to reduce water usage as well. 

Even Facebook has an online application anyone can access, the Personal Water Footprint Calculator, that lets users figure out their personal water use, and offers ways to reduce water usage with some simple changes or steps. 

These are just a few of the available applications that allow individuals and families to get a real sense of how much water they are using, and how they can help save this precious resource. 

You can read more about each of these apps at each of the links above, and begin finding new ways to help save water today.


In the news: New barrier could help control sea lampreys near Lake Michigan

With the State of Michigan taking control of a dam on the Manistique River comes an opportunity to prevent an invasive species from breeding in the river and increasing in numbers. 

“That will allow the federal government to build a new barrier there to keep sea lampreys from breeding in the river. Managers of the fishery expect that will bring the lamprey problem under control in Lake Michigan.”
Read more about the plan at the article linked above.


Classroom specimens require caution and care to prevent becoming invasives

Many educators incorporate plants and animals into their classrooms for educational purposes, but those plants and animals have the potential to become or transport invasive species to new areas. 

Our friends and colleagues at Oregon Sea Grant have more
“The study, led by Oregon Sea Grant Extension’s invasive species expert Sam Chan, was presented at this week’s national meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland.

‘Live organisms are a critical element for learning and we don’t want to imply that they should not be used in the classroom,’ said Chan. ‘But some of our schools – and the biological supply houses that provide their organisms – are creating a potential new pathway for non-native species to become invasive.’”
There is more information available at the link above, and at our page about safely disposing of classroom specimens.


New Lawn to Lake publications offer free tips and info on natural lawn care

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Lawn to Lake program encourages several methods for natural lawn care in order to reduce the runoff and potential for chemicals entering our water supplies and watershed. Sharing that information with homeowners, landscapers, property manager, and more is the best way to spread the word about the benefits of natural lawn care, and some recent additions to the publications page do just that

The overview of the program (PDF) provides some of the basic information about why we should be concerned about lawn runoff and what various products and substances can do to water supplies and lakes.  

Additionally, on the page you’ll find a guide with natural lawn care information specifically for homeowners, useful lists of products that offer similar or improved effectiveness for lawn and landscape care while utilizing natural ingredients, pest management and plant selection info, and more. 

Visit the link above to see all of the free publications available regarding natural lawn care, and visit our Lawn to Lake Webpage for further information, retailer listings, and more.


Sea Grant staff take to the sea for research

Community outreach specialist Kristin TePas rinses a
PONAR dredge used to collect sediment containing
benthic organisms.
IISG staff members Paris Collingsworth and Kristin TePas are sailing on the research vessel Lake Guardian this week on both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, assisting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with its annual monitoring program. The USEPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office is responsible for monitoring the offshore water quality for all five of the Great Lakes in order to assess their health. The water quality surveys take place every spring and summer and include, among other things, assessments for phosphorus and dissolved oxygen in the open waters, as well as phytoplankton, zooplankton, and benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms.

IISG Great Lakes ecosystem specialist
Paris Collingsworth deploys a net to
collect zooplankton.
From the U.S. EPA:
“The Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is responsible for monitoring the offshore water quality of the Great Lakes to evaluate water quality over time and identify any emerging water quality problems. Comprehensive water quality surveys are conducted in all five Great Lakes in both the spring, when the water is cold and well mixed, and in the summer, when the lakes are biologically active. The R/V Lake Guardian is currently being used to conduct the summer water quality survey.”
More information about the EPA’s Great Lakes monitoring program is available at their site.