New video offers an introduction to Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

A lot of people might know that Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s primary mission is to help protect and preserve the Southern Lake Michigan waters. But most people might not know about the many ways our program goes about doing just that.

With the help of staff members, researchers, educators, and more, we’ve produced a video that offers a glimpse at the program and the ways we work for and with the public to ensure safe waters and healthy ecosystems in both states. 

Watch the video below to learn more about Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and share it with anyone who cares about keeping Lake Michigan healthy, beautiful, and safe. 


Researchers and presenters sought for 2013 IAGLR Conference

The International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) 2013 conference has put out a call for sessions. 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.” 

Sessions related to the theme and covering areas including restoration in the face of climate change, physical processes in large lakes, science policy - linkages and governance, watershed contributions to large lakes, wetlands and their contribution to resiliency, and several other areas are welcomed and encouraged. 

Potential presenters can view the complete call for sessions here (PDF), and can learn more about the conference at the website.


In the news: IISG’s Lake Michigan buoy already attracting attention

The recent successful research buoy launch, a cooperation between Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University’s School of Civil Engineering, has been gaining notoriety and press coverage due to the many uses for its data. 

“National Weather Service meteorologist John Taylor said the buoy 4 miles off Michigan City, floating just south of the line separating Indiana from Michigan, is the third such device providing real-time information on Lake Michigan.

‘There is very little data over Lake Michigan,’ Taylor told the Times of Northwest Indiana. ‘One was halfway between Milwaukee and Holland, Mich. There was another one north of there. There is a lot of real estate out there, and we really don't have many reports. This just helps us understand things better.’”
Read more about the buoy and the potential applications of the valuable real-time data at the links above.


Aquarium owners needed for focus groups tomorrow and Thursday

Two focus groups are being held to help Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant better understand and design aquatic invasive species information for water gardeners and aquarium owners. The first is Wednesday, September 26th in Glencoe, IL, and the second is Thursday, September 27th in Peoria, IL. 

From researcher Erin Seekamp: 
“In partnership with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Erin Seekamp (Assistant Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University) will be conducting one focus group at Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe Illinois on September 26th from 6-8pm and another one in Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Illinois on September 27th from 6-8pm.

We are seeking input from residents of North Chicago and the greater Peoria area with hobby interests in aquariums and water gardens. We are hoping to capture their ideas about how to best keep the species with which they work (fish, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic plants) from entering Illinois' waterways. Their ideas will be used to develop a statewide survey (to be distributed through pet stores and garden nurseries) and to develop future outreach campaigns to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.”
View the posters attached here and share with others. This is an important opportunity to help IISG understand and reach a wider audience, and to continue working to protect and preserve our water resources. 

A delicious solution to Great Lakes algae issues?

Runoff from a variety of land uses, including agriculture and industry, has been identified as one of the primary causes of harmful algal blooms (PDF) in the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways. The danger of these algal blooms (PDF) comes in the form of botulism outbreaks, toxins, and harmful metabolites – all of which can have serious consequences for native plants, fish, and human health. 

One potential solution that has been in use in Ohio is the planting of radishes, not only to help manage water and runoff, but also to improve soil quality for agricultural users. 

“The radishes planted in northwest Ohio go in about this time of year and are left in the ground to die, explained our host, Allen Dean. Planting doomed radishes, it turns out, is an innovative technique he has used in recent years to improve soil nutrients and reduce runoff from his Williams County farm.

Here’s the basics on how it works: Farmers plant seeds for a plant called an oilseed radish. It doesn’t actually have to be that plant, but it needs to grow a foot or longer into the soil during the fall in a tubular shape, like a carrot or a parsnip. It also needs to grow a fair amount of foliage up on the ground. Radishes are usually more affordable.

It’s important that the plant drill down into the soil so that when it dies, usually during a mid-January freeze, it decays and leaves behind a v-shaped hole for snow and water to penetrate deeper. The decayed radishes Dean showed us looked like organic socks.

Oilseed radishes are particularly good at absorbing nutrients from the surface and sending them down into the soil as the tubular plant drills it way into the ground.”
Read the complete article above to find out more about how these plants are helping farmers and protecting the Great Lakes waters at the same time.


Fall season brings spectacular Great Lakes scenery

With fall arriving tomorrow, September 22, a season full of great scenery begins in and around the Great Lakes. Even areas you may have visited several times before get a new look when fall arrives, and the coming weeks are a great time to further enjoy the Great Lakes. 

As an example, check out the Lake Michigan Sand Dunes web page all about the Fall Foliage Color Tour on M-119. There are some terrific example photos, as well as directions and points to stop along the way to take in the views. 

TravelWisconsin.com also has a list of 11 scenic drives to enjoy during the season, and each of the locations can be enjoyed on foot or bike as well. 

There are also plenty of options for boaters and fishing enthusiasts to enjoy the cooler temperatures and varied scenery before the cold of winter sets in. 

Visit some of the links above and enjoy the Great Lakes every season!


IISG and the AVMA continue working to keep people and pets safe

In an ongoing partnership designed to help protect people and pets from contaminated water, the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant have created a new publication for pet owners. 

From the press release: 

“'This brochure carries an important message,’ explains Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of AVMA. ‘Many people don’t understand how dangerous medications can be to their pets or to the environment. Prescription medications are the number one cause of accidental poisonings in pets, so it is important to make sure you store medicines out of reach of pets and dispose of them properly.’

Prescription for Safety: How to Dispose of Unwanted Medicine identifies and describes 5 simple Do’s and Don’ts of pharmaceutical stewardship: 1) Use as directed, 2) Store correctly, 3) Don’t flush, 4) Don’t share or sell, and 5) Properly dispose. The brochure also provides pet owners with information on locating local medicine collection programs, as well as what to do if a program is not available nearby…  

For the past six years, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has advised communities on how to establish safe and legal permanent medicine collection programs in addition to educating people on pharmaceutical waste reduction and other pharmaceutical stewardship issues.” 

For more information on the effects of improper pharmaceutical disposal and initiatives designed to reduce the risk, visit our unwanted medicine web site at www.unwantedmeds.org.


In the news: Great Lakes heat causes wild weather conditions

The record high temperatures this summer combined with cloudless skies and cooler air finally moving in to create some spectacular but dangerous weather on Lake Michigan earlier this summer. 

“Because of the heat wave that hammered the nation this spring and summer, the Great Lakes are approaching the warmest they’ve been in a century, reports Climate Central. Monitoring stations in Lake Michigan that normally see average water temps in early July at just over 60 degrees Fahrenheit clocked 80 degrees on July 6, 2012.”
Visit the link above to learn more about these phenomena, and visit this link to see video footage of waterspouts above Lake Michigan.


IISG and Purdue University launch Lake Michigan buoy to provide real-time data

IISG staff members and interns traveled to the Indiana shoreline earlier this week to help launch an environmental sensing buoy four miles off the coast of Michigan City, Indiana. They were joined by researchers from the Purdue University School of Civil Engineering, who partnered with IISG to develop the buoy, and staff at the Indiana DNR.

IISG Science Writer Anjanette Riley was there for the launch and recalls the day’s events:
"If I had to describe the launch process in one word, it would be ‘meticulous.’ The approximately 6-hour process was carefully divided into a series of steps: Steps for the final calibration of the real-time data sensors, steps for placing the 2,000 lb anchor on the lake bottom, steps for rigging the buoy up to be dragged behind the DNR boat to its final destination in 62-foot water, and still more steps  for attaching it to the anchor’s line. To a passer-by the process must have looked a little hectic, with people running around securing lines and popping back-and-forth from the building to test light-sensitive sensors. And maybe things were a little chaotic at times, but a chaos complete with checklists.
This is not to say that the day played out without any hiccups. In fact, the whole thing almost had to be scrapped for another day because of a malfunctioning light needed to announce the buoy’s existence to nearby boaters. Cary Troy, the lead researcher on the project, had brought four of these lights from Purdue just in case one didn’t work. Four proved to be too few, though, when the time came to install it atop the buoy. We knew going in that the buoy might not be able to go out that day. There was always the chance that the weather would not be on our side that morning and we would need to wait for another, better day. But with the weather the best it had been for several days, the anchor sitting on a barge at the Port Authority ready to be carried out into the lake, and the buoy all working as planned, a small but important light stood in the way.
To keep the day moving, the team decided to divide and conquer. Cary Troy and graduate student Jun Choi rode the four miles out into the lake on a flat barge carrying the buoy’s anchor, hoping to at least get that in place on the scheduled day. A temporary buoy was attached to the anchor to mark the location and hold the line that secures to buoy in place until the real thing was ready.
Meanwhile, IISG’s Naoki Wada set about trying to repair the light. As a summer intern, Naoki was a key player in the buoy development and continued to lead the way during much of the launch. Step one in the repair process was to hook the light up to a car battery to charge. Once out on the lake, the light is designed to charge during the day using a series of solar panels and flash in 15-second intervals at night or when overcast. That afternoon, though, the sun was replaced with the faster-acting car battery. Step two involved making a series of alterations to the light to test why the now-charged light was not consistently functional. In the end, the launch date was saved when Naoki discovered that removing an internal screw was enough to keep the light working as designed.
With the light finally mounted in place, IISG and crew from the Indiana DNR set about rigging the buoy to safely lower it into the water. The weight and the sensitivity of its sensors meant that the crew needed to be in constant control of the buoy’s movement from the minute it entered the water—something much easier said than done with a machine designed to float. The rigging and lowering process was perhaps the most meticulous part of the day, with as many as eight people at one point tying rope, connecting chains, checking the balance of weight, supporting the buoy into the water, and preventing it from floating under the boat as it drove away from the dock.
The same ropes and chains were then used to transport the buoy four miles into the lake at about 5mph, the manufacturer-recommended speed for dragging a buoy behind a boat. The last step was to remove the drag lines and attach the buoy to the anchor line put in place earlier that day in a process that looked much like the rigging of an hour earlier acted out in reverse. Months of work planning, developing, and launching the buoy were capped off by the whole launch crew snapping photos of the now-operational buoy as the DNR boat sped back to shore."
Special thanks to Naoki Wada for his extensive work ensuring the buoy was operational in time for last week’s launch and overseeing the day’s events. Additional thanks to Brian Breidert, Randy Brindza, Ben Rhoda, and Jamie McNeill IV from Indiana DNR. 

To read more about how the buoy will support research into the weather patterns and biology of Lake Michigan and help beachgoers plan visits to Indiana’s shores, visit IISG’s news page.


In the news: (Endangered) mussels in motion

Biologists with the Illinois Natural History Survey and U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service recently placed over 200 endangered northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels in the Salt Fork River in East Central Illinois. The mussels came from the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, where the endangered species were threatened by a future bridge project. 

“Though the mussels are far from their original home in the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, their new surroundings in this section of the Salt Fork River near Oakwood in Vermilion County won't be entirely foreign. In this same spot, somewhere along the river bottom, are most of the 70 mussels that were moved here from the Allegheny two years ago. 
Monitoring of that group by the Illinois Natural History Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shown a significant majority of the endangered mussels are alive and well. Their success has cleared the way for the relocation of this group of endangered mussels from the same site on the Allegheny, where a future bridge project threatens their survival.”
Read more about the relocation project and the success so far in providing a favorable environment for these endangered mussels to thrive at the link above.


Nationwide drug collection scheduled for September 29th

Walgreens stores and several other businesses and organizations are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration for a nationwide medicine collection event on the 29th of this month. 

From www.UnwantedMeds.org
"The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will host another nationwide medicine take-back on Saturday, September 29th. This event will be the fifth collection event the DEA has sponsored since fall of 2010. More than 1.5 million pounds (774 tons) of medication were collected nationwide at the previous events.

For this fall's take-back event, there are currently more than 206 drop-off locations registered in Illinois and 73 in Indiana. Check out the DEA's website to find an event in your community. Law enforcement agencies interested in operating one or more collection sites on September 29th can still register with the DEA."
Check out the link above for details on all of the collection locations, and visit www.UnwantedMeds.org for more information about why proper disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications is so important for protecting our water. 


In the news: US Fish and Wildlife Service grants funds for wetland restoration in Chicago

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced last month that the US Fish and Wildlife Service would award a $1 million grant to continue the development of restoration and conservation projects in Millennium Reserve

“The grants will support the Millennium Reserve: Calumet Core initiative, a partnership created to restore 140,000 acres and provide recreational opportunities in the region. Additional conservation projects announced today by the State of Illinois will serve as Millennium Reserve Model Projects to further the mission of transforming the Calumet Region of Chicago into a one-of-a-kind public destination.”
Read the complete announcement at the link above for further details about the restoration plans and other projects being funded by similar grants.