In the news: Pollution leading to "plastic lakes"?

A recent study of several Great Lakes has revealed a high concentration of plastic pollution - higher levels than any other water body on the planet, according to the findings. 

"The study is the first to look at plastic pollutants in the Great Lakes. It is part of a larger global endeavor to understand the origin and prevalence of plastic pollution in water and was conducted with the Los Angeles-based 5 Gyres Institute.

“We had two samples in Lake Erie that we just kept going back and rechecking the data, because the count, the number of plastic particles in the sample, was three times greater than any sample collected anywhere in the entire world,” SUNY chemistry professor and project lead Sherri Mason said."
Follow the link above for the complete article, which offers additional information about the types of plastic pollution and the plans for additional study.


Teachers get to do the learning at recent conference

Teachers from all over the U.S. gathered in San Marcos, Texas earlier this month for the 2012 National Council for Geographic Education Conference. A number of sessions offered an opportunity for educators to incorporate new ideas, research, and subjects into their curriculums, including how to stop the spread of aquatic invaders through creative student stewardship projects.

IISG Associate Director for Education Robin Goettel co-presented with Kathy Shelley, an outstanding teacher from Palombi Middle School in Lake Villa, Illinois. Kathy was chosen to participate thanks to her exemplary classroom community stewardship projects, which came about from her participation in an IISG “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers” teacher workshop. 

During the presentation, Kathy shared her students’ projects, designed to inform their community about the threats posed to the Fox Chain of Lakes by invasive species, as well as steps that everyone could take to reduce their spread. Some of the projects included posters, brochures, and holding a boat wash at a local marina to remove zebra mussels.

During the geography education session, educators engaged in a mapping activity that showed the origins and destinations of many aquatic and marine invaders. They also played the Nab the Aquatic Invader card game based on impacts of “Top 10 Most Wanted Suspects” on the Nab the Aquatic Invader website.

This presentation was made possible through the Comprehensive Regional Public Outreach Campaign on AIS, a GLRI grant funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


Learn the latest in online aquaculture workshops

The Freshwater Aquaculture Community of Practice will be hosting free, online workshops during the week of November 12-15. Topics will include an introduction to aquaculture, pond culture and management, different freshwater aquaculture species, and even a session covering aquaponics. These workshops are a terrific opportunity for an introduction to aquaculture, or for experienced operators and managers to learn more about various aspects of the process. 

Each of the sessions is free, and they take place in the afternoons on their respective days. For complete details, visit the 2012 eXtension Virtual Aquaculture Workshop page, which includes instructions for joining the sessions and contact information should you have any questions.


New EPA tool offers up-to-the-minute waterway info

The U.S. EPA recently launched "My Waterway," an online tool and mobile app that allows users to check the current status of their local waterways. It is even GPS-enabled so that you can use your phone or computer location to find out about waterways around you.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today launched a new app and website to help people find information on the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States from their smart phone, tablet or desktop computer. Available at http://www.epa.gov/mywaterway, the How’s My Waterway app and website uses GPS technology or a user-entered zip code or city name to provide information about the quality of local water bodies. The release of the app and website helps mark the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which Congress enacted on October 18, 1972, giving citizens a special role in caring for the nation’s water resources. Forty years later, EPA is providing citizens with a technology-based tool to expand that stewardship."
Visit the link above to read the complete release, or check out the My Waterway website


IISG seeks your input on new strategic plan

What are issues and concerns that you think will require attention and action in the next five years? Is there a local or regional issue that you believe hasn't yet been addressed? Has your community dealt with water safety or ecological concerns that may apply more broadly to the southern Lake Michigan region? 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is in the process of drafting our next strategic plan, and we would love to have input from you. Anyone who cares about the health and safety of the Great Lakes, and specifically Lake Michigan, is welcome to review the document and provide their thoughts. 

Input from community members and residents who value and benefit from the Great Lakes is critical in planning how we structure our programs and research. If you would like to review the plan and add your comments, you can view it here (opens as Word document).

Contact Lisa Merrifield by to October 26 to provide any feedback on the strategic plan.


New video explains how algae can negatively impact our lakes

Algal blooms – large, rapidly growing areas of algae – are a major problem for lakes. They can reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients available for fish, plants, and wildlife, and they can also contain or create toxic conditions. 

Numerous programs, including our Lawn to Lake initiative, have sought to inform people about the dangers posed by algae, and steps that everyone can take to help stem their formation and growth. The Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee recently produced a video that can be found on YouTube, and that provides a great introduction to the issues that algae can present. 

“A new video onYouTube is encouraging local residents to do their part to reduce blue-green algae in our lakes by maintaining septic systems, mulching grass to avoid using lawn fertilizer and using rain barrels and phosphate-free detergents.

The educational video is more than five minutes long and is called Overload: Lake Erie Blue Green Algae. It was done by the Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee in partnership with the Essex Region Conservation Authority and the International Joint Commission. ERCA also has fact sheets on its website that answer common questions on blue-green algae and phosphorus.”
Read more about the joint project at the Windsor Star link above, and be sure to visit our Lawn to Lake page for more information about how simple lawn care steps can help protect local and regional water resources.


Illinois Water Resources Center seeks grant proposals for 2013-2014

The Illinois Water Resources Center is currently seeking proposals for 2013-2014 USGS 104B grants. Open to Illinois researchers, the grants are designed to provide seed or student funding for research that will be of particular benefit to the water resources of the state of Illinois.

From the Call for Proposals:
“Proposals must be submitted by faculty members or professionals affiliated with 4-year institutions, state or local government agencies or non-profits in Illinois involved in water resources research and post-secondary education. Students may be listed as co-PIs.

PIs can request up to $10,000. Budgets must be matched with two federal dollars for every federal dollar requested. The project period is March 12013 to February 28, 2014."
Visit the link above for the complete call for proposals including application information. Proposals must be submitted by next Friday, October 26.


National Science Teachers Association seeks educators to review journal submissions

The National Science Teachers Association produces two peer-reviewed journals for middle- and high-school teachers, and they are looking for experienced educators to review articles and help maintain the high standard of each publication.

From the NSTA's website:

"NSTA’s peer-reviewed journals for middle and high school teachers, Science Scope and The Science Teacher, are looking for middle and high school science educators who are interested in contributing to the field, while also building their professional networks. Peer review is an important part of ensuring the articles published in NSTA journals are accurate, relevant, and reflective of real-life practices. NSTA relies on volunteer peer-review panels to evaluate potential articles and refine them for publication."
Follow the link above for contact information to get involved in the review process, and to learn more about the journals. 


In the news: Canadian government invests in researching and fixing algae and water quality problems

The Canadian government recently announced an investment of $16 million to help address the causes of water quality problems, and especially the issue of toxic or problematic algae growth in the Great Lakes.

From Environment Canada

"The Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative will advance the science to understand and address recurrent toxic and nuisance algae in the Great Lakes. Caused by excessive phosphorus discharges, toxic and nuisance algae blooms can lead to increased water treatment needs and disruptions to utilities by clogged water intakes. They also have negative effects on tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and recreational activities such as swimming."
Visit the link above to learn more about this investment in Great Lakes health, and visit our Lawn to Lake page to find out how common lawn care practices can affect algae levels and water quality in the Great Lakes.


Great Lakes Sea Grant programs' collaborative efforts land a big award

Congratulations are in order for several Sea Grant staffers from around the Great Lakes who worked on a major prescription drug disposal initiative. 

From our Unwanted Meds blog
"Undo the Great Lakes Chemical Brew: Proper PPCP Disposal was funded by a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant from the U.S. EPA. By combining outreach and educational efforts, the project helps Great Lakes basin residents understand the correct use and proper disposal of unwanted medications and personal care products.

The project was awarded the 2012 Great Lakes Superior Outreach Programming Award, which is presented by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network to recognize multi-program initiatives that have helped solve a problem of major importance in the Great Lakes basin. It recognizes exceptional leadership, teamwork, and accomplishments by Great Lakes Sea Grant personnel, and is the highest award the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network bestows."
The program accomplished a tremendous amount of work in reaching communities with important information about proper medicine disposal, and in hosting collection events. Visit the complete blog post linked above to read more about how several Great Lakes Sea Grant programs worked together to make this initiative an award winner. 


In the news: More information on Federal grants for AIS research

Last week we posted about how Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds were being used by one organization to fight invasive plant species in the wetlands of Wisconsin. Those funds were just part of a larger series of grants spread across 21 universities and non-profits to research and prevent aquatic invasive species. 

From the Wall Street Journal
"The funding is coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program meant to make progress on the lakes' biggest ecological challenges, such as toxic pollution, wildlife habitat loss and harmful algae blooms.
More than 180 exotic fish, mollusks, bacteria and other species have made their way to the lakes, many in ballast water of oceangoing cargo ships that began visiting the region's ports after the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. They've caused hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of economic losses while upending native ecosystems."

Read about the funds and some of the issues that they will be used to address at the link above, and visit our page about aquatic invasive species to learn more.


In the news: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds help in the fight against invasive plants

The U.S. EPA recently awarded a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust to help them in their fight against some of the most common and invasive plant species that have taken hold in Wisconsin wetlands.

"This quest received a financial boost last week when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $448,663 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. In return, the group and its partners will inventory and eliminate the most aggressive of invasive plants in wetlands and waterways in the six counties.

Graff, executive director of the land trust, said work will continue the rest of this year on locating each infestation. The organization is working with other land trusts in the region, the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association and River Alliance of Wisconsin to curb the threat posed by the exotic plants."
Follow the link above for the complete article, including information on other groups across seven Great Lakes states that received funds to help fight invasive species.


In the news: Search resumes next week for signs of Asian carp

Chicago area waters will be searched again beginning next week for indicators of Asian carp presence near Lake Michigan.

From WTAQ.com:
"Over 170 samples were taken from Chicago’s North Shore Channel from June through September – and 10-percent had the carp’s DNA. The same was true for 17 of 57 samples last month in the nearby Chicago River.
As a result, an actual search for the bloated carp will take place next Tuesday through Friday on the North Shore Channel and a six-mile stretch of the Chicago River west of the city."
Read the complete article at the link above.


In the news: Great Lakes Asian carp concern grows

Recent news on the aquatic invasive species front demonstrates the multiple risks to the Great Lakes. 

“In a single day, the scope of threats posed by the Asian carp to the Great Lakes region was on full display in Michigan.

State officials announced Tuesday that more genetic material from Asian carp has turned up in Lake Erie. Hours later, the Michigan Attorney General's office announced an Arkansas man had pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts related to possession and sale of live Asian carp earlier this summer.”
Read the complete article at the link above, and find out more about Asian carp on our page.


Aquarium owners and water gardeners needed for focus group Tuesday, October 16

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and North Carolina State University are holding another focus group next Tuesday, October 16, in Belleville, IL, and are looking for you to join in and share your opinion. 

As a part of our work educating people about aquatic invasive species, we are hoping to share information with and learn from aquarium owners and water gardeners.

From the press release: 
“Protecting Illinois’ natural areas and waterbodies requires your help. Now is your chance to voice your opinion and help shape statewide education and outreach efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) are conducting a focus group in Belleville on Tuesday, October 16 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m. at the Nichols Community Center, 515 East D Street. The goals of this discussion are to learn what you think about practices to reduce the spread of AIS and to help design future campaigns that speak to the people of Illinois.

‘AIS can easily be released into the environment by aquarium and water garden hobbyists.  As we try to address that, it’s important to incorporate input from people who can also play a role in preventing the spread,’ said Greg Hitzroth, IISG AIS specialist.

To register, please contact Erin Seekamp by phone at (919) 513-7407 or email at erin_seekamp@ncsu.edu.”
View our post about previous focus groups here, or contact Erin for more information.


Teacher workshop October 25 to inspire student science learning

Inspire your students and bring Great Lakes science into the classroom by attending the upcoming workshop “Protecting the Lake Michigan Watershed” on October 25 at Paul Revere Primary School, 2300 W. 123rd Place, Blue Island, IL. 

Teachers will get hands-on experience with a special watershed model that demonstrates the interconnectedness of the landscape, learn how rain gardens help manage stormwater and help the environment, and a number of other important Great Lakes literacy principles that can bolster your science curriculum. 

View the flier above to find additional information about the workshop, including details about how to register. Spots are limited, so be sure to reserve your space soon. 


Rain barrel workshop happening Saturday, Oct. 6 in Blue Island

Blue Island is just one of the areas working to incorporate green infrastructure, improving neighborhoods and helping the environment. This Saturday, October 6, they’ll be holding a workshop and demonstration for residents that will show how to install rain barrels and plant a native plant garden. 

From the Blue Island website
“Neighborhood residents, business owners, and anyone else interested are welcome to attend events throughout the neighborhood as part of this project. Experts will be on hand to show how rain barrels work, provide tips on planting successful native plant gardens, and answer questions.”
Residents can also get free rain barrels for their homes by contacting the office listed on the flyer. 

Visit the link above for more information about the program and full details about Saturday’s workshop. 

Blue Island Rain Barrel Workshop
Saturday, October 6, 2012
10:00 AM
Evangelical Community Church
2237 West 120th Street


Asian carp hunters featured on Animal Planet program

If you tuned in to "Off the Hook: Extreme Catches” this past Sunday on Animal Planet you got a chance to see Asian carp, a major aquatic invasive concern, as well as some people who are fighting the flying fish. 

“The Animal Planet show that spent four days filming on and around the Illinois River last summer for a feature on the acrobatic insanity of everyone's least favorite invasive fish, the Asian carp, will be shown Sunday.

"Off the Hook: Extreme Catches," with host/professional wrestler Eric Young presents "Carpocalypse Now" at 7 p.m. Sunday. Greg Gephards, who owns Schooners on War Memorial Drive and had a role in the production of the program, is hosting a party for the occasion.”
If you missed it Sunday, check out the episode online at Animal Planet’s site for the show.


IISG’s Unwanted Meds program assists DEA’s nationwide drug take-back event

Thousands of residents in Illinois and Indiana came out last Saturday with the goal of ridding their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 5th annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. police officers and volunteers in more than 200 locations in Illinois and 70 in Indiana collected bottles, boxes, and sometimes even garbage bags full of prescription and over-the-counter human and veterinary medications. Everything collected will be properly incinerated by the DEA.
IISG staffers were at two of these locations at Walgreens stores in Champaign and Urbana, joining local police officers and Walgreens representatives to collect medication, answer questions about the environmental effects of throwing away or flushing pharmaceuticals, and provide information on how to safely dispose of medications when collection events are not available.

At both locations, people began lining up to hand over their medicine even before the event began. IISG volunteers heard from several people that they had been saving medications in anticipation of Saturday’s event. Take-back event regulars brought medications accumulated just since April’s DEA-sponsored event, but some brought pharmaceuticals with much older time stamps. One woman disposed of medicine she had been storing in her cabinet since 2005, and another brought in medication that was almost 20 years old. Exact figures on how many pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected during the 4-hour event won’t be announced by the DEA for several weeks, but police officers involved in the event described the day as on track to exceed previous take-back events.

Single-day collection events like this are an important way to limit negative impacts to wildlife and local waterways from prescriptions and medications that are improperly disposed of. A wide-range of pharmaceutical chemicals has been found in rivers, groundwater, and drinking water throughout the country due to medications being flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash. The impact of these chemicals on long-term human health is still unknown, but a connection between pharmaceutical-contaminated waters and impaired development, behavior, and reproduction has been found in many species of fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Ridding homes of unused medication can also help protect the elderly, children, and pets from accidental poisonings and reduce instances of prescription or over-the-counter drug abuse.

IISG has been educating people on pharmaceutical stewardship issues and helping communities establish safe and legal permanent medicine collection programs for more than six years. For additional information on how to dispose of medicine between take-back events or in areas where collections are not available, visit www.unwantedmeds.org.    


Teacher workshop on Great Lakes science and stewardship registering now!

The Center for Great Lakes Literacy, the U.S. EPA, the National Park Service, Shedd Aquarium, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant are coordinating workshops for educators November 9-10, and registration is now open.

Some of the objectives of the workshop include: 

 - Science-based content to foster understanding about land-lake linkages improved awareness and understanding about the importance of protecting and sustaining Great Lakes watersheds

 - Field-based experiences in wetland and water quality monitoring, invasive species removal, and other restoration and stewardship activities

 - Curriculum activities that broaden understanding of the Great Lakes

 - Assistance in facilitating student-based stewardship projects to improve Great Lakes Literacy, resulting in citizen action

The workshop is a terrific opportunity to gain new ideas for science-based activities and subjects that can be incorporated into lesson plans. Workshops are taking place at Shedd Aquarium and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, but spaces are limited.Registration closes October 17. View the flier (PDF) for more information about the workshop and registration instructions, and visit the IISG education page for more programs and workshop opportunities.