Learning about and connecting with IISG online

Communicating with people far and wide about the importance of the Great Lakes and the work that we do to ensure safe, healthy, and vibrant economies and ecosystems around Lake Michigan is one of our most important jobs. By informing and involving more people in our efforts, we can continue working to keep the Great Lakes great. 

The latest addition to our effort is the Wikipedia entry for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The IISG Wikipedia page is an important piece of our overall communications because it provides an encyclopedic explanation of IISG as well as references and links to additional information. 

The page that you are visiting right now, our blog, is another way to communicate with our audience, and to share timely information about workshops, seminars, fellowships, community projects and events, and more. And of course our Facebook and Twitter pages allow us to offer even more immediate interaction with individuals and organizations that care about the lakes. 

Feel free to share our pages and help us spread the word about what makes Lake Michigan, and all of the Great Lakes, just so great, and how together we can keep them that way.


In the news: What’s on tap for water policy?

One issue that cuts across local, state, and federal levels in terms of importance is our need for water. Water issues have been in the news, especially with regards to old systems and infrastructure that need to be upgraded and repaired to meet growing future needs.

Situated along the shore of Lake Michigan, metropolitan Chicago has benefitted for centuries from an abundance of fresh water. The infrastructure for delivering water is primarily underground: out of sight, out of mind. But awareness of the existing infrastructure’s condition and the challenges faced by community water suppliers has grown in recent years due to service and budget concerns. 

IISG’s Margaret Schneemann, water resource economist with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) recently wrote a blog about water policy and the 2012 elections. Schneemann explains “Addressing our aging water infrastructure and funding investment needs are top concerns of our communities here in northeastern Illinois.”

From the blog
“Given the post-election climate, the AWWA predicts that a proposed Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) -- patterned after the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) -- will be the most likely vehicle for federal investment in water infrastructure… While the WIFIA is an important strategy to make large-scale water infrastructure investment more affordable for local communities, the AWWA continues to believe that local rates and charges are the best funding sources.
Read the complete blog post at the link above.

CMAPs regional comprehensive plan, GO TO 2040, recommends that communities adopt full-cost pricing to help address the need for investment in water infrastructure at the local level. CMAP and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will release a full-cost water pricing guide for local leaders this winter.


IISG teacher workshop offers Great Lakes info and hands-on learning for the classroom

Educators from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin attended IISG’s workshop Nov. 9-10 to increase the presence of Great Lakes science in their classrooms and to improve student awareness of issues related to the Lakes. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and the National Park Service Great Lakes Research and Education Center and the Dunes Learning Center to host the workshops, which provided opportunities for teachers to engage in science and math data collection and hands-on field work. Educators previewed Sea Grant’s Greatest of the Great Lakes and Fresh and Salt curricula to familiarize themselves with the diverse range of learning formats to enhance their science, math, and engineering units, as well as activities from Great Lakes in My World by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Also, as part of the new Center for Great Lakes Literacy, workshop attendees learned how to help protect and restore coastal areas in the Lake Michigan watershed through a variety of teaching methods.

All of the teachers who attended this year’s workshop were excited to learn about programs like the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach, as well as the many exciting student stewardship activities offered by the Shedd Aquarium, the Dunes Learning Center, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore botanists. They also enjoyed the hands-on activities, including using the Enviroscape model to learn about point source/non-point source pollution, and learning how to use GLNPO’s Hydrolab water quality monitoring instrument. 

The feedback and comments from teachers was especially positive. Said one attendee, “You've given me great ideas about water quality, drinking water, invasive and noninvasive species, habitat restoration, and stewardship projects I can provide for my kids to become ‘Great Lakes literate.’”

To learn more about IISG’s educational programs and resources, visit our education webpage, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more events, workshops, and information. 

This Center for Great Lakes Literacy project was funded through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.


In the news: The importance of preventing Great Lakes contamination

A recent report from the Alliance for the Great Lakes details the importance of remaining vigilant against contaminating the Great Lakes waters for a number of obvious reasons and a few that might be less obvious. 

From their news room
“An Alliance report released today notes that since the production of synthetic chemicals took off after World War II, the waters of Lake Michigan – which take a century to refresh -- have yet to see a complete turnover.  

Halfway through this cycle, scientists are beginning to see alarming trends of an increasing multitude of chemicals found in the water. In southern Lake Michigan, one of the most urbanized and industrialized areas in the Great Lakes Basin and home to approximately a third of the Great Lakes population, these contaminants are a steady source of chemical exposure for aquatic species, and affect the quality of the waters we rely upon for drinking and look to for recreation.”  
Read more at the link above, which includes information on some of the contaminants that pose risks to Lake Michigan. Among them are common landscaping chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other common substances.


In the news: Algae and invasives threatening Erie and other Great Lakes

Lake Erie is under attack, but from threats that we may be able to fix. 

“The major threats to all the lakes include invasive species that throw a delicate ecosystem out of balance. In Erie, more so than the other lakes, toxic algae threaten the health of visitors and create “dead zones” where no aquatic species can survive.

At least 136 invasive species — plants, fish and mussels — have forever changed the lakes. But it’s the potential 137th invader that officials fear the most. The Asian carp wants nothing more than to spread through the Great Lakes and continue its feeding frenzy. Though a live fish has yet to be found, DNA tests suggest that they might already have infiltrated Lake Erie.”
Follow the link above to read the complete article, which includes interesting information about dead zones, toxic algae, and other growing threats to the delicate ecosystems of the Great Lakes.


In the news: Climate change affecting Indiana Dunes ecosystems

Lower water levels and warming temperatures have begun to have an effect on the Indiana Dunes area of Lake Michigan, according to recent research. 

From the Post-Tribune
“From lower water levels in Lake Michigan to declining food sources for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly, climate change is having an impact on the national park.

That was the message Saturday during a program at the Douglas Center in Gary’s Miller neighborhood presented by Joy Marburger, a research coordinator with the Great Lakes Research and Education Center based at the lakeshore. It’s one of 19 research centers located in national parks across the country.”
Read the complete article at the link above. You can also read another recent study specifically about the Karner Blue butterfly on the IISG website. 


2012 Chicago Wilderness Conference brings together environmental organizations

Last week, representatives from over 260 member organizations, students, educators, were joined by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant staff at the Chicago Wilderness Congress 2012. The overall theme of the congress was “Shaping the Future of Regional Conservation,” and numerous presentations and panels offered information on green infrastructure, climate action, research, restoration, and more. 600 attendees from northeastern Illinois, northwest Indiana, and southeast Wisconsin helped make the event exciting and educational, bringing in examples of their conservation and environmental work.

IISG’s Caitie McCoy and EPA research fellow Nishaat Yunus presented “Making the Invisible Visible: Engaging Children in Sediment Remediation of the Grand Calumet River,” which fit into the coalition’s education initiative and focus. The presentation described an educational program at two schools in Northwest Indiana designed to connect local youth to the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern while building scientific literacy. One challenge was to make a seemingly “invisible” problem like contaminated sediment “visible” and relevant to children living near the river. The students participated in the educational program from early February to June 2012, and attended a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press event about the Great Lakes Legacy Act in June. Through presentations, engaging activities, and field trips, more than 120 students in 4th and 9th grades became familiar with Great Lakes Legacy Act remediation and restoration work and important ecological concepts. The 4th grade students learned about habitats, sediment, pollution, and invasive species, and the 9th grade class learned how to perform data collection, analysis, and reporting with the water samples they collected on a field trip to the river.

At the congress, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was also able to exhibit several education and outreach projects focused on community stewardship, including aquatic invasive species, proper pharmaceutical disposal, and habitat restoration, as well as program initiatives and accomplishments.

IISG’s Kristin TePas summed up the event by saying, “The Chicago Wilderness Congress was a great opportunity to connect with conservation practitioners in the Chicago region and to learn about the various projects occurring locally."

You can read more about the conference, including detailed presentation descriptions, at the Chicago Wilderness website.


In the news: Stopping invasive species by...giving your dog a bath?

The ways for aquatic invasive species to be spread or introduced to waterways run the gamut, from bait buckets to trailers to...your loyal companion.

Wildlife Forever, a non-profit organization, has launched a campaign to let hunters know how they can help prevent the spread of AIS.

From The Great Lakes Echo

"The non-profit Wildlife Forever received a $233,830 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help teach hunters how to prevent aquatic hitchhikers.

The campaign will teach hunters to properly clean waders, waterfowl decoys and even hunting dogs to avoid transporting invasive species. The clean, drain, dry technique is the most effective way to prevent the transport of invasive species between different bodies of waters, according to the group."
Visit the link above to find out more about the campaign, and to see some PSA videos that were recently produced about the Clean, Drain, Dry message.


Indiana Water Resources Research Center 2013 request for proposals now open

The Indiana Water Resources Research Center has just issued their request for proposals for water research projects for 2013. 

The project areas that can be submitted for potential funding include:
“…all areas related to water, including: biology, microbiology, ecology, hydrology, civil engineering, agriculture, irrigation, geology, wildlife management, and aquatic chemistry. Project areas of particular importance to Indiana this year include: (a) enhancement of the quality of Indiana’s rivers with a priority interest in work in the Wabash River Watershed, (b) water treatment, (c) cutting edge areas such nanomaterials, (d) riparian area protection, (e) water reuse, including a consideration of status of water reuse laws and (f) outreach and extension work pertaining to protection of water supplies.”
You can contact director Ronald Turco for more information or for the complete RFP.


National Institutes for Water Resources request research funding proposals

The National Institutes for Water Resources, in conjunction with the U.S. Geologic Survey, has issued a request for proposals for grant funding in the 2013 fiscal year. 

Research priorities include:

 - Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure design, retrofitting, maintenance, management and replacement

 - Exploration and model development of the dynamics of extreme hydro-meteorological events and associated economic, environmental, social, and/or infrastructure costs

 - Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both surface and groundwater, at gaged and ungaged sites, including estimation of the physical supply and of the economic supply of water

 - Development and evaluation of alternative approaches and governance mechanisms for integrated surface/ground water management

 - Evaluation and assessment of the effects of water conservation practices, as well as adoption, penetration and permanence

Visit the link above for the complete RFP, including the details and objectives of the grant program, and specific requirements.


In the news: Great Lakes lawmakers consider a ban on harmful pavement sealant

Coal-tar sealant, a commonly used application in parking lot and other pavements, is known to be harmful to humans, and threatens to enter watersheds and Great Lakes waterways as well. That is why lawmakers in three Great Lakes states are considering or proposing a ban on the substance in order to protect those waters. 

“Negative effects on fish and other aquatic animals include inhibited reproduction, fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts and death, according to Geological Survey reports.

Coal-tar sealcoat makes up about half of the PAHs in lake sediment, according to Environmental Science and Technology. It is why PAH levels have increased in the sediment of urban and suburban lakes since 2000 even when other major PAH producers, like power plants, have been decreasing emissions.”
Read the complete story at the link above.


Request for research preproposals for 2014-2015 now accepting submissions

IISG and the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant program have issued a joint request for preproposals dealing with Lake Michigan food web research projects. These preproposals should be for research to be conducted in 2014-2015, and should respond to the following priority areas: 

- Nearshore-offshore food web connections
- Food web differences across Lake Michigan regions or habitats (e.g., rocky vs. sandy substrate)
- The influence of short-term episodic events in structuring the Lake Michigan food web
- Food web interactions during the understudied isothermal winter period

From the RFP
“Preproposals must demonstrate plans for collaboration between at least one Illinois- or Indiana-based researcher and at least one Wisconsin-based researcher. Illinois- and Indiana-based researchers should submit preproposals to Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (guidelines below). Wisconsin-based partners should submit a preproposal for the same project to Wisconsin Sea Grant. See WI submission guidelines here.

Research is to be conducted in the 2014–2015 biennium. Up to $120,000 per year for two years will be available for funding the Illinois-Indiana portion of research projects. The funds requested by Illinois and Indiana researchers must be matched by at least one nonfederal dollar for every two federal dollars requested.”
For more information, including submission guidelines, visit the link above (PDF).


National workshop on pharmaceuticals and proper disposal scheduled for Feb. 6-7

Mark your calendars for February 6-7, 2013, as Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant invites educators, community members, environmental professionals and others to a national workshop on pharmaceuticals, personal care products, their dangers, and their proper disposal. 

From our Unwanted Meds site
"Sea Grant is well positioned to help communities reduce the amount of PPCPs making their way to local water bodies. IISG invites all Sea Grant specialists, educators or communicators who have strong interest in this issue to attend the Keeping Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) out of the Environment workshop to be held in Florida in February 2013.

The workshop will include information on:

 - Current research on PPCPs
 - Pathways to the environment
 - Risks to people, pets and wildlife
 - Waste minimization efforts"
And additional items. Visit the link above for complete information, including the link to register for the workshop online.


Knauss Fellowship now accepting applications from graduate students

The National Sea Grant College Program is now accepting applications for the Knauss fellowship program. Graduate students with an interest in policy and governmental work related to coastal issues are eligible and encouraged to apply. 

The Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship offers outstanding graduate students the opportunity to serve a one-year paid fellowship in either a legislative or executive branch office in the nation’s capital. Students get the chance to work directly on issues related to their areas of study and research while also networking and making connections for future positions or research pertaining to the coastlines and water resources of the U.S. 

You can find more information about the fellowship at the link above, and by watching this terrific video featuring previous fellowship winners. Past participants have worked for and with a variety of offices and agencies, including work on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, ocean acidification and the ecology of infectious diseases, and several other projects.


IISG workshop helps Blue Island educators bring watershed lessons into the classroom

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's education team led a workshop for teachers and administrators in the Blue Island, Illinois school district recently, offering lessons, materials, and training on bringing Great Lakes science to their classrooms.

Susan Ask, who works with IISG’s Lawn to Lake program, sent along some details about the workshop and the enthusiastic reception from the teachers: 

“We had a fun and energetic workshop with teachers and principals in the Blue Island School District. The workshop focused on water quality and drew on three major initiatives within Sea Grant: Lawn to Lake, the Great Lakes Field Experiences for Watershed Educators (B-WET), and Increasing Citizen Involvement and Great Lakes Literacy (Center for Great Lakes Literacy).

We began with the basic definition and ecology of watersheds, then moved to an exploration of watershed and water quality issues brought on by urbanization, landscaping practices, and waste disposal. Teachers learned basic ecology that they can teach in their classrooms. We identified point- and non-point sources of pollution and talked about available solutions for individuals and communities to adopt. 

After a presentation and discussion, we toured the recently installed rain gardens in the courtyard at Blue Island Elementary School so we could see theory put in to practice. The courtyard contains a rich variety of native plants that creates a beautiful garden throughout the year while also managing and controlling rainwater. Runoff from the roofs will be collected in rain barrels all around the building, and can then be used  on the landscape as needed.

The watershed model was a big hit. We used a three-dimensional model of a watershed, with rivers and lakes, houses, farms, factories, water treatment facilities and other developments, to see how water and pollutants move through the community. Teachers will be able to borrow this model for use in their classes, helping students understand the connection between people, land use, and water. But we didn’t just look at problems. The model also let us see how natural lawn care, rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavement, and other practices can help prevent pollution and reduce runoff.

We showcased many of the program’s Great Lakes curricula - Fresh and Salt, Greatest of the Great Lakes, and Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. Teachers broke into groups to experience some of these classroom activities and share how they might incorporate them in their lessons. They also learned how the Great Lakes Literacy Principles will be a great way to introduce current Great Lakes issues to their students.

Most of the teachers told us that they haven’t yet integrated Great Lakes information in their educational activities, but that they plan to do so now after learning more about water quality and educational resources at the workshop. 

We’re very excited to see these dedicated teachers assist and guide their students to learn more about the Great Lakes, water quality, and practical stewardship of water and land.”

In addition to Susan, the workshop was also led by IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy. If you are interested in educational materials and opportunities for yourself or teachers in your school/district, contact Robin or Terri at the links above or visit us online to learn more.


Early data from Michigan City buoy helps scientists, anglers, and boaters

The research buoy launched off the coast of Michigan City, IN earlier this fall has been brought inland for winter, but will return to the water next spring for its first full season monitoring environmental conditions in Lake Michigan’s nearshore waters. 

It has been less than two months since the buoy began feeding real-time data to the IISG website. In that short time, though, the data has been used by scientists, anglers, and boaters alike to better predict weather conditions, target where to fish, and identify the safest times to be out on the lake. Many of these users have reached out to IISG with feedback on the buoy and the website.

“We have heard from so many different groups of people, from recreational paddlers to research scientists, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Carolyn Foley, IISG assistant research coordinator. “People are grateful to have data for an area that was previously not being monitored.” 

More than 500 people have visited the website since it went live in early September to see real-time snapshots of lake conditions or to examine trends shown over 24-hour and 5-day periods. IISG staff members have heard from sailors, kayakers, anglers, and local residents who say they plan to regularly use the information collected on wave height, water temperatures, and wind speed before venturing from shore. Sailors from Indianapolis told IISG that the up-to-date information on lake conditions will help them more safely make their seasonal trip from St. Joseph, MI to Michigan City. The same data will also be used by fisheries researchers at the Purdue University West Lafayette campus to determine when to make the two-hour drive up to the lake for sampling trips.

The collected data has also been used by researchers to improve models used to predict weather and current changes. For example, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Northern Indiana was able to adjust its forecast for wave heights by several feet in mid-October based on the real-time data from the buoy. Engineers from other federal agencies have also requested data to use in models designed to examine the movement of water and heat in lower Lake Michigan. 

The buoy’s launch also attracted regional press coverage that continued well after it was placed in the water. Indiana TV and newspapers were joined by news outlets from Illinois and Michigan—including the Detroit Free Press—in their coverage. The launch was also featured in trade blogs such as the Environmental Monitor and recreational forums like the Great Lakes Angler Forum. 

Although real-time data will not be available while the buoy is in winter storage, an archive of the information collected from early September to late October of this year will be released in the coming months. Visit www.iiseagrant.org/buoy for more information.


In the news: New research program ensures Great Lakes cleanup efforts have info they need

The federal government and many state governments and agencies have begun to increase cleanup efforts in the Great Lakes, but that is only one part of the battle. The other is to ensure that those cleanup efforts, from pollution reduction to invasive species mitigation and many more, are based on solid and up-to-the-minute scientific information. 

Providing that information is the goal of a research program being established by the University of Michigan. 

From Greenfield, Indiana’s Daily Reporter
“The program has drawn praise from environmental groups, state officials and others who have long warned the Great Lakes are in danger of becoming ecological wastelands. But some of the region's leading researchers say it should have a stronger scientific foundation to make sure it produces long-term, system-wide solutions, not just temporary fixes in particular locations.

That will be the primary goal of the new University of Michigan Water Center during its initial three-year phase, when it will be supported by grants of $4.5 million each from the university and the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.”
Read more about the program and the research and cleanup goals at the link above.


In the news: Water levels still low in Great Lakes

Lakes Michigan and Huron almost set records for low water levels in October, as the long-term effects of this summer's drought are still being felt. 

From the Detroit Free Press
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which tracks Great Lakes ups and downs, recorded Michigan-Huron at 576.6 feet above sea level for October. That's an inch-and-a-half above the lowest point for that month since the agency began keeping records in 1918, and about 6 inches above the all-time low recorded in March 1964.

Michigan and Huron are considered one lake from a hydrological perspective because they have the same surface level and are connected at their northern ends by the 5-mile-wide Straits of Mackinac."
Read the complete article at the link above for more information about the lake levels and their causes.