The 12 days of A.I.S.-mas

Making a Great Lakes-themed riff on a holiday classic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has compiled some aquatic invasive species information in the form of a modified "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Seven carp a-leaping, perhaps? Check out the full article, written by our friends at Wisconsin Sea Grant, and learn a little more about aquatic invasives in the process. 

From everyone at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.


In the news: Mapping the threats to the Great Lakes

There are a number of different threats to the environmental health of the Great Lakes. 34 threats, to be precise.

That number is according to a study and accompanying map made by researchers at the University of Michigan. The map helps to identify the environmental stresses to each of the Great Lakes, and provides a snapshot of all five lakes as a system.

From WZZM 13 Online:
"Among the biggest threats: Invasive mussels and lamprey that threaten the food chain, climate change that can affect water temperature and water levels, ballast water from ships that may introduce more uninvited species, a buildup of urban areas along the coast that sweeps auto and human waste into the waters during rainfall, and a continual runoff of phosphorous from farmlands.

In contrast, mining and a dwindling ice cover in the winter remain a threat to Lake Superior, said David Allan, the project's lead researcher and a professor of aquatic sciences at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment."
Read the complete article at the link above, and listen to an interview with project lead David Allan of the University of Michigan here.


IISG receives grant funding to expand AIS prevention work

Activities associated with the purchase, sale, and use of commercially available organisms or “organisms-in-trade” can potentially result in the introduction of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to waterways such as the Great Lakes. Preventing these introductions is a much more cost-effective way to protect waterways, as opposed to the cost and effort involved in controlling or managing them once they become established.

Building on a University of Notre Dame-led project to examine the environmental risks posed by certain “organisms in trade” (OIT), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has been awarded grant funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for a project titled “GLSGN OIT Initiative – Expanding Risk Assessment Outreach.”

By creating an opportunity to remove these potentially invasive species from circulation, risk assessment is one way to prevent non-native species from becoming invasive. Risk assessment information is also important to AIS education, because studies have shown that education and outreach encourage and shape the behavioral changes necessary for preventing species introduction. For example, horticulturists decided against purchasing a given species once they learned it had the potential to become an invasive species.

This new GLRI grant provides for the creation of new risk assessment and OIT outreach tools including webinars, a training video, non-technical summaries of state laws and regulations, and publications for people involved with fish, reptile, and amphibian commerce. Development of these tools will be guided by a survey that assesses the needs and preferences of OIT user groups. The goal of all these efforts is to reduce the introduction of potentially invasive species, thereby helping to protect and preserve waterways from invasive threats.

This initiative, a collaboration among the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, North Carolina State University (NCSU), the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law (NSGLC), and IISG, will also help educate and inform the public about alternatives to high-risk aquarium, water garden, bait, live food, and classroom species.

For more information, visit our webpage about aquatic invasive species, and read more about the 2012 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative awards here.


Two IISG-sponsored students selected for Knauss Fellowships

Will Tyburczy, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Chicago, and Najwa Obeid, a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Charles Werth at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, were the two IISG-sponsored graduate students selected for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, each of them spent a week in Washington, DC interviewing with leaders in marine policy and were selected for positions related to their research and career interests.

Will Tyburczy writes, “I ultimately selected a fellowship position in NOAA’s Office of Program Planning and Integration. Specifically, I’ll work with a nationwide network of employees across NOAA’s various offices and centers known collectively as the Regional Collaboration Network. The network specializes in finding collaborative solutions to achieve NOAA national and regional priorities. As a fellow, I will help to further develop the existing regional network and synthesize input from each of the network’s eight regions in order to brief NOAA leadership on how efforts are progressing across the country. I will also have the opportunity to meet with top administrators throughout NOAA and gain a working knowledge of how policy is used to effectively manage our oceans.”

Najwa Obeid also wrote to share her experience and her excitement at being selected for one of the fellowships. “Like many of my fellow fellows, I found Knauss placement week to be like speed dating or rush week. Every 30-minute interview was an experience in itself - from traveling to a host office to learning more about what each does. Placement week allowed me to learn in more depth about the breadth of topics and research related to the Great Lakes, coastal waters, and atmosphere that NOAA undertakes, and gave me the opportunity to meet a dynamic group of people dedicated to upholding NOAA’s mission and vision of the future.

My placement at National Science Foundation meshes well with my current research, which takes a multidisciplinary approach to managing urban stormwater runoff in communities around the Great Lakes. I will be working in the Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability Program (SEES) where I will be exposed to all facets of coastal ecosystems. These include land that is closely connected to the sea, with its beaches, cities, wetlands, and maritime facilities; the Great lakes, the continental seas and shelves; estuaries; and the overlying atmosphere. A goal of the Coastal SEES is identification of natural and human processes that will better inform societal decisions about the use of coastal systems. Likewise, my research contributes to assessing the impact that restoration activities have on hydrologic processes, and also provides insights on decision making through economic evaluation. In general, it presents a modeling approach based on the concept of coupled human-natural systems.”

Congratulations to both Will and Najwa on being selected as Class of 2013 Knauss Fellows. To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website.


In the news: A database of Great Lakes invaders

Information is only useful when you can find it, and that's especially true when you're dealing with invasive species and other environmental threats. That is part of the motivation for the creation of a searchable online directory of Great Lakes invasive species by scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

From Michigan Public Radio:
"More than 180 non-native species have already made a home in the Great Lakes basin, and more could make their way in.

Scientists and government officials have their eyes on a watchlist of 53 species that are most likely to become established in the Great Lakes region if they get in."
You can visit the EPA's Great Lakes Invasive Species webpage for more information about species, and find pamphlets, links, and additional material at our aquatic invasive species website.


NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship accepting applications

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now accepting applications for their Coastal Management Fellowship. 

Graduate students and PhD candidates in natural resource management or environmental-related studies who will complete their studies between January 1 and July 31 of next year are eligible to apply. The fellowship provides a two-year position with competitive salary, benefits, and travel and relocation reimbursement. 

To be considered, read about it at our fellowship page, and visit the NOAA Fellowship description for more information and submit your application before the January 25 deadline. 

For questions related to the fellowship and submission of applications, please contact Fellowship Program Leader Angela Archer.


In the news: Pharmaceutical and runoff dangers not just a concern in the U.S.

Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other potentially dangerous chemicals can enter watersheds, rivers, and lakes all over the globe, and can present a significant threat to environmental and human health. 

In addition to concerns about these substances entering the Great Lakes, researchers in Montreal are worried about these same substances finding their way into the St. Lawrence River. 

“This is not the first time SauvĂ©’s team has sounded an alarm about substances slipping through the municipal water-treatment system. In 2009, they reported finding hypertension and cholesterol drugs in treated water from the water treatment plant emptying into the St. Lawrence. And last year they found traces of antidepressants in the livers, brains and flesh of fish exposed to effluent from Montreal’s waste-water treatment plant.

The vast majority of pharmaceuticals and hormones found in the water from the water-treatment plant comes from human consumption, SauvĂ© said. He added that expired or unnecessary medication should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain, but rather returned to a pharmacy or one of Montreal’s eco-centres.”
Read the complete article at the link above, and find out more about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products at our Unwanted Meds website.


In the news: Fertilizer fees provide funding for clean water research

A 75-cent-per-ton charge on fertilizer sales was implemented this fall in the state of Illinois, with the goal of providing funding for further research on runoff, water pollution, and water protection. 

“The 75-cents-per-ton charge has the backing of both farm and environmental groups. It raises funding for research into fertilizer and other runoff that contribute to water pollution…

The fee is in addition to a 25-cents-per-ton charge used to pay the cost of Illinois Department of Agriculture regulation of fertilizer quality and safety. Department spokesman Jeff Squibb said the department continues to oversee the programs, but the 75 cents charge goes to the foundation.

Fertilizer and animal-waste runoff are major contributors to excessive nitrogen and phosphates that create hazards to wildlife and humans in water supplies, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also has been pushing states to adopt stricter requirements on all types of runoff, including agricultural, storm water and wastewater.”
Follow the link above for the complete article.


Wisconsin students learn about Great Lakes cleanup

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s environmental social scientist Caitie McCoy informs and engages communities about important Great Lakes cleanup and restoration projects that affect them, and works with students to teach them more about Great Lakes ecology. One of her most recent opportunities to work with students was in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where she provided information and lessons about a project close to home.

Caitie writes, “I visited Sheboygan, Wisconsin last Tuesday and spoke to high school biology students, answering questions about the Great Lakes Legacy Act dredging project happening just two miles from their school. This was my final school to visit in Sheboygan as part of a 12-school, countywide tour, which began this past October and reached about 600 high school science students. Now the students know the purpose of a cleanup happening right in their downtown, and they understand the science behind it.

IISG is a collaborating member of Sheboygan's ‘Testing the Waters’ program, through which students visit some of the Sheboygan River cleanup and habitat projects and learn techniques for testing water quality. My classroom visits helped set the stage for this program, and IISG also provided water sampling instruments for their use.

Some of the specific topics that we discussed with students included the chemical qualities of the pollution, the effects that pollution has on the food web, and the cleanup process under the Great Lakes Legacy Act. I also spoke with them about habitat restoration projects, which are removing invasive species, creating natural, softened shorelines, and improving filtration of runoff.

This project is part of a larger effort to provide students with stewardship opportunities and supplemental hands-on education about remediation and restoration efforts throughout the Great Lakes. It has been great to work with students in Sheboygan and Northwest Indiana, and I look forward to bringing this program to more Great Lakes students soon.”

For more information about Great Lakes educational programs and opportunities, visit our education page and follow our posts here on the blog.


Social marketing training helps communities inspire action

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s environmental social scientist Caitie McCoy is partnering with NOAA’s Coastal Services Center to offer the sixth edition of the Great Lakes Social Science Network training, Community-Based Social Marketing. 

This particular session is the second time that community-based social marketing has been the focus, and it will take place Dec 14 from 9:30 - 11 AM CST. The training is geared toward Sea Grant professionals and their colleagues to help them incorporate social science into their daily work. 

Caitie writes, “Social science research shows that initiatives to foster behavior change are most successful at the community level, where people are in direct contact with one another. CBSM is a tool to promote sustainable behavior, and is very appropriate for the scale at which Sea Grant professionals operate. This training will introduce CBSM concepts and go through the steps of creating a CBSM campaign.”

Interested individuals can contact Caitie via the link above for more information or to register for the training.

EDIT - This training will be available online as an interactive webinar, and registration is encouraged. Contact Caitie for further details. 


U of I’s Lawn Talk website now offers natural lawn care info

While it may not be lawn care season in many parts of the country, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year and the best methods, tools, and information that are available to ensure healthy lawns and healthy ecosystems. 

The University of Illinois’ website “Lawn Talk” is a useful and popular site offering an abundance of information to homeowners, property managers, and landscape professionals throughout northern Illinois. 

Now updated and redesigned, the website’s new look and content were made possible in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Lawn to Lake program. Incorporating information and resources from these two entities has made it possible for the site to move beyond traditional, chemical-heavy lawn care advice by recommending natural lawn care resources. Additionally, the relationship between lawn care and water quality is better represented and respected by the up-to-date information on the site, creating a resource that helps protect the environment while ensuring the health and beauty of lawns and landscapes. 

This site update also allows University of Illinois Extension to offer even more multimedia content, including instructional videos, interactive activities and features, and more. 

Visit the site at the link above to see the new design, and for even more information about natural lawn care and its benefits, visit our Lawn to Lake website.


IISG summer intern awarded for AIS research efforts

University of Illinois Junior Lainey Pasternak, who interned this past summer with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach Team, wrote a guest blog about her experience working with IISG and, more importantly, about an award she received for her work. 

Lainey writes, “Over the summer I worked to help increase recreational water user knowledge of AIS through survey research and outreach. I designed and conducted a survey to help investigate the prevalence of AIS-preventative behaviors among boaters and anglers, a key demographic in the effort to prevent AIS spread. By the end of the summer, I had formulated a formal research report and academic poster presentation based on the final survey results. All efforts in the research and poster presentation were collaborated with my internship supervisor and coauthor, Sarah Zack. The final project of the internship was a presentation of my poster “Evaluation Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Outreach Efforts in the Southern Lake Michigan Watershed” at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference.

On September 24-25, I attended the Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. After submitting my research abstract and poster at the conference, I was awarded a student scholarship and honorable mention award for an undergraduate student poster. I had the opportunity to present my summer research at the student poster session throughout the duration of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant 30th Anniversary Reception, courtesy of the Illinois Chapter of the American Water Resources Association. Among the 30 registered students of the poster competition, I was one of the two conference award recipients, and the only undergraduate to receive mention.

My internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant marked an important beginning step in my environmental science career. Attending the Illinois Water Conference not only provided me the opportunity to display my research project, but also emphasized AIS as an important issue affecting Illinois’ waters. I was immersed in a learning atmosphere of networking and the active exchange of new ideas to utilize in possible future research. This conference was the first research opportunity I participated in, and I consider it a major scholarly, professional, and personal success. Receiving a student scholarship and undergraduate honorable mention at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference marked the end to a very rewarding and fulfilling student internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. I will be continually proud of all my work and the impact I was able to make.”

Congratulations to Lainey on her award, and we look forward to your continued research and outreach efforts to keep our waters safe.


IAGLR 2013 now accepting paper submissions

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

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University will jointly host the 56th Annual International Association for Great Lakes Research Conference (IAGLR 2013) in West Lafayette, IN, from June 2-6, 2013. The conference theme is Great Lakes Restoration and Resiliency and a group of co-host institutions are helping us craft a great program. 

Abstract submissions for scientific presentations are now being solicited. Authors can submit abstracts for poster or oral presentations to any one of 65 separate sessions. Themes include: invasive species, climate change, land-use and eutrophication, contaminants, nearshore health, fisheries, data management and modeling, food web and ecosystem ecology, physical processes and stakeholder engagement. Presentations will cover a broad range of topics related to world-wide Great Lakes research. Abstracts should be submitted online via the conference website. You can also view the full call for papers online (PDF).


IISG’s Kwamena Quagrainie recognized for his outreach and extension efforts

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquaculture marketing specialist Kwamena Quagrainie was recently recognized for his many years of work in developing and improving the business practices, marketing, and success of aquaculture operations both in the state of Indiana and internationally through his efforts in several African nations. 

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Specialist Association’s (PUCESA) mid-career Award “recognizes an Extension specialist with 11-20 years of service. Recipients would have demonstrated extension leadership; excellence in delivering public education programs; innovative approaches to program development; outreach efforts to county Extension educators; research that benefits Extension clientele through practical application; or demonstrated collaboration with county educators, agencies, or community leaders.”

The text of the nomination provides more detail on Dr. Quagrainie’s work: 
“Since joining Purdue in 2005, Dr. Kwamena Quagrainie has revitalized the aquaculture industry in Indiana and overseas. Through applied research and Extension he has expanded aquaculture funding and improved business for thousands of fish farms.

Kwamena’s leadership led to reorganization of the state aquaculture Extension team and development of a business management program for farms producing yellow perch, hybrid striped bass and freshwater prawns. Kwamena’s leadership was a driving force in the Indiana Soybean Alliance funding a 5-year Indiana Aquaculture Strategic Plan in 2007 resulting in up to $1 million annually in soybean check-off funds for aquaculture research and education in Indiana. Kwamena obtained additional research funding from USDA and Purdue to support Indiana aquaculture development. He actively collaborates with Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Board of Animal Health, and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. Kwamena is Indiana’s state coordinator for USDA’s North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, state representative on the National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators and serves on USDA’s aquatic task force that is formulating standards for organic aquaculture nationally.

Dr. Quagrainie’s domestic program is closely integrated with international activities through the USAID-funded Aquaculture and Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program (AquaFish CRSP). As the Africa AquaFish CRSP project director, Kwamena secured $1.13 million since 2004 for research and outreach, including training in pond record keeping and business management. About 2,000 fish farmers in Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana can now use their farming records to secure bank financing…”
For more information about Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s aquaculture resources, visit our Aquaculture Economics & Marketing Resources page.