Aquatic invasive species team already planning for 2014 outdoor season

IISG’s entire aquatic invasive species crew is already looking forward to spring with several events on the calendar. They’ll be heading to a number of fishing, outdoor, and gardening shows coming up in early 2014 to share some great information about stopping the spread of invasive species directly with everyone in attendance. 

The team will be visiting a number of fishing and outdoor shows to share our latest “Be A Hero – Transport Zero” message with boaters, fishermen, and everyone who enjoys spending time on the water. They will also have more information about how easy it can be to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders with three simple steps – Remove, Drain, Dry. And there will be examples of invasive species for visitors to see up close as a way to then identify them on the water. 

The first stop on the calendar will be the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, Illinois. The show takes place January 3-5, and Sarah will be giving a presentation on that Saturday about how boaters and anglers can help prevent the spread of aquatic invaders in Illinois. February 8-9 the team will be at the Tinley Park Fishing Show at Tinley Park High School. The long running show features dozens of exhibitors and IISG will be there with several handouts and examples of invasive species. Just a couple of weeks later the team will head to Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show, February 21-23 at the Indianapolis State Fair Grounds. 

Mark your calendars for the shows (listed below) and be sure to visit TransportZero.org for additional information. And check back for more shows and events as they are added. It’s never too early to start thinking of warmer weather and time on the water. 

Let’s Go Fishing Show - January 3-5, 2014 - Collinsville, IL

Tinley Park Fishing Show - February 8-9, 2014 - Tinley Park, IL 

Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show - February 21-23, 2014 - Indianapolis, IN


In the news: Wisconsin governor signs lamprey control measure

In the battle against invasive sea lampreys in the Great Lakes region, Wisconsin has committed to the fight with new legislation signed last week. 

"To help combat the invasive, eel-like fish, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation on Thursday for the state to spend up to $564,500 in the next two fiscal years on lamprey control efforts on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

The controls include chemical treatments and barriers that block the movement of swimming lamprey, which according to the Wisconsin DNR 'have no jaws, no true teeth, no paired fins and a skeleton made of cartilage, not true bone.'

The state funds are expected to be matched with federal dollars for control efforts that are taking place across the Great Lakes basin.

In Lake Michigan, 126 of 511 tributaries have historic records of sea lamprey production. Of those 83 tributaries have been treated with chemicals, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. A major focus of treatment took place on the Oconto River in northeastern Wisconsin, where about 60 miles of the river were treated."
Read the complete article at the link above.


Restoration: It’s not just for the birds

Residents of Sheboygan, Wisconsin are seeing their namesake river, and the opportunities it holds for the community, in a whole new light thanks to a suite of cleanup projects completed in 2012 and 2013. For decades, high concentrations of PCBs and other industrial pollutants lining the riverbed had kept river-goers and businesses at arm’s length. But with the contaminated sediment removed and habitat restoration well underway, the public is embracing the river with full force. 

“After nearly three decades of being a black eye of the community, we are thrilled that the Sheboygan River and harbor is being restored to reduce health risks to people, fish, and wildlife, and will greatly enhance opportunities for economic development,” said Adam Payne, Sheboygan County Administrator at a 2012 press event celebrating the project. 

Perhaps the biggest boost so far has been to recreation. Dredging the equivalent of 15,000 dump trucks of contaminated sediment left boaters and anglers with a deeper river that is easier to access and navigate. With the contamination gone, the community has also started to see the Sheboygan River as a safe place to spend an afternoon. Just a few months after the project ended, residents reported seeing more and bigger boats navigating in and out of the river’s harbor, and they expect to see even more fishing and boating in the coming years.

“Anytime you have a healthy river going through a community, you have a better quality of life,” said one resident to IISG’s Caitie McCoy and Emily Anderson as part of a series of interviews about how community perceptions of the river had changed.

The deeper, cleaner river has also attracted local businesses. Everything from coffee shops to digital communications companies have opened along the river, and more businesses are expected to follow.  It is too early to say just how much the cleanup project will impact things like property values, tourism, and redevelopment, but it is already clear that riverfront development is on the rise thanks to changes to the river and its newly restored status within the community.

“When it comes right down to it, those who would invest in the river and want to develop this property, they are really after the water access,” said another resident.

There is good news for local wildlife too. With the dredging work completed, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other project partners have begun work to restore native habitats. Recently planted native plants have caught the attention of a variety of species, including cranes and blue birds. With this work done, the Sheboygan River will officially be taken off the list of most polluted places in the Great Lakes.

To learn more about how the cleanup project has affected the community, visit the link on our products page.

Efforts to clean up and revitalize the Sheboygan River are part of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and Superfund.

*Middle photo: Courtesy of the City of Sheboygan
*Bottom Photo: Courtesy of Wisconsin DNR


In the news: Less food for fish in Lakes Huron and Michigan

A recently published study shows that food supplies for fish and other important organisms in the Great Lakes have been on the decline, and there are a few reasons why. 

"The study, based on years of data compiled by government agencies and university researchers, found evidence of drop-offs in phytoplankton — tiny plants essential to many food chains — since the late 1990s. A decline in tiny invertebrates and prey fish, such as alewives and round gobies, also was detected.

It's likely that invasive quagga and zebra mussels have played a significant role by gobbling plankton, according to the paper, which was published online this month in the journal BioScience. The mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s after being scooped into cargo ships' ballast tanks in foreign ports and hauled across the Atlantic...
The study was designed to document trends in Great Lakes food webs and determine whether the webs were influenced more by the feeding habits of top predator fish or by developments at the lower end of the chains."
Read the complete article, which includes more information about causes of the decline found in the study, at the link above.


Knauss Fellows head to D.C. to find and begin their new positions

Two student applicants sponsored by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were selected as Knauss fellowship winners this year, and last month they traveled to the nation’s capital to find their respective positions working on water resource and environmental issues. 

Katherine Touzinsky and Sara Paver both wrote in to update us on the positions they selected and the specific areas where they will be focusing their energies. 

“Placement week – what to say?” Katherine writes. “Over the course of three days, I had 17 interviews for different positions, and each and every one seemed like something I had dreamed up. It was one of the most stressful and exciting experiences I've ever had. 

I was placed as a navigation R&D advisor for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The US Army Corps of Engineers provides vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters. I get to take a leadership role in research and development by helping to manage a national R&D agenda, make decisions about technical approaches, and integrate technical teams from federal, academic, and industry sectors. And I’ll get to actively participate in actual research projects too. For at least one week each month, I will be traveling to national DoD labs to meet scientists, get to know their research, and work to make connections between them and other governmental and non-governmental sectors.

I’m in the second year of my master’s program in ecological sciences and engineering (ESE). My thesis work is on the plasticity of Asian carp between the Illinois and Wabash Rivers, and I've been lucky enough to work closely with bowfisherman through most of my Asian sampling and extension activities. Right now I'm trying to choose whether or not I will continue on for my PhD and if so, on what topic. I've gained some crucial insight on my interests through working with ESE – what I love about ecology is studying interactions and, more broadly, systems. I'm so excited about the Knauss Fellowship year because it is going to let me get a bird’s eye view of the intersections between high-level government, scientists and researchers, the ecology of specific areas, and end users (fisherman, recreationalists, commercial operators, etc.).”

Sara also found placement week to be quite the experience. “Knauss placement week was a fun, speed-dating-esque marathon. It provided an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse of the breadth of work being done within NOAA and other host agencies. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with representatives from various host offices as well as incoming, current, and former fellows.

I selected a position at the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences. Part of my responsibilities will be to facilitate peer review and award decisions for proposals submitted to the Ocean Section, including the Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) program.  I am really excited to be exposed to cutting-edge research and to see the grant review process first hand. I think that reading and participating in the review of the Coastal SEES proposals will be particularly enlightening due to their interdisciplinary nature.

I am graduating in December with a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having studied aquatic microbial ecology in Dr. Angela Kent's lab. I am looking forward to broadening my understanding of how policy and the needs of society influence science and how science, in turn, informs policy. I plan to return to microbial ecology research armed with this knowledge following my year as a fellow.”

To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website. And to find out about all of the fellowships available to undergraduate, graduate, and post-grad students, visit our fellowship page.


Upcoming workshop helps Indiana teachers bring buoy data into the classroom

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University are offering a teacher workshop on incorporating Lake Michigan buoy data into their lessons and activities. 

The workshop is open to Indiana math, science, and geography teachers in grades 8-12, and will provide them with ways to incorporate real-time data in the curriculum. From lessons on in-lake processes, to emerging environmental and climate issues impacting the lakes, to problem solving activities and more, the data from IISG’s nearshore Lake Michigan buoy can be used to cover a wide range of topics. 

Applications for the workshop should be submitted by January 10 and should indicate which of the available dates are preferred – January 25 or February 15. 

Find more information about the workshop and the application form here, and visit our education page to learn about additional Great Lakes education principles and resources.


In the news: Gathering more information to understand threats to the Great Lakes

Researchers from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab and other organizations have been gathering samples and data about the Lakes in order to understand the threats to their health. Pollution, lower water levels, and climate change are all showing themselves to be threats, and researchers hope to learn more about their direct impacts.

"'Every day we hear from coastal communities and our constituents who are being personally affected by climate disruption and climate change,' said Angela Larsen, coastal program manager at Alliance for the Great Lakes, a Chicago-based nonprofit. 

'Many of the Great Lakes coastal resources and the local economies that depend on them are really at risk due to climate change.'

Larsen said her organization is particularly concerned about the periods of both drought and heavy rainfall characteristic of climate change, and lake levels, near record lows, which could result from a variety of factors in addition to climate change. 

Heavy rainfall is a problem because of the pollution that washes into lakes when urban areas flood. Chicago’s combined sewage overflows – runoff from sewer systems that collect a mix of rainwater, sewage and industrial wastewater - are diverted into Lake Michigan during floods, carrying bacteria, toxic materials and land-based debris. This runoff, combined with warming lake waters, can present health risks for swimmers and ideal conditions for harmful algae growth, Larsen said."
Read the complete article, including additional information about research and environmental concerns for the Great Lakes, at the link above.


In the news: Water treatment processes missing over half of PPCPs and other contaminants

Current sewage treatment processes are only addressing about half of the pharmaceutical and emerging contaminant content in waste water, according to a recent report from the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes. 

"The impact of most of these 'chemicals of emerging concern' on the health of people and aquatic life remains unclear. Nevertheless, the commission report concludes that better water treatment is needed.

'The compounds show up in low levels – parts per billion or parts per trillion – but aquatic life and humans aren’t exposed to just one at a time, but a whole mix,' said Antonette Arvai, physical scientist at the International Joint Commission and the lead author of the study. 'We need to find which of these chemicals might hurt us.'

More than 1,400 wastewater treatment plants in the United States and Canada discharge 4.8 billion gallons of treated effluent into the Great Lakes basin every day, according to the study.

The scientists reviewed 10 years of data from wastewater treatment plants worldwide to see how well they removed 42 compounds that are increasingly showing up in the Great Lakes.

Six chemicals were detected frequently and had a low rate of removal in treated effluent: an herbicide, an anti-seizure drug, two antibiotic drugs, an antibacterial drug and an anti-inflammatory drug."
Read the complete article at the link above, and visit UnwantedMeds.org to learn more about pharmaceutical and personal care product disposal and pollution prevention.


In the news: Lake Michigan whitefish finding their way back to Wisconsin rivers

While scientists are working to figure out why, the Lake Michigan whitefish is returning to northeastern Wisconsin waters where it hasn’t been seen for over 100 years.

From the Sheboygan Press
"The fish's return has created a welcome mystery for scientists, who aren't sure why they are migrating from Green Bay into rivers. It could be a sign of improving water quality. Or, the population in Green Bay may have grown enough that young fish are being pushed out of traditional spawning areas.

The fish do not appear to be leaving Lake Michigan to spawn in tributaries of Wisconsin rivers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The migration seems to be coming only from Green Bay.

Whitefish rebounded on Lake Michigan and Green Bay in the 1980s. They were discovered on the Menominee River in 1993, but until this fall had not been seen on other inland waterways.

The fish have now been found on at least four rivers in northeastern Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The most surprising location may be the Fox River in Green Bay, home to the nation’s largest toxic cleanup project."
Read more about the whitefish’s return at the link above, and learn more about Great Lakes Legacy Act projects (like the Fox River cleanup mentioned in the article) in this video.


In the news: Test results show another aquatic invader’s presence in southern Lake Michigan

Researchers are reporting that they have found DNA evidence of an invasive fish, Eurasian ruffe, in the southern Lake Michigan waters. 

From JSOnline.com
"The Nature Conservancy said a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame, Central Michigan University and its own organization found evidence of DNA of Eurasian ruffe in Calumet Harbor, south of Chicago.

Two positive samples from the harbor were collected on July 8. The harbor is at the mouth of the Chicago-area waterway system. Environmental DNA is a surveillance tool that can be used to monitor the genetic presence of aquatic species.

The waterway system is part of an engineered canal that provides an artificial link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin and has been infiltrated with invasive Asian carp from the Mississippi for years.

That same system has the potential to introduce Eurasian ruffe in the Mississippi, according to the Nature Conservancy. The group said the genetic findings underscore the need for a permanent barrier to block species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems."
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about this invasive species and the test results.


Fellowship opportunity from NOAA and Sea Grant now accepting applications

Fellowship season is upon us, and more opportunities for students to gain valuable, hands-on experience in environmental fields are opening. 

The 2014 Coastal Management Fellowship Program, administered by NOAA and the Sea Grant offices, just opened to applications from graduate and professional-degree students. The two-year position includes competitive salary and benefits for the selected fellow, and matches students with coastal resource agencies to work directly on issues at the local level. 

Students can learn more about the fellowship and the application process at the Coastal Services Center website, and can contact IISG’s Angie Archer for information about this and other IISG fellowship opportunities.


In the news: A private island that truly is for the birds

Non-profit organization The Nature Conservancy recently acquired a small island in Lake Michigan that is used by migrating birds as a stopping point on their journey. 

"St. Martin Island is part of a chain that runs between Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and Michigan's Garden Peninsula… 

The Luber family sold it to the nonprofit conservancy for $1.5 million dollars. The Nature Conservancy says the price was well below market value.

Eventually the island will be included in the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Dave Ewert is a senior scientist with the Nature Conservancy in Michigan. He says the chain of islands is really important for migrating land birds in the spring and fall.

'If they're caught out away from mainland then they're going to look for islands to come down, land, feed, rest, seek refuge from predators. So these islands really are a godsend to these migratory birds,' Ewert said.

He says more than 100 species have been documented in the chain of islands. St. Martin is one of the larger islands at more than 1,200 acres. The U.S. Coast Guard has a light tower on the island."
Read more about the island at the link above.


New invasives from New Zealand found in Wisconsin

The New Zealand mud snail is on the move in Wisconsin, and officials are calling on anglers, hunters, and boaters to help prevent any further spread from this aquatic invader. 

The invasive snail first moved into the Great Lakes decades ago and took up residency in Lake Michigan about 5 years ago. Inland lakes and rivers in the Midwest, though, had remained snail-free. That is until last month, when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported finding the snails in Black Earth Creek, about 25 miles north of the Illinois state line. 

To keep this rapidly-reproducing snail from taking over local waterways and forcing out native species, officials in Illinois and Wisconsin are asking recreational water users and other outdoor enthusiasts to take three simple steps after a day near the water:

·         Remove all plants, animals, and mud from boats, trailers, and equipment
·         Drain everything, including bait buckets and live wells
·         Dry everything with a towel

The small size of this invasive species—no more than 5 mm in length—makes them nearly impossible to spot. But diligently following these simple procedures can ensure that the New Zealand mud snail isn’t accidently carried unseen to from one body of water to another. 

To learn more about what you can do to help prevent the spread of the New Zealand mud snail and other invasive species, visit www.TransportZero.org.  

*Photo courtesy of Mohammed El Damir, Pest Management, Bugwood.org


In the news: Chicago’s water waste turned fertilizer?

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in Chicago has announced plans to team with a Canadian company to capture and process pollutants from water and turn it into crop and lawn fertilizer. 

"Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and a representative of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced Tuesday that a new technology planned for the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant will remove nutrient pollution from wastewater and convert it to pellets to be sold as fertilizer for crops and lawns...
'Ostara's advanced nutrient recovery technology not only reduces nutrient load but helps protect precious area waterways that are part of Mississippi River basin,' said Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and member of Ostara's board of directors.
The announcement was made at the Water Environment Federation's 86th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference at McCormick Place.

This technology should produce approximately 10,000 – 15,000 tons of fertilizer annually, according the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which serves Cook County. Crystal Green, Ostara's fertilizer company, will purchase the product at $400 per ton from the water reclamation district."
Read more about the process and its potential impact at the link above.


IISG in the news: Injurious species list results in a ban on invasive plants

Working with Illinois and Indiana DNR, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant led the development of a risk assessment tool to evaluate species based on their potential to be or become invasive. That tool and the resulting list of species led to the creation of a rule prohibiting the sale of 28 invasive aquatic plants in the state of Illinois. 

"Plant species were chosen based on the results of a risk assessment tool developed in Indiana by the Aquatic Plant Working Group. The tool evaluates species based on factors like ability to thrive in the Great Lakes and difficulty to control. At the request of Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant organized and facilitated the group, which included representatives from the aquatic plant industry, aquarium and water garden hobbyists, state agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. Their efforts led to a rule approved last year that bans the sale of 28 invasive aquatic plants in Indiana.

'It is important to have consistent regulations across the Great Lakes Basin. We want our policies to be consistent with our neighbors since invasive species don’t respect political boundaries,' said Kevin Irons, aquaculture and aquatic nuisance species program manager for Illinois DNR. 'Prevention is the first and cheapest way to protect Illinois from aquatic invasive plants, and risk assessment tools like the one built in Indiana allow us to identify and control high risk species without unduly regulating the industry.'"
Read the complete article at the link above, and read about the similar Indiana ban in the Winter 2012 edition of The Helm.  


In the news: Invasives and changing weather have far-reaching implications

Great Lakes waterfowl, including the common loon, are undergoing significant die offs during their annual fall migration which could lead to serious population problems in the future. 

"According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there are about 30,000 common loons in the United States. During the breeding season, from early spring to late fall, about half of them reside in the Great Lakes’ states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In 2012, thousands of dead birds, mainly common loons washed up dead on Lake Michigan shorelines – from the Upper Peninsula, down to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A large percentage of the dead loons had just entered their first year of breeding maturity. While the mortality rate in 2012 was the worst on recent record, it followed similar incidents that took place in 2006, 2007 and 2010. Northern Lake Michigan serves as a staging area for common loons from the Great Lakes states and Canada to load up on food before flying down to their wintering grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic Ocean."
While the numbers are not as bad this year, the trend remains alarming. Read the complete article at the link above.


2014-2015 Great Lakes Commission-Sea Grant Fellowship announced

The Great Lakes Commission and Sea Grant are offering, for the fifteenth year, a fellowship position working with “members of the Great Lakes' science, policy and information/education communities to advance the environmental quality and sustainable development goals of the Great Lakes states.”

The fellowship is a one-year, non-renewable position with the Great Lakes Commission office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the selected student will be involved with research coordination and policy analysis. 

Applications are welcome from students in graduate or professional degree programs in “public policy, public health, natural resources, aquatic sciences or other related field.” 

For complete details on the fellowship and the application process, visit the fellowship website.


Great Lakes education conference features several sessions, including IISG education team

The 3rd Annual Great Lakes Place-based Education Conference, November 7-9 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, brought together over 200 teachers, community representatives, non-profit organization educators, and more. The conference gives teachers an opportunity to incorporate the latest place-based research and education concepts about the Great Lakes into their lessons, encouraging student stewardship, continuing science education, and community development. 

IISG’s Robin Goettel attended the conference and organized a poster session, “Center for Great Lakes Literacy: Connecting Educators, Scientists and Citizens.” The Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) “engages educators, students, scientists, and lifelong learners in stewardship and citizen science activities to help protect and restore Great Lakes watersheds.” 

According to Robin, “A major focus of this exhibit was creating awareness of Great Lakes Literacy Principles – a great foundation from which to create an environmental stewardship ethic. CGLL specialists shared exciting educator opportunities including ship-based and shoreline workshops focusing on the latest Great Lakes issues. Visitors learned about water quality monitoring equipment they can use with their students made available courtesy of the USEPA GLNPO Limno Loan program. Participants also found out about Great Lakes Awareness Days that will be offered throughout the region.”

Representatives of the CGLL program from seven Great Lakes Sea Grant programs were on hand to talk with attendees about the wide array of resources available, many specifically tailored to the environmental needs and issues of their region. Classroom resources were also available, including Fresh and Salt and Greatest of the Great Lakes curricula, as well as the Dose of Reality newspaper activity guide that covers the disposal of unwanted medicines and personal care products.

For more information about Great Lakes literacy principles (GLLP), educator workshops, and education resources, visit the Center for Great Lakes Literacy webpage.  More details on GLLP can found at GreatLakesLiteracy.net.


In the news: Biologists take samples in Sturgeon Bay searching for Asian carp evidence

Scientists in Wisconsin began collecting and analyzing water samples from Sturgeon Bay a couple of days ago, searching for evidence of Asian carp in the water. 

"Under mostly sunny skies and temperatures hovering near 30 degrees, a three-man crew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR motored across the bay in a flat-bottomed boat looking for promising sites to sample.

A scientist at the University of Notre Dame pioneered the technique of using DNA to search for populations of Asian carp. But the first step is far from rocket science:

One member of the crew stretched in a nearly prone position over the side of the boat and dipped a 2-liter plastic bottle into the 40-degree water. The driver read out GPS coordinates, the water temperature and the depth. The third man from the crew scribbled down the information.

The samples are processed in Green Bay and then packed with dry ice and sent to a Fish and Wildlife Service laboratory in La Crosse, where the DNA sequencing is done and water is matched with known DNA specimens of the two carp species. The samples will be queued up with hundreds of other potential carp samples from Illinois and elsewhere."
Read the complete article at the link above.


Open seminar about the Grand Calumet area of concern project this Friday

The Grand Calumet River area of concern (AOC) has been undergoing a significant remediation and restoration project with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

In order to learn from residents and local stakeholders how they feel about the project and progress on restoring the river, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Citizens Advisory for the Remediation of the Environment (CARE) are hosting a half-day seminar this Friday, November 15. IISG’s Caitie McCoy will be among the speakers, presenting a recent video, “Great Lakes Legacy Act: Revitalizing Local Waterfront Economies,” and discussing progress and impacts of the project. 

Other presentations will include information on the history of the Grand Calumet AOC, specific info on dredging, and more. 

The seminar is open to all and will be held at the Purdue University Calumet campus. Registration is recommended as space is limited. Visit the registration site to sign up, and for more details.


Sea Grant staff from across the U.S. completed Sea Grant Academy last month

Staff members from 20 different Sea Grant programs across the U.S. attended two Sea Grant Academy sessions this year (one week in April, and one in October). The academy was developed to give Sea Grant employees valuable training and professional development information in a variety of fields, benefiting their work and the work of all Sea Grant programs at large.

Five staff members from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were able to attend, and participated in sessions ranging from the history of Sea Grant to project design and evaluation, social science training, time management, communicating the importance of ocean science to various audiences, and much more. 

IISG’s Danielle Hilbrich, Greg Hitzroth, Kristin TePas, Kara Salazar, and Sarah Zack were among the more than 40 Sea Grant professionals who completed both weeks of training and graduated from Sea Grant Academy with new information and skills to bring to their work protecting the Great Lakes. 

“Sea Grant Academy was a really unique opportunity to meet people from around the country that are working on the same issues we are,” said Sarah. “I thought that it was a great way to foster both partnerships between programs and friendships between specialists. I really enjoyed meeting all the attendees and hearing all about the great work they’re doing.”

And Kristin TePas wrote, “It was a great opportunity to connect with other Sea Grant specialists from around the country. Also, hosting the meeting in Duluth provided a great opportunity to showcase our freshwater coast and the issues surrounding the Great Lakes.”

To learn more about the National Sea Grant program and the work being done to protect America’s coastal resources, visit the NOAA Sea Grant webpage.


In the news: Great Lakes mayors target plastic pollution from personal care products

Recent research on Great Lakes contaminants has shown that microplastics - small beads of plastic used in many exfoliants, toothpastes, and other products - are contributing to pollution levels. As a result, mayors near the Great Lakes are calling on manufacturers to remove the plastics from their products. 

From TheObserver.ca
"The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, representing more than 100 Canadian and U.S. cities, is urging industry and governments to have microplastics removed from personal care products.

Its call came as a study on microplastic pollution was published based on sampling last summer on Lake Huron, Erie and Superior led by Sherri Mason, a professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

'It takes that kind of initiative to get things to change,' she said of the mayor's support for the issue.
'It's not so much about cleaning it up, as it is about stopping it at its source.'

Mason returned to the lakes for seven weeks this summer to collect more samples, including one from the St. Clair River at Sarnia that will be analyzed as the study continues.

Samples taken in 2012 included green, blue and purple coloured spheres, similar to polypropylene and polyethylene microbeads in consumer products, such as facial cleaners."
Read the complete article at the link above.


In the news: October rains raise water levels in Lakes Michigan, Huron

Following last year's record low water levels in the Great Lakes, and in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron specifically, this year's rains have helped push those levels back towards the historical average. 

From MLive.com
"Heavy October rain could help Lake Michigan and Lake Huron continue to rise toward the long term average water level. Lake Michigan - Huron is still 15 inches below the long term average, but is 11 inches higher than this time last year. Slowly the lake level is increasing. The lake levels will likely fall over the next four months. This is a normal cycle. If the lakes don't fall as much as normal this winter, the lakes are set up to be higher next summer than this summer…

All of this rain can help Lake Michigan - Huron not fall as much as usual in November."
Read the complete article at the link above. 


Sea Grant staffers take new interactive watershed planning tool for a spin

Staff members from six Great Lakes Sea Grant programs met at Purdue University last week to preview a new web-based tool that will help local planners make sustainable land use decisions. The two-day workshop gave Sea Grant specialists a chance to work through the tool’s four-step process and suggest changes before they start using it with planning groups and communities next spring.

The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses watershed data and cutting-edge research to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their region are stressed by various factors to the degree that they are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in their functioning. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps and simulators to specify important regional priorities, pinpoint specific land use practices that threaten ecosystem health, and test how further development, restoration, or conservation projects would help or hurt. Together with suggested policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts, these features help planners develop watershed management plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair. 

Future facilitators from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs worked in groups to build mock watershed management plans for rural, suburban, and urban watersheds. Hands-on activities helped participants get familiar with the tool’s features, as well as ways to customize the process to meet the needs of communities they work with. They also learned how to use and set up different technologies that help larger groups collaboratively use computer-based programs, including the weTable, which transforms a regular tabletop into an interactive computer screen.

Perhaps the most important result of the workshop, though, was a list of feature and design changes to further increase the usability of the tool. Many of the suggestions focused on making land use data more accessible for the residents who join non-profits and local agencies in watershed planning groups. These and other refinements, including the addition of new data, will be made in the coming months.

The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Research and outreach partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, NOAA, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network. 

Top - Mark Breederland (Michigan Sea Grant) and Brian Miller (IISG)
Middle - Joe Lucente (Ohio Sea Grant) and Julie Noordyk (Wisconsin Sea Grant)
Bottom -  Mary Penney (New York Sea Grant) and Jarrod Doucette (Purdue University)


In the news: Asian carp DNA found in Lake Michigan water for the first time

A recent article in the Journal-Sentinel online reports that Asian carp DNA have been found for the first time in the Lake Michigan waters near Wisconsin. 

From JSonline
"The single positive water sample for the jumping silver carp was taken May 31 in Sturgeon Bay near Door County's Potawatomi State Park.
The sampling was part of a Lake Michigan-wide survey looking for evidence of Eurasian ruffe, a different type of invasive fish species. The water sample was not screened for the presence of Asian carp DNA until this fall, and the DNR did not get word of the positive result until last week, said Mike Staggs, DNR's fishery director.

The sample was the only positive found among the 282 water samples taken from Wisconsin's Lake Michigan waters this year as part of an invasive fish survey conducted by government crews and researchers from the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy. Fifty of those of samples were taken in the Sturgeon Bay area.

Nobody is sure at this point what to make of this single piece of microscopic evidence.
There are several potential sources for the genetic scraps, including boat hulls, bird feces, or contaminated bait buckets. It could, of course, also signal the presence of a live fish."
Read the complete article at the link above for more information about the study. 


In the news: Great Lakes microplastic pollution research recently published

Earlier this year, Anjanette Riley and Laura Kammin from IISG participated in one of several research excursions on the Great Lakes, collecting samples to analyze the microplastic content of the water. Related research was recently published, and the findings are surprising. 

"Take a dip in lakes Erie, Huron, or Superior and you will be swimming in more than just water. According to a recently published study, these lakes contain an unexpectedly large amount of floating plastic debris. Even more surprising, much of what the researchers found were microplastic fragments and pellets like the kind used in toothpastes and facial and body scrubs. At less than one millimeter, these tiny pieces of plastic are too small to be filtered out at wastewater treatment facilities before the water is released into the lakes.

Researchers from 5 Gyres Institute and State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia made the discovery in 2012 after collecting a total of 21 samples from the lakes. They found plastics in all but one sample. Of the three lakes, Lake Erie had the highest concentrations of plastics, roughly 90 percent of the total amount measured. The authors speculate that the high concentrations may be the result of currents carrying the plastics from the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, and Erie. Back in the lab, further inspection revealed that along with the microplastics, eight of the samples contained coal ash and coal fly ash (produced by coal-burning power plants)."
Read the complete post at the link above.


Science teachers get new curricula, activities, and more at ISTA conference

The Illinois Science Education Conference, recently held in Tinley Park, featured more than 150 presentations, symposiums, and exhibits aimed at providing resources and professional development opportunities for science teachers throughout the state. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s education team was among the many exhibitors participating, and offered materials and presentations to help introduce Great Lakes literacy principles to the teachers present. 

IISG’s Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy led two presentations to give teachers information and guidance on getting their students interested in Great Lakes science and stewardship. Several educational resources were also made available for the teachers to utilize in their classes. 

Anjanette and Corrie staffed two tables in the exhibit hall. One focused on AIS and featured “Nab the Aquatic Invader” information, invasive species watch cards, games, and suggested alternatives to releasing classroom pets into the wild (the HabitattitudeTM project). The second table focused on several different curricula and stewardship programs offered by IISG. CDs of Fresh and Salt and Greatest of the Great Lakes were available, as well as flash drives with The Medicine Chest and Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Meds. Teachers were very excited to receive these because they were so compact and comprehensive, with several asking if they could give a second one to their colleagues.

Two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects were highlighted in our displays – Great Lakes Organisms in Trade Initiative-Research, Outreach and Education and Undo the Great Lakes Chemical Brew. Additional materials from the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and information about upcoming workshops were available as well.

To learn more about IISG's education initiatives and upcoming workshops, visit our education page on the website. 


Nearshore buoy wraps up another successful season of Lake Michigan data collection

The Michigan City real-time monitoring buoy, jointly owned and operated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Purdue University Department of Civil Engineering, is out of the water for the 2013 season. This year, the buoy was deployed for 154 days, reporting data every 10 minutes around-the-clock. Over 3,400 people visited the buoy website during deployment, with an average of 18 hits per day. As one user put it, “Many, many of us have found the information as nothing less than terrific! Sailors like myself, fisherman like my dock neighbor, and so many pleasure boaters from Michigan City, Burns Harbor like to know what to expect once we leave the harbors.”

Buoy-watchers will have more to look forward to in 2014, as this winter the buoy will be getting an upgrade. Thanks in part to a grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program awarded to IISG's Tomas Hӧӧk, the buoy will broadcast real-time temperatures at different depths during the 2014 season and beyond. The buoy has always collected surface water temperature, but now it will also collect temperatures approximately every three feet from the surface to the bottom of the lake. 

“We are very excited to install this chain of temperature loggers”, said Carolyn Foley, IISG assistant research coordinator who will help implement the new chain. “A number of groups told us they would use this information, from kayakers wanting to know if it’s warm enough to go for a paddle to anglers wanting to know where the best fishing will be.”

In addition to installing the new temperature loggers, IISG education staffers Terri Hallesy and Robin Goettel will work with Indiana educators to develop data-based lesson plans. IISG outreach staff, including Angela Archer and Leslie Dorworth, will also attend at least one outdoor show in northwestern Indiana to get direct feedback on ways to improve the buoy website for future seasons. 

We would like to hear from anyone who uses the buoy data, particularly anglers, paddlers, and others who use southern Lake Michigan for recreation, as well as educators interested in using buoy data in their classrooms. If you 1) are an educator in grades 8-12 interested in participating in a workshop to acquire data sets for teaching and to develop lesson plans with buoy data, 2) have feedback related to improving the buoy website, and/or 3) would like to suggest an outdoor show for us to attend, please send us an email with “Buoy feedback” in the subject line. We expect to redeploy the buoy in mid-May 2014. 

Special thanks to the staff of the Indiana DNR Michigan City Field Office for their help deploying and retrieving the buoy.


Purdue turns the spotlight on one of IISG's own

Tomas Hook, IISG's associate director of research, was recently the subject of Purdue University's "Ag Research Spotlight." 

From the article
"Höök’s research focuses on fish and fisheries ecology in the Great Lakes. Fish communities and populations—species numbers and their traits—change a great deal from year to year, he explains. Höök studies past, current and projected future conditions to examine the factors that lead to these changes over time and across habitats. He uses a variety of research methods, including lab experiments on how fish respond to different situations, field studies and computer modeling."
Read the complete profile at the link above, and learn more about Great Lakes research projects through the UpClose interview series and on our research webpage.


AIS project awarded inaugural ICMP grant

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program, aimed at protecting and managing the state’s Lake Michigan shoreline, recently announced the recipients of an inaugural round of grant funding. 

Among the projects selected for their ability to restore, protect, and maintain the beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s “AIS Outreach to Coastal Constituents” project was chosen for its ability to positively impact the Lake. The project, which seeks to continue spreading information and education about invasive species and their dangers to the Great Lakes, will help consumers, businesses, and residents better understand the dangers of invasive species and the simple steps that can prevent their introduction or spread. 

Sarah Zack, IISG Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist, looks forward to beginning this outreach project. “This award will allow the IISG AIS outreach team to educate a wide variety of people throughout the Lake Michigan coastal area about the threat AIS pose to our waters, since it provides for outreach to diverse groups – including water gardeners and recreational water users. We’re very excited to get started.”

The project will also build on the “Be a Hero – Transport Zero” campaign, which has already informed thousands of people in the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana areas about these aquatic invaders. 

Look for further developments and information about these damaging species and how everyone can help prevent their transportation and spread throughout Illinois’ waterways.


DEA National Drug Take-back this Saturday

"We all work better with a deadline. So circle October 26th on your calendar and make sure you drop off any expired or unwanted medications that have been cluttering up your medicine cabinet during the National Prescription Take-Back Day. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be working with local partners around the country to host thousands of drop-off locations. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. rain or shine. Prescription and over-the-counter medications will be accepted. Liquids, creams, and pet medicine are fine to bring, but sites won't accept sharps or thermometers. Click here to find drop-off sites close to you."
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are accepted, and this is a great opportunity to clear out your medicine cabinet while ensuring that these items are disposed of safely. Follow the link above for more information about unwanted medications and their proper disposal.


In the news: Viewing the Great Lakes from a new perspective

The Great Lakes are beautiful, of course, but it’s not often that we get a view of the Lakes that lets us see them in a different way. That’s just what happened a week and a half ago, though, when astronaut Karen Nyberg shared a picture she took of the Great Lakes – from outer space. 

From MLive.com
"Last Sunday, Oct. 13, American astronaut Karen Nyberg tweeted this excellent photograph of the Great Lakes taken on Aug. 23 from her vantage point orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station.

She posted the image on Twitter about 4:40 p.m., generating a cascade of re-tweets. As spectacular photos are wont to do, the image has spent the meantime making rounds on Facebook and other social media platforms.

The image shows four of the five Great Lakes. The sun’s glint brightens lakes Erie and Ontario to the east, while lakes Michigan and Huron are seen in shades of deeper blue. Lake Superior and most of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are not in the frame."
Check out the picture at the link in the quote and some additional photos from Karen Nyberg included in the MLive.com link.


Intern Allison spends some of her summer internship on-board a research vessel

Allison Neubauer, a University of Illinois Senior, was a summer intern with IISG’s Kristin TePas. Among the projects Allison worked on, she was part of the effort to develop a new website for the research vessel Lake Guardian. She wrote in to tell us more about her work this summer and her plans for the future following this internship experience.
“As an indecisive, undeclared sophomore I enrolled in a course titled Environmental Sustainability. Though I registered with low expectations, I found myself completely captivated by the readings and discussions we had in class. By the end of the semester I knew environmental sustainability was a passion I wanted to pursue, and I declared a major in Earth, Society, and the Environment. I also added a Geography and GIS Major and Business Minor along the way. Studying and working in these fields has afforded me the opportunity to engage in a wide range of academic and extracurricular experiences that have truly shaped my outlook on the world and secured my commitment to responsibly addressing environmental issues.

My internship with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant this summer has been the most rewarding experience of my collegiate career thus far. As the Great Lakes Education Intern I worked under the leadership of my mentor Kristin TePas to develop a website for the U.S. EPA research vessel Lake Guardian that effectively communicates the ship’s research and educational activities to the general public. The Lake Guardian is a unique and extremely valuable resource that has facilitated Great Lakes research for over 25 years, which in turn promotes better understanding and awareness of environmental issues affecting the lakes.

Kristin and I, through the creation of a user friendly Lake Guardian website, hope to expose teachers, students, and the general public to current Great Lakes research projects and inspire communication between scientists and their communities. By interviewing our target audience we determined what people wanted to see on the website and then developed some of the items they requested, including a ship specifications chart, science equipment videos, an 'Ask a Scientist' form, FAQ page, Science and Marine Career videos, as well as a YouTube channel and Flickr gallery to give a sense of life and work on the ship. The overarching goal is for the Lake Guardian site to be a fun and engaging way to compel people to be invested in the health and vitality of the Great Lakes.
My experiences this summer have opened my eyes to the importance of protecting the Great Lakes, which had not previously been in the forefront of my environmental concerns. Even growing up in Chicago I took Lake Michigan for granted because I did not understand how fragile the Great Lakes ecosystem truly is, or how critical the Lakes are to people’s livelihoods. Increasing awareness is vital to conserving the Great Lakes, and my position with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant this summer gave me great exposure to environmental outreach. I have thoroughly enjoyed my work, especially all the valuable input I received from an assortment of teachers, scientists, Lake Guardian crew, and Sea Grant staff. This internship has been an excellent growing experience for me. I have vastly improved my communication, planning, and organizing skills as well as enhanced my understanding of the Great Lakes.”
Allison is one of four interns who worked with IISG this summer. You can read about John’s work here, Alice’s experience here, and Emily’s work on social science efforts here.