IISG photo bank features Chicago lakefront and more

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has a new photo bank, chock full of images along the Chicago lakefront, the Indiana dunes, and more. Visit iisg.photoshelter.com or click on Photos on the IISG homepage to see a range of galleries. If you would like to use any of these images in a publication, website, or more, click on the word CONTACT, which you can find at top or the bottom of the page (where it is tiny). Once you’ve found a photo and the contact link, the rest is easy. Just send us a request.


Full-cost water planning guidebook now available

One of the most important planning concerns in the coming years will be ensuring the smart, sensible use and long-term availability of water resources for a growing population. This is especially true in large urban areas like Chicago, which has adopted the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan to address and prepare for future growth. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Water Resource Economist, Margaret Schneemann, has developed a Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook for Sustainable Community Water Systems. For the past four years, IISG has partnered with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to bring Schneemann to the Water 2050: Northeastern Illinois Water Supply/Demand Plan implementation program and launch several collaborative projects throughout northeastern Illinois.  

Since both Water2050 and the long-range GO TO 2040 comprehensive plan recommend full-cost pricing for drinking water to promote water conservation and address aging infrastructure, the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook is designed for local decision makers interested in exploring full-cost pricing as a tool for sustainable community water supply management. The first section provides mayors, village managers, planners, board and council members, and interested residents with the reasons why such planning is important. The second section offers a basic ‘how to do it’ overview for readers interested in learning more, and the third section explores one of the most important decisions in setting water rates, designing the rate structure. Margaret has also developed a downloadable Powerpoint presentation providing an overview of full-cost pricing, available at the guidebook link above.

For further information about water supply issues and planning, visit our water supply page on the website, and you can contact Margaret directly for additional information and print copies of the guidebook.


In the news: DEA proposal would create drug disposal regulations

The Drug Enforcement Administration has published proposed regulations regarding the proper disposal of prescription pharmaceuticals and other controlled substances.

From the DEA's release
"This rule proposes requirements to govern the secure disposal of controlled substance medications by both DEA registrants and what the Controlled Substances Act refers to as “ultimate users” of these medications (patients and animals). The proposed regulations seek to expand the options available to collect these medications from ultimate users for the purpose of disposal, to include take-back events, mail-back programs, and collection box locations."
The public comment period is open until February 19, and people can review the entire proposal online here

For more information about why proper disposal of these substances is so important, visit our Unwanted Meds website.


Sustainable lawn care workshop in Milwaukee March 6

Natural lawn care experts and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will be leading a Sustainable Lawn & Landscape Workshop on March 6 in Milwaukee, WI. The full day will include training on sustainable lawn and landscaping practices, effective, natural lawn care, and more. 

An early registration discount is available through February 8. Visit the training website to register and to read more about the event, and visit our Lawn to Lake webpage for more natural lawn care resources. 


CMAP wins award for water supply planning

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was recently recognized with a National Planning Excellence award for their work developing GO TO 2040 – a comprehensive regional plan that unites and coordinates seven counties infrastructure development.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Margaret Schneeman, who works directly with CMAP, was involved in the plan development and implementation, and Martin Jaffe served on the Regional Water Supply planning group. Their efforts, combined with the expertise and work of dozens of individuals and agencies, resulted in the completion of the regional plan that will enhance sustainable development and planning throughout 284 communities in and around the Chicago area. 

The summarized plan can be read here, and you can visit the GO TO 2040 link above to read the complete plan.

The American Planning Association awards programs, individuals, and agencies that utilize and implement planning techniques designed to create more sustainable communities. Visit the National Planning Awards 2013 webpage to see the complete list of award winners, including information about the GO TO 2040 plan. 

You can also visit our Water Supply page to learn more about the importance of planning on water quality, safety, and availability.


In the news: Michigan Tech researchers map aquatic invasive plants around the Great Lakes

Phragmites Australis, also know as the Common Reed, is a wetland plant that is not native to the Great Lakes. The invasive plant grows and spreads rapidly in the wetlands around the Lakes, and as a result can crowd out native plants that are beneficial to the local ecosystems. 

Researchers at Michigan Tech are working on mapping the spread of the plant, though, in an effort to better understand its spread and plan for managing and reducing it. 

From Upper Peninsula's Second Wave:
"The common reed, or phragmites australis, isn't native to the Great Lakes, but grows quickly in our climate conditions into large, tall stands that can threaten wetlands habitat.
The plant hasn't been studied very much, or mapped, which was the goal of the Tech scientists, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, Boston College and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Together, teams first mapped the U.S. coastlines of all five Great Lakes using satellites.
Then, they did field studies along the coastlines to confirm the satellite findings, and plot the locations of large stands of the reed, in a first-of-its-kind map."
Read more about the map at the link above and in the article at Science Daily.


In the news: Great Lakes surface pollution found to be higher

Despite many years of work and good overall progress are reducing the pollution of all the Great Lakes, a recent EPA report shows increased levels of surface water pollutants.

From The Times Herald:

"According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of pollutants released into surface waters in the Great Lakes Basin jumped 12 percent in 2011. At the same time, toxic surface water discharges fell by 3 percent nationwide. 

'This is a significant increase in toxic releases to our waters — and an indication that the Great Lakes region is lagging behind other parts of the country,' said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager. 'EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory is a valuable tool to help target areas for improvement, and we will use this new information to work with municipalities, agricultural producers and manufacturers in the Great Lakes Basin to improve water quality.'"
Read the complete article at the link above for more information about the report.


Making the grade: Sea Grant's biennial report is available for viewing

Here on the blog we cover a lot of the work related to the southern Lake Michigan area and other important waterways throughout Illinois and Indiana. But there is terrific and important work being done by each of the 33 Sea Grant programs around the U.S., each of them protecting and preserving America's coastlines and water resources. 

If you are interested in learning more about what each of the respective Sea Grant programs has accomplished towards that goal, the latest Sea Grant report, The State of Sea Grant 2012: Impacts,Challenges, Opportunities is available online for review. 

Submitted to Congress every two years, the report features detailed information about each program's education, research, and outreach achievements, as well as short- and long-term goals for future action. 

Read the report at the link above, and feel free to visit each Sea Grant's webpages for more in-depth information about the work they do protecting America's waterways.


Student efforts to protect water from pharmaceutical contamination head to Brazil

The National Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal program (P2D2) has had a great deal of success lately.  After placing third in the international Volvo Adventure Award competition, the program partnered with the second place winners of the Volvo competition to start a P2D2 program in Erechim, Brazil. The P2D2 program began in 2008 as a collaborative effort between local pharmacies, law enforcement agencies, officials, and Pontiac Township High School students in Paul Ritter's Ecology class and Eric Bohm's Illinois Studies class. 

The P2D2 program's mission is to educate the public about the harm done to the environment due to current drug disposal practices and to provide communities with an alternative disposal approach that ensures the quality of water for future generations. Their good idea has quickly caught on; the P2D2 program is now available in more than 54 counties in Illinois, 21 other states, and now goes international with the addition of the Brazil P2D2 program coordinated by Paul Hubner. 

Visit the P2D2 homepage for more information, and visit our Unwanted Meds website to find out about the need for proper pharmaceutical disposal. You can also find the P2D2 program's classroom activities, part of The Medicine Chest curriculum, online at our website.


IISG's latest request for proposals seeks social science research

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has just issued a request for research project proposals related to Great Lakes social science issues. Potential areas for study include Great Lakes literacy, climate change adaptation, aquatic invasive species matters, and more. 

From the RFP
"Research questions should be designed to identify perceptions and attitudes which affect behavior change and/or evaluate programs, decision-support tools or social networks currently in place. Projects should consider outcomes such as economic growth, community resiliency, quality of life and/or adoption of community sustainability practices...

In addition to addressing the priority areas, projects should fit into one or more of the four national Sea Grant focus areas: Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, Resilient Communities and Economies, Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development."
Read the complete RFP at the link above, and find out more about additional research funding from IISG at our webpage.


Green Thumb Thursday workshops offer free expertise

Click to enlarge
University of Illinois's Extension Master Gardener program is offering Illinois residents a series of free monthly classes on creating beautiful and beneficial rain gardens in their own yards. 

Master gardener Nancy Kreith hosts the free workshops, beginning with this month's topic "Designing Your Garden." 

The class takes place this Friday, January 17th, at the Evangelical Community Church of Blue Island, and you can register here. You can also see the schedule for the upcoming workshops that include native perennial plants, how to attract butterflies to your garden, organic weed management, and shade gardens. 


In the news: Extensive bird die-off on northern Michigan shoreline could link to invasive species

Fish and plants may not be the only species feeling the impact of invasives. The recent deaths of thousands of common loons along Michigan's northern shoreline could point to an invasive species presence. 

From The Oakland Press
"The common loon, a beloved, iconic bird known for its eerily lonely, two-note call and its beautiful markings, suffered devastating losses along Lake Michigan’s northern shoreline this fall. Thousands of dead birds, mainly loons, washed ashore — from the Upper Peninsula down to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A large percentage of the dead loons had just entered their first year of breeding maturity.

The reason for the die-off, which follows similar incidents in 2006 and 2007, isn’t fully understood. But it is suspected that it is driven by the food chain linking the loon to invasive species, specifically the quagga mussel, the zebra mussel and the round goby."
Follow the link above for the complete article, including video and several photos of the bird.


"Silent Invaders" episodes on YouTube bring viewers face to face with invasive species

The folks at Wildlife Forever have teamed up with several partners including the North American Fishing Club to produce a series of television programs about aquatic invasive species that are threatening our waters. 

Episode three of "Silent Invaders" offers an up-close and informative look at Asian carp, just one of several species that has either taken hold in our waterways or is threatening to spread and cause significant changes to important ecosystems. 

You can watch the entire episode online here, as well as episodes providing information about Zebra and Quagga mussels and round Gobies

Check out the episodes at the links above, and find out more about invasive species at our AIS page.


IISG heads to the outdoor shows to kick off 2013

Sarah Zack and Danielle Hilbrich, members of IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach team, set up a booth and talked with hundreds of visitors at the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, IL January 4-6. They attended the show in order to provide more information to fishermen and boaters about the dangers of aquatic invasive species, and introduce them to some simple practices that can help reduce the spread of invasives.

Many visitors to the IISG booth had experienced Asian carp jumping at their boats while on the water, and were very interested in ways they could protect themselves while fishing and boating in infested waters. In addition, Danielle and Sarah encouraged anyone that catches an Asian carp – accidently or on purpose - to cook it up and eat it. Asian carp have mild-tasting, white, flaky flesh that takes seasoning and marinades very well. Asian carp are a healthy choice too, since they're low in contaminants and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many attendees said they were willing to try cooking Asian carp, so Danielle and Sarah shared recipes with them as well as copies of Louisiana Sea Grant’s video on how to fillet Asian carp (which can be found on IISG’s Asian carp page).

The booth was highly visited throughout the weekend, and Danielle and Sarah had the chance to hand out hundreds of Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ stickers and brochures while offering people more information about invasive species. The booth was even featured on a 92.3 WIL, a popular St. Louis country radio station, and radio host Bo Matthews briefly talked with Sarah Zack about AIS prevention steps that people can take to stop the spread of AIS – inspecting for and removing aquatic plants and animals from equipment, draining all water, disposing of live bait in the trash, and drying recreational equipment before visiting another waterbody. Bo Matthews strongly supports IISG’s AIS-prevention message, and even put a Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! sticker on the radio station truck to help spread the word.

The IISG AIS team will be visiting more shows and events all year to talk to boaters and fishermen throughout the Great Lakes region about aquatic invasive species. They will be hosting booths at the Illinois Fish and Feather Expo in Bloomington, IL January 25-27 and the Tinley Park Fishing Show in Tinley Park, IL February 9-10. 

For more information on aquatic invasive species or the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! campaign please visit IISG’s Stop Aquatic Hitchhiker’s page or www.protectyourwaters.net.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant AIS outreach team is part of the Illinois Natural History Survey Lake Michigan Biological Station, and is housed at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL.


In the news: Scoring a hole-in-one for habitat restoration

Holland, Michigan has taken a unique approach to providing plants and animals with a restored habitat - A disused country club was repurposed and rebuilt as a 120-acre county park complete with wetland restoration. 

From the Holland Sentinel
"Ottawa County purchased most of the 120 acres that once made up the golf course, leaving to another developer the old club house, parking lot and the 16 surrounding acres. That property remains untouched.

Many improvements were made to the greenspace this year. Thirty acres were restored as wetlands, TerHaar said. The few trees that needed to be removed were left in the low areas for animals to use. They may look like fallen trees just left there, but they serve the purpose of a natural habitat, he said.

The wetland restoration cost $750,000, TerHaar said. A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant funded most of that project. The county used $100,000 of park millage money to complete the work."
Read more about this great project at the link above.


Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s newsletter direct to your inbox

Whether you have been following Great Lakes news and issues for years or are just starting to get involved with and informed about them, IISG is very excited to offer another great way to stay in the know – Our newsletter, The Helm, is now available as an e-newsletter direct to your inbox.

In this inaugural edition, you can find out about the work of our own Kwamena Quagrainie who has played a pivotal role in opening hundreds of aquaculture businesses in several African nations. You’ll also see stories about how students are getting hands-on watershed and water science lessons related to the Great Lakes, a new development in the fight against invasive species, and more. 

You can read those stories individually at the links above, or read the latest issue of The Helm in its entirety by going here. Best of all, you can subscribe to the electronic version and receive future issues of the newsletter here.


In the news: Even more ways to enjoy Lake Michigan

Opening up the Lake Michigan shoreline to even more opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and more is the goal behind the Lake Michigan Water Trail Project. 

From the Kenosha News
"The proposed project includes a 1,640-mile trail on land and in water around the lake and through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, according to a December 2011DNR report.

The trail would cross 450 miles in Wisconsin and would be the second longest trail in the state, behind the 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the report said. The trail would be used by hikers, bicyclists and others and feature shoreline scenery as well as historic and cultural sites.

Wisconsin now has more than 190 places to get vessels into the water. There also are “many portions that would benefit from improvements,” the report said."
Campgrounds, water access points, groomed trails, and more would be a part of the plan, designed to boost Great Lakes tourism and also increase access to the lakes. Read the complete article above, as well as our previous blog post about the proposed trail.


IISG service learning course culminates in water protection projects

The University of Illinois’ Learning in Community (LINC) program provides service-learning opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields while earning course credit towards their degree. The program also gives various departments and units at the University a chance to expand their mission and get students involved in critical issues. 
This past fall term, the LINC Program offered a Sea Grant-focused course for eight University of Illinois students where they learned about environmental threats to local and regional waterways. They designed and executed projects based on what they had learned about proper disposal of unwanted medicines. 

At the conclusion of the course, students developed five activities focused on water issues, informing a larger audience about their importance and local impacts. 

The projects included: 

 - A presentation and activity for Urbana High School’s science club students

 - An article in the Green Observer and accompanying Facebook page about the importance of proper disposal of pharmaceuticals

 - Placement of brochures at the McKinley Health Center in coordination with the Directors of Health Education and the Pharmacy

 - A plan to spread the message about proper medicine disposal at student dormitories and to involve students in medicine collection events in 2013

The course and projects that resulted informed current University of Illinois students about important environmental issues, while giving them experience collaborating with each other, working with local organizations and businesses, and performing outreach to share the information they learned with residents of Champaign-Urbana.


In the news: New year brings new angle in the fight against AIS

A new law set to take effect in Illinois this year is aimed at helping to curb the spread of aquatic invasive species throughout Illinois' waterways.

From WBEZ 91.5:
"The agency has targeted 39 other plant and animal species as “high-risk” threats to the Great Lakes region. Now, the state of Illinois is hoping to put a dent in the critters’ spread with a law aimed at boaters.

The new state regulation, which goes into effect at the start of 2013, makes it illegal for a boat in one river or lake to pick up plants and then go into another body of water — at least without being cleaned first."
Read more and listen to the radio segment about the new law at the link above.