Frigid photos of frozen Lake Michigan lighthouses

While we eagerly welcome the arrival of spring and wait for its warmth, take a look at some of these terrific photos of icy lighthouses from environmental photographer Tom Gill.

From Great Lakes Echo:
"Tom Gill, an environmental photographer, has a soft spot for frozen lighthouses. The slideshow above showcases photos of the St. Joseph Pier Lighthouse and the South Haven South Pier Lighthouse, which become coated in ice after Lake Michigan waves crash and freeze. More can be found on Gill’s Flickr and blog."
Visit the links above for more photos. And while you're thinking warm thoughts, be sure to mark your calendar (and register) for the IAGLR 2013 conference, June 2-6.


Scientists and researchers invited for IAGLR Educator Day

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is offering an opportunity for Great Lakes scientists to share data and ideas with K-12 teachers at this year’s upcoming IAGLR conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

IISG will be hosting an Educator Day on June 3, with a number of events and opportunities planned for teachers to expand on their Great Lakes science knowledge and issue-based lessons in their classrooms. 

The main event will be a lunchtime roundtable between scientists and educators, offering an opportunity for current and ongoing research to be discussed while finding ways for teachers to incorporate that information into their curricula. It’s also a terrific chance for educators to exchange ideas about bringing more applied and hands-on science into lessons for their students.

In coordination with the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, the roundtable discussion helps serve the needs of teachers and researchers alike. Teachers will also be able to attend numerous scientific sessions during the day and the evening poster session at IAGLR for further networking and discussion. 

Scientists and researchers are needed for the roundtable discussion. If you are interested in participating and sharing your research projects and progress with a wider audience, as well as finding out about how your scientific work can apply directly to classrooms, contact Robin Goettel, associate director for education. And check back here for more information about IAGLR events as the conference approaches.


In the news: Concern over Asian Carp presence in Lake Erie grows

Researchers, several agencies, and a variety of industries have grown increasingly concerned that Asian carp DNA recently found in Lake Erie points to the presence of the highly invasive species.

From the Toronto Star

"'There are other explanations ... for how the DNA could have got there,' said Lodge. 'They are possible, but not plausible.'

According to Notre Dame’s Center for Aquatic Conservation, plants and animals shed cellular material (like traces of DNA) into their surrounding environment, and this material can be collected and analyzed. Environmental DNA extracted from water samples can be used to determine if a target species has been in the vicinity. 

Asian carp are a group of highly invasive bottom feeders that have infiltrated the waterways of the American Midwest. The fear is they could disrupt Lake Erie’s ecology if they increase to large numbers." 
Follow the link above for the complete article. 


IAGLR 2013 conference registration now open

This year’s conference of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) is now open for registration. Attendees who register before April 19 will also be eligible for a reduced registration fee. 

The conference is scheduled for June 2-6 on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. and features a packed program with opportunities for educators, researchers, outreach specialists, students, and more. There are also plenary speakers scheduled for each day covering a variety of topics related to the Great Lakes. And Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will have a reception on Tuesday evening to celebrate our 30th anniversary and look forward to the next 30 years of work protecting and preserving the Great Lakes. 

There is also a day set aside with programs specifically for educators, and you can find out more about attending and applying for educator day here (PDF). 

Register now for this year’s IAGLR at the registration link above.


In the news: Genetic mapping may help solve the invasive lamprey dilemma

Genetic mapping of sea lamprey DNA may provide researchers some insight into controlling the invasive species, and may even lead to human health benefits.

From the Great Lakes Echo
"Sea lamprey – unlike the silver and American brook species – come from the Atlantic Ocean, accidentally introduced to the Great Lakes through shipping canals.

Like the native silver lamprey, sea lamprey are parasitic, with sharp teeth and a sucking disc mouth that allows them to feed on the blood of host fish. Also like the silver lamprey, they are harmless in their early stages of development. 

Sea lamprey spend the first four years of their life as larvae in the soft bottom and banks of lakes or streams, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. 

As they mature, they change into the harmful predator threatening the Great Lakes today, said Yu-Weng Chung-Davidson, a senior research associate on Li’s team." 

Follow the link above to read the complete article.


Celebrating 30 years of IISG with 30 milestone accomplishments

We've been celebrating our 30th anniversary and have put together a series of 30 milestones from over the course of the years. 

As we look forward to the next 30 years of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, visit our photo album on Facebook to see pictures and descriptions of these milestones. You can also view and download our 30 Milestones publication here

Join us as we continue into the next three decades of protecting and preserving the beauty and health of the southern Lake Michigan shoreline and surrounding areas.


IISG in the news: Connecting kids to the importance of river health and science literacy

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University's Water Institute partnered to bring current water projects and the importance of remediation, cleanup, and environmental health to the classroom. 

ValpoLife.com interviewed IISG's Caitie McCoy about the project, which provided science education materials and lessons to both 4th grade and high school freshmen classes. 

From ValopoLife.com
"Caitie McCoy is an environmental social scientist with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. She is a liaison to U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office and performs community outreach for the Great Lakes Legacy Act, collaborating with federal, state, and local government and entities. Feel free to submit comments or questions to Caitie about the program at cmccoy2@illinois.edu.

1) How did you teach sediment remediation to schoolchildren?

'We made monthly visits to the classrooms and delivered lesson plans we designed with the teachers. For the 4th grade students, we used a habitat framework. Young children relate well to animals and understand concepts like shelter and resources. Each lesson (planting, habitat & the food chain, pollution, remediation & restoration) reinforced sediment as habitat for aquatic organisms. For freshmen, we highlighted how contaminated sediment can impact benefits provided by the Great Lakes. We focused on the action of the remedial process, including equipment mobilization, sediment disposal, and community outreach...'"
Read the rest of Caitie's interview at the link above to learn more about this program, and visit our education page for additional projects and ideas about bringing Great Lakes science and water issues into the classroom. 


In the news: Following the fish in the Great Lakes

Great Lakes fish are always on the move, but their migratory patterns and their movement in the lakes is not fully understood.

That's the basis for a partnership between the Shedd Aquarium and several other agencies to look into two specific migrations. By doing so researchers hope to better understand how invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss, among other factors, have affected some of the Great Lakes' most important species.

From National Geographic:
"Lake whitefish is the largest commercial fishery in Lake Michigan, and it’s an economically and ecologically important species throughout the Great Lakes. In addition to its financial significance for fisheries, the lake whitefish also provides living evidence that helps us investigate the impacts of anthropogenic activity in Lake Michigan and associated tributaries. Habitat degradation via sawmill pollution and deforestation wiped out lake whitefish migrations in the early 20th century, causing lake whitefish migrations to vanish. Yet, recently, we’ve seen some of those migrations reappear. This may be due to the 1972 Clean Water Act, which possibly improved water quality enough to make spawning possible in some of the lake’s river habitats. If we can understand why certain migrations have reemerged among Lake Michigan populations, we can inform conservation and management strategies for Lake whitefish populations and migratory species in and beyond the Great Lakes."
Follow the link above to read about the projects to study both lake whitefish and northern pike, two important Great Lakes species. 


In the news: Signs of life in some very, very chilly waters

The Great Lakes may experience some pretty cold weather during the winter months, but that's nothing like what newly discovered life in a subglacial Antarctic lake experiences. 

From Live Science
"Water retrieved from subglacial Lake Whillans contains about 1,000 bacteria per milliliter (about a fifth of a teaspoon) of lake water, biologist John Priscu of Montana State University told Nature News. Petri dishes swiped with samples of the lake water are already growing colonies of microbes at a good rate, Nature News reported."
Visit the link above for more info, and read another article about the remote submarine used to explore the lake here (complete with video footage). 


In the news: If not addressed, toxic algae blooms may continue to grow

Lake Erie has been one of the Great Lakes most impacted by the presence and growth of toxic algae blooms. The problem is likely to worsen without significant efforts from cities and farms near the lakes.

From The Detroit Free Press

"Blue-green algae is native to Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes and the smallest by volume. But the lake has been plagued by increasingly large masses of the substance over the past decade. An outbreak in 2011 spread across huge sections of the central and western basins.

The blooms produce toxins and suck oxygen from the water, creating "dead zones" where little if anything can live. Dogs have died after swimming in the lake and licking themselves, said Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, who attended the Windsor session. Water contaminated with blue-green algae has been fatal to people in some places, though not in North America, he said."
Read the complete article at the link above, and visit the Ohio Sea Grant page for more information about algae information specific to Lake Erie.


In the news: Aquaponics could revolutionize urban eating

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, along with several other Sea Grant programs, universities, and researchers, have been involved in advising and establishing a number of aquaculture operations in the U.S. and around the world, including some aquaponics facilities. This video from our friends at Purdue University provides a terrific amount of detail about aquaponics and how the process could help sustainably grow food.

With the ability to grow plants and fish in a mutually beneficial system, aquaponics presents an especially viable and sustainable option to provide healthy and locally grown food for urban areas. 

From The Atlantic Cities
“Aquaponics is a method of combined fish and vegetable farming that requires no soil. The farmer cultivates freshwater fish (aquaculture) and plants (hydroponics) in a recirculating water system that exchanges nutrients between the two. Wastewater from the fish serves as organic fertilizer for the plants, while the plants clean the water of fish feces and urine. The net result: a 90 percent reduction in freshwater use compared with conventional fish farming, and a significant reduction in added nutrients such as fossil fertilizers. The system can be run without pesticides and, because the fish environment is spacious and clean, without antibiotics…

In the lab, the pumps made gushy sounds at regular intervals. The water dripped. As the plants’ leaves evaporated moisture, I could hear the place breathe. I picked a ripe, red tomato from a vine. This lab, I sensed, could morph into an urban oasis: a lush, breathing organism inside the city. Unlike static green spaces like parks, this would be an actual farm as well as a place of tranquility in the city — not to mention a space that could generate the food to feed that city, with minimal harm to the environment or human health, just steps from residents’ tables.”
Follow the link above to the complete article, and visit our aquaculture webpage for more information.


Coordinated efforts on PPCPs begin at first national workshop

Last month, representatives from eight Sea Grant programs attended a two-day workshop in Jacksonville, FL hosted by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Designed as an opportunity for specialists, educators, and communicators to build a national partnership on reducing pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the nation’s waterways, the event was a first step in working towards coordinating these efforts.

Funded by the NOAA National Sea Grant Office, the workshop brought together a wide range of input from people who have extensive experience working on the issue of PPCPs in waterways, allowing for a tremendous collaboration.

Out of the two-day workshop came a unified message: The ways people choose to use and dispose of PPCPs impacts water quality everywhere.

In months to come, workshop participants will continue to work together to develop programs that carry that message to local communities.

“This is a national problem that requires local action. Sea Grant’s new working group is well-suited to tackle this issue because each program is trusted in their communities,” said Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention program specialist. “We are sharing our resources to create a strong and effective national partnership.”

The meeting also provided an opportunity for representatives from New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs to mentor others by sharing their award-winning work on reducing PPCPs in the Great Lakes basin. These and other discussions opened the door for collaboration with the North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Oregon, and Southern California Sea Grant programs.

IISG has been providing communities with information about how to start safe, legal medicine collection programs since 2006. So far, IISG has helped 63 communities in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan with single-day or permanent collection programs, ensuring the proper disposal of 9.65 million pills (81,813 pounds of unused medication).

For more information on IISG’s efforts to spread the word about proper use and disposal of PPCPs visit www.unwantedmeds.org.


In the news: Acidification may harm the Great Lakes

Carbon dioxide is contributing to a change in the chemical makeup of the world's oceans, which is known as ocean acidification. This process may make it more difficult for shellfish and coral to survive in this new environment. But the oceans may not be the only bodies of water threatened by this dangerous change. 

From The Great Lakes Echo
The increased carbon dioxide changing the water chemistry and ecology of oceans may also be affecting freshwater and the organisms that live in it.
“Based on our preliminary modeling and understanding of carbon cycles, we think similar acidification trends will take place in the Great Lakes to the degree that researchers are expecting in the oceans,” said Galen McKinley, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Wisconsin.
Visit the Great Lakes Echo for the full article, which details potential impacts that these changes in water chemistry may have on the Great Lakes ecosystems.


Clean Boats Crew leaders needed for 2013 boating season

The Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, and the University of Illinois are hiring Clean Boats Crew site leaders again this year in time for the 2013 summer boating season. 

Clean Boats Crew site leaders will work in Lake and Cook Counties, IL, and Lake and Porter Counties, IN, educating the public about aquatic invasive species and how these species are unintentionally spread. Site leaders will manage a team of volunteers and be supervised by a program coordinator.
These positions are an excellent opportunity to gain experience while being directly involved in education and outreach to an audience that will be crucial in helping prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The links above associated with the counties will take you to the specific position information for either Illinois or Indiana. Applications are being accepted now until March 22. 

Information about volunteer opportunities at these locations throughout the summer will be posted later this spring.  

Find out more about the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign and the Clean Boats Crew at our CBC page.