IISG’s Robin Goettel leads webinar on student stewardship

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Robin Goettel, associate director for education, recently led a webinar for the Great Lakes Earth Partnership for Schools. With more than 20 educators participating from four Great Lakes states, the webinar offered creative strategies, information, and collaboration on getting students involved in caring for the lakes. 

From the course description: 
"Based on successful Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant projects with educators, we’ll look at model student stewardship projects that have informed their communities about critical action steps to protect waterways. Environmental issues will include reducing contaminants in waterways through sensible disposal of unwanted medicine and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species to maintain biodiversity."
If you missed the webinar but would like to learn more about engaging students with research and community involvement around Great Lakes issues, the presentation and Q&A session were recorded and can be viewed here.


In the news: International Joint Commission recommends study and action on Great Lakes levels

A commission of U.S. and Canadian experts is recommending immediate study in to causes for the historically low levels in the Great Lakes, and possible actions that can be taken.

From The Wall Street Journal:
"In a report in March 2012, a panel formed by the International Joint Commission didn't take a stand on whether to try to fix the situation in the St. Clair, northeast of Detroit on the Michigan-Ontario border. After extended public hearings last summer, though, the commission is now recommending serious consideration by the two nations of how to slow the river's water flow.
'Although future water levels are uncertain, we cannot ignore the damage from record low water levels,' Joe Comuzzi, Canadian chairman of the commission, said in a statement. 'From Georgian Bay to Door County, from shoreline property owners to the shipping industry, we heard calls for action, and we urge governments to act in response to our recommendations.'"
Follow the link for the complete article, including the commission's recommendations. 


IISG-sponsored Knauss Fellows begin their positions

Two student applicants sponsored by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were selected for Knauss fellowships this year, and both have begun their respective positions working on issues related to protecting water resources. 

Najwa Obeid and Will Tyburczy both wrote in to update us on the positions they selected and the specific areas where they will be focusing their energies. 

"My host office is the Division of Ocean Sciences at NSF," writes Najwa. "I will be involved in activities under the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) cross-foundation portfolio, and in particular, the new Coastal SEES program. The goal of Coastal SEES is to support interdisciplinary research on the dynamic interactions between human behavior, physical forces, and ecological processes in the coastal zone. This program will support fundamental research to facilitate the nation’s ability to maintain sustainable coastal systems.

My involvement with Coastal SEES will allow me to broaden my interdisciplinary understanding by participating in the peer review panels and by conducting background research to help the program. I will also gain exposure to policy though my involvement in the National Ocean Policy Ecosystem-based Management interagency taskforce."

Meanwhile, Will is working in NOAA's Office of Program Planning and Integration, "which helps to coordinate activities across NOAA to ensure that the organization is using its resources effectively to meet NOAA’s mission and the nation’s needs. Specifically, I work on NOAA’s Regional Collaboration Network. The Network was formed to improve communication, coordination, and collaboration across NOAA’s programmatic line offices (Weather Service, Fisheries, Satellite and Information Service, Ocean Service, and Oceanic and Atmospheric Research). This is critical for issues that transcend traditional line office boundaries, such as providing stewardship for aquatic habitat or integrating NOAA’s emergency and disaster response capabilities. The network also provides a direct conduit between NOAA leadership and NOAA’s regional partners and stakeholders, allowing the administration to respond more rapidly and effectively to local issues and concerns. Recent examples of network activities include helping the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative to provide training on climate adaptation planning to 104 cities, and helping to prioritize and coordinate efforts in Alaska to manage tsunami debris.

Thus far in my fellowship, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects for PPI and the network. They include presenting NOAA leadership with the ongoing impact of federal sequestration on network activities, preparing proposals to improve the efficiency in oversight for network travel needs, and helping the network to develop documents that effectively convey to headquarters the key priorities, emerging issues, and network activities in each of the network’s eight regions. I am also participating in a NOAA-wide project to optimize the execution of NOAA’s corporate planning. These activities are improving my workplace skills, such as effective writing, project management, and facilitation, as well as helping me to learn about the diverse array of critical services that NOAA provides to communities across the nation."

Stay tuned for future blog posts to learn more about how these IISG fellows progress in their new positions. To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website.


Annual County Green Conference scheduled for May 23

Participants from both the public and private sectors will have the opportunity to network and share sustainability ideas at the fourth annual County Green Conference.

The one-day event, scheduled for May 23 in Grayslake, IL, will feature a number of guest speakers and breakout sessions all focused on sustainability as it relates to development, transportation, and water management. 

Visit the link above for more information and to register online.


IISG's Laura Kammin talks this weekend's DEA take back on Central Illinois news

IISG's Laura Kammin was featured on a local news segment describing the DEA's national prescription drug collection event scheduled for this Saturday, April 27. Laura provided some background information about the dangers that improperly disposed of medications can pose. Watch the segment below to learn more, and find out about collection locations throughout Illinois and the entire U.S. at the DEA's webpage.

Wandtv.com, NewsCenter17, StormCenter17, Central Illinois News-


IISG staff share proper pharmaceutical disposal info at U of I health fair

IISG science writer Anjanette Riley was in attendance at the University of Illinois' Student Health Fair April 17 and sent in this post about the event. 
At a booth in the heart of the Student Health Fair held yesterday at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, one important question could be heard throughout the day: If I shouldn’t flush them down the toilet, what am I supposed to do with my unused medications?

IISG’s Laura Kammin and Corrie Maxwell Layfield were there to communicate the importance of properly disposing of medicines. During the one-day event, Laura and Corrie talked with more than 130 people about the health and environmental risks posed by pharmaceutical pollution and how they could safely dispose of unwanted medicines. Visitors were also told about the nationwide medicine takeback event coming up on April 27 where they could drop off human and pet medications at locations throughout Illinois. 

Amid the buzz and bustle of the crowded fair, many students lingered at IISG’s booth with additional questions about research on the effects of pharmaceuticals in water and locations of permanent collection programs. Most were surprised to learn that pharmaceutical chemicals have been found in lakes and rivers and linked with changes in wildlife behavior and health. Those who had heard of the dangers of flushing unwanted medication were also surprised to hear that pills thrown in the trash could leach into ground water or find their way to wastewater treatment plants. 

But despite how much they knew about proper pharmaceutical disposal when they stopped at the booth, many left promising not to not to flush or throw away their medication in the future. 

“People get the “Don’t Flush” message,” said Kammin. “But it isn’t common knowledge yet that putting our unwanted meds in the trash just delays their trip to local water supplies. These students really got that message.”

Laura and Corrie also talked with university professors and fellow exhibitors interested in spreading the word about proper disposal. One professor wanted to incorporate pharmaceutical pollution into a class on environmental hazards. And exhibitors from health clinics and advocacy groups took IISG materials with information on collection programs and what to do when a program is not available to share with their patients and clients. 

Learn more about properly disposing of unwanted medicines at our UnwantedMeds.org site, and for more information about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 27 including a list of locations, visit the DEA event website.


IISG’s Robin Goettel receives the College of ACES’ most prestigious award

IISG Director Brian Miller congratulates Robin on her award
Robin Goettel, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s associate director for education, was recently recognized for her career-long commitment and contributions to improving natural resources. 

The Paul A. Funk Recognition Award is given annually “to faculty and academic professionals for outstanding achievement and major contributions to the betterment of agriculture, natural resources, and human systems.” 

Specifically, Robin’s work has extended and expanded water information and education in Illinois by introducing water science concepts, activities, curricula, and more to students and teachers throughout the state and the Midwest. 

Robin was one of three people selected for this prestigious award, and the video below highlights her achievements. 


Master Gardener workshop emphasizes native plants over invasive species

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Loyola University, and Living Habitats are combining efforts for a two-hour master gardener workshop on April 30, from 9:30-11:30 in the Linnaeus Room at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The workshop offers important information for gardeners working on water gardens and shoreline landscapes, providing them with alternatives to potentially invasive species. Native plants offer numerous benefits to the landscape, and planting them ensures that potentially invasive species are not introduced to the area. 

“Growing regionally native plants in your water gardens slows the spread of aquatic invasive species and creates habitat for birds and other wildlife,” said Greg Hitzroth, an aquatic invasive species specialist with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. “Native plants also require less maintenance because they are adapted to their local environments.”  

View a further description of the course here (PDF), and contact IISG’s Greg Hitzroth for more information.


IISG AIS coordinator receives Lake Guardian award

Each year the Illinois Lakes Management Association recognizes one outstanding professional or volunteer for their significant contributions to preserving and protecting the quality of Illinois lakes. 

The Lake Guardian award, given annually, acknowledges each winner’s career-long efforts to ensure healthy lakes throughout the state of Illinois, and this year Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Pat Charlebois was selected from among several nominees. 

Pat’s work on outreach efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species is especially important to protecting Illinois’ waterways. The development of tools to inform boaters, anglers, and the general public about the dangers of these species, as well as best management practices and regulations, continue to be instrumental in protecting delicate ecosystems, and Pat has lead the way in these areas. 

To learn more about our work on aquatic invasive species, visit our AIS page.


"Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers" temporary tattoos now available

IISG’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) team is now offering four Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! temporary tattoos as part of educational resources to raise awareness on AIS. These tattoos are a fun way to teach children about the spread of aquatic invasive species and their impact on local habitats.

If you’re interested in ordering tattoos, please visit the AIS webpage. There are four different species to choose from: Asian carp, Eurasian Watermilfoil, Fishhook Waterflea, and the Zebra Mussel. Individual species may be ordered in packs of 100 or opt for a combination pack including all four species (25 each species). 

These new items are just one part of our Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign, raising awareness about invasive species that can harm waterways and the environment. Look for our aquatic invasive species specialists at events, fishing tournaments, and more this summer, and keep an eye on the blog for additional information.


In the news: Illinois Governor Quinn announces Kankakee Clean Water Project

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois recently announced a $21.5 million investment to support a major upgrade of the aging water infrastructure in Kankakee. Among the many benefits, the upgrades and improvements would prevent pollution from entering the Kankakee River.

From the Illinois Government News Network:
"'Clean water is key to a community’s health and economic strength,' Governor Pat Quinn said. 'Today's announcement means jobs for the Kankakee region and improved water quality for local residents. The Illinois Clean Water Initiative is creating jobs by helping our communities meet the future needs of their families and businesses, while also cleaning up our rivers.'

The KRMA treatment plant serves the communities of Kankakee, Aroma Park, Bourbonnais, Bradley, Chebanse and Manteno. It currently serves a population of 68,884 customers, but that is projected to grow to about 104,000 by the year 2030. On average more than 25 million gallons flow through the plant every day.
The upgrades will bring the plant into compliance with current requirements for dissolved oxygen, ammonia and heavy metal limits in the plant’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System for the plant’s effluent discharges into the Kankakee River after treatment. Among the upgrades is a replacement of the anaerobic digestion system, adding flow tanks and replacing dechlorination equipment."
Read the complete announcement above, and find out more about the statewide clean water program here


In the news: Are the Great Lakes home to Pacific-like garbage patches?

The Pacific Ocean is the location of a very large collection of marine debris and waste nearly twice the size of the state of Texas. Dubbed the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," it is comprised of plastic and other materials that can be detrimental to animals and the environment. 

There is growing concern and evidence that the Great Lakes may be home to their own, similar garbage patches. 

From U.S. News & World Report
"Researchers say the Great Lakes are becoming polluted with the same plastic particles that have created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—an area of trash in the Pacific Ocean that's twice the size of Texas.

Researchers say that Lake Erie has up to 1.7 million tiny plastic particles per square mile, which is a greater density than some parts of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By definition, these so-called 'microplastics' have a diameter of less than 5 millimeters and are generally tough to see in the water."
Follow the link above for the complete article on this ongoing research.


IISG brings important aquative invasive species info to high school fishing tournament

While parents, coaches, and friends gathered around to watch high school anglers show off their catch from a fishing tournament held early this week, IISG’s Sarah Zack was onsite to introduce competitors and on-lookers to simple practices that can prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Hosted by the Illini Bass Fishing Club, the event brought high school clubs from across Illinois to Clinton Lake on April 7 to see who could catch the most and the biggest bass. The tournament, one of few held at the high school level each year, gave IISG’s AIS outreach team an important opportunity to talk with young anglers about the threat of AIS to local waterways.  

“Talking with the kids now plants that seed for future years,” said Brian Bevill, coach of the Illini Bluffs High School Bass Fishing Club. 

During the few hours that IISG was onsite at Clinton Lake, Sarah talked with dozens of anglers and boaters from across Illinois. Frequent announcements from the tournament emcee also reminded the audience of the negative impacts AIS can have on the health of aquatic environments. Many of the people who visited the IISG booth had heard about Asian carp. But fewer people knew about the need to remove, drain, and dry all equipment after a day on the water. Most were also interested in learning about a new Illinois law that makes it illegal to drive with plants or mud still clinging to boats and trailers. 

This High School Open is one of many fishing tournaments IISG’s AIS outreach team plans to attend this year in both Illinois and Indiana. This season especially, the team hopes to reach out to more amateur and semi-professional anglers with information about how they can prevent the spread of invasive species. 

“These anglers want to make sure they’re doing their part to prevent the spread of AIS because they know that is an important part of preserving the sport of fishing for the future,” said Sarah. “It is encouraging that the message is being embraced. I was especially excited to work with the Illini Bass Fishing Club because of their commitment to AIS prevention.”  

Sunday’s tournament was the second High School Open hosted by the Illini Bass Fishing Club in as many years. 

“We started this because we wanted to show kids in high school that if they care about fishing enough, and work hard enough, they can take it somewhere,” said Luke Stoner, executive administrator for the club. “What we really like to see are smiling faces and big old bass.”

This year, 134 students fought to catch the most and biggest fish. For many of the teams, the tournament marked their first day on the water this season. But after months of casting practice and learning how to “flip and pitch” the lure to trick the bass into biting, the student anglers were prepared.

Three teams brought in bags of fish weighing more than 17 lbs, and three fish came in at over 6 lbs. Their successes at this event will help students qualify to compete in sectional and state competitions slated for later this year. 

“The competition in fishing is unlike any other sport,” said Kyle Sweet, a senior at Illini Bluffs High School in Glasford, IL. “In football, for example, you only play one other team at a time. Here we are competing with 67 teams and the fish at the same time.”

For more information about how to prevent the spread of AIS, visit the IISG website. And watch for a new public service announcement this June with how-to information on basic steps to take before leaving a marina or boat ramp.


In the news: Study confirms persistent pharmaceutical pollution in nation's rivers

Studies continue to show the presence and persistence of pharmaceuticals and other personal care products in waterways throughout the country. And improperly disposed-of medicines have been shown to have numerous detrimental effects on plants, animals, and environmental processes. 

A forthcoming paper in Ecological Applications confirms the presence of pharmaceuticals in rivers throughout the U.S. 

From Nature World News
"As it turns out, the antihistamine diphenhydramine - used in treating allergic symptoms as well as motion sickness, insomnia and a cold - decreased a biofilm's photosynthesis by 99 percent in addition to drops in respiration. And it didn't stop there. The chemical compound actually caused a change in present bacterial species, including a reduction of a group that digests compounds produced by plants and algae.

Nor was it the only one tested to render similar results; in fact, all the pharmaceuticals involved in the study had a measurable and negative impact on biofilm respiration."
Read the complete article at the link above, and find more information about the study at our UnwantedMeds.org site.


IISG-funded contest raises Asian carp awareness with student art

Students in grades K-12 are invited to participate in an art contest designed to raise awareness about Asian carp. The contest is one part of outreach efforts employed by Marcelo Garcia, director at the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory, and his team to train people on how to use their modeling tool, as well as educate legislators and the general public about the importance of preventing Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. 

Students are asked to submit an original drawing of their idea of how Lake Michigan could be protected from the invasive species. Winning students (one each from grade groups K-5, 6-8, and 9-12) will each receive an Amazon Kindle Fire. 

University of Illinois researchers, with help from USGS and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, are developing the decision-making tool to prevent, manage, and control Asian carp populations in tributary waterways. The tool, FluEgg, would provide decision makers with information about how best to prevent the spread of these fish into Lake Michigan. By simulating the transport and flow of the species’ eggs through various water bodies, prevention methods can be theorized, tested, and improved before implementation, providing planners with more information about what may or may not work for their specific needs. 

Garcia, principal investigator on the project, was excited about the contest and the outreach portions of the project. “Thanks to the support of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant we have been able to disseminate the advantages of computational modeling to predict the transport and fate of Asian carp eggs in rivers and streams," he said.

Follow the link for complete contest details (PDF). Deadline for entries is Monday, April 15.


In the news: IDNR explores new ways to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources continues to explore every option to keep Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, and one of the latest efforts involves distributing new fishing nets.

From The Daily Northwestern:
"In an effort to keep the lake clean, IDNR recently placed orders for brand new fishing nets, which will be distributed to visiting commercial fishermen who may be carrying carp residue beyond the barrier. IDNR often invites commercial fishermen into Lake Michigan so they can catch invasive species, Irons said. But their net residue may be causing inaccurate eDNA tests and ultimately reducing the IDNR’s ability to combat carp invasion.
The new nets will be distributed to fishermen before they cross the electric barrier and are guaranteed to be carp free, Irons said. IDNR is also discussing new methods of cleaning and bleaching fishing boats to reduce the presence of carp slime. Irons cites collaboration with the ACRCC as a huge factor in the ongoing fight against carp."
Follow the link above for the full story about these and other efforts.


Students can study the Great Lakes aboard 7-day cruise

Pangaea Exploration, an organization that leads research and marine exploration trips around the world, is committed to educating people about marine conservation and the importance of water. They work towards that goal by offering a variety of expeditions on various oceans and lakes, including the Great Lakes. 

This year, they are offering a Great Lakes expedition for undergraduate students. Traveling from Montreal to Toronto, the 7-day course focuses on freshwater science and scientific communications. The voyage is scheduled July 13-20, and includes hands-on experience with data collection, sampling and research reporting, and more. 

Other Great Lakes expeditions are available, including trips from Cleveland to Toronto, Cleveland to Chicago, and more.

Visit the link above for the Great Lakes expedition details, and visit their site to find out more about other upcoming tours and learning opportunities.


EPA invites educators to explore the Great Lakes aboard the Lake Guardian

Teachers from the Great Lakes region are invited to join the U.S. EPA and the Center for Great Lakes Literacy for a week-long cruise aboard a research ship learning freshwater science about Lake Ontario.

From the flyer
“The Center for Great Lakes Literacy and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network invite 4th-12th grade teachers and non-formal educators to participate in a week-long workshop on Lake Ontario, aboard the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 180-foot research vessel (R/V) Lake Guardian, beginning and ending in Youngstown, NY (near Buffalo).”
Last year’s voyage explored Lake Huron and gave the fourteen teachers on board a chance to do some real, hands-on work collecting and analyzing data and learning about Lake Huron’s food web. 

This year, teachers will have the chance to learn about Lake Ontario’s ecology, geology, water quality, and more. There will also be educational resources for developing curricula and incorporating Great Lakes science into classroom activities. 

Teachers can apply for this terrific opportunity through the New York Sea Grant page.


Teachers can win an underwater robot for their classrooms

An IISG-sponsored contest gives teachers the chance to win educational tool kits that teach students engineering, science, and math concepts through the hands-on construction of underwater robots.
The SeaPerch Grant Competition for Educators grades 6-12 supplies winning teachers with a basic SeaPerch kit for their students. Teachers can enter at that link, and the deadline is April 20. 

Accompanying materials for lessons, exercises, and more can be downloaded for free at the SeaPerch teacher page.

SeaPerch is an underwater robotics project that helps teachers bring remotely operated vehicle technology and water science lessons into their curricula, offering a hands-on experience for students and engaging classroom exercises. View our blog post about a SeaPerch workshop earlier this year to learn more about the program as well.


Nationwide prescription drug disposal event scheduled for April 27th

Walgreens stores and several other businesses and organizations are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration for a nationwide medicine collection event this month.

The DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents of all states will have the opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted medications at several locations.

In Central Illinois, local police departments will anonymously collect both prescription and over-the-counter medications (including pet medications) at participating Walgreens stores in Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet, Rantoul, Danville, Monticello, Effingham, Taylorville, Pana, Mattoon, Charleston, Bourbonnais, and Kankakee. You can view the DEA’s directory of locations to find specific event details for your area.

The event comes in the wake of a growing number of studies showing that pharmaceutical chemicals commonly found in rivers, groundwater, and drinking water are harmful to fish and other wildlife. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to changes in behavior and impaired development in many aquatic species.   

“Awareness of the risks is growing, but finding a collection isn’t always easy,” said Laura Kammin, pollution prevention program specialist at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. “The DEA Take-Back event makes it simple to get rid of medications you no longer need.”

This is the sixth DEA-led pharmaceutical collection day held since 2010. In that time, more than 2 million pounds of medication have been collected by law enforcement agencies and community partners nationwide. 

To learn more about the effects of improper pharmaceutical disposal, and for information on how to store and dispose of medication safely when take-back programs are not available, visit unwantedmeds.org.