2013 APEX Awards recognize two Sea Grant projects for publication excellence

The APEX awards are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was selected this year for two separate awards.

IISG’s Laura Kammin was recognized for the creation of our proper medicine disposal website UnwantedMeds.org. Working with Jane Scherer at the University of Illinois’ Extension program, Laura created the website and blog, providing valuable information about the dangers that improper medicine disposal can pose to the environment, steps that people can take to prevent medicines from getting into the wrong hands or contaminating the environment, and information about local take-back events and collection programs. 

Additionally, the IISG communications team of Irene Miles, Anjanette Riley, and Susan White were recognized for the publication of our 30 milestones, celebrating and highlighting a range of accomplishments in the first 30 years of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program. You can browse the milestones with photographs in our Facebook album

You can also read about last year’s APEX-winning curriculum project here.


Jens Jensen Park water garden goes native

Visitors to Jens Jensen Park in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park will notice a change to the landscape this year. The Fountain of the Blue Heron, nestled between the park’s grassy land and thick forestry, has been transformed into a water garden. But this is no ordinary water garden. Like much of the park surrounding it, this garden was built with plants that are native to northeastern Illinois. 

The fountain was redesigned by the Park District of Highland Park and the Chicago Botanic Garden, with funding assistance from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, to give park visitors a closer look at how native aquatic plants like lizard’s tail, water willow, and sweet flag can be used to create beautiful, healthy water gardens. 

“Native plantings have gotten a bit of a bad rap,” said Bob Kirschner, director of restoration ecology at the Chicago Botanic Garden. “They are often seen as weedy and unorganized. We wanted to demonstrate how you can use native aquatic plants to achieve the ornamental look many people desire.” 

Using native aquatic plants like those in Jens Jensen Park is about more than just creating striking water gardens, though. Growing native species also helps curb the spread of invasive aquatic plants that outcompete native species and upset food webs. Invasive species common in water gardens are already threatening the health of Illinois waterways. For example, the fast-growing Brazilian Elodea—typically sold in aquarium stores and water nurseries under the name “Anacharis”—has been found in several lakes and ponds in Illinois, including in a community not far from Highland Park. Like many invasive plants, this waterweed grows in dense mats that block out sunlight needed by other species and hinders water recreation. And it is nearly impossible to remove once it has been introduced. 

“Once an invasive species has become established, the negative impacts on the environment cannot be fully reversed,” said Greg Hitzroth, an IISG aquatic invasive species outreach specialist. “By growing non-invasive species, gardeners can help prevent a new population of harmful species from taking root in local environments.” 

The over one dozen species of aquatic plants at home in Jens Jensen Park will also provide food for birds, insects, and other wildlife. Native plants are especially important for pollinators like bees and butterflies that keep northeastern Illinois’ natural areas flowering. 

Visit IISG’s Aquatic Plants in Trade website to learn more about aquatic invasive plants and read this water gardening brochure to learn how you can help curb the spread.  


Invasive carp turned delicious taste test at recent bowfishing tournament

Katherine Touzinsky, a graduate student at Purdue University and 2014 Knauss Fellowship finalist, set out to prove to skeptics that Asian carp really does taste great. The taste test was held in conjunction with the Houston Bowfishing Classic tournament along the Wabash River outside Lafayette, Indiana.

Katherine and Angie Archer, fellowship specialist with IISG, served up tasty fried fish strips which Katherine calls “silvertips”, a wordplay combination of silver carp and wing tips. Many of the bowfishermen have caught Asian carp but had never tried this mild white fish. After watching friends enjoy the crispy fish, they were encouraged to grab a piece. The reactions ranged from “so-so” to “delicious,” with a few coming back for seconds (and even thirds).

The Houston Bowfishing Classic shoots are in their eighth year and are quickly gaining in popularity and notoriety among Midwestern bowfisherman. Katherine’s project, entitled “Winning Back the Wabash—Clean ‘em Out and Cook ‘em Up,” was funded by a Purdue Sustainability Office grant. The goal of the grant project is to help foster environmental stewardship and invasive species control through outreach and active engagement of community members. To help with control, the tournament offered an award to the most silver and bighead carp caught by a team, and another award for the biggest fish (by weight). The 14 teams hauled in 171 Asian carp, with the biggest silver carp weighing in at 11.3 pounds and a bighead carp that weighed 14.5 pounds. 

The Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship, awarded annually through National Sea Grant, provides post-graduates the opportunity to work with legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. for one year. Students who have an interest in oceanic and Great Lakes research or marine policies affecting our natural resources are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit the fellowship page on our website.


Student art contest focusing on Asian carp announces winners

Back in April, we announced an art contest that asked K-12 students to share their ideas of how Lake Michigan could be protected from Asian carp. The results are now in, and three students in the Champaign area have been crowned the winners. 

The awards go to Kylie Jackson, a third grader from Mahomet, and Lindsay Donovan and Nicole Dudley, both kindergarteners from Champaign. Each of their drawings depicts different ways to control the spread of Asian carp by keeping eggs from hatching. Kyle, Lindsay, and Nicole were chosen from 67 entries. Drawings were judged on creativity, artistic design, and relevancy to the topic.  

The contest, funded by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, is part of ongoing efforts to introduce people to a new modeling tool that resource managers and lawmakers can use to prevent the spread of Asian carp. The model, known as FluEgg, can help decision makers identify where in the Great Lakes the invasive fish could become established. Because carp eggs have to stay afloat to hatch, Asian carp need to spawn in fast-moving streams. In order to thrive in the lakes, they would need access to places where there is a lot of turbulence, such as downstream from dams and spillways. Resource managers can use FluEgg to find those areas where conditions are right and test how effective prevention methods would be. 

Developed by University of Illinois researchers Tatiana Garcia and Marcelo Garcia, FluEgg is the first of its kind to consider factors like water temperature and turbulence as well as biological data about early life stages to answer the question of whether Asian carp can become established in the Great Lakes. The model has already revealed that the Sandusky River in Ohio—a tributary to Lake Erie that was though unsuitable for spawning—could be a breeding ground for Asian carp during warm summer months. In the coming months, Tatiana and Marcelo plan to use FluEgg to evaluate more tributaries. 

To learn more about Asian carp development and FluEgg, visit asiancarp.illinois.edu.


Register now for Governor's Conference on the Management of the Illinois River

The 14th Biennial Governor's Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System is scheduled for October 1-3 this year, with a wide range of sessions, tours, symposiums, and more on the agenda. 

From the Peoria Journal-Star
"The 14th Biennial Governor's Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System runs Oct. 1-3 at Peoria's Four Points by Sheraton, with the theme 'Working Locally - Reaching Globally.'

In past years, the conference has touched on how the river affects industry and agriculture, but the river's impact on the economy has never been a focus until now, said conference co-chairman Christine Davis, of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

'It's a chance to celebrate the river's vital role in the local economy while reminding people that the tie is there and needs to be protected,' Davis said.

Keynote speakers including Caterpillar public affairs director James Baumgartner, Shauman Farm's Wendell Shauman, and Ryan Burchett of Mississippi River Distilling Company will discuss how the river plays a role in industry and agriculture, conservation and Illinois's place in the global economy.

Additionally, the Illinois Water Resources Center will be there staffing an exhibit and hosting a workshop on last year’s drought, its causes and results, and preparing for similar climate conditions in the future."
Visit the conference website for more information and to register. Early registration closes September 12. And visit the Illinois Water Resources Center webpage for additional information.


Purdue Day offers opportunity to share invasive species info

Purdue Day at the Indiana State Fair turned out to be a great place for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant specialists to show off the Asian carp bag toss game. Fair goers of all ages tried their hand at making the shot, and they got to learn more about invasive Asian carp at the same time.

With each throw, Purdue graduate students Zoe Almeida and Allison Hyrcik and IISG specialists Kara Salazar and Angie Archer quizzed the visitors on facts related to Asian carp. Many were eager to learn more and to find out about actions they could take to control the spread of Asian carp.

Attracting close to a million visitors each year, the Indiana State Fair offered specialists the opportunity to talk with Hoosiers from all areas of the state, from the southern border near the Ohio River to the northern part of the state around Lake Michigan. With so many waterways throughout Indiana, visitors to the booth were interested to learn more about invasive species and steps that could be taken to protect the state’s natural resources. 

Find out more about invasive species at our website.


In the news: Aquaculture a growing food field in Indiana

Aquaculture, the business of raising fish for commercial sale, is a growing part of Indiana's agriculture practice, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's Kwamena Quagrainie is just one of the people helping to make that possible. 

From Purdue University
"Estimated sales from Indiana fish farms amounted to more than $15 million in 2012, an increase from $3.5 million in 2006, according to the publication Economic Importance of the Aquaculture Industry in Indiana. There are about 50 fish producers in Indiana, compared with 18 just seven years ago.

'While aquaculture is not the most well-known industry in Indiana's agriculture sector, it is definitely present and very important to the state's economy,' Kwamena K. Quagrainie, aquaculture marketing specialist in Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics, said in the report. He conducted the study with graduate student Megan C. Broughton.

'The industry has seen steady growth over the past few years, and it is important to know exactly how much economic activity is associated with aquaculture in Indiana,' Quagrainie said.

Indiana's aquaculture industry ranges from small-scale producers raising fish in their backyards to large-scale producers growing fish to sell in national and international markets, the report says. The industry includes production of fish for human food, ornamental fish for aquariums and recreational fish that are stocked in private and public ponds and lakes."
Follow the link above to read the complete article, and learn more at our aquaculture page.


Welcome aboard to our new fiscal coordinator

With all of the programs, workshops, seminars, and projects that our staff work on, someone needs to keep track of the funds. Thankfully our latest staff member is up to the task.

Jenna Zieman is now in charge of the books as IISG’s new fiscal coordinator. She comes to the program most recently from Northwestern University where she was a research administrator in the Department of Medicine. Jenna, who is located on the University of Illinois campus, is not new to the area. She received her undergraduate degree in Champaign-Urbana. She then went on to earn not one, but two Master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—in information science and in social work.


New manual provides the how-tos of outdoor water conservation

A collaboration between Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Planning Council, and several other agencies across Illinois and Indiana, the new Outdoor Water Use Manual is now available from NWPA. Completed as part of a larger goal to help reduce and curb outdoor water use, the manual provides necessary information on discretionary water use, costs to utilities and municipalities, and steps to develop more efficient outdoor water use policies and plans.

The manual comes just as the height of the summer season has led some areas to enact strict watering policies or, in the recent case of Lake Forest, institute a temporary ban on outdoor watering altogether. 

Peter Wallers of the NWPA writes on page four of the manual, “The significance of this guide and what separates it from the average lawn care guide is its emphasis on efficient lawn care, using as little water and fertilizer as possible while achieving maximum performance for your lawn.” 

By providing information and planning steps for proper water and fertilizer usage, the manual offers not only steps for reducing current use levels, but gives municipalities a way to plan for sustainably meeting their needs well into the future.

For more information about this project and other water usage materials, contact IISG’s Margaret Schneeman.


Lake Michigan sampling trip reaps plastic microbeads

Last week, IISG’s Anjanette Riley and Laura Kammin set sail on Lake Michigan to learn more about plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Anjanette wrapped up the trip by writing about the experience: 
The sampling process started like many do - with a countdown that sets off a whirlwind of action. On three, some in the 5-person crew would hoist a 4-foot-long trawl overboard while another recorded the time, the boat’s location and speed, and the direction and force of the wind. Another person was responsible for adjusting the sails and the boat’s direction to keep it moving at a slow-but-steady speed. The next 30 minutes—as exact as possible—would be a bit calmer. The trawl skimmed the surface of Lake Michigan, trapping everything that crossed its path in a narrow net. And the crew got ready to process the sample. The real work started when the trawl was pulled from water. Everything caught in the net—large and small, natural and man-made—had to be moved to a plastic bottle so its contents could be examined later. It sounds simple enough, but the netting is small and getting tiny beads of plastic or nearly-microscopic animals into the bottle required a multi-step process that took time. Step 1: use a spray gun to get everything out of the net and into a tightly-woven sieve. Step 2: spray everything to one side of the sieve. Step 3: spoon the larger contents into a plastic bottle. Step 4: drain everything else into the bottle. Step 5: pour in some rubbing alcohol. Step 6: label the plastic bottle with the sample number and tape it up to prevent it from spilling. And repeat. 

During the three days Laura and I were aboard the sailboat Free at Last, the crew collected 16 samples from all across southern Lake Michigan. With us on the boat was Stiv Wilson, communications director for the plastics research group 5 Gyres, Nick Williamson, an undergraduate research assistant at SUNY Fredonia, and Conor Smith, the ship captain. Together, we made a triangle from the Chicago area to just south of the Wisconsin border to South Haven, Michigan and back, collecting water samples about every hour and a half.  
We found bits and pieces of plastic in several of the samples. Most of what we saw were tiny microbeads, like the kind used as exfoliants in face and body washes. On the second day, though, we pulled a plastic cigarette wrapper from the lake. Beyond the reach of the trawl, we also saw balloons, plastic bags and bottle lids, a straw, and a couple other pieces of unrecognizable plastics riding the waves. But these were just the things large enough to be seen. We won’t know for sure how much plastic is in the lake until Sherri Mason and her research team at SUNY Fredonia examine the samples under a microscope over the next few months.  
The findings from this trip will be added to the results of previous research excursions on northern Lake Michigan and each of its sister lakes to get a more complete picture of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Initial results have already revealed that the lakes have a higher concentration than some parts of the world’s oceans, where plastics have been a major environmental concern for years. 
Because plastics float and break down very slowly over time, everything from chemical contaminants to bacteria and invasive species can latch on and catch a ride to new ecosystems. These sampling trips are the first to examine whether the Great Lakes may be facing the same ecological threat. 
To see more pictures of the research trip on Lake Michigan, view the gallery at the IISG Unwanted Meds Facebook page here. You can also learn more about this topic in the Chicago Tribune.


In the news: States look to Federal funding to help fight invasive mussels

Quagga and Zebra Mussels are well-known names in the Great Lakes region, as these invasive species have already had an effect on marine wildlife. But both species are prevalent in waterways throughout the United States, and fighting their spread could require a boost from the Federal government. 

From USA Today
"The mussels, natives of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, were transported to the U.S. in the ballast water of trans-Atlantic cargo ships. They first appeared in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, and between 2000 and 2010, they cost that region's water users some $5 billion. The invaders have since crossed the Rocky Mountains, likely hitching a ride on a vacationer's boat (they can survive for weeks out of water).

Their rapid spread threatens water supplies and energy systems in the West, a region heavily dependent upon hydropower and often gripped by drought. In response, state officials have stepped up boat inspections and cleaning efforts in addition to calling for federal help."
Read the complete article at the link above for more information about the spread of these invasives and how additional funding could help step up the fight against their spread.


Tribune focuses on Lake Michigan microplastics research

As you read in yesterday's blog post, IISG's Laura Kammin and Anjanette Riley are taking part in a research trip on Lake Michigan this weekend investigating the presence and concentration of microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

The Chicago Tribune has more details about the research: 
"Calling the lake ‘its own separate little beast,’ Mason said she expects to find high levels of microplastics in Lake Michigan because it borders so many large cities and because water molecules are estimated to swirl around the lake for about 99 years on average before being replaced by water flowing in. Water stays longer only in Lake Superior, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On Friday the researchers boarded the Niagara at St. Ignace, Mich., and sailed from Lake Huron into Lake Michigan. After a stop in Milwaukee, the ship is scheduled to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. Along the way, researchers planned to collect almost 30 samples.

One scientist who sailed on last summer's research trip is back in her lab, studying the chemicals that may be piggybacking on the microplastics gathered from Superior, Huron and Erie.

The particles ‘work like a sponge’ for pollutants, said Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. One reason is that microplastics have a large surface area in relation to their size, which means there are plenty of places for the chemicals to stick."
Read more about the ongoing research at the link above. 


Research mission beginning today looks into microplastic pollution of the Great Lakes

IISG’s Laura Kammin and Anjanette Riley set sail today on a mission to find plastics in Lake Michigan. The trip is a part of a larger effort to determine if the plastics and microplastics that have been found in the world's oceans are an issue in the Great Lakes too. Sampling kicked off last year with research trips on Lakes Huron, Superior, and Erie, and the findings came as a bit of a surprise – millions of tiny plastic particles floating in the water in even higher concentrations than in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The first round of sampling revealed that the Lakes are home to between 1,500 and 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile, with Lake Erie housing the largest concentrations. Dr. Sherri "Sam" Mason of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia, Dr. Lorena Rios-Mendoza of University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Marcus Erikson of 5 Gyres Institute have determined that much of the plastic they found was actually microbeads, found in many brands of toothpaste and facial and body scrubs. These tiny pieces of plastic are less than a millimeter in diameter, much too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment facilities before that water is released into nearby lakes and rivers.

Anjanette and Laura, along with researchers from SUNY at Fredonia and 5 Gyres Institute, are on Lake Michigan this week to see how the plastic load there compares to the other Great lakes. The crew will collect approximately 20 samples between now and August 10 as they zigzag their way across southern Lake Michigan. Dr. Mason will process the samples in the coming months. The research team also plans to extend the project to Lake Ontario and get a second round of samples from Lake Erie later this summer.

For more information over the next few days, you can follow Anjanette and Laura throughout the trip on Facebook and Twitter.


University of Illinois researchers develop model to track Asian carp eggs

Researchers at the University of Illinois, working with the USGS and funded in part by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, have developed a modeling system that will help manage and prevent the spread of invasive Asian carp. 

From Phys.org
"The model, called Fluvial Egg Drift Simulator (FluEgg), follows a clutch of eggs over time as they travel downstream. Since carp spawn in turbulent waters, they seek places such as dams and spillways. To establish a large population in the Great Lakes, the carp would have to leave the lakes to spawn in the tributaries where the water moves rapidly, usually downstream from dams and spillways, where there is a lot of turbulence. The eggs have to stay suspended in the current to hatch – if they settle on the bottom, they die.

'The challenge is, of all those million of eggs, how many of those end up hatching?' said Marcelo Garcia, the U. of I. professor of civil and environmental engineering who led the project. ‘Our challenge has been to find a way to simulate this process from the spawning point all the way downstream. If the eggs are not kept in suspension, they will not be viable and they will die out. We have a model to look at certain streams – like tributaries to the Great Lakes – and figure out whether those streams are potential areas for Asian carp to reproduce. I think we have put together a tool that is going to be eye-opening, to say the least. It's going to be a lot easier to visualize the transport and the conditions you need for hatching.'"
Read more about the model at the link above, and read about their outreach project here.. 


In the news: Finding a better way to get rid of unwanted algae

Each year, Great Lakes beach managers have to remove trucks full of slimy algae from the beachfront areas to keep them enjoyable for residents and visitors. But it can be a costly process and a regular need that could be met in a more environmentally friendly way. 

From The Great Lakes Echo
"Truckloads of the stuff are hauled to landfills every week or so, but beach managers want a greener and cheaper method of disposal.

'Algae removal is sort of a routine beach-grooming thing that we do, but because it’s wet and heavy, it can be expensive to dispose of,' said Cathy Breitenbach, director of Green Initiatives for the Chicago Park District, which is responsible for 26 miles of lakefront in the city. She’s hoping to find an alternative that saves taxpayers money and is more sustainable than taking it to the dump like the district does now.

Composting may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s not as simple as it sounds, say algae experts. Cladophora mats can harbor large concentrations of bacteria, including some potentially dangerous varieties.

'We have evidence to show that E. coli bacteria are found in very high densities in Cladophora mats,’ said Murulee Byappanahalli, a research microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station in Porter, Ind."
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about algae and the need for a greener, cleaner way to dispose of it.


Get an insider’s view of emerging contaminants with UpClose

A new interview series takes readers behind the scenes of the latest research on pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCP). In UpClose, researchers working in the Great Lakes region talk about where these contaminants come from, what they mean for aquatic habitats, and how they can be effectively managed. With its focus on making science accessible and providing practical management solutions, each edition gives you a unique look at an emerging ecological threat. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant kicked off the series with a conversation with Timothy Strathmann, an environmental engineer at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Later editions featured the work of Maria Sepulveda, a toxicologist at Purdue University, and John Kelly, a microbiologist at Loyola University Chicago. Each interview targets a different component of PPCP research—everything from what happens to pharmaceuticals when water is treated to what bacterial resistance could mean for other aquatic wildlife living in urban rivers. Readers also get an insider’s view of the complex, and sometimes tricky, process of conducting field studies and the potential implications of research on industries and regulations. 

In upcoming editions, Ball State’s Melody Bernot will explain the surprising roles location and season play in pharmaceutical pollution, and Rebecca Klaper at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will talk about how research into the effects of these contaminants could lead to changes in how they are made, used, and treated. 

All UpClose editions are available in print and online. For print copies, contact Susan White. For more information about PPCP pollution and what you can do to reduce its impacts, visit www.unwantedmeds.org.


Invasive Species Rewind: Zebra Mussel videos find new life online

Zebra Mussels are one of the most prevalent and established invasive species in the Great Lakes, and a clear example of what can happen when even a small number of aggressive plants or animals find their way into the Lakes. But just because the mussels are already here doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps that can be taken and lessons to be learned. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant produced a series of videos on the Zebra Mussel years ago, and until now they were only available on VHS. With help from Purdue University, though, the videos can now be viewed online at IISG’s YouTube channel

Much of the information is still relevant and provides a background on this invasive species and what could happen with others. The videos also offer a comparison to what we knew about zebra mussels then, and what researchers have learned since. 

For additional information about aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes, and additional info about Zebra Mussels, visit our Aquatic Invasive Species page.