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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


2014-2015 Great Lakes Commission-Sea Grant Fellowship announced

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


In the news: Great Lakes microplastic pollution research recently published

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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