Aquatic invasive species team already planning for 2014 outdoor season

IISG’s entire aquatic invasive species crew is already looking forward to spring with several events on the calendar. They’ll be heading to a number of fishing, outdoor, and gardening shows coming up in early 2014 to share some great information about stopping the spread of invasive species directly with everyone in attendance. 

The team will be visiting a number of fishing and outdoor shows to share our latest “Be A Hero – Transport Zero” message with boaters, fishermen, and everyone who enjoys spending time on the water. They will also have more information about how easy it can be to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders with three simple steps – Remove, Drain, Dry. And there will be examples of invasive species for visitors to see up close as a way to then identify them on the water. 

The first stop on the calendar will be the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, Illinois. The show takes place January 3-5, and Sarah will be giving a presentation on that Saturday about how boaters and anglers can help prevent the spread of aquatic invaders in Illinois. February 8-9 the team will be at the Tinley Park Fishing Show at Tinley Park High School. The long running show features dozens of exhibitors and IISG will be there with several handouts and examples of invasive species. Just a couple of weeks later the team will head to Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show, February 21-23 at the Indianapolis State Fair Grounds. 

Mark your calendars for the shows (listed below) and be sure to visit TransportZero.org for additional information. And check back for more shows and events as they are added. It’s never too early to start thinking of warmer weather and time on the water. 

Let’s Go Fishing Show - January 3-5, 2014 - Collinsville, IL

Tinley Park Fishing Show - February 8-9, 2014 - Tinley Park, IL 

Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show - February 21-23, 2014 - Indianapolis, IN


In the news: Wisconsin governor signs lamprey control measure

In the battle against invasive sea lampreys in the Great Lakes region, Wisconsin has committed to the fight with new legislation signed last week. 

"To help combat the invasive, eel-like fish, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation on Thursday for the state to spend up to $564,500 in the next two fiscal years on lamprey control efforts on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

The controls include chemical treatments and barriers that block the movement of swimming lamprey, which according to the Wisconsin DNR 'have no jaws, no true teeth, no paired fins and a skeleton made of cartilage, not true bone.'

The state funds are expected to be matched with federal dollars for control efforts that are taking place across the Great Lakes basin.

In Lake Michigan, 126 of 511 tributaries have historic records of sea lamprey production. Of those 83 tributaries have been treated with chemicals, according to the Fish and Wildlife Commission. A major focus of treatment took place on the Oconto River in northeastern Wisconsin, where about 60 miles of the river were treated."
Read the complete article at the link above.


Restoration: It’s not just for the birds

Residents of Sheboygan, Wisconsin are seeing their namesake river, and the opportunities it holds for the community, in a whole new light thanks to a suite of cleanup projects completed in 2012 and 2013. For decades, high concentrations of PCBs and other industrial pollutants lining the riverbed had kept river-goers and businesses at arm’s length. But with the contaminated sediment removed and habitat restoration well underway, the public is embracing the river with full force. 

“After nearly three decades of being a black eye of the community, we are thrilled that the Sheboygan River and harbor is being restored to reduce health risks to people, fish, and wildlife, and will greatly enhance opportunities for economic development,” said Adam Payne, Sheboygan County Administrator at a 2012 press event celebrating the project. 

Perhaps the biggest boost so far has been to recreation. Dredging the equivalent of 15,000 dump trucks of contaminated sediment left boaters and anglers with a deeper river that is easier to access and navigate. With the contamination gone, the community has also started to see the Sheboygan River as a safe place to spend an afternoon. Just a few months after the project ended, residents reported seeing more and bigger boats navigating in and out of the river’s harbor, and they expect to see even more fishing and boating in the coming years.

“Anytime you have a healthy river going through a community, you have a better quality of life,” said one resident to IISG’s Caitie McCoy and Emily Anderson as part of a series of interviews about how community perceptions of the river had changed.

The deeper, cleaner river has also attracted local businesses. Everything from coffee shops to digital communications companies have opened along the river, and more businesses are expected to follow.  It is too early to say just how much the cleanup project will impact things like property values, tourism, and redevelopment, but it is already clear that riverfront development is on the rise thanks to changes to the river and its newly restored status within the community.

“When it comes right down to it, those who would invest in the river and want to develop this property, they are really after the water access,” said another resident.

There is good news for local wildlife too. With the dredging work completed, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other project partners have begun work to restore native habitats. Recently planted native plants have caught the attention of a variety of species, including cranes and blue birds. With this work done, the Sheboygan River will officially be taken off the list of most polluted places in the Great Lakes.

To learn more about how the cleanup project has affected the community, visit the link on our products page.

Efforts to clean up and revitalize the Sheboygan River are part of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and Superfund.

*Middle photo: Courtesy of the City of Sheboygan
*Bottom Photo: Courtesy of Wisconsin DNR


In the news: Less food for fish in Lakes Huron and Michigan

A recently published study shows that food supplies for fish and other important organisms in the Great Lakes have been on the decline, and there are a few reasons why. 

"The study, based on years of data compiled by government agencies and university researchers, found evidence of drop-offs in phytoplankton — tiny plants essential to many food chains — since the late 1990s. A decline in tiny invertebrates and prey fish, such as alewives and round gobies, also was detected.

It's likely that invasive quagga and zebra mussels have played a significant role by gobbling plankton, according to the paper, which was published online this month in the journal BioScience. The mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s after being scooped into cargo ships' ballast tanks in foreign ports and hauled across the Atlantic...
The study was designed to document trends in Great Lakes food webs and determine whether the webs were influenced more by the feeding habits of top predator fish or by developments at the lower end of the chains."
Read the complete article, which includes more information about causes of the decline found in the study, at the link above.


Knauss Fellows head to D.C. to find and begin their new positions

Two student applicants sponsored by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were selected as Knauss fellowship winners this year, and last month they traveled to the nation’s capital to find their respective positions working on water resource and environmental issues. 

Katherine Touzinsky and Sara Paver both wrote in to update us on the positions they selected and the specific areas where they will be focusing their energies. 

“Placement week – what to say?” Katherine writes. “Over the course of three days, I had 17 interviews for different positions, and each and every one seemed like something I had dreamed up. It was one of the most stressful and exciting experiences I've ever had. 

I was placed as a navigation R&D advisor for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The US Army Corps of Engineers provides vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters. I get to take a leadership role in research and development by helping to manage a national R&D agenda, make decisions about technical approaches, and integrate technical teams from federal, academic, and industry sectors. And I’ll get to actively participate in actual research projects too. For at least one week each month, I will be traveling to national DoD labs to meet scientists, get to know their research, and work to make connections between them and other governmental and non-governmental sectors.

I’m in the second year of my master’s program in ecological sciences and engineering (ESE). My thesis work is on the plasticity of Asian carp between the Illinois and Wabash Rivers, and I've been lucky enough to work closely with bowfisherman through most of my Asian sampling and extension activities. Right now I'm trying to choose whether or not I will continue on for my PhD and if so, on what topic. I've gained some crucial insight on my interests through working with ESE – what I love about ecology is studying interactions and, more broadly, systems. I'm so excited about the Knauss Fellowship year because it is going to let me get a bird’s eye view of the intersections between high-level government, scientists and researchers, the ecology of specific areas, and end users (fisherman, recreationalists, commercial operators, etc.).”

Sara also found placement week to be quite the experience. “Knauss placement week was a fun, speed-dating-esque marathon. It provided an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse of the breadth of work being done within NOAA and other host agencies. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with representatives from various host offices as well as incoming, current, and former fellows.

I selected a position at the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences. Part of my responsibilities will be to facilitate peer review and award decisions for proposals submitted to the Ocean Section, including the Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) program.  I am really excited to be exposed to cutting-edge research and to see the grant review process first hand. I think that reading and participating in the review of the Coastal SEES proposals will be particularly enlightening due to their interdisciplinary nature.

I am graduating in December with a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having studied aquatic microbial ecology in Dr. Angela Kent's lab. I am looking forward to broadening my understanding of how policy and the needs of society influence science and how science, in turn, informs policy. I plan to return to microbial ecology research armed with this knowledge following my year as a fellow.”

To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website. And to find out about all of the fellowships available to undergraduate, graduate, and post-grad students, visit our fellowship page.


Upcoming workshop helps Indiana teachers bring buoy data into the classroom

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University are offering a teacher workshop on incorporating Lake Michigan buoy data into their lessons and activities. 

The workshop is open to Indiana math, science, and geography teachers in grades 8-12, and will provide them with ways to incorporate real-time data in the curriculum. From lessons on in-lake processes, to emerging environmental and climate issues impacting the lakes, to problem solving activities and more, the data from IISG’s nearshore Lake Michigan buoy can be used to cover a wide range of topics. 

Applications for the workshop should be submitted by January 10 and should indicate which of the available dates are preferred – January 25 or February 15. 

Find more information about the workshop and the application form here, and visit our education page to learn about additional Great Lakes education principles and resources.


In the news: Gathering more information to understand threats to the Great Lakes

Researchers from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab and other organizations have been gathering samples and data about the Lakes in order to understand the threats to their health. Pollution, lower water levels, and climate change are all showing themselves to be threats, and researchers hope to learn more about their direct impacts.

"'Every day we hear from coastal communities and our constituents who are being personally affected by climate disruption and climate change,' said Angela Larsen, coastal program manager at Alliance for the Great Lakes, a Chicago-based nonprofit. 

'Many of the Great Lakes coastal resources and the local economies that depend on them are really at risk due to climate change.'

Larsen said her organization is particularly concerned about the periods of both drought and heavy rainfall characteristic of climate change, and lake levels, near record lows, which could result from a variety of factors in addition to climate change. 

Heavy rainfall is a problem because of the pollution that washes into lakes when urban areas flood. Chicago’s combined sewage overflows – runoff from sewer systems that collect a mix of rainwater, sewage and industrial wastewater - are diverted into Lake Michigan during floods, carrying bacteria, toxic materials and land-based debris. This runoff, combined with warming lake waters, can present health risks for swimmers and ideal conditions for harmful algae growth, Larsen said."
Read the complete article, including additional information about research and environmental concerns for the Great Lakes, at the link above.


In the news: Water treatment processes missing over half of PPCPs and other contaminants

Current sewage treatment processes are only addressing about half of the pharmaceutical and emerging contaminant content in waste water, according to a recent report from the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes. 

"The impact of most of these 'chemicals of emerging concern' on the health of people and aquatic life remains unclear. Nevertheless, the commission report concludes that better water treatment is needed.

'The compounds show up in low levels – parts per billion or parts per trillion – but aquatic life and humans aren’t exposed to just one at a time, but a whole mix,' said Antonette Arvai, physical scientist at the International Joint Commission and the lead author of the study. 'We need to find which of these chemicals might hurt us.'

More than 1,400 wastewater treatment plants in the United States and Canada discharge 4.8 billion gallons of treated effluent into the Great Lakes basin every day, according to the study.

The scientists reviewed 10 years of data from wastewater treatment plants worldwide to see how well they removed 42 compounds that are increasingly showing up in the Great Lakes.

Six chemicals were detected frequently and had a low rate of removal in treated effluent: an herbicide, an anti-seizure drug, two antibiotic drugs, an antibacterial drug and an anti-inflammatory drug."
Read the complete article at the link above, and visit UnwantedMeds.org to learn more about pharmaceutical and personal care product disposal and pollution prevention.


In the news: Lake Michigan whitefish finding their way back to Wisconsin rivers

While scientists are working to figure out why, the Lake Michigan whitefish is returning to northeastern Wisconsin waters where it hasn’t been seen for over 100 years.

From the Sheboygan Press
"The fish's return has created a welcome mystery for scientists, who aren't sure why they are migrating from Green Bay into rivers. It could be a sign of improving water quality. Or, the population in Green Bay may have grown enough that young fish are being pushed out of traditional spawning areas.

The fish do not appear to be leaving Lake Michigan to spawn in tributaries of Wisconsin rivers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The migration seems to be coming only from Green Bay.

Whitefish rebounded on Lake Michigan and Green Bay in the 1980s. They were discovered on the Menominee River in 1993, but until this fall had not been seen on other inland waterways.

The fish have now been found on at least four rivers in northeastern Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The most surprising location may be the Fox River in Green Bay, home to the nation’s largest toxic cleanup project."
Read more about the whitefish’s return at the link above, and learn more about Great Lakes Legacy Act projects (like the Fox River cleanup mentioned in the article) in this video.


In the news: Test results show another aquatic invader’s presence in southern Lake Michigan

Researchers are reporting that they have found DNA evidence of an invasive fish, Eurasian ruffe, in the southern Lake Michigan waters. 

From JSOnline.com
"The Nature Conservancy said a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame, Central Michigan University and its own organization found evidence of DNA of Eurasian ruffe in Calumet Harbor, south of Chicago.

Two positive samples from the harbor were collected on July 8. The harbor is at the mouth of the Chicago-area waterway system. Environmental DNA is a surveillance tool that can be used to monitor the genetic presence of aquatic species.

The waterway system is part of an engineered canal that provides an artificial link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin and has been infiltrated with invasive Asian carp from the Mississippi for years.

That same system has the potential to introduce Eurasian ruffe in the Mississippi, according to the Nature Conservancy. The group said the genetic findings underscore the need for a permanent barrier to block species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems."
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about this invasive species and the test results.


Fellowship opportunity from NOAA and Sea Grant now accepting applications

Fellowship season is upon us, and more opportunities for students to gain valuable, hands-on experience in environmental fields are opening. 

The 2014 Coastal Management Fellowship Program, administered by NOAA and the Sea Grant offices, just opened to applications from graduate and professional-degree students. The two-year position includes competitive salary and benefits for the selected fellow, and matches students with coastal resource agencies to work directly on issues at the local level. 

Students can learn more about the fellowship and the application process at the Coastal Services Center website, and can contact IISG’s Angie Archer for information about this and other IISG fellowship opportunities.


In the news: A private island that truly is for the birds

Non-profit organization The Nature Conservancy recently acquired a small island in Lake Michigan that is used by migrating birds as a stopping point on their journey. 

"St. Martin Island is part of a chain that runs between Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and Michigan's Garden Peninsula… 

The Luber family sold it to the nonprofit conservancy for $1.5 million dollars. The Nature Conservancy says the price was well below market value.

Eventually the island will be included in the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Dave Ewert is a senior scientist with the Nature Conservancy in Michigan. He says the chain of islands is really important for migrating land birds in the spring and fall.

'If they're caught out away from mainland then they're going to look for islands to come down, land, feed, rest, seek refuge from predators. So these islands really are a godsend to these migratory birds,' Ewert said.

He says more than 100 species have been documented in the chain of islands. St. Martin is one of the larger islands at more than 1,200 acres. The U.S. Coast Guard has a light tower on the island."
Read more about the island at the link above.


New invasives from New Zealand found in Wisconsin

The New Zealand mud snail is on the move in Wisconsin, and officials are calling on anglers, hunters, and boaters to help prevent any further spread from this aquatic invader. 

The invasive snail first moved into the Great Lakes decades ago and took up residency in Lake Michigan about 5 years ago. Inland lakes and rivers in the Midwest, though, had remained snail-free. That is until last month, when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported finding the snails in Black Earth Creek, about 25 miles north of the Illinois state line. 

To keep this rapidly-reproducing snail from taking over local waterways and forcing out native species, officials in Illinois and Wisconsin are asking recreational water users and other outdoor enthusiasts to take three simple steps after a day near the water:

·         Remove all plants, animals, and mud from boats, trailers, and equipment
·         Drain everything, including bait buckets and live wells
·         Dry everything with a towel

The small size of this invasive species—no more than 5 mm in length—makes them nearly impossible to spot. But diligently following these simple procedures can ensure that the New Zealand mud snail isn’t accidently carried unseen to from one body of water to another. 

To learn more about what you can do to help prevent the spread of the New Zealand mud snail and other invasive species, visit www.TransportZero.org.  

*Photo courtesy of Mohammed El Damir, Pest Management, Bugwood.org