Knauss fellow Will Tyburczy continues on with science collaboration work at NOAA

Will Tyburczy’s Knauss fellowship may be over, but his time at NOAA headquarters is not. The IISG-funded fellow will stay with the Office of Program Planning and Integration for another six months to continue some of the work he began as a Knauss Fellow. 

A Ph.D. candidate at University of Chicago, Will spent the bulk of the last year helping NOAA’s Regional Collaboration Network  coordinate the work of NOAA’s five main offices—Weather Service, Fisheries Service, Satellite and Information Service, Ocean Service, and Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. The efforts of these offices often overlap on major issues like climate change, habitat conservation, and emergency response. It was Will’s job, along with the other network members, to find opportunities for collaboration and help NOAA make progress on these issues. He also served as a liaison between NOAA regional staff and organization leaders, ensuring that each group had the information and resources they need to effectively meet program goals. 

“It was challenging at times,” said Will. “Sometimes it feels like people are talking past each other and you just aren’t making progress. But we have great people who share a lot of the same goals. It is very satisfying to help them work together to meet those goals.” 

But one of the highlights of the fellowship involved a very different kind of coordination. Will organized the fall edition of Earth Science Monitor, a bi-annual publication that reports on NOAA environmental data and programs. He worked closely with representatives from the network’s eight regions to develop articles showing what NOAA is doing to address environmental issues in each region. He also worked with NOAA head Jane Lubchenco on the lead article. 

Even after he leaves NOAA, Will hopes to continue working at the nexus of science and policy, translating scientific findings into actionable policy advice. And he has advice for others who think they might be interested in doing similar work: “Apply for the Knauss fellowship. It is a great program.” 


Help prevent invasive species from spreading – apply to be a Clean Boats Crew site leader for 2014

It's not too early to be thinking of warmer weather and summer days ahead. In fact, it seems like the perfect time to do just that, and that means that summer jobs in the sun are on the horizon. 

The Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, and the University of Illinois are hiring Clean Boats Crew site leaders again this year in time for the 2014 summer boating season.

Clean Boats Crew site leaders will work in Lake and Cook Counties, IL, and Northwest Indiana educating the public about aquatic invasive species and how these species are unintentionally spread. Site leaders will manage a team of volunteers and be supervised by a program coordinator.

Read the complete description of the positions, including details about job tasks and application process, at this link. And learn more about stopping aquatic invasive species at our Be A Hero – Transport Zero site.


Popular lawn care site “Lawn Talk” launches Spanish-language version

One of the best online resources for sustainable landscape and lawn care in Illinois is now available in Spanish. Like its sister site Lawn Talk, Hablemos Del Cesdped includes tips and resources for planting and maintenance, including common lawn care mistakes to avoid.

With help from these sites, homeowners and landscape professionals in northern Illinois can cultivate healthy lawns while still conserving water and preventing harmful chemicals from washing into nearby lakes and rivers. Specific natural lawn care tips include testing soil and adjusting nutrient levels as needed at the start of the season, choosing the right grass for the site, and letting lawns go dormant during dry months. The sites also provide information on lawn cultivation equipment and choosing lawn care services. 

Lawn Talk and Hablemos Del Cesdped are part of the Lawn to Lake program and were developed in part with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. For even more information about natural lawn care and its benefits, visit the Lawn to Lake link above or download the latest Sustainable Lawn & Landscape Practices for Communities guidebook.


Discovery Grants fund promising Great Lakes research projects

Much like a gardener hopes that their scattered seeds will eventually bloom into a lush garden, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant awards seed grants to projects that address some of the biggest concerns in the Great Lakes in the hopes that the initiatives will grow into something larger. These Discovery Grant projects—totaling over 40 since 2009—cover a broad range of topics, and their results help natural resource managers and policy makers preserve Lake Michigan and strengthen nearby communities.  

So, what are these projects exactly? We’re glad you asked. Discovery Grant Projects II shines a light on unexpected and emerging contaminants in stream water. Other featured projects examine the market for domestic seafood and give Hoosiers real-time access to fish consumption advisories. And another still paints a clearer picture of how Asian carp are changing the food web in the Illinois River. 

Download the first edition, Discovery Grant Projects, to learn about past research on water quality, aquaculture, biodiversity, and more. And visit our Research page to read more about past projects and get a peek at ongoing research.


In the news: Michigan fish have a long way to go to be contaminant free

Even with so many improvements in water quality since the Clean Water Act went into effect, pollution is finding its way to Michigan waterways, and then into the fish. 

"Mercury and toxic PCBs emitted into the atmosphere from sources around the world rain down on Michigan’s lakes and rivers, contaminating fish and posing health threats to people who eat too much tainted fish.

It’s a problem Michigan cannot solve on its own.

The reason: 75 percent of the mercury and 55 percent of the PCBs that fall out of the sky and into the Michigan waters come from outside the state. Each year, about 6,000 pounds of mercury ride the wind into Michigan, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

For the first time, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has drafted plans for reducing PCBs and mercury in fish and surface waters to safe levels. But preliminary documents obtained by Bridge paint a sobering picture of the daunting task at hand.

Reducing PCBs and mercury in Michigan fish to safe concentrations will require cutting global PCB emissions by 94 percent, and global mercury emissions 82 percent, according to the state’s draft cleanup plans, known as Total Maximum Daily Limits (TMDLs) for PCBs and mercury. Getting there will take about 50 years for PCBs, possibly longer for mercury, according to state officials."
Read the complete article at the link above.


Lawn to Lake sustainable landscaping workshop (for schools) coming up April 8

IISG’s Lawn to Lake program is hosting an upcoming workshop on sustainable, natural landscaping practices specifically tailored to school groundskeepers and maintenance staff. 

The landscaping workshop for schools will provide in-depth information and training on less-toxic but equally effective landscaping methods and materials, growing and maintaining landscape with organic materials, water conservation and water quality protection, and more. 

Early registration (with a discounted rate) is only open until February 28, and regular-price registration opens on March 1. Visit our website for the complete description of the workshop, or go directly to the registration page to sign up today.


All aboard for a week-long teacher research cruise on Lake Erie

Teachers and non-formal educators can trade in their whiteboards and textbooks for life vests and sampling equipment this summer during a week-long workshop aboard the EPA research vessel Lake Guardian. The Shipboard and Shoreline Science workshop, held from July 7-13, will give teachers grades 4-12 a unique opportunity to work alongside scientists as they conduct field research across Lake Erie. Applications for the 15 available spaces will be accepted until March 7. 

The annual research cruise takes place on a different Great Lake every year, giving educators from a variety of disciplines an opportunity to learn first-hand about the unique ecology of each lake as well as how people’s actions are affecting the region. This year, participants will monitor water quality and study the microscopic species at the bottom of the Lake Erie food web. 

“The cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a Great Lakes scientist.” said Kristin TePas, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant community outreach specialist and workshop coordinator. “Each year brings an amazing group of educators, and it is inspiring to see how they incorporate what they’ve learned into the classroom.” 

Educators will also work together to examine classroom activities that expand students’ understanding of the Great Lakes and identify new ways to incorporate hands-on research into their classroom. Sea Grant specialists onboard will provide educational resources and support. And after the cruise, specialists will be available to help teachers implement new activities based on their experiences. 

Participants will receive a $500 stipend at the end of the week-long cruise to help cover any travel expenses to and from the launch point in Cleveland, OH. For more information on the workshop and to apply, visit www.paseagrant.org/projects/rv-lake-guardian-workshop/

The annual Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop is hosted by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and coordinated by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network and the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. Funding comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

*photos taken during the 2010 cruise on Lake Michigan


2014 summer internships with IISG now accepting applications

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has announced student internship opportunities this summer in several program areas. Working directly with IISG specialist, interns will have the chance to be directly involved in work that benefits, protects, and preserves Lake Michigan and other waterways in both states.

For 2014, internships are available in the following areas:

 - Economic Analysis
 - Fisheries
 - Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
 - Sustainable Communities Extension Program
 - Water Supply Planning

The positions are open to undergraduate students either currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a U.S. institution of higher learning. Additional details, including full position descriptions, can be found in the full announcement. Applications are due March 10, and you can contact Angie Archer with questions or for additional information.


Upcoming educator workshop offers student stewardship lesson about invasive species

IISG’s education team will be presenting a workshop for geography and science teachers (grades 4-10) on May 20 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. Based around student stewardship lessons and activities, the workshop will offer several resources and examples of how to get students involved in stopping aquatic invasive species. Doing so will allow teachers to introduce crucial science education and Great Lakes literacy concepts in their classes. 

Lessons and activities for both and inside and outside the classroom will be offered, as well as content aligned with National Geography Education Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Great Lakes Literacy Principles. 

Visit the link above for the flyer and registration form. Registration is open to March 18, but spaces are limited. For more information about the workshop, or with any questions, contact Terri Hallesy.


Award winning GO TO 2040 development plan features work from several IISGers

Go To 2040—northeastern Illinois’ compressive development plan—received a 2013 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement earlier this month for its innovative approach to conserving natural resources, protecting public health, and strengthening local economies. Developed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the plan addresses transportation needs, energy efficiency, and other long-term concerns for the ever-growing metropolitan area. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Margaret Schneeman and Martin Jaffe worked closely with CMAP to develop the water supply planning recommendations included in the regional plan. IISG has also taken the lead in implementing key recommendations such as full-cost water pricing and outdoor water conservation. And Molly Woloszyn, IISG’s extension climatologist, assisted in the development of climate adaptation recommendations for municipalities.    

Watch the video below to learn more about Go To 2040. 


In the news: River otters tell the tale of chemicals affecting the environment

Illinois river otters are just one of the susceptible organisms in the local environment, and a recent study is showing that they are indicating some very high levels of dangerous toxins (including a banned insecticide). 

"'Thus otters serve as biomonitors – organisms that contain information on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the environment – of wildlife exposure,' according to a new study. They also serve as biomonitors for human health because the same toxic chemicals found in otters have also been found in people who eat contaminated fish.

The study published in the journal 'Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety' found high concentrations of chemical compounds in the livers of 23 otters in central Illinois.

Especially troubling were the highest concentrations of dieldrin ever reported in otters anywhere in the United States, said lead author Samantha Carpenter, a wildlife technical assistant at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Dieldrin is one of the organochlorine insecticides banned in 1978. More than three decades later, high levels of the chemicals remain in river sediments and accumulate in the fish that otters and people may eat.

The compound has been linked to neurological, behavioral and immune-suppression problems in wildlife. Scientific studies disagree on adverse human effects, but some studies have linked dieldrin to asthma, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer, Carpenter said."
Read the complete article at the link above.


IISG plants outreach seeds at Indiana veterinary conference

From our UnwantedMeds.org blog:

Last week’s trip to Indianapolis for the annual Indiana Veterinary Medical Association conference was not a typical event for IISG. The three-day conference gave Laura Kammin a unique opportunity to talk with students before they begin their careers as veterinarians or veterinary technicians about the importance of properly disposing of unwanted medication. 

"It's becoming a rarity for me to chat with a veterinarian who doesn’t know about the environmental impacts of improper medicine disposal," said Laura. "The next step for IISG is to make sure that students are aware of the need for proper storage and disposal."

Many of the students were unfamiliar with the topic or the disposal options available in their communities. Laura introduced them to simple steps for managing pharmaceuticals in clinics and talked about how they can help spread the word about proper disposal to their future clients.

The event is one of several Laura has attended in the last few years to share resources and speak directly with veterinarians about pharmaceutical stewardship. It is all part of a partnership between IISG and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Since they joined forces in 2011, IISG and AVMA have developed brochures, public service announcements, and other materials for veterinaries to share with their clients. 

Many of these materials have been tailored to small animal veterinarians—those who work with dogs, cats, and other household pets. Now, though, IISG and AVMA are turning their sights towards livestock and the vets who care for them. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals used to treat livestock have been found in waterways across the country. In fact, animal agriculture is often the primary contributor of pharmaceutical pollution in rural areas, and some of these chemicals have been linked to impaired development and reproduction in aquatic wildlife. 

The transition to livestock pharmaceuticals took a big step forward during the conference thanks to an opportune meeting with Dan Walsh, a distance learning instructor at the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine. Laura and Dan traded resources that will help both programs strengthen their efforts to educate future vets and vet techs about the importance of proper medicine storage, use, and disposal. 


In the news: A “stirring” solution to algae problems?

Jordan Lake in North Carolina suffers from a condition similar to Lake Erie – algal blooms that threaten wildlife and water quality. Due to nutrient runoff, the blooms continue to grow and pose a significant problem for the community that relies on it for water. 

While the EPA rules regarding processes and procedures to reduce runoff and mitigate the problem await implementation, there is a proposal for a potentially less expensive and more immediate way to reduce the algal blooms in the lake. 

"The N.C. General Assembly authorized a $1.44 million plan to put 36 floating water circulators into the lake. It’s a hefty price tag, but is actually one of the drivers for the experiment. If it works, the savings could be huge as costs for implementing the EPA rules are estimated at $1 to $2 billion.

Representatives from Medora Corporation, the company that will supply the mixers, say that the mixing process may confuse the algae, making them think they’re at different depths in the water. It could make them more vulnerable to viruses. The reps also say the mixers will work, claiming a 90 to 95 percent success rate in other lakes."
Read more about the proposal at the link above.


In the news: Winter cold brings good news for the Great Lakes

This winter weather hasn’t exactly been friendly to people, but it has definitely been helping out the Great Lakes (and possibly wildlife in and around the Lakes too). 

From the Journal Sentinel
"Nearly 60% of the lakes are now under a cover of ice, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The ice cover could help lake levels this summer, but that is far from certain. And biologists are keeping a close eye on northern Lake Superior in the hope that an ice bridge will link Ontario to Isle Royale.

The island is the home to a struggling gray wolf population in desperate need of new genetic stock — and more wolves.

One possible effect of so much ice this winter is that come summer the 'lake effect' in cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago and Duluth, Minn., could be even cooler.

The ice cover this winter is a stark contrast to last winter, when the five lakes had only 38% cover, according to the research laboratory, which tracks ice conditions on the lakes. The long-term average of the lakes is about 50%, according to George Leshkevich, a scientist with the laboratory, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."
Read the complete article at the link above.


In the news: Visualizing some of the methods for keeping Asian carp out of the Lakes

Following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ report on Asian carp entering the Great Lakes (and methods to prevent them), there have been some articles looking more closely at the methods. 

From Quest
"Because of this, engineers have been encouraged to develop just about any solution to keep carp at bay — or out of one.

One such solution was the electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which was meant to keep Asian carp from swimming through the CAWS and into Lake Michigan. Of the identified 18 points of entry into the Great Lakes, the Army Corps believes the CAWS point is the most critical.
The barrier consists of three electrodes arranged in a line. These electrodes power a barrier much like an electric fence for dogs. Fish swimming into it receive an electric shock sufficient enough to stun them and keep them out — in theory. According to a report issued by the Army Corps in December, 2013, the barrier is effective against adult carp, but smaller fish of two to four inches long were able to find a loophole

…It’s a big risk to take when plans require billions in funding. Still, an appropriate plan may pay off in the long term. Recent studies suggest that controlling the spread of invasive species already present in the Great Lakes can cost up to $800 million annually."
Read more about the options at the link above, including a large graphic that helps visualize some of the suggested methods for controlling or preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.


Chicago-area teacher continues Great Lakes literacy projects

Marea Spentzos-Inghram, middle school teacher at Catherine Cook School in Chicago, continues to incorporate Great Lakes literacy principles, lessons, and resources from last year’s B-WET workshop in her science classes. Her students’ rain gauge work has spawned a number of lessons and project opportunities, including their latest – a cartoon interview with their rain gauge. 

Watch the video on ToonTube at this link.