In the news: Illinois, Indiana, several agencies join forces to combat invasives

The Illinois and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources, along with several other state, local, and federal agencies, are joining forces to coordinate a survey of Calumet Harbor and Lake Michigan waters. The efforts will help search for and combat aquatic invasive species. 

From the Net News Ledger
"The exercise – including intensive netting and electro-fishing – will be the first of its kind utilizing provisions of the new Mutual Aid Agreement for Combating Aquatic Invasive Species, signed at the Council of Great Lakes Governors meeting on April 26 in Chicago… 

Crews coordinated by the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources are deploying boats on Chicago's Calumet Harbor, and on adjoining waters of Lake Michigan on both sides of the Illinois-Indiana state line, for electro-fishing and netting to determine whether invasive Eurasian ruffe are present.

'Aquatic invasive threats know no national or state boundaries. Our ability to sample fish communities, respond quickly, and effectively communicate on efforts could be critical in the future to respond to a threat within the Great Lakes basin,' said Indiana DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Eric Fischer.

Eurasian ruffe, an eastern European species of fish, have been found in Lake Superior since the mid-1980s, have a similar diet and feeding habits of native fish, and could present problems for the food web in Lake Michigan. Researchers detected environmental DNA of Eurasian ruffe in Calumet Harbor last year."
Read the complete article at the link above.


In the news: Ohio takes steps to reduce Lake Erie algae

Ohio Governor John Kasich is preparing to sign legislation that would reduce agricultural nutrient runoff. The reduction is designed to help curb or eliminate the toxic algal blooms that affect Lake Erie every summer. 

From Cleveland.com
"Under Senate Bill 150, starting in 2017, farmers using fertilizer must first take a state-run certification course that teaches things such as how much fertilizer to use on a plot of land and when it should be applied, according to Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.

Farmers who voluntarily develop nutrient management plans would be given legal protections under the bill.

Kasich intends to sign the legislation, but no signing date has been scheduled yet, according to gubernatorial spokesman Rob Nichols. The bill passed both the Ohio House and Senate unanimously.

Hawkins said the bill will help address the causes of algal blooms. But she said it’s not clear how much the certification process will do to curb the problem, as there’s still little scientific research into the issue."
Read the complete article at the link above.


2014 IAGLR conference to feature IISG presenters

This year’s IAGLR Conference takes place in Hamilton, Ontario the last week of May, and several IISG staffers will join scientists, environmentalists, and government representatives to discuss issues facing the Great Lakes. Spread across each day of the conference, their presentations will cover vital work on Sea Grant education initiatives, new tools that help officials protect aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes region, and more. 

Science writer Anjanette Riley will be presenting information about communication strategies currently in use for the Unwanted Meds program. From blogging to print publications to social media outreach and more, Anjanette’s presentation will explain and expand on the methods currently in use to share PPCP pollution information with the public. It will also provide a model that other groups and organizations can use to accomplish the same education and outreach goals regarding proper disposal of unwanted medication. 

Community outreach specialist Kristin TePas will be setting up a booth to provide information about the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, including brochures, curriculum examples, and additional materials related to Great Lakes-based education. She will also be presenting with Helen Domske from New York Sea Grant and educator Sandy Cunningham on bringing field research and science from the research vessel Lake Guardian into the classroom. 

Pollution prevention specialist Laura Kammin will be presenting about emerging toxins in the Great Lakes, including prescription medications and personal care products. The session will include information about education and outreach, funded research projects, and collaborations with other organizations to raise awareness of emerging contaminants. 

Associate director for research Tomas Hook was a part of several research projects that will be presented during next week’s conference, including work that looks into factors affecting fish growth and movement in various water bodies, understanding the impacts of environmental factors on young yellow perch, and seasonal changes to physical processes in Lake Michigan.

View the complete conference program here, and read more about each presentation on the abstracts page. You can also follow us on Twitter for live updates from some of the presentations throughout next week’s event.


Unwanted Meds program gets UpClose with Great Lakes plastic researcher

It has been nearly one year since IISG set sail on Lake Michigan to sample for plastic pollution. Since then, Sam Mason, a chemist from State University of New York Fredonia, and her research team have been hard at work analyzing those water samples. The initial results are revealed in the latest edition of IISG’s interview series UpClose.  

In this issue, Mason talks about her ongoing work to quantify plastic pollution in the Great Lakes for the first time. In addition to the Lake Michigan results, Mason discusses plastic levels in the other four lakes, explains how plastics could impact aquatic wildlife, and suggests additional research needed to understand this emerging contaminant. 

This is the sixth edition of UpClose, which takes readers behind the scenes of the latest research on pharmaceuticals and personal care products. 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.

Read previous issues of UpClose at unwantedmeds.org. For print copies, contact Pollution Prevention Program Specialist Laura Kammin.


2014 Clean Boats Crew season kicks off this weekend

The kickoff for this year’s Clean Boats Crew will be coming up this Saturday, May 24. IISG’s Clean Boats Crew program sends volunteers to boat launches and docks during the height of the boating season, talking to boaters, fishermen, and all recreational water users about simple and effective steps they can take to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. 

The CBC program is looking for volunteers to join our efforts this season as well. You can visit the Clean Boats Crew page linked above for information, or contact Cathy McGlynn at the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership

Saturday, May 24th will be the kickoff meeting at the lawns in front of the Horticulture Building at the Chicago Botanic Garden from 8:30-11:00 am. Volunteers and people interested in learning more about the program can stop by for coffee and donuts in the morning (RSVP to Sarah Zack to attend). 

Then at noon, site leaders will start conducting outreach for the program at Diversey Harbor, North Point Marina, and Portage Public Marina. Sunday, May 25th, site leaders will be at Burnham Harbor, Chain O’Lakes State Park, and East Chicago Marina. Memorial Day, May 26th, site leaders will again be at Diversey Harbor, North Point Marina, and Portage Public Marina.

Clean Boats Crew members will be providing information and demonstrating simple steps that can be taken to keep aquatic invasive species from finding their way to new waterways, which helps protect and preserve the environment and keeps waterways open for recreation. 

For further information on how you can help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species when you’re on the water, visit TransportZero.org.


Outdoor water conservation manual and brochure approved and adopted for Illinois

IISG’s Lawn to Lake program, in partnership with the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA), the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), and The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) created a water conservation brochure for residents of the Northern Illinois area. This accompanies the  Lawn and Landscape Practices for Northwest Planning Alliance Communities (PDF). 

The brochure, Conserving Water Outdoors, has been unanimously approved by the NWPA Executive Committee and Advisory Committee, and will be distributed to NWPA member communities for outreach to residents about the importance of reducing outdoor water use this summer.
AmeriCorps VISTA member Kaitlyn McClain, who helped develop the brochure, offered more info about the project: 
“I have been working with partner organizations to create an NWPA outreach toolkit that includes fact sheets, presentation materials, a monthly e-newsletter, and the Outdoor Water Conservation brochure. I worked closely with IISG and CMAP to develop the water conservation message and tips highlighted in the brochure. The brochure will be distributed to the roughly 80 NWPA municipalities, can be displayed on municipal websites, and will be distributed at public places including farmers markets and libraries.
Communicating the significance of water conservation in groundwater- and river water-dependent communities is so important, and the brochure will be a great tool for the NWPA. Getting public support and buy-in is crucial to maintaining a sustainable water supply in the Fox River Valley.”
For more information about water conservation efforts and water planning resources, visit the IISG water supply page.


New grant helps secure disposal boxes for Indiana communities

The Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force (IHHWTF) has awarded our Unwanted Meds program with funding to help support new pharmaceutical collection programs in the state. This is the second time in as many years that IISG has been recognized for its efforts to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in Indiana.

“IISG has been instrumental in providing financial assistance for take-back programs in Indiana,” said Scott Morgan, IHHWTF president. “Without this support, some of the programs may not have been established.”  

The $1,000 gift will go to purchasing secure collection boxes for communities interested in creating permanent prescription disposal drop-off locations. These types of easy disposal locations help to prevent unused medicine from contaminating aquatic environments, protect children and pets from accidental poisonings, and reduce prescription or over-the-counter drug abuse.

IHHWTF has provided financial support to programs working to reduce household waste for several years. The task force works with private and public groups across Indiana to educate the public on the proper handling and disposal of a range of environmentally-harmful chemicals—from medicines to batteries to motor oil.

Communities interested in starting their own medicine take-back program can contact Laura Kammin with questions and for additional support.


New staff member will help spread pollution prevention info

Erin Knowles is the newest member of our pollution prevention team. As a media specialist, she'll work closely with the rest of the team to expand the Unwanted Meds program and increase public awareness of pharmaceutical pollution. Erin will oversee the program’s social media presence, using engaging the public in the proper disposal of unwanted medicines with research, tips, and other useful information about pharmaceuticals and personal care products. 

Before joining IISG, Erin worked on public health and sustainability initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services and University Illinois Extension. She also has a wealth of experience as a freelance writer and photographer to bring to the Unwanted Meds program. Erin received a Master’s degree in public health from Boston University.


Social science researchers help evaluate more effective weather warnings

The National Weather Service’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative was begun to help communities throughout the country better prepare for and respond to severe weather events. Much of that preparedness has to do with increasing the speed, accuracy, and effectiveness of weather monitoring and warning mechanisms on the local level. And finding the strongest ways to communicate weather messages to residents is key. 

That is why, as part of the Weather-Ready Nation project, the Great Lakes Social Science Network conducted extensive research into the most effective impact-based warnings. Their report, “Evaluation of the National Weather Service Impact-based Warning Tool,” utilized interviews, focus groups, and surveys to determine the most and least effective ways for broadcast meteorologists and emergency managers to communicate these warnings to the public.

National Weather Service piloted an impact-based warning system in 2012 in five select offices, and expanded it to the central region’s 38 offices in 2013. The report offers a sort of mid-term evaluation of the system’s effectiveness and stakeholders’ perceptions of it, while also providing recommendations for further training and implementation improvements. 

This research was a team effort between representatives from five Great Lakes Sea Grant programs. Caitie McCoy and Leslie Dorworth from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were involved, as well as Dr. Jane Harrison (Wisconsin Sea Grant), Dr. Kathy Bunting-Howarth (New York Sea Grant), Hilarie Sorensen (Minnesota Sea Grant), Katie Williams (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Dr. Chris Ellis (NOAA Coastal Services Center). The report was presented earlier this year to the Social Coast Forum in Charleston, SC, sparking a number of other groups and agencies to inquire about the report and possible opportunities to expand on it with further research. 

For further information about the Great Lakes Social Science Network, as well as training and future research projects, visit the link above.


In the news: Proposing an international outdoor trail throughout the Great Lakes

Several interests have aligned to propose a biking, hiking, and paddling route through the Great Lakes basin in both the U.S. and Canada. 

From CTV News
"The Great Lakes Coastal Trail Conference -- taking place Thursday and Friday in Saugatuck, Mich. -- aims to bring together supporters in the U.S. and Canada to formalize development of a roughly 11,270-kilometre route.

The route would include Great Lakes shoreline and the St. Lawrence River, which connects the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

An aim is to draw tourists to the region, which includes eight U.S. states and Quebec and Ontario.
It would integrate independent biking and kayaking trail developments in states such as Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin."
Read more at the link above.


Climate report predicts more weather extremes

Higher temperatures, extreme rainstorms, loss of wildlife, and a drop in Lake Michigan water levels. This is what the Midwest can expect in the coming decades according to the latest review of climate change trends.

Released on Tuesday, the 2014 National Climate Assessment provides an in-depth look at the expected impacts of climate change across the country. The report also investigates how businesses, agriculture, infrastructure, natural resources, and public health will be affected if current trends continue.

Midwesterners have likely noticed a few of the projected changes already. Summers are longer and warmer, winters are wetter, and flooding is increasing. But some of the long-term impacts might not be as apparent. For example, higher water temperatures could drive out fish species and make it easier for non-native species to invade new habitats. Stronger rainstorms, especially in cities, will also mean more runoff that pollutes waterways and erodes shorelines and river banks. 

Read more about these and other regional impacts in the report. And visit our climate change page for information on what communities and individuals can do to mitigate and prepare for the changing climate. 


Students live stream with Lake Guardian scientists

A group of seventh graders in Buffalo, New York are gearing up for a different kind of science class. On Monday, students will take a break from their regular activities to video chat with Great Lakes scientists and discuss issues like water chemistry, food webs, and pollution. And after spending the fall monitoring water quality in their local rivers, they have a lot of questions.

It’s all part of a joint program with IISG and the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office that gives students a chance to collect data on water characteristics like dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH. The monitoring equipment is similar to the sensors used aboard the EPA research vessel Lake Guardian.

The Nichols Middle School students have worked throughout the year on projects related to field work done in the fall, and they plan to collect new samples next week. But before they return to the field, they will “sit down” with EPA scientists Glenn Warren, Eric Osantowski, and Beth Hinchey Malloy.

Each of the three classes will have roughly 20 minutes to ask questions about their fall data, the connections between different water characteristics, and the impact of human activities on Great Lakes health. They will also have a chance to talk about the ins and outs of being an aquatic scientist and the education those careers require.  

Sandy Cunningham, the students’ teacher, has used the Hydrolab for several years and is one of three teachers to participate in the IISG-hosted video chats this year. Superior Middle School’s Stephanie Francis and Lesley Zylstra, a fifth grade teacher in Milwaukee, also used the monitoring equipment and conversations with scientists to boost their aquatic science sections. All three were introduced to the program, along with other classroom resources, during workshops coordinated by IISG. 

Monday’s is the last videocast before summer break, but IISG’s Kristin TePas hopes to continue the event next year, each month with a different teacher.

IISG will be covering Monday’s conversation live on our Twitter page. Tune in between 7:45 am and 12:15 pm CST to learn more about the health of the Great Lakes from scientists who work aboard Lake Guardian.

*Students analyze water samples from local streams. Photos courtesy of Sandy Cunningham. 


Lady Quagga announces latest tour

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is proud to announce the arrival of our new “spokes-mussel” Lady Quagga. This world-wide sensation is available to go on tour to your school or public event to publicize the latest information about aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Lady Quagga is a native of the Ukraine, but quagga mussels were first sighted in the Great Lakes in 1989. Since then, along with the closely related zebra mussels, quagga populations have grown dramatically—and their impact as well. They clog pipes, outcompete other filter feeders, and leave water vulnerable to algae outbreaks.

Because Lady Quagga is unusually large for a mussel, she is a celebrity, captivating audiences with her style and message of how to help prevent the spread of AIS.

She has big shells to fillLady Quagga is replacing Zelda the Zebra Mussel, who retired several years ago after a long career of meeting people and making friends throughout the Great Lakes region.

If you are interested in Lady Quagga, contact her manager, Terri Hallesy


New education coordinator very familiar with IISG mission

Terri Hallesy is IISG’s new education coordinator. She has been a part of the program’s education team since 2004 and has played a key role in developing curriculum, conducting educator workshops, and designing IISG-led courses. Her list of accomplishments includes the Nab the Aquatic Invader! website and the B-WET teacher workshop. Terri has received several awards during her tenure with IISG, including an Extension Award of Excellence in 2008 for her efforts on a University of Illinois service-learning course. As the education coordinator, Terri will develop new programs and resources to build our program and improve Great Lakes education in the region. She will also oversee several state and regional collaborative education efforts, including the Center for Great Lakes Literacy project.


In the news: City of Chicago funds green infrastructure projects

The City of Chicago is funding its first projects under the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, incorporating green water management principles and practices into current and upcoming city projects. 

"As part of the Mayor’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, which is one of the largest voluntary investments in this type of infrastructure by an American City, DWM has worked with City agencies to identify opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into existing and ongoing capital projects. For 2014, DWM has identified 39 such projects, which include four schoolyard projects, five complete streets projects and 30 traffic calming projects. In sum, these 39 projects will receive $6.1 million in funding from DWM and will leverage nearly $18 million in additional funding from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and other partners… 

Working with CPS and MWRD, DWM will provide funding to the Space to Grow program, an initiative by Openlands and Healthy Schools Campaign to convert public school asphalt schoolyards into green playgrounds. Donald Morrill Math & Science Elementary School, Virgil Grissom Elementary School, George Leland Elementary School and Theophilus Schmid Elementary School are currently in the design phase, with construction anticipated to begin this summer. These projects will contain several green infrastructure components, including rain gardens, bioswales and permeable pavement to help absorb rainfall."
Read the complete announcement, including information about the city’s new grant funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, at the link above.


Learn about Chicago's beautiful lakefront with our Chicago Water Walk app

Residents and visitors alike can learn more about the beloved Chicago lakefront with our new Chicago Water Walk mobile tour. The app offers a self-guided walking tour of the city's historic and scenic shoreline from Navy Pier to the Museum Campus, with stops and landmarks along the way.

Chicago Water Walk takes users on a journey through time to discover how Lake Michigan and the Chicago River transformed a small trading post into one of the economic and cultural hubs of the world—and the vital role these natural resources play in the city’s present and future.

The app explores some of the city’s most celebrated sites—Navy Pier, the Chicago River, downtown marinas, Buckingham Fountain, and Museum Campus. Each stop combines history, current events, and water sciences with fun facts to show the importance of aquatic ecosystems in the city’s past, present, and future. Stunning photos, historical images, and links to videos and other resources bring these issues to life and reveal a lakefront that will surprise even lifelong Chicagoans. 

Through the tour you'll learn why the decision to reverse the Chicago River is still making waves more than a century later, how a city that sits along Lake Michigan can be concerned about having enough water in the future, and how native trees and plants are helping the city prepare for changing weather patterns. You'll also find out about efforts to restore much-needed habitats for millions of birds, fish, and other wildlife.

With 18 stops across four routes, Chicago Water Walk is easily customized to enhance any trip to the lakefront. You can follow the suggested leg or visit the sites that most appeal to you using the interactive map.

You can download Chicago Water Walk for free on both Android and Apple devices. It was developed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, with funding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and technical support from the University of Illinois Administrative Information Technology Services.

Visit www.chicagowaterwalk.org for more information.