Internship brings Brittany Sievers closer to a career in outreach

Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This summer, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Brittany Sievers spent her internship working with Kara Salazar, IISG’s sustainable communities specialist. She had this to say about her summer experiences:
“Since my internship covered many programs, I worked on different projects every day, which kept me busy and engaged. Some of my favorite projects were those that gave me an opportunity to develop my professional writing skills and become a published author. I wrote several curriculum pieces for the Enhancing Public Spaces program and pieces that will appear on the program’s website once it is complete. I expanded the Green Meetings and Events Planning Guide that a previous intern created by adding ‘cheat sheets’ for large events and professional meetings that summarized the information provided within the publication. Finally, I wrote scripts for two rainscaping training videos—plant selection and rain garden design.   
I was also able to get out of the office and work directly with the public and other key stakeholders on several occasions. I was at the Wabash Riverfest with a trivia game geared towards children that I developed. I also assisted Kara during pilot testing of the Tipping Points and Indicators tool in Hobart, IN and with a presentation of the program during the 2014 Institute for Sustainable Development in Nashville, IN. 
Since I plan to work in an outreach position in the future, this internship was perfect for me. I had not had work experience in outreach before, but I have enjoyed being active in several outreach clubs at Purdue to facilitate positive change on the Purdue University campus and the surrounding community. I know my experiences this summer will help my chances of landing a job and excelling in that position in the future.”
With her undergraduate work in natural resources and environmental sciences complete, Brittany is turning her sights to graduate school. In fact, she began work on a Master’s in marine conservation and policy earlier this week at Stony Brook University in New York. 


AIS prevention coming to a vehicle near you

Summer is coming to an end, but there is still plenty of fun to be had this weekend. If you’re like us, you’re anxious to hit the road to your favorite beach, boat launch, or fishing spot. But before you do, we have a message that will help keep these places healthy for many Labor Days to come. And you may just see it on the car in front of you.  

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has emblazoned nine vehicles with a reminder to Be a Hero—Transport Zero. It’s all part of a statewide program that is raising awareness about how the public can help prevent the spread of invasive species on land and in waterways. These plants and animals can wreak havoc on food webs, water quality, and recreation. The three featured in IDNR’s tailgate designs—Asian carp, zebra mussel, and hydrilla—are some of the worst offenders, but there are many more, and they aren’t always easy to recognize. 

So what can you do? Just follow three easy steps before you leave the water this weekend: 

- Remove any plants, animals, and mud from boats, trailers, and equipment
- Drain everything—bait buckets, live wells, etc.
- Dry everything with a towel 

From boaters and kayakers to waterfowl hunters, scuba divers, swimmers, and more, we can all help prevent invasive species from taking over our favorite waterways.

See you on the water! 


Former intern Ada Morgan continues work on environmental issues

We recently got some exciting news from former intern Ada Morgan, who in 2011 worked with Caitie McCoy on a study of community perceptions of sediment remediation in the Sheboygan River Area of Concern. We’ll let her tell you what she has been up to since.
“The Sheboygan study finished up just before I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I studied economics and environmental geology there, and I knew I wanted to continue my studies in the environmental field. I was encouraged by Caitie and a few others I looked up to to look into graduate school. That fall, I began a master of urban planning and policy program at the University of Illinois Chicago, where I continued to learn about how humans interact with our environment and how to think holistically about the decisions we make. 
My specialization was in environmental planning. I took some great courses, like an economic and environmental planning course and a course on residential sustainability policy. My final project centered on greywater reuse in a south suburb of Chicago. 
I graduated this past May and am now the environmental and sustainability coordinator for a bread manufacturing company. I started just a few weeks ago. I am responsible for both environmental compliance (permits, etc.) and sustainability projects and initiatives. My main task so far has been re-developing an environmental management system for the entire company, which has four different facilities. 
My experiences working with Caitie at IISG was the best preparation I could have had for both graduate school and my current job. I was able to participate in almost all aspects of the Sheboygan study. I helped with interviewing stakeholders, performed data analysis, and co-authored the final report with Caitie. You don’t often get this kind of hands-on experience with qualitative analysis and reporting in school. 
I also learned a lot about environmental regulations since the project I worked on was under EPA's Great Lakes Legacy Act. Understanding the regulatory structure helped tremendously while I was in the urban planning program (reading codes) and continues to help me navigate compliance issues at my company. Overall, the time I spent at IISG was one of my most valuable internships, and I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to work at such a fantastic organization.”


Welcome our new environmental educator

We are excited to announce that Kirsten Hope Walker has joined the team as IISG's environmental educator. Kirsten works closely with Terri Hallesy, the program’s education coordinator, IISG specialists, and teachers to develop classroom materials, curriculum, and websites. Her efforts help boost environmental literacy related to aquatic invasive species, disposal of unwanted medicine, water quality, and other Sea Grant topic areas.

Kirsten brings more than 20 years of education experience, including eight years teaching high school science. She comes to IISG from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, where she served as an environmental education specialist for two years.

Kirsten holds Master’s degrees in secondary education and curriculum and instruction from Roosevelt University and Northern Illinois University and serves on the boards of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois and the educational non-profit Humane Environmental Education (HEED).


EMPOWER Scholarship again available for community stewardship projects

We are very excited to once again be offering the EMPOWER Scholarship for Illinois and Indiana teachers interested in incorporating Great Lakes science, geography, and social studies into their classrooms. The scholarship provides $500 to help plan and implement a community stewardship project focused on local watershed issues. Applications for the two available awards will be accepted until September 23. 

Teachers for grades 4-12 can apply by filling out the scholarship form and submitting it to Terri Hallesy via email or fax. Selected teachers will be required to share information about classroom activities, student products, and successes at the end of the project.

The EMPOWER scholarship is part of IISG’s ongoing efforts to improve science, geography, and social studies education with professional development for teachers and innovative curriculum. To learn more about upcoming training opportunities and classroom resources, visit IISG’s Education page.    


Over 12,000 pounds of medicine are not in local waterways

You have probably heard that pharmaceuticals have been found in rivers and streams, groundwater, and drinking water throughout the country, in part because medications are sometimes flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash. While the contamination levels are not yet proven to pose health threats to people, studies have shown that these chemicals are have been linked to impaired development, behavior, and reproduction in aquatic wildlife.

In 2013, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, which has been a leader in addressing the need for safe medicine disposal, provided assistance to 39 permanent collection programs in both states. IISG also supported single-day collection events in 14 communities by assisting with the collections, writing press releases, and providing educational materials. 

As a result, 12,040 pounds of medicine were properly disposed of through permanent collection programs and single-day events supported by IISG. The medicine was destroyed using high-heat incineration, thus reducing the potential for diversion or accidental poisonings and keeping the chemicals out of local water.

To learn more about how IISG is empowering communities and individuals to secure a healthy environment, check out our 2013 program impacts.


Interns Erika and Mark explored the social side of environmental science

Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Erika Lower and Mark Krupa spent their internship working with Caitie McCoy, IISG’s social scientist.

“We did a little bit of everything this summer—from compiling reports on public perceptions of river cleanups in Detroit and Milwaukee to conducting interviews with community members to covering a day of outreach at Indiana’s Roxana Marsh” said Erika, a graduate from Virginia Tech who also interned last year with Virginia Sea Grant. “Working on so many diverse projects mean there was rarely a slow day at the office.”

Their favorite experiences came while onsite at Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment remediation projects. One such trip took them to the Upper Trenton Channel near Detroit to conduct a needs assessment that will help the project team tailor outreach products and messaging to those who use and visit the river. 

 “Our Detroit trip was definitely my favorite part,” said Mark, a University of Illinois alum. “We talked to over 30 different community members. It was great to see the site we had researched and really get to know the community, their concerns, and how they value the waterway.”

“How often do you get a chance to tour the site of a former oil refinery or conduct an interview from a powerboat in the middle of the Detroit River while watching the sun rise?” Erika added.  

These experiences further boosted their interest in the social science and highlighted its importance in environmental conservation.

“I've always been interested in the human dimensions of environmental science, but actually getting out into the field and talking with community members about their hopes and concerns illustrated just how complex finding the best solution to environmental issues can be,” said Erika.

“Before this internship, I didn't realize how important it is to address local perceptions and concerns surrounding environmental cleanup projects,” said Mark. “Also, I hadn't realized how much thought goes into designing outreach materials in order to ensure they attract an audience and effectively communicate the message.”

With their internship complete, Erika and Mark are turning their attention to graduate school. Mark will begin a Master’s in public health at Saint Louis University later this month. And Erika plans to complete graduate work in science communication or environmental social science. 


Buoy workshop inspires new STEM activities

Fourteen teachers from Illinois and Indiana are hard at work developing new science lessons that incorporate real-time data from the Michigan City buoy after a training workshop held last week at Purdue North Central.

During the day-long workshop, IISG’s education and research teams, along with Purdue University’s Cary Troy, introduced teachers to the environmental monitoring buoy, the data it collects, and how researchers are using the data to better understand the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan. 

The highlight of the workshop for many was the boat ride four miles into Lake Michigan to see the buoy first-hand—in smaller groups due to the size of the boat. The trips also gave teachers the opportunity to talk more with researchers and staff from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about the buoy and other data collection methods used to monitor fisheries, understand lake dynamics, and improve water safety.

The teachers will work together to develop at least six curriculum activities that improve STEM education—science, technology, engineering, and math—and boost understanding of Great Lakes issues. These won’t be complete till early next year, but the teachers already have big ideas for how to integrate the buoy data into their classrooms.
Several hope to use information on wind speed and water currents to improve their weather units. Others plan to use data collected by the buoy’s thermistor chain, which measures temperatures at different depths, to pinpoint the likely habitats of specific fish species and determine whether invaders like Asian carp could make a home in Lake Michigan. Some even expressed interest in having students compare buoy data with environmental characteristics collected on land to better understand solar radiation and seasonal changes.   

The final lesson plans will be available on the IISG website.

Funding for the workshop was provided in part by the Indiana DNR Lake Michigan Coastal Program. Special thanks to the DNR staff at the Michigan City field office for taking the participants out on the lake.