Friday Foto: Sea Grant helps enhance a green Chicago

If you ask us, the Chicago area is second to none. That's why we're happy to be able to work with partners on some of the most important issues facing the region. For example, in 2011, an IISG study into the costs of green infrastructure led the state of Illinois to invest millions of dollars in new projects in what was already one of the greenest cities in the world. 


Local citizen nabs invasive plant on sight

Water gardeners—keep your eyes open this season for invasive plants that may be lurking at your neighborhood garden store. In recent years, Illinois and Indiana DNR have both added nearly 30 new species to their lists of banned aquatic plants, but some may still be available for sale. 

If you spot one of these invaders, be sure to tell the store manager. Some species can be hard to identify and larger stores may not even know these plants are on their shipment list. That's exactly what was happening at a Petco in Carbondale, IL, where Karla Gage found Brazilian elodea—aka Egeria densa—while browsing with her family.  

"I notified the department manager that this was listed as an injurious species in Illinois, and I sent a follow up email to the store manager," said Karla, coordinator of the River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, which brings together federal, state, local, and private partners to tackle invasive plants in southern Illinois. "I received a call from the corporate contact, who stated that Petco stores in Illinois would no longer receive or be able to order Brazilian elodea. Previously, Carbondale stock had been on "auto-replenish," so the stores never actually ordered Brazilian elodea. Current stock is being disposed of responsibly."
"Thanks to Admin Code 805 and the quick response of Petco," she added, "the risk of an introduction of Brazilian elodea into natural systems has been reduced." 

The Illinois and Indiana rules also make it illegal to gift, barter, exchange, loan, or transport the any listed species. Recent additions to the list—27 plant species in Illinois and 28 in Indiana—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. IISG's aquatic invasive species (AIS) team 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. 

Read more about the River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area at TechLine news. And v
isit our AIS page for more information about invasive plants and animals on the market and what water gardeners and aquarium hobbyists can do to prevent their spread. 

***Photo courtesy of Graves Lovell, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bugwood.org. 


Website of the week: Bringing science to life has never been so easy

A closer look at web tools and sites that boost research and empower Great Lakes communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. 

For over two years, the Limno Loan program has been shaking up science class across the Great Lakes region. Coordinated by IISG and the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, the program gives students an opportunity to collect water quality data from local waterways with the same kind of monitoring sensors used by scientist aboard the R/V Lake Guardian. 

And now, teachers can take their Hydrolab projects one step further with help from IISG's new Limno Loan site. In addition to information about the equipment and the parameters it measures, the site provides lessons and activities to help teachers K-12 better integrate the Hydrolab into their aquatic science sections. 

The activities, most of which were created by educators who used the equipment in their own classrooms, focus on demonstrating the connections between water quality, aquatic food webs, and human activities. Sample water quality data sheets are also available. 
The website also provides a unique opportunity for classes to share their data and compare it to information collected by fellow students across the region. 

New activities will be added as they are developed, so be sure to check back later. You can also read more
 about how the Limno Loan program has helped improve student understanding of Great Lakes sciences in our Winter 2012 Helm


Illinois gets a jump on invasive species

Managing aquatic invasive species is no easy—or cheap—task. Plants and animals spread to new regions through a variety of routes, many of which involve human activities like fishing, boating, and gardening. Coupled with the fact that there are hundreds of new species poised to thrive in Midwestern environments, it is very difficult for natural resource managers to get a jump on these invaders.

But all that may be changing in Illinois due to a new database cataloging the presence of non-native species across the state. Created at Loyola University Chicago by then-graduate student Abigail Jacobs and ecologist Reuben Keller, the database brings together animal and plant sightings collected by the U.S. Geological Survey, Field Museum, Illinois Natural History Survey, and many other organizations and researchers. Its more than 20,000 records makes it one of the most comprehensive AIS databases in country.

The size and detail of the database reveals previously-unknown patterns in the movement of invasive species that will help natural resource managers better focus their control and monitoring efforts.

“We now have maps showing the number of AIS in each county and showing where species tend to be first recorded,” said Keller. “These are really useful for determining where managers should focus on controlling existing invaders and where efforts should go into monitoring for new invaders.”  

These maps and other analysis results are expected to be included in the updated Illinois State Comprehensive Management Plan for Aquatic Nuisance Species. First written in 1999, in part by IISG’s Pat Charlebois, the plan identifies invasive species that pose the greatest threat to the state and provides guidance for organizations working to halt their spread.

The results of the database will also help groups like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and IISG hone in on areas where outreach efforts will have the biggest impact. This is particularly important for state-wide campaigns like Be a Hero—Transport Zero and programs designed to combat invasive species available for sale.  

“The database will make it easier to connect with audiences by talking about how the specific waterways and habitats they care about are being affected by invasive species,” said Pat. 

***Photo: Purple loosestrife is one of many invasive plants cataloged in the database. 


Website of the week: The ABCs of fish farming

A closer look at web tools and sites that boost research and empower Great Lakes communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. 

Aquaculture plays an increasingly vital role in securing long-term food supplies, and the Midwest is poised to help. In fact, a rich supply of raw materials and proximity to large markets makes Illinois and Indiana prime locations for aquaculture farms and related industries. 

To help producers cash in on these benefits, IISG, University of Illinois Extension, and Purdue Extension teamed up to create Aquaculture Economics and Marketing Resources. The site provides leading research and how-to information for developing a productive, innovative, and profitable aquaculture business. 

Visitors interested in starting a new business will find resources on everything from establishing an organizational structure to creating a business plan to securing financing. New and veteran producers can also find tips for connecting with consumers and tapping into niche markets. 

Aquaculture Economics and Marketing Resources is one of several tools IISG uses to help aquaculture producers define markets and create value-added opportunities for their products. Since 2005, Kwamena Quagrainie has held roughly 40 workshops with over 1,200 participants. These and other efforts in Indiana resulted in about $15 million in farm sales of aquaculture products in 2013, a nearly five-fold increase over 2005. 

To learn more about how aquaculture is strengthening Indiana's economy, read our 2013 program impacts


Still time to comment on Illinois plan to reduce nutrient pollution

The deadline for Illinois residents to review and respond to the state's plan to keep nutrients from farm fields, city streets, and wastewater treatment plants out of our waterways is just around the corner. All comments must be emailed to simon.daniels@illinois.gov or mailed to NLRS Comments, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Water, 1021 North Grand Ave. East, P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL 62794 by Jan. 24. 

From The Helm
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy outlines a suite of voluntary and mandatory practices for reducing phosphorus and nitrogen losses—the primary drivers of algal blooms that lower oxygen levels—from both urban and agricultural sources. By targeting the most critical watersheds and building on existing state and industry programs, these practices are expected to ultimately reduce the amount of nutrients reaching Illinois waterways by 45 percent. 
"It's the most comprehensive and integrated approach to nutrient loss reduction in the state's history," said Brian Miller, director of IISG and the Illinois Water Resources Center (IWRC). "But what really sets the plan apart is how it was developed. State agencies, agriculture, non-profit organizations, scientists, and wastewater treatment professionals were all at the table working together to create this strategy."
The collaborative effort began over a year ago in response to the federal 2008 Gulf of Mexico Action Plan, which calls for all 12 states in the Mississippi River Basin to develop plans to reduce nutrient loading to the Gulf. The state process was spearheaded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and facilitated by IWRC and IISG.  Read more
This and other stories from the Winter 2015 Helm are also available at our Newsroom or on Issuu

***Image: Breakdown of nutrient loads leaving the state in rivers. 


Knauss Fellowship takes Katherine Touzinsky around the world

As the 2014 Knauss season wraps up, IISG-sponsored graduate student Katherine Touzinsky wrote in to update us on her work at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since we last heard from her in August. 

The last time I wrote for the IISG blog, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for how far the Knauss Fellowship had taken me—both figuratively through professional and personal development and literally by zig-zagging across the country. Since then, the travel and learning has not slowed down. I have eaten lunch on a dredging rig in the Gulf of Mexico, visited a research laboratory in Athens, Greece, attended a conference on deltas and climate change in the Netherlands, and explored the Everglades learning about the impending consequences of invasive species and climate change. 

The fellowship is now coming to a close, and the tides are changing at work. The open-ended learning ended a few months ago when I committed the majority of my time to a new and exciting project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Ever since the devastation of 2011, when over 14 weather and climate-related events—Hurricane Sandy being the most noteworthy—resulted in an unprecedented loss of lives and property, many federal agencies have begun their own investigation of climate change and disaster preparedness under the broad headline of "resilience."

Resilience is an ambiguous word that can mean different things depending on the case and application, but most definitions include four key aspects: prepare, resist, recover, and adapt. Because the Corps is in charge of the nation's water resources infrastructure, there is a huge need to investigate these concepts and research the best way to apply resilience to Corps policy and practice. I have been offered the opportunity to assist with much of this initial research. While it is intimidating to face such a huge issue and figure out how to recommend solutions for such a huge and venerable organization like the Corps, I wake up every day excited to learn more.

This coming February, we are working on a joint U.S. Army Corps and NOAA workshop to quantify resilience in Mobile Bay, AL. I will help test the method by working with community experts from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the local port authorities to be vetted later this spring by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board. 

Despite all of this excitement, I know that my Master's thesis is still waiting for me.  Luckily, I have been given the opportunity to continue working in Washington D.C. at the Corps headquarter office and will work part-time on my thesis. I'm brainstorming possible locations to work on the thesis—it would be great to say that I wrote a chapter or two in the Library of Congress!

The Knauss Fellowship has been an unbelievable opportunity that continues to unfold! 


Website of the week: A one-stop-shop for Great Lakes educators

A closer look at web tools and sites that boost research and empower Great Lakes communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. 

Educators interested in strengthening aquatic science programs and encouraging Great Lakes stewardship—look no further than the new Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) website. 

Created by Sea Grant educators throughout the region, the site is a one-stop-shop for classroom activities designed to boost Great Lakes literacy. Educators will find information on and links to teacher-tested curriculum like Fresh and Salt and Estuaries 101. And the Teacher Feature allows visitors to hear about education success stories directly from colleagues across the region. 

Visitors to the site can also learn about the latest professional development opportunities available throughout the region. For example, teachers interested in the annual Shipboard Science Workshop, held this year on Lake Michigan, can find workshop information and application deadlines. Featured blogs also make it possible to read about teacher experiences at past CGLL workshops and follow along with the latest projects. 

For more information on upcoming educator workshops and available curriculum, contact Terri Hallesy


Wisconsin teachers make the most of Sea Grant aquatic education opportunities

Real-world, hands-on activities are bringing Great Lakes science alive for a group of Wisconsin middle school students. Our friends at Wisconsin Sea Grant have the story. 
Two Wisconsin teachers have made exceptional use of the educational resources that Sea Grant has to offer. And not just resources from Wisconsin Sea Grant—the teachers have found valuable support from the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, a collaborative effort by educators in the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The teachers are Lynn Kurth and Cindy Byers. Kurth works as a science teacher for Prairie River Middle School in Merrill, Wis. Just a 50-minute drive away, Byers works as a science and reading teacher for Rosholt Middle School in Rosholt, Wis. 
They met in 2011 during a week-long voyage on the Lake Guardian, a research vessel owned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They were participating in a Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop, a program conducted by the Great Lakes Sea Grant programs through the former Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (which has become the Center for Great Lakes Literacy). They were part of a team of five colleagues who worked on a research project together. Kurth and Byers bonded over a Hydrolab—a large, tubular piece of water testing equipment—and it’s led to bigger and better things for both them, their students, and other teachers across the country. 
The Hydrolab takes various water quality readings. Kurth and Byers were drawn to it because both of their schools are near rivers and the EPA was providing the device on loan for use with their classrooms after the cruise. They saw the opportunity to partner in the future. 
It worked. “We supported each other’s teaching and enriched each other’s classrooms by having this collaboration,” Byers said. “We had the kids Skype with each other a couple of times and present the Hydrolab data they collected. Even though our schools are not that far apart, it seemed quite exotic to the kids and they were excited to use a piece of equipment that scientists use. A lot of the reasons we’ve been able to do so much with the program is that we’ve been supporting each other all along.” Read more 
This is just one example of how the Hydrolab and other Sea Grant-led efforts have helped create once-in-a-lifetime learning experiences for students. In fact, 26 classes across the Great Lakes region took a break from their regular activities over the last year to video chat with the scientists behind the EPA Lake Guardian's annual monitoring cruises. Some students even took a guided virtual tour of the boat. 

And now a new group of teachers and non-formal educators have an opportunity to work with Sea Grant specialists to introduce activities like these into their aquatic sciences sections during the 2015 Shipboard Science Workshop on Lake Michigan. Applications for the 15 available spaces are due February 10. 


Set sail on Lake Michigan for a week-long educator workshop

Teachers and non-formal educators can set a course for adventure and professional development this summer with a week-long workshop aboard the EPA research vessel Lake Guardian. The Shipboard Science Workshop will give teachers grades 4-12 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside scientists as they conduct field research across Lake Michigan. Applications for the 15 available spaces are due February 10. 

The annual research cruise sets sail from Milwaukee, WI on July 12. Onboard sampling will give educators from a variety of disciplines an opportunity to learn first-hand about the unique ecology of Lake Michigan as well as how people’s actions are affecting the region. Port stops along the way will also allow participants to learn more about Great Lakes recreation, history, and stewardship before returning to Milwaukee July 18.

Educators will collaborate on new ways to incorporate hands-on research into their classrooms and share ideas for classroom activities that boost understanding of Great Lakes issues. Sea Grant specialists will provide educational resources and support while onboard and will help teachers implement new activities after the cruise.

Participants will receive a $500 stipend at the end of the week-long cruise that could be used to help cover any travel expenses to and from the launch point. 

Application details are available at www.surveymonkey.com/s/lakeguardian2015. Contact Terri Hallesy with any questions. 

The Shipboard Science Workshop, which takes place on a different lake each year, 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.


Sara Paver looks back on her experiences as a Knauss Fellow

As the 2014 Knauss season wraps up, IISG-sponsored graduate student Sara Paver wrote in to update us on her work at National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences since we last heard from her in July. 

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity. In my placement as a Knauss Fellow in the Division of Ocean Sciences at the National Science Foundation, I have continued working with the Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) working group and the Biological Oceanography Program. I am currently leading the efforts of the working group to organize and plan the Coastal SEES Principal Investigators’ Meeting, which will be held January 29-30, 2015. I am looking forward to meeting the 2013 and 2014 Coastal SEES awardees and hearing about the exciting work they are doing to make progress on coastal sustainability issues.

As part of my work with the Biological Oceanography Program, I have been helping manage the review of five grant proposals. I am currently writing analyses that summarize the reviewers’ feedback and explain whether or not the proposal is being recommended for an award. 

In addition to the work I’ve been doing at NSF headquarters in Arlington, VA, I have had the opportunity to participate in valuable professional development opportunities. I presented my dissertation research at the International Society for Microbial Ecology meeting in Seoul, South Korea. I also participated in the Explorations in Data Analyses for Metagenomic Advances in Microbial Ecology Workshop at Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, MI. Ashley Shade, Tracy Teal, and Josh Herr put together an excellent week of learning modules, lectures, and guest speakers. My favorite highlight—out of many—was the question and answer session we had with Jim Tiedje.

Most recently, I traveled to Hawaii to participate in the Ecological Dissertations in the Aquatic Sciences (Eco-DAS) Workshop at the Center for Microbial Oceanography:  Research and Education. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet peers who, like me, have recently finished a Ph.D. or will be finishing very soon. As a result of participating in Eco-DAS, I am working on two collaborative manuscripts. It was a great week to get excited about science and collaboration.

The best part of my fellowship has been all of the connections that I have made with people, including my colleagues at NSF, the other fellows, people in the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Office, individuals that I interacted with during Knauss placement weeks and Knauss professional development activities, researchers serving on NSF panels and giving presentations at NSF, and people I interacted with at the workshops and conferences I attended. The opportunity to be a Knauss Fellow has broadened my perspective on many things, including available career paths. I might consider coming back to NSF as a rotating program officer in the future. In the near term, I plan to return to an academic setting in a postdoctoral research position.

Applications are due February 13, 2015 for the 2016 Knauss Fellowship class. I highly recommend that eligible graduate and professional students apply.


Get ready for spring with upcoming garden shows

It's never too early to start planning for warmer weather and time in the garden. That's why our aquatic invasive species team is hitting the road later this month for their annual tour of garden and landscaping shows. 

Greg Hitzroth, Danielle Hilbrich, and Alice Denny will kick off the busy season with a trip to the Indiana Green Expo on Jan. 22-23 to share simple steps hobbyists can take to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Visitors to the IISG booth will find resources with information on how to recognize common invaders and tips for planting beautiful gardens with native species. Hobbyists can also learn more about Illinois and Indiana laws banning the sale of known invaders. 

Can't make it to the Green Expo? No problem. Mark your calendars for the shows below and plan a stop by the IISG booth. Or, visit our AIS page to learn about what you can do to stop invaders in their tracks.  

Porter County Master Gardeners Association's Gardening Show – Jan 24, Valparaiso, IN 

iLandscapeFeb 25-27, Schaumburg, IL 

Chicago Flowerand Garden Show – March 14-22, Navy Pier  


Extra! Extra! Winter edition of The Helm now available

Whether you've been following Great Lakes news for years or are looking to get caught up on key issues, you won't want to miss the latest edition of The Helm—now with a fresh new look!   

In this issue, you'll learn about new discoveries in Great Lakes plastic research that suggest southern Lake Michigan may present a unique problem for communities and natural resource managers. You'll also hear how video chats with EPA scientists are helping connect K-12 students with Great Lakes science and read about Illinois' plan to tackle the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. 

Read these stories at the links above or find the whole edition on Issuu. You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter to make sure you never miss an issue. 


New year brings rich fellowship opportunities

Fellowship season is upon us, and, as usual, there are great opportunities for graduate students interested in coastal and aquatic resources. But don't delay. Deadlines are just around the corner. 

For additional information on any of the opportunities below, contact Angie Archer

The Coastal Management Fellowship gives post-graduate students an opportunity to work with state coastal zone programs on state-specific projects. The two-year fellowship provides on-the-job training for students interested in coastal resource management and policy issues.

Interested candidates must apply to IISG by January 23, 2015. Complete details are available at the link above. 

These fellowships are open to PhD candidates interested in marine resource economics or population and ecosystem dynamics. Funding is available for 2-3 years depending on the chosen concentration. 

The application deadline is January 29, 2015. Visit the National Sea Grant Office website at the link above for more information on application requirements. 

The Knauss Fellowship offers outstanding graduate students a unique opportunity to work on natural resource policy issues in our nation's capital. Successful applicants will spend the year—February 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017—in a legislative or executive host office. Past fellows have worked on issues ranging from oil spills to waterway infrastructure to ecosystem-based management strategies.

Applications must be sent to IISG by February 13, 2015. Follow the link above for additional information on eligibility and application requirements. 

Students currently enrolled in a graduate or professional degree program in public policy, public health, natural resources, aquatic sciences, or related fields are encouraged to apply for this fellowship. The chosen applicant will work with a variety of stakeholders to help Great Lakes states reach environmental quality and sustainable development goals. 

Applications are due February 27, 2015. Additional information is available at the link above.