Friday foto: The ice cometh

Along Lake Michigan on the south side of Chicago, a cold January brought ice to the nearshore. As waves froze and shattered on the beach, what was created was a beautiful delicate frozen design.


Friday foto: Pollution Prevention Minute--the series continues

Pollution Prevention Outreach Specialist Adrienne Gulley reads over a script yesterday before shooting a new Pollution Prevention Minute at the University of Illinois' Media Commons studio. That's right! The popular video series is back in production! To get caught up, check out the rest of the series.


We have a new program leader!

Wait. Isn't that Pollution Prevention Outreach Specialist Laura Kammin? Nope. That's our new program leader!

In her new larger role with IISG, Kammin will oversee the development, expansion, and delivery of science-based programs that help communities make informed choices when it comes to managing their natural resources. She will help connect specialists and scientists, as well as enhance the partnerships among IISG, Prairie Research Institute, Illinois Extension, and Purdue Extension.

"For more than 30 years, IISG has been tackling some of the biggest ecological and economic challenges facing Indiana and Illinois,” Kammin said. “I'm excited to get started in my new role and to grow our capacity to help people become better stewards of Lake Michigan and empower communities in becoming more resilient."

Since joining IISG in 2010, Kammin has worked tirelessly to expand the unwanted medicine disposal program – 57 sites – and promoted education tools like Sensible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines and the Medicine Chest curriculum. Her impact has also been felt through innovative outreach approaches and dozens of new partnerships. For example, Kammin spearheaded a partnership with the American Veterinary Medicine Association to bring medicine disposal awareness to vets and ultimately, their customers.

Kammin has a Master's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Illinois.


Friday video: Great Lakes Monitoring, the movie

Here is a new video about Great Lakes Monitoring, a cutting-edge "one-stop shop" for researchers and resource managers interested in Great Lakes data.

Great Lakes Monitoring was created by IISG and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in collaboration University of Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Funding for the project comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  


Chicago Boat Show launches today

You stopped by the Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show in Chicago that started today and dropped a few thousand dollars on your dream boat—maybe.

Keep going, because aquatic invasive species outreach specialists Sarah Zack and Danielle Hilbrich, and Aquatic Ecology Specialist Jay Beugly are at a booth sharing information about what you need to know to continue enjoying Lake Michigan.

Zack and Hilbrich are distributing information about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, including a brochure highlighting Be A Hero—Transport Zero™. This comprehensive campaign outlines steps for boaters to do their part.

Buegly is talking about the importance of IISG's two Lake Michigan buoys. In fact, he's showing off the top half of the Michigan City buoy. He’ll be explaining all the real-time information this buoy— along with the Wilmette buoy—generates when it’s in the water.

They’re located at booth A313 and will be there until the show wraps up on January 18.


The Grand Cal just keeps getting better and better

The Grand Calumet River in northwest Indiana, abused from centuries of industrial contamination, celebrated a triumphant milestone in October.

Volunteers, environmental organizers, and local, state, and federal politicians gathered to admire the incredible transformation of a river that was once drained of its ecological significance.

IISG Environmental Social Scientist Caitie Nigrelli who led an outreach team to raise awareness about this enormous undertaking soaked it all in.

Caitie Nigrelli, left, and Diana Mally, an environmental
engineer with the U.S. EPA, walk by the river.
“I’m enjoying the beautiful river,” Nigrelli said. “It‘s amazing because just a few years ago I was standing in the same spot, and it was contaminated. Now I look out and it is clean and beautiful.”

Nigrelli serves as a liaison between the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and community stakeholders to promote awareness of the Grand Cal remediation through public meetings, tours, and events with school children.

The Grand Calumet was at rock bottom when the International Joint Commission designated it as an Area of Concern in 1987. Since then $159 million in combined state and U.S. EPA funds through the Great Lakes Legacy Act have thus far provided the means to clean it up.

Because of the extent of the work, the Grand Cal’s 13-mile system was divided into eight separate projects, with more milestones to come. This most recent event marked the completion of a 2-mile section from Kennedy Avenue to Cline Avenue at a cost of $82 million. The money went toward remediating 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment, restoring 58 acres of marsh habitat, and installing more than 170,000 plants.

This effort not only remediated sediment, but also removed invasive species like Phragmites that had overrun dune and swale habitat, crowding out native plants.

The federal funding, while generous, comes with a significant stipulation: Local partners must match at least 35 percent of the cost of remediation. The Indiana Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Management footed the bill with money from a Natural Resource Damage Assessment involving eight industries.
Lee Botts

But a remediation project requires more than money. It takes supportive partnerships and community trust. The Kennedy to Cline section was made possible with the knowledge and expertise provided by The Nature Conservancy, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes, U.S. Fish and WildlifeService, and IISG, as well as the local municipalities.

Kris Krouse, Shirley Heinze Land Trust executive director, said, “From our perspective as an organization, it is probably one of the most spectacular and monumental achievements when it comes to land conservation.”

Octogenarian Lee Botts, a prominent Great Lakes environmental activist since the 1960s, is making a film about the changes the south end of Lake Michigan is experiencing. She remembers questioning that any kind of restoration was ever going to happen.

“Amazing progress is being made by partnerships among all kinds of interests—some of whom in the past were enemies and opposed the conservation,” Botts said. “Now it’s a shared goal of all these interests. We’re making progress.”

Remediation on the next section starts next week—going west, it includes the city of Hammond and will go up to the Illinois border.

For more information on the ongoing cleanup of the Grand Calumet River, visit www.greatlakesmud.org.

This story appears in the latest edition of The Helm.


Friday foto: Water resolutions unfiltered

We can do better! At least that's what we tell ourselves every year when it's time to set forth another New Year's resolution. So this year, the Illinois Water Resources Center and IISG put these environmentally friendly declarations down on paper.


Medicines in Lake Michigan impact minnow embryos

An IISG-funded researcher found that the mixture of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) present in Lake Michigan can have significant negative effects on fathead minnow embryos. 

Maria Sepúlveda, a Purdue University ecotoxicologist, is telling the next chapter on research of PPCPs in Lake Michigan. In 2011, Ball State researchers, also funded by IISG, examined the concentration and detection of pharmaceuticals in the nearshore waters in Lake Michigan.

Sepúlveda chose to study two of the chemicals found in that study: triclocarban, a compound found in antibacterial soaps, lotions, and toothpaste, and cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine. Both of these chemicals find their way into Lake Michigan through sewage wastewater treatment effluent.

The researchers created realistic field concentrations in the laboratory, examining effects of the chemicals both individually and in a mixture. They also examined acute and chronic toxicity of field-observed levels of chemicals on four organisms from different parts of the food chain: green algae, diatoms, zooplankton (water flea, Daphnia magna), and fathead minnow embryos. 

Medicines in Lake Michigan impact minnow embryos Sepúlveda found that when she tested the four organisms with individual compounds at levels similar to those found in Lake Michigan, they remained largely resistant with the exception of the fathead minnow embryo, which was slightly affected by the triclocarban. When she exposed the organisms at the bottom of the food chain— diatoms, zooplankton, and Daphnia magna—to the mixtures, they were not affected even at high levels. Yet the hours-old fathead minnow embryo proved to be significantly susceptible to the contaminants. 

“This is not surprising since embryos are known to be more sensitive to most contaminants compared to adults,” said Sepulvida. “The fish embryos were more sensitive than anything else we tested. “We chose this species because there was no data in the literature and therefore our values are novel,” she added. 

Research on PPCPs in Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes overall is limited, so she cautions that these results are very preliminary. “It would be ideal if we had more data from not just Lake Michigan, but from the Great Lakes in general. But there’s just not a lot of data on pharmaceuticals from the Great Lakes right now,” Sepúlveda said. 

“There are over 200 pharmaceuticals that people look for all the time in surface water. It’s overwhelming when you start thinking about it. It’s very complicated to study in a lab or in the field.”

This story appears in the latest edition of The Helm


IISG is looking for a new pollution prevention extension specialist

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program is looking for a resourceful and detail-oriented individual for the Pollution Prevention Extension Specialist position.

This position integrates program leadership, partnership, scholarship, and public engagement into its everyday practice. This position will conduct and develop extension and outreach activities for Illinois Indiana Sea Grant’s pollution prevention programs, especially related to management of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment, microplastics pollution in the Great Lakes, and other emerging contaminants of concern.

This position will be housed in IISG’s office in Urbana, Illinois. For more information and to apply, visit the University of Illinois jobs board