4/25/11

New curriculum connects freshwater and marine sciences

Fresh and Salt is a collection of activities that enhance teacher capabilities to connect Great Lakes and ocean science topics. Designed to be used by teachers in grades 5-10, Fresh and Salt provides an interdisciplinary approach to ensure that students achieve optimum science understanding of both Great Lakes and Ocean Literacy Principles. This curriculum offers a varied range of instructional modes, including data interpretation, experimentation, simulation, interactive mapping, and investigation.

The 14 activities that make up Fresh and Salt were selected for their capacity to provide science process skills that students need for effective learning. This curriculum can also help prepare students to be responsible decision-makers that promote a sustainable society.

This project was led by IISG with funding and support from COSEE Great Lakes. Visit the IISG website to download or order a copy of Fresh and Salt.

4/22/11

New IISG specialist focused on Great Lakes data

Paris Collingsworth has joined IISG as the new Great Lakes ecosystem specialist. He is working with the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office to improve access to and sharing of Great Lakes data and research, develop indicators, and develop products and programs to sustain or improve ecosystem health.

Paris has a background in statistical and computer modeling and comes to IISG from a post doc position at the USGS Great Lakes Science Center where he was involved in building models describing how primary productivity patterns and climatic variables influence fish recruitment across the Great Lakes. He has a PhD in evolution, ecology and organismal biology from Ohio State and an MS in zoology from Southern Illinois University.

4/21/11

IISG's social scientist shares her story with university students

This week, Caitie McCoy, IISG environmental social scientist, visited the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to talk with students about careers in the field of human dimensions of natural resources. Caitie’s first session took place in Ming Kuo’s Social Science Research Methods in Natural Resources class. Later she took part in another discussion with graduate and undergraduate students, some who joined by webinar. Caitie talked about her background experience and training in human dimensions as well as her current position with IISG. She provided practical advice on the process of applying to graduate schools and how and where to search for jobs in this field. In the photo above, Dr. Kuo and Caitie, left to right, listen to a student's question.

In the news: More intense rains could swamp Chicago's aging sewers

From Chicago Tribune:
In a city built on a swamp, where rainstorms already flood basements and force sewage into Lake Michigan and local streams, climate change could make Chicago's chronic water pollution woes even worse.
Researchers hired by Mayor Richard Daley's office estimate that intense rainfall will happen more frequently in the not-so-distant future because of warming global temperatures, challenging the region's aging sewers and the troubled Deep Tunnel project more than ever.
Rains of greater than 2.5 inches a day, the amount that can trigger sewage dumping into Lake Michigan, are expected to increase by 50 percent between now and 2039, according to a study by scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Texas Tech University. By the end of the century, the number of big storms could jump by a whopping 160 percent. Read more.  

4/20/11

Bring your unused medicine to Mahomet on April 30

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., communities and local law enforcement agencies will partner with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold a national unwanted medicine collection event. If you have medicines that are expired or no longer needed, bring them to the collection event hosted by Mahomet Police Department at Sangamon Elementary School located at 601 E. Main Street in Mahomet, IL.

Controlled, non-controlled, and over-the-counter medications will be collected. You can bring in liquids and creams as long as they are in their original containers with the cap tightly sealed to prevent leakage. Intravenous solutions, injectibles, and syringes will not be accepted.

This upcoming nationwide collection day comes on the heels of the DEA’s first event last September, in which 242,000 pounds—121 tons—of prescription drugs were turned in to nearly 4,100 sites operated by the agency and more than 3,000 state and local law enforcement partners.

The familiar, but improper, methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—pose potential safety, health and environmental hazards. “Pharmaceuticals thrown in the trash can leach into groundwater, while those that are flushed can kill bacteria that break down waste in sewage plants, damage septic systems, and contaminate nearby waterways and harm aquatic wildlife”, said Laura Kammin, pollution prevention program specialist with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

Recent studies have identified a wide range of pharmaceutical chemicals in rivers, streams, groundwater, and drinking water nationwide. It has also been shown that some of these compounds are potentially harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms, affecting reproduction and development even at very low concentrations. The long-term impacts of medicine disposal on human health and the health of the environment are not fully known.

“Until there is a national pharmaceutical takeback program that accepts controlled substances, single-day collection events like these are vital to help communities properly dispose of their unwanted medicines,” said Kammin.

“This event provides a great way to clean out your medicine cabinet while protecting human health and safety and reducing environmental impacts,” added Kammin. “Simply mark out any personal information on the product package and bring the medicines to the collection site.” The DEA will be disposing of the materials collected via incineration.

If you do not live in Champaign County, go to the DEA’s website to find a list of currently registered collection sites: www.DEA.gov.

4/18/11

In the news: Report, campaign highlight threats to Great Lakes water supplies

From Lake Michigan Shore:
With the greatest freshwater source on the planet in our backyard, it's easy to think it is an infinite source. But a new report and campaign are warning water shortages are possible throughout the Great Lakes if consumers and municipalities don't change their ways.

A five-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey in Lansing, Michigan, released earlier this year indicated groundwater levels have dropped by 1,000 feet in the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan regions due to increased demand from municipal pumping stations. Those levels could drop another 100 feet by 2040 if demand continues to increase as forecast. Read more.

4/15/11

In the news: Lakes advocates express relief

From Watertown Daily Times:
 Funding for Great Lakes restoration will tumble from $475 million last year to $300 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 — but that's good news in a way, an advocacy group said Thursday.
The nonprofit group Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition expressed relief that a spending bill passed in the House, and nearing enactment, preserved more funding for Great Lakes restoration than House Republicans initially proposed. Read more.

4/13/11

In the news: Death - not just life - important link in marine ecosystems

From ScienceDaily: 
Tiny crustaceans called copepods rule the world, at least when it comes to oceans and estuaries. The most numerous multi-cellular organisms in the seas, copepods are an important link between phytoplankton and fish in marine food webs.

To understand and predict how copepods respond to environmental change, scientists need to know not only how many new copepods are born, but how many are dying, say biological oceanographers David Elliott of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), and Kam Tang of VIMS.

Elliott and Tang realized there was only one way to discover the answer: find the copepods' carcasses. Read more.


4/7/11

Join in DEA’s medicine collection events on April 30


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is providing an opportunity for communities nationwide to help prevent pill abuse and theft by collecting potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted medications, including controlled drugs. On April 30, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the DEA along with state and local law enforcement agencies will help people get rid of their controlled substances. DEA will provide for the disposal of the medications. There is still time for your community to jump on board and set up a collection event.

The familiar methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—pose potential safety, health and environmental hazards. Pharmaceuticals thrown in the trash can leach into groundwater, while those that are flushed can kill bacteria that break down waste in sewage plants, damage septic systems, and contaminate nearby waterways and harm aquatic wildlife.

Recent studies have identified a wide range of pharmaceutical chemicals in rivers, streams, groundwater, and drinking water nationwide. It has also been shown that some of these compounds are potentially harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms, affecting reproduction and development even at very low concentrations. The long-term impacts of medicine disposal on human health and the health of the environment are not fully known.

This upcoming collection day comes on the heels of the DEA’s first event last September, in which 242,000 pounds—121 tons—of prescription drugs were turned in to nearly 4,100 sites operated by the agency and more than 3,000 state and local law enforcement partners.

If your community is interested in holding a collection event, the local law enforcement agency will need to register with the DEA. Find a contact in your area.

To find a registered collection site near you go to the DEA website. For details on how to hold a successful collection event, check out IISG’s Disposal of Unwanted Medicines toolkit. You can download toolkit chapters here.

4/6/11

In the news: Pontiac students help prompt drug disposal bill

From the Bloomington Pantagraph:
A proposal pending in the state legislature may make it easier for police departments to pay for a prescription drug disposal program that began in Pontiac.

The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal program, or P2D2, was launched about four years ago by students at Pontiac Township High School and their teacher, Paul Ritter. The program has spread to other communities and states.

Students were concerned that prescription drugs disposed of improperly, usually down household drains, were polluting groundwater.

High school students in Antioch heard about the program and brought the idea to state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, who is sponsoring a measure that will allow for the safe disposal of prescription drugs at local police departments. Read more.

IISG has worked closely with P2D2 to support medicine take back programs and develop curriculum collections--for example, the Medicine Chest--for high school teachers and students. Many of the activities in this collection help students learn how to raise awareness and take action in their communities. IISG does not engage in advocacy, rather we provide scientific knowledge on a number of water-related issues to a variety of audiences. The students who took part in the legislative hearing to fund medicine collection programs are learning how to affect change in their community by sharing their knowledge with decision makers. Here is a video of their experience.

4/1/11

In the news: 'Get the Meds Out' mail-back program to keep drugs out of Great Lakes

From Madison.com:
Residents in 36 Wisconsin counties will be able to dispose of unwanted drugs and help keep the Great Lakes cleaner just by using the postal system.

"Get the Meds Out," a program developed by the University of Wisconsin Extension, will allow residents in counties whose watersheds empty into either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior to send unwanted prescription medications to a facility in Maine for safe disposal.

The benefits are two-fold: Residents get the prescription drugs out of the house and the drugs stay out of the state's water supply. Read more.

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