5/31/13

Illinois the latest state to start Clean Marina program

This month Illinois joined a number of other Great Lakes states by instituting a Clean Marina program. Designed to reduce and prevent pollution, the program provides best management practices for marina operators to help protect waterways and the environment. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant created the Clean Marina guidebook (PDF) in collaboration with Illinois DNR to offer a comprehensive manual for marina operators with important environmental protection and best practice information.

From our latest edition of The Helm:
"Nearly a quarter of Illinois’ 70 marinas sit along Lake Michigan, making the Illinois shoreline the most active in the Great Lakes region. Millions of people in the Chicago area rely on that same stretch of Lake Michigan for drinking water. Here, even small levels of pollution from marinas can have a significant impact on the lake and the communities that rely on it.
At the heart of the Clean Marina Program are best management practices that make marina operations and boater activities more efficient and environmentally friendly. Practices cover a range of topics, from marina construction to vessel maintenance, and most are easy and affordable. Some recommendations, such as how to protect nearby habitats during construction, will help new or expanding marinas develop greener sites from the beginning. And others will help marina personnel educate boaters on what they can do to protect and improve the state’s water quality. Marinas that adopt the practices will be certified as a clean marina by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Coastal Management Program."
Read the complete article at the link above, and learn more about the Clean Marina Program at the program website and on Facebook.

5/30/13

IISG specialists among the presenters scheduled for next week's IAGLR 2013 conference

IISG staffers will join hundreds of scientists, environmentalists, and government representatives June 2-6 at the Conference on Great Lakes Research. 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.

Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy will kick things off Tuesday morning with a close look at education strategies that improve Great Lakes literacy. Later in the session, Caitie McCoy will discuss a program piloted last year at two schools near the Grand Calumet River. The program was designed to teach students living in Areas of Concern about the science behind restoration projects. Attendees will also hear from Terri and others about Undo the Chemical Brew, a project that has collected 2.7 million unwanted pharmaceutical pills for safe disposal since 2010. 

On Wednesday, members of the AIS outreach team will talk about resources they've developed to help water gardeners avoid invasive plants that are likely to spread in the Great Lakes. The resources are part of a larger effort to develop and implement risk assessment tools that can be used by resource managers and policy-makers to determine which commercially-sold aquatic species pose the greatest threat to the region. 

IISG members will also be a part of several presentations on Wednesday and Thursday about environmental indicators communities can use to make sustainable land-use decisions. During the session, Brian Miller, Kristin TePas, and Marty Jaffe will introduce two web-based tools that help officials understand land use impacts on local aquatic environments and take steps towards securing the long-term health of the region’s natural resources. 

The International Association for Great Lakes Research’s (IAGLR) 56th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research is sponsored by IISG and Purdue University. To view the entire program, visit the conference website

5/29/13

New video offers insight into Great Lakes investment

Revitalizing Local Waterfront Economies: The Great Lakes Legacy Act is a new video that welcomes people and partners to the benefits of restoring degraded rivers, harbors, and lakes.

Before modern-day environmental regulations, Great Lakes waterways became blighted by decades of industrial discharges. The Legacy Act was established in 2002 to clean up contamination in these places, known as Areas of Concern. The Legacy Act is helping to revitalize local waterfront economies through strong partnerships with states, municipalities, and businesses.

Altogether, the Legacy program has removed or capped 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment. But more waterways need to be cleaned up, and community involvement is essential. “This video can help simplify and personalize the sediment cleanup process, which at first glance may seem too complex and scientific,” said Caitie McCoy, IISG environmental social scientist. “The Great Lakes Legacy Act has been incorporating community values with technical science for more than a decade.

“Cleaner lakes and rivers improve human health, fish and wildlife health, recreation, tourism, and redevelopment so that residents can better capitalize on these opportunities,” added McCoy.


The 10-minute video was produced by IISG and Wisconsin Sea Grant with funding from U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. You can view the video online here or at the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant YouTube channel. You can also order a DVD copy on our Coastal Restoration products page

You can learn more about the Great Lakes Legacy Act at the EPA's webpage

5/28/13

In the news: Teachers identify the good and the still needed in Great Lakes literacy education

Dozens of Michigan teachers were some of the attendees at the 2013 Great Lakes Conference at Michigan State University back in March, and one of the most important topics of discussion was the current and future need for improving Great Lakes literacy.

From the MSU office of extension
"At the luncheon, educators learned about upcoming professional development opportunities relating to the Great Lakes, and shared their best practices in Great Lakes education, as well as their priority needs relating to advancing Great Lakes literacy in the classroom. 

So with the goal of advancing Great Lakes literacy in mind, what were some of their best practices and needs that emerged from the teacher discussion? The best practices clustered around five themes: 1) curriculum, 2) place-based education, 3) data in the classroom, 4) hands-on learning, and 5) cross-curriculum lessons..."
Follow the link above to read the complete article, including links to further information for educators.

5/24/13

In the news: Michigan DNR boats hit the water for this season's research

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has four research vessels that took to the water earlier this week to begin gathering information on the Great Lakes' fish populations. 

From The Macomb Daily
"On Lake Michigan, the S/V Steelhead (also in operation since 1968) is used in a variety of fisheries assessment operations – including spring evaluations of adult yellow perch, whitefish, lake trout and Chinook salmon populations. Later in summer, the S/V Steelhead teams up with vessels from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate lakewide forage fish abundance.

'The DNR is responsible for management of more abundant and diverse fishery resources than any other natural resource agency in the Great Lakes region, and the survey vessels are critical to this effort,' said Jim Dexter, chief of Fisheries."
Follow the link above to learn more about each of the vessels and their work on the Great Lakes. 

5/23/13

Teacher training opportunities ramping up for the summer months

IISG's education team will be leading a number of training sessions and workshops for teachers this summer, including an upcoming Lake Michigan B-WET Workshop June 24-27. 

The workshops are designed to provide educators with hands-on training in Great Lakes science, as well as material for their lesson planning and curricula to take back to the classroom with them. Specifically, the B-WET workshop will "promote the stewardship, protection, and restoration of coastal areas in the Lake Michigan watershed."

The B-WET workshop will include presentations on watersheds, Great Lakes literacy principles and activities, water quality testing, hands-on planting of native wetland plants, climate and weather activities, and more. 

View a complete description of the workshop here, and visit our education page often for more upcoming training opportunities.

5/22/13

Food web complexity one of several panel topics at upcoming 2013 IAGLR conference

Dozens of researchers and government representatives will come together next month to present the latest research on Lake Michigan’s ever-changing food web during the Conference on Great Lakes Research. The session, held June 3-4, will be chaired by IISG’s Tomas Hook, along with David Bunnell from the U.S. Geological Survey and Hank Vanderploeg from NOAA.  

Presentations will discuss a range of issues that help determine just what eats what in the lake. Several will focus on what happens to the diet of native species when invaders like quagga mussels, round goby, spiny water flea deplete food resources. Others will introduce how shifts in phosphorus and other nutrient levels may be behind recent changes at the bottom of the food web and compare the eating habits of forage fish over the last two decades. 

The session is a part of ongoing regional efforts to improve understanding of the complicated relationships between the many different microbes, plants, and animals that call Lake Michigan home. Since 2010, IISG and other partners in the Great Lakes Regional Research Information Network have funded several studies on the links that form the food web.  

“While researchers have been studying the Lake Michigan food-web for several decades, many of the interactions remain poorly described,” said Tomas. “And we are learning that there are very important regional differences in food web structures across Lake Michigan.”

In addition to serving as co-chair, Tomas will join researchers from across the Great Lakes to present the findings of three studies slated for the session. For a description of these and other presentations, visit the session schedule and click on the presentation titles.   

The International Association for Great Lakes Research’s (IAGLR) 56th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research is sponsored by IISG and Purdue University. To view the entire program, visit the conference website. 

5/21/13

IISG 2014-2017 Strategic Plan guides future Great Lakes efforts

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant's 2014-2017 strategic plan is now available for review. In it, IISG identifies recent work and accomplishments as a way to understand and identify next steps for preserving and protecting Lake Michigan. 

The plan is broken in to four key focus areas - Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, Resilient Communities and Economies, and Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development. Specific goals for each area are identified, and will help guide IISG efforts in outreach, research, planning, and much more. The plan also provides a way for students, researchers, legislators, community members, and others to understand IISG's goals and find ways to contribute or support improving the Great Lakes region. 

Read the plan at the link above, and view our site to contact us or learn more.

5/20/13

IISG in the news: Central Illinois gets permanent medicine collection facilities

Earlier this morning IISG's Laura Kammin appeared on Champaign's WCIA 3 morning show to provide some information about a new, permanent collection program in Central Illinois. The locations will be open to accept collections beginning this Friday, and you can learn more by watching the segment here.

5/17/13

Indiana celebrates Coastal Awareness Month with a calendar full of events

June is Coastal Awareness Month in Indiana, and the Lake Michigan coastal region is being celebrated with a variety of events. The Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program has a calendar of events on their website that is updated regularly. It includes links for people to volunteer for the Clean Boats Crew program, along with several other events and educational opportunities. 

From the website: 
“The CAM Committee members and partners are working together to develop a wide variety of events to celebrate the diversity and beauty of the Lake Michigan Coastal Region. Events highlight natural, cultural, and historic resources in the Coastal Region of Indiana – Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. Our goal is to increase public awareness of these Coastal Resources and engage people in targeted activities that take them places they have never been before.”
Learn more about the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program here, including links to coastal issues, news, and more. 

5/16/13

In the news: Scotts leads the way in removing phosphorous from fertilizers

Phosphorous is a nutrient that has been linked to significant runoff problems and excessive algal growth in water bodies including the Great Lakes. Recently, Scotts Miracle-Gro announced that they will be removing phosphorous from their line of lawn fertilizers to address the issue and help reduce nutrient pollution problems. 

From The Columbus Dispatch
"The Marysville maker of lawn-and-garden products sees the move as a milestone for its industry, which it says is partly responsible for the phosphorus runoff that feeds one of the nation’s most costly and challenging environmental problems — nutrient pollution.

‘As consumers feed their lawns this spring, they should know they can get great results from our products while also protecting and preserving our water resources,’ said Jim Lyski, Scotts’ chief marketing officer, in a written statement.
Harmful algae blooms in coastal areas of the United States are estimated to have a yearly negative economic cost of at least $82 million, mostly because of their effects on public health and commercial fisheries, according to a 2006 report by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.'
Follow the link above to read the complete article, and visit our Lawn to Lake page to learn more about runoff issues and natural lawn care solutions.

5/15/13

IAGLR 2013 panels to focus on new and historic contaminants

IISG’s Laura Kammin will co-chair a two-part session on the impacts and management of contaminants at this year’s Conference on Great Lakes Research, June 2-6 at Purdue University. Researchers will present on a range of issues, including contaminant testing, impacts to wildlife, and pollution trends over time. With 24 presentations spread over two days from researchers, resource managers, and industry representatives, it will be the conference’s largest session. 

Presentations begin on June 5 with new research on pollutants that are a longstanding problem in the Great Lakes region, including PCBs, mercury, and chemicals used in driveway sealants. Research on these legacy contaminants will focus on their concentrations, dispersal, and environmental impacts in the years after federal regulations barred their use. 

Day two of the session is dedicated to emerging contaminants, which have more recently been detected in the Great Lakes. Among the presentations is a study that found flame retardant in the eggs of herring gulls exposed to the pollutant. Other presentations will introduce techniques for identifying new contaminants, the impacts of pharmaceutical hormones on fish, and changes in bacterial communities caused by a common nanomaterial. 

“The sheer number of contaminants and breadth of potential impacts makes sessions like these very important,” said Kammin, IISG pollution prevention program specialist. “To truly improve the health of the lakes, we must have a better understanding of these legacy and emerging contaminants.” 

Additional session co-chairs include Marta Venier, Maria Sepulveda, and Bernard Crimmins. 

Prior to the session, 15 researchers and students will also present findings related to legacy and emerging contaminants during the conference poster session on June 4. 

The International Association for Great Lakes Research’s (IAGLR) 56th Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research is sponsored by IISG and Purdue University. The four-day program includes research sessions, panel discussions, keynote speakers, and workshops on a variety of topics. To view the entire program, visit the conference website. 

5/14/13

Clean Boats Crew hosts free AIS training workshops Wednesday and Saturday

In order to prepare for another busy boating season, IISG and Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) will be hosting two free training events. These workshops will train participants about aquatic invasive species relevant to the southern Lake Michigan basin, as well as about techniques for interacting with the public and providing successful outreach. Attending the training isn’t mandatory in order to volunteer for Clean Boats Crew, but is encouraged. The workshops will take place at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois on Wednesday, May 15th from 6-8pm and on Saturday, May 18th from 2-4pm. Refreshments will be provided. These trainings are free to all participants, but registration is required.

The Clean BoatsCrew program hires hourly employees and volunteers that educate boaters and other recreational water users about aquatic invasive species (AIS). "Last summer, Clean Boats Crew talked with over 1800 boaters in Illinois and Indiana about how the public can help prevent the spread of AIS. This year, I’m hopeful we can repeat that success" said Sarah Zack, IISG AIS Outreach Specialist.

Learn more about the Clean Boats Crew program, attend a training, or volunteer for this summer's boating season by contacting Cathy McGlynn by e-mail or phone.

IISG in the news: Teachers and students enhance science class with underwater robots

The SeaPerch Program, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, brings robotics and underwater science together to enhance classroom activities and curricula for a variety of grade levels. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant recently sponsored a contest to give away several of the kits to teachers of grades 6-12. 

From The Great Lakes Echo
"The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant offers grade 6-12 teachers a chance to win a free kit to build a remotely operated underwater vehicle. The SeaPerch kit normally costs $194.

SeaPerch, a program started about five years ago by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors, provides remotely operated underwater vehicles and lesson plans to teachers to improve the curriculum in science, mathematics and engineering in primary education across the country."
Follow the link above to read the complete story, and visit the SeaPerch homepage for more information about the program, including photos, video, curricula, and more.

5/10/13

AIS Outreach Team highlighted in NOAA Spotlight article

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) outreach team was recognized along with many other collaborators in a NOAA Spotlight article for their work on the Great Lakes Risk Assessment Tools. This tool estimates the potential invasiveness of species being sold for use in trade and hobbies such as aquaculture, live bait, and water gardens etc. It provides insights for resources managers that may guide future policies with the goal of preventing the spread of  invasive species. This is also a tool that hobbyists and people working in the trades can use proactively use to help choose less threatening species. IISG “will be talking with retailers, hobbyists, and water gardeners - going to shows and posting information in stores - about how they can use the risks assessments as a guide to get ahead of regulations and make responsible decisions now,” said Pat Charlebois, IISG AIS Coordinator. 

Visit the link above to read the complete article about this tool, and to explore additional articles at the NOAA site

5/9/13

In the news: 2013 Asian Carp Monitoring and Response Plan released

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee today released the 2013 Asian Carp Monitoring and Response Plan for Illinois waters. The plan lays out a variety of steps and actions to track, detect, and remove Asian carp from waterways in the upper Illinois River and Chicago-area waterways.

From the committee's website:
"The 2013 MRP details over $6.5 million of monitoring, sampling and response activities to be conducted by multiple members of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. The plan outlines actions for the current (2013) field season focused on monitoring and removal of Asian carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and upper Illinois Waterway; and on-going evaluations of the effectiveness of barriers and gears used in keeping Asian carp from establishing in the CAWS and Lake Michigan...
The 2013 plan continues intensive fish population sampling in the CAWS to watch closely for the potential presence of live Asian carp including two intense sampling events later this year. In 2012, over 100,000 fish were netted and identified with no Asian carp found between the electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and Lake Michigan. The 2013 plan also continues sampling for Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) as a monitoring and surveillance tool, however eDNA will no longer be used as a trigger for immediate rapid response actions until the scientific significance of results can be further refined."
Follow the link above to read more about the plan, and to download the complete report for more details.

5/7/13

In the news: Reducing pollution with a green parking lot?

Macomb officials are looking at a new project to help with their decades-long struggle to reduce pollution in Lake St. Clair - a parking lot turned greenscape. 

From the Macomb Daily
"A $3.3 million project to substantially alter the sprawling, 42-acre asphalt parking area at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, making it more environmentally friendly, will break ground on May 9.
On Monday -- Earth Day 2013 -- county commissioners were told about the plan to divert stormwater runoff from the parking lot at the facility formerly known as Metro Beach to newly constructed wetlands areas, or swails, and into a marsh near the Metropark’s marina that has been drying out on a yearly basis.

'I think that’s a pretty exciting project for Macomb County and we should be proud of that,' said Margi Armstrong, Lake St. Clair program coordinator for the nonprofit group Clean Water Fund.

Armstrong told the county Board of Commissioners’ Health and Human Services Committee that stormwater runoff was pinpointed as the No. 1 culprit when environmental experts studied the pollution that leads to beach closings and abnormal weed growth on the lake."
Read more about the project at the link above. 

5/6/13

New section of Grand Calumet river restoration work begins

Dredging and restoration work on another section of the Grand Calumet river is set to begin this spring, removing more than one million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the river bottom and rebuilding local wetlands. 

Caitie McCoy, IISG’s environmental social scientist, provides some more information about the upcoming work: 
“Work will start April 22 on a project that will dredge (remove) or cap (isolate from the ecosystem) 1.2 million cubic yards of river bottom sediment contaminated with PAHs, oil & grease, PCBs, and heavy metals like cadmium and copper. Volume-wise, this would fill about 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Along with restoration of more than 50 acres of wetland habitat, this work will take place for approximately three years from Kennedy Ave to Cline Ave…

This work is funded by US Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana Department of Environment, and Indiana Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Shirley-Heinze Land Trust, Save the Dunes, municipalities, and other local and federal partners. The US Army Corps has also begun dredging in the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, and is on track to dredge 300,000 cubic yards through August this year.”
This editorial in the Times of Northwest Indiana provides more information about the project. And for details about previous accomplishments on the Grand Calumet, visit our blog posts here and here.

5/3/13

IISG summer intern continues working on Great Lakes issues

Meredith Brackett, one of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s interns this past summer, has continued her work on Great Lakes issues by starting a position at Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education. She wrote in to tell us a little bit about her summer internship experience working with IISG’s Paris Collingsworth, and how the experience led her to find and pursue work related to the Great Lakes. 

“This past summer I was lucky enough to intern with the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant and rediscovered my love of marine sciences. My internship taught me a great deal about freshwater ecosystems and problems that are occurring in the Great Lakes. I was able to learn so much about the Great Lakes ecosystems, limnological studies, and nutrient levels, and I gained hands on experience working on the US EPA R/V Lake Guardian research vessel collecting nutrient and biological samples. The internship also allowed me to work at the Illinois State Fair and educate the public about the many issues facing the Great Lakes. It was a great feeling to spread the word about how we can all make a change in our behavior so that we can make a difference in our environment! I am currently interning with Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) and continuing to work on Great Lakes projects and take samples from the Great Lakes on the US EPA R/V Lake Guardian. The Illinois Indiana Sea Grant internship really helped further my contacts in the industry by networking and meeting people working in different areas of the Great Lakes. Illinois Indiana Sea Grant really opened my eyes to a whole new field and career opportunities. I cannot thank them enough!”

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is committed to giving students opportunities to gain real experience in marine sciences and Great Lakes issues. For updated information on fellowship and internship positions, visit our fellowship page regularly.

5/2/13

IISG offers assistance and info at successful DEA national take-back event

Illinois and Indiana residents took full advantage of the latest national prescription drug take back event this past Saturday, bringing unwanted pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicines to locations set up for the one-day event. IISG staffers were again involved, promoting it through local radio and TV interviews and talking to visitors at Walgreens stores in Champaign and Urbana about the risks pharmaceuticals pose to aquatic environments. They also provided information about how to safely dispose of medicine between these national take-back opportunities.  

By the end of the 4-hour event, officials in Champaign and Urbana had collected 12 large boxes of unused medicine. These and other boxes collected throughout the country will be properly incinerated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A final tally for how many pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected during the sixth National Take-Back Day will be announced by the DEA in the coming weeks. At last September's event, Illinois residents brought in over 21,000 pounds of unwanted medicine for proper disposal, followed closely by Indiana’s 18,560 pounds. More than 2 million pounds of medicine have been disposed of nation-wide since the take-back days began in 2010.  

IISG volunteers were also onsite to tell residents of the two cities about a new year-round collection program launching May 24. Like last year, many who brought in pharmaceuticals - often by the bagful - said they had been holding onto their medications for months, waiting for the next collection day. Permanent collection boxes at the Champaign, Urbana, and University of Illinois police departments mean residents will no longer have to wait for single-day events like these to rid their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals. 

To learn more about permanent programs operating in your area, or for information on how to dispose of medicine where collections are not available, visit www.unwantedmeds.org.  

This post was provided by the unwantedmeds.org blog Rx for Action.
*The provided this post.provided this post.

5/1/13

Illinois launches Clean Marina Program

Today marks the first official day of the Illinois Clean Marina Program, a voluntary plan that gives marina and boatyard personnel the tools they need to keep pollution out of rivers and lakes. And Chicago’s newest and largest marina has already pledged to become the first clean marina in the state. 

To earn clean marina status, 31st Street Harbor will implement a series of best management practices that make marina operations more efficient and environmentally friendly. The practices cover a broad range of topics from marina construction to sewage handling, and the majority of them are easy and affordable. Some of the activities in the program include conducting vessel maintenance without washing debris into water, scheduling construction to ensure that nearby habitats are protected, and other steps that help reduce environmental impacts. 

Marina managers that pledge to join the program will receive training from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to help implement the program’s best management practices. In addition, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, IDNR, and the Chicago Park District are developing a Clean Marina Guidebook with how-to guidance for all program requirements. The guidebook will give important information on laws and permit programs related to marina activities, direct marina personnel to additional resources, and include clean boating tip sheets that can be distributed to boaters. The Illinois Clean Marina Guidebook will be available soon on the program website

Officials at the Park District expect 31st Street Harbor to complete the certification process later this month. Five additional marinas in the Chicago area are expected to join their ranks within the year. Marina managers interested in pledging to be a clean marina can contact IDNR’s Kim Kreiling at 312-814-6260 or kim.kreiling@illinois.gov to begin the certification process.

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