10/30/15

Friday foto: Illinois climatologists will take Chicago museum by storm

IISG Climate Specialist Molly Woloszyn prepares to be interviewed as part of a video for the upcoming climate exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. The crew filmed Molly as well as Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel on Wednesday afternoon at the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign, Ill.

The exhibit is scheduled to open in March of 2016. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months!

10/29/15

Follow the Water: Master naturalists play detective

Downspouts, asphalt grading, sloping lawns were some clues the budding master naturalists were given when they got the chance to play “stormwater detective” at the Anita Purvis Nature Center in Urbana, Ill. in October.

The sleuthing was part of a rain garden talk IISG Stormwater Specialist Eliana Brown (pictured fourth from left) presented to 42 students enrolled in the East Central Illinois Master Naturalist program given through University of Illinois Extension.

Using a fictitious “unlimited budget," the students suggested installing permeable pavers, rain barrels, and solar tiles to make the water’s path more nourishing and less destructive.

Adrienne Gulley, IISG pollution prevention outreach specialist, (pictured handing out pens) closed out the session with a presentation on natural lawn care and the Lawn to Lake program.

The East Central Illinois Master Naturalist training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a two-month period and are led by expert educators in the region.

Approximately 70 hours of classroom instruction and field study and 60 hours of volunteer work are required to complete the program and become certified. In order to remain a certified Master Naturalist, 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education or advanced training are required each year.

10/27/15

“Be A Hero” is the invasive species prevention message in Illinois

"Be A Hero" is now the primary invasive species awareness campaign in Illinois. Boaters, anglers, and divers have heard this message, but now the comprehensive campaign provides easy tips to help water gardeners, teachers and aquarium hobbyists curb the spread of aquatic invaders. Plus, Be A Hero also provides guidance to hunters, campers and hikers to prevent the spread of species that threaten habitats on land.  

“The problem of invasive species in our Illinois waters and lands has never been worse than it is today,” said Paul Deizman, who leads forest management at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). “Unfortunately, without action, the problem of invasive species—which are displacing natural flora and fauna as well as interfering in land and water management, critical ecological processes and biodiversity—could become irreversible.

For example, many commercially-sold plants and animals pose a risk to Illinois habitats. In fact, plants like Brazilian elodea, often sold as anacharis, have already reached several Illinois lakes and ponds, where they often form mats that block sunlight needed by other species and hinder recreation. And more invaders lurk on the horizon.

To prevent their spread, Be A HeroRelease Zero™ introduces teachers, water gardeners, aquarium hobbyists, and others who buy and sell species to safe alternatives to releasing unwanted plants and animals.

In addition, Be A HeroTransport Zero™ now also addresses the spread of terrestrial invaders with tips for hikers, campers, and hunters who may accidentally carry species to new habitats.

Be A Hero kicked off in 2013 with a media campaign encouraging recreational water users to take simple steps—remove, drain, and dry—after a day on the water. Be A HeroTransport Zero™ messages have also been shared one-on-one at boat shows and fishing tournaments. An IISG survey of boat show attendees found that people who have heard these messages are more likely to take action to prevent the spread of invasive species.

“We have found that the Be A Hero message resonates with anglers and boaters as we talk with them at state fair and other venues,” said Kevin Irons, IDNR aquatic invasive species program manager, “Be A Hero is unique in efforts to raise awareness about this issue. It is a positive message.”

“This campaign is an important and significant outreach and marketing tool we absolutely need,” Deizman added. “It is great to have the three Be A Hero logos working together to make headway on the invasive species problem in Illinois.” 

Be A Hero is a collaboration between IDNR and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG). “Now that we have launched the campaigns, we are looking for partners to help us get the word out,” said Pat Charlebois, IISG aquatic invasive species outreach coordinator. “We have graphics that your organization can use online, at public events and on promotional materials.”

For more information visit TransportZero.org and ReleaseZero.org. To learn more about becoming a Be a Hero partner, contact Charlebois at charlebo@illinois.edu.

10/23/15

Friday Foto: A pretty view tells Chicago's rich story

Open House Chicago provided many vistas of the city on a beautiful weekend. From high up in the Aon Center you can see some lakefront highlights. Navy Pier, the busiest tourist spot in Illinois juts out on the far left. Beside it is the Chicago Harbor Lock, which serves the role of separating Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. Next is DuSable Harbor, named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, considered the first permanent resident of the city. History, engineering, recreation--it's all there!

10/21/15

My Rain Garden Walk: Good gardens make good neighbors

It is not uncommon for more than one home on a block to have excess water due to stormwater runoff. The good thing about a rain garden is that they can adapt to suit the need of the homeowner. They can be placed wherever on the property they are needed.

Originally Dan and Libby Reimann's Mount Prospect, Ill. home did not have any problems with standing water. It was not until the couple had an addition built onto their house did they encounter problems. During the construction, their sump pump began to run continuously, flooding their front yard and a portion of the neighbor's driveway. When the couple contacted local authorities, they were given two suggestions, the Reimanns could tap into the sewer system or they could build a rain garden. 

The couple didn't want to tap into the sewer system if they could avoid it and the village encouraged the idea of a rain garden. With some deliberation as well as online searching and learning more about rain gardens, Dan and Libby decided they would try to build one. 

In Dan's research he came across Kevin Herbert, a landscaper in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. They contacted Herbert to design and construct their garden. Not knowing exactly what they wanted or what to put in the garden, they gave Herbert free reign.  From the shape of the garden to the flowers in the garden, Herbert did it all.

Not only did Herbert take charge of the whole design process but he also helped in the garden’s maintenance. The couple hired him to take care of the garden following its first year of installment. In that year he taught them what to weed, when to cut down plants and provided the couple with pictures of what each plant should look like when fully grown as a way to tell them apart. He left them the initial sketch of the design of the garden with what flowers go where. 

The Reimann garden is full of blooming flowers. They were particularly happy with the selection because they were picked to ensure that flowers are always in bloom, spring through fall. In the spring, the garden is adorned by blue and pink from the blue flags, blazing star and prairie smoke. When summer begins, the Reimanns can start to see white, purple and yellow from the meadowsweet, Monarda and black-eyed Susans. Black-eyed Susans are joined by white turtlehead and New England asters bloom in the late summer to early fall. The garden keeps these colors until the frost.

Dan’s advice to homeowners who know little to nothing about rain gardens, is to not let fear stop them. "They should just go for it," Dan said. "And don't be afraid to ask for help."

When their neighbor Amy Hempleman saw how well the garden was working she took his advice, even taking their suggestion of having Herbert help create their garden in the spring of 2014.

The Hempleman garden was different in one major way—the location. While water was spilling into the front of the Reimann’s yard, Hempleman had to solve a problem in the backyard. The back corner just behind the garage began to flood from excess water coming from the gutters. Hebert used this as well as the natural slope of the yard to his advantage when he designed this garden. The water is routed along the sidewalk downspout and into the garden. 

Hempleman is very happy with the garden, describing it as attractive and bright in the summer. When in full bloom, the garden has bluejackets, broad leaf goldenrod, nodding onion as well as ivory sedge and plantain leaved sedge. The balance between flowers and grass-like plants creates a full garden that does its job as well as adding to Hempleman’s yard.

Not only was Hempleman happy with the garden’s appearance, but she also feels good about the way it took care of the water problem. This experience has given Hempleman a new interest in plants, to be more specific, with native plants. As she has seen the beauty and functionality of them firsthand, she has started to notice and look for them. She expressed a wish for clearer labels of plants, to make it easier for gardeners that want to find native plants. This would also educate people who may not know the native plants of their area and could pique their interest.

Hempleman looks forward to watching her garden grow in the upcoming years.

-Victoria Figueroa

10/20/15

Purdue Extension is growing rain garden experts

Next summer, a parking lot on an Indiana campus will be a little prettier and a little less likely to flood due to a recently installed rain garden. That rain garden planting capped off a training workshop at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC).

The Purdue University Extension Rainscaping Education Program team held a two-day intensive workshop September 17-18 for 24 participants from across the state, including Master Gardeners, Soil and Water Conservation District professionals, landscaping contractors, and municipal separate storm sewer system managers.

They learned specifics about rain gardens and other rainscaping techniques, which offer an alternative to standard infrastructure methods for flood prevention and stormwater management. These plantings capture rain water where it lands and slowly absorb it into the soil.

The goal is for workshop participants to take this new knowledge back home to incorporate rainscaping in their community, to engage in public education, and to provide technical assistance. “In Jasper County, participants who attended our previous workshop have held sessions for residents based on our program,” said Kara Salazar, IISG specialist. “Several participants from this workshop have already expressed plans to do the same.”

The workshop was designed to use flipped class instruction, which means the participants came to class already knowing the ABCs of rain gardens. Before the workshop they had homework, which was to watch seven instructional videos. “This approach really worked,” said Salazar. “We were able to go in depth in our classroom discussions.”

The workshop included a tour of rain gardens in the area and hands-on experience helping with the installation of the IUPUC rain garden. This garden was an opportunity to also bring in IUPUC students, who participated in the site selection and the planting. They will also work with faculty member Luke Jacobus, rainscaping team member Kris Medic, local Master Gardeners, and the campus maintenance crew to help maintain the garden.

“As we choose a host site for our demonstration gardens, longevity and sustainability are key factors,” said Salazar.

10/16/15

Zephyr needs assessment tunes in to local perceptions

The first step in useful communication is to listen to your audience. By addressing the perceptions and needs of a community, information can really have impact. With this mission in mind, IISG Environmental Social Scientist Caitie Nigrelli and her intern Carly Norris went to the Zephyr site in Muskegon County in Michigan.

The name, short for the former Zephyr Oil Refinery, refers to property on the Muskegon River that was polluted and contaminated from decades of oil spills beginning at the turn of the twentieth century. 

But before permits are pulled and backhoes are delivered, Nigrelli and Norris, as environmental scientists, talk to the people who are being affected — to find out what their concerns are, what they’d like to see happen.

So they interviewed community stakeholders about how they feel about an area that was at one time ranked by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality the fourth most hazardous in Muskegon County.
Regardless of its dirty and neglected past, many in the community are interested in seeing its eventual remediation and recovery, Nigrelli and Norris found.

They published their findings in their recently released, “A Needs Assessment for Outreach on the Muskegon Lake Area of Concern’s Former Zephyr Refinery,” funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“I was really pleased with the diversity of the people we talked with. It really helped me understand the interests and concerns of the stakeholders,” Nigrelli said. “Something that kept coming up was the importance of clear, consistent communication with the property owners adjacent to the site. Now we know where to focus our efforts.” 

Norris added, "Incorporating community members in the cleanup process helps create an outcome more tailored to local views and ideas."

Their contribution is one of several steps that traditionally take place before remediation under the Great Lakes Legacy Act occurs.

The cleanup could get started as early as 2016. For more information and to follow the status of the project, visit www.greatlakesmud.org.

10/12/15

Intern Update: Milwaukee's Lincoln Park celebrates a remediation milestone

Lincoln Park and I are both coming to the end of an exciting chapter this fall. As my internship with
IISG comes to a close, Phase 2 sediment remediation work in in Lincoln Park in Milwaukee is also finishing up.

Four years and more than 170,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment later, Lincoln Park is looking to reap the benefits of the newly cleaned Milwaukee River. As contractors work to remove equipment, sediment samples are being taken to ensure no contamination has been missed.

To commemorate this truly historic milestone, IISG environmental social scientist Caitie Nigrelli and I traveled to Milwaukee to spend some time on the river and celebrate the success with our clean-up partners. Hospitable as usual, Friends of Lincoln Park members took us around the city allowing us to catch a glimpse of the possibilities that environmental reinvestment holds for community revitalization.

Within the park, we took advantage of the warm fall weather for a canoe trip through the remediated portion of the river. As we paddled, perennial grasses and beaver-cut branches secluded us from Lincoln Park’s urban setting. We were not the only ones out experiencing the newly restored park; kill-deer, great blue herons, and other wildlife were also enjoying a clean habitat.

Although remediation work is complete, there is still much to be done within the park. Much like sediment remediation, successful ecosystem restoration is a long process. Started in 2012, the 11-acre Phase 1 restoration work is finally showing the fruits of its labor.

Many bees could be seen buzzing around native asters (see photo) and goldenrod on the shoreline at the west end of the park. Like Phase 1, restoration work in the East Oxbow of the river will bring a diversity of native plant species, stabilize the shoreline, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

After watching the sun set over the river, Caitie and I completed our day at the Friends of Lincoln Park restoration celebration. Over cake and ice cream, representatives from the Milwaukee County Parks and CH2M, an environmental consulting company, presented information on the remediation and restoration progress.

The neighborhood unity fostered through this river cleanup is impressive. As a new chapter begins for the river, park, and neighbors alike, seeds of passion and park investment are spreading, akin to the native seeds of restoration to come.

For more information on the cleanup of Lincoln Park, visit www.greatlakesmud.org.

-Carly Norris

10/9/15

Friday Foto: Indiana's Grand Cal cleans up nice!

Yesterday afternoon, volunteers, environmental organizers, and local and state politicians took part in the Grand Calumet River Celebration, in Hammond, Ind. The celebration marked the completion of the cleanup and restoration of the Kennedy Ave. to Cline Ave. section of the river. More than one millions cubic yards of sediment spanning 58 acres were remediated.

The Grand Calumet, contaminated for decades by nearby steel making, meatpacking and oil refining industries, is getting the help it deserves from funds provided through the Great Lakes Legacy Act Areas of Concern program.

10/7/15

Illinois fourth graders are eager to tell their fish tales

“I am presenting the Coho salmon,” Shaniyah Lucas, 9, declared proudly as she gestured toward her computer. “I learned that when it comes down to their family, they start to get mean because they protect their eggs and themselves from predators."

Lucas, along with her fourth-grade classmates, presented their findings as part of Alex Valencic’s “Illinois Animal Expo” last Friday at Wiley Elementary School in Urbana, Ill.

Valencic's class set up posters and slide presentations exploring Great Lakes fish and invited students from throughout the school to visit.

Valencic, an alumnus of the 2013 Lake Ontario Shipboard
Science Workshop on the Research Vessel Lake Guardian, incorporated his experience into the class.

Each student spent six weeks studying a freshwater fish found in the Great Lakes and learned about its habitats, life cycle, food web, appearance, and adaptations of the animals.

Valencic (pictured left), who is in his fifth year teaching at Wiley, was looking forward to the experience for his students.

“My primary goal is for my students to understand the rich diversity of life that lives within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Seaway," he said. "Even though we don't live right on a lake, Illinois is hugely impacted by Lake Michigan.

"I also wanted the students to realize that while there are many kinds of freshwater fish, they all have common traits that help them survive, grow, and reproduce. The students have been really excited about today, but they were really nervous at first!” 

But there was no shortage of enthusiasm from the students who got to show off their new-found knowledge.

Catherine Paisley, a mother to a student in the class, looked around the room and mused, “They’re going to remember their fish for a long time!”  

10/6/15

Two archived AIS webinars now available

Don’t worry if you missed the original broadcast of the two most recent aquatic invasive species (AIS) webinars, because now you can watch them any time on the AIS organisms in trade page on the IISG website.

“Nab The Aquatic Invader,” features two IISG educators, Kirsten Hope Walker and Allison Neubauer, who discuss AIS, the problems they can cause, and how teachers can help prevent their spread.

Greg Hitzroth, AIS outreach specialist at IISG, leads “Keeping Your Aquarium Free of Aquatic Invaders.” In this webinar, he talks about how species go from being simply aquatic species to aquatic invaders, how invasive species are accidentally and intentionally spread from aquariums to waterways, and what hobbyists can do to help prevent the introduction of novel aquatic species.

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Organisms in Trade project hosted these webinars along with two previous ones that are also available on the AIS web page

10/5/15

Register now for the Biennial Illinois River conference!

Local, state and federal agency personnel, researchers, and community and non-profit representatives will come together Oct. 27-29 in Peoria for the 15th Biennial Governor’s Conference on the Management of the Illinois River System.

The event will feature pre-conference workshops, a watershed tour, presentations and exhibits that highlight how partnerships have and will continue to enhance the environmental and economic health of this vital watershed.

Pre-conference activities on Oct. 27 include a green infrastructure tour, demonstrations of citizen science programs, panel and group discussions that will help participants develop and implement successful watershed management plans and presentations on the newly-released Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.

Later in the evening, Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti will host a quarterly meeting of the River Coordinating Councils, which includes an open forum for public questions and comments. The conference will feature a number of speakers, including Harald Jordahl from America’s Watershed Initiative, Harriet Festing from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Hank DeHaan from the U.S. Army Corpsof Engineers and author Paddy Woodworth

These and other high-profile speakers will discuss some of the largest issues facing the Illinois River system—from flooding to agricultural conservation to gaining community buy-in on restoration projects.

Two days of concurrent sessions will also present advancements in stormwater management, discuss new and tested methods for limiting the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species and highlight the successes of conservation and data collection programs underway throughout the Illinois River watershed.  

Attendees will also have an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Illinois River and its communities Wednesday evening during the Peoria Riverfront Museum Meander.

For a complete conference schedule, including information on the Watershed Exchange and Poster Session, visit ilriverconference.org. Early bird registration and a reduced accommodations rate is available until Oct. 9.

10/2/15

Friday Foto: Who wants to learn about the Great Lakes?

No one gets more excited about their work than our education team. Pictured here are Allison Neubauer and Kirsten Hope Walker, left to right, at last weekend's Indiana Environmental Educator Association Conference. They were joined by IISG's Terri Hallesy, Kristin TePas, and Kara Salazar. Earlier this week, we focused on the Hydrolab workshop that introduced this monitoring equipment to local educators. Today, because it's Friday, you might want to check out Allison's Great Lakes Aqua-Blitz video from the summer R/V Lake Guardian teacher workshop on Lake Michigan.

10/1/15

Lawn to Lake works with Chicago community

IISG pollution prevention outreach specialist AdrienneGulley shared the Lawn to Lake program with dozens of Chicago residents gathered at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church last Saturday.

The attendees mostly, from the Chatham community on the south side of Chicago, were at the church as part of RainReady, an organization started in response to urban flooding.

Gulley used the Lawn to Lake program to help those in attendance learn the importance of maintaining a healthy lawn through natural techniques that don’t rely on applying phosphorous. To help control excess water from heavy rains, she talked about using rain gardens, cisterns, rain barrels, and permeable pavers.

“I was impressed by how many residents were interested in creating lawns using native plants and natural lawn care methods,” Gulley said. “They were really receptive to all the options out there.”

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