Weathering the Storms: How one team of Illinois researchers is addressing urban flooding

October 29th, 2018 by

Many Chicago communities have issues with flooding after storms. Abigail Bobrow of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has written and photographed a piece featuring first-hand stories of home flooding, a history of Chicago’s changing landscape attempting to prevent stormwater issues, and the research that is being done to help solve the problem. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has funded some of this research. Below is an excerpt of the full story.

City officials and organizations are very aware of the condition James and thousands of other Chicagoans find themselves in every time it rains.

In fact, for its entire 180-year existence, the city has been shifting, manipulating, and even fighting against the flow of water to prevent not only surface flooding and the spread of disease, but also the contamination of Chicago’s freshwater drinking supply, Lake Michigan.

This issue has literally shaped the city of Chicago.

Mary Pat McGuire, an Illinois landscape architecture professor with homes in Urbana and Chicago, is joining the efforts to address urban flooding. With funding from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, a land-grant university program that focuses on coastal community issues, she and her graduate student, Jinyu Shen, are leading an ambitious research project looking at how to sustainably design stormwater solutions in the Chicago region—above and below ground.

Mary Pat’s attention is on ecological sustainability, that is, creating a way for stormwater to infiltrate and be absorbed by the ground in a way that is nourishing for the city, not crippling. Mary Pat and her interdisciplinary team of landscape architects, geologists, and civil engineers from the university are focusing on the southern part of the Chicago landscape, an area where fewer projects like this are taking place.

Coastal Management Fellow gains experience, continues career in Miami

October 1st, 2018 by

Indiana-Illinois Sea Grant (IISG) is part of a national network that leads, manages and coordinates a variety of initiatives, including interviewing and selecting fellows for the NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship Program (CMF). Monica Gregory was nominated to the NOAA CMF program by IISG while completing her Public Affairs in Environmental Policy master’s program at Indiana University-Bloomington’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. During the final selection process, Gregory was matched with the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management.

Monica Gregory (center) works with staff and residents in Edenton, North Carolina in 2018.

Gregory moved to Beaufort, North Carolina shortly after obtaining her MPA. Over the course of her two-year fellowship, she worked on local-scale vulnerability assessments with government officials and community members across the coastline, from Pine Knoll Shores to the northern Outer Banks. Gregory’s work with the Division of Coastal Management created a pathway to more comprehensive state-level guidance on adaptation planning in the face of sea level rise, increased flood risk and other hazards related to climate change. Her time with the fellowship program honed many of her professional skills, including public meeting facilitation, survey design and research, vulnerability assessment design, GIS knowledge and intergovernmental coordination.

As her fellowship came to a close, Gregory accepted a position working on resilience and sea level rise adaptation for Miami-Dade County, Florida. She now works in the Office of Resilience in Miami to coordinate research between County departments, universities and consultants on a variety of systems impacted by current and future sea level rise, including infrastructure, natural systems and the economy. She is also working on projects related to the upcoming Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Greater Miami and the Beaches resilience strategy, which takes a holistic view of community resilience by identifying the shocks and stresses experienced by the region, from sea level rise and flooding to poverty and economic opportunity. Her skillset from Indiana University’s MPA program combined with her past experience working on sea level rise and community resilience through the NOAA CMF program were crucial to her professional development.


A personal note from Monica Gregory: “I was very fortunate to work with many capable, passionate people at the Division of Coastal Management and within local communities around North Carolina: Pine Knoll Shores, Oriental, Edenton, Duck and Hatteras Village. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, my thoughts are with the communities and people I worked with for two years, as well as all communities across the Carolinas, as they assess the damage wrought by the storm and seek a resilient path forward.”

Learn more about our fellowship opportunities online, or contact Angie Archer at (765)496-3722,


IISG is seeking motivated students for 2018 summer internships

March 8th, 2018 by

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant announces the following positions for the 2018 Summer Student Internship Program. Successful applicants will spend 12 weeks working closely with a Sea Grant specialist on issues affecting the Great Lakes. Internships can include research, communications, and outreach components. Applicants may also have the opportunity to participate in activities outside of their specific internship duties. For more information visit

Internships, open to undergraduates, are available in the following areas:

Aquaculture Product Development

Great Lakes Revitalization

Lake Michigan Fisheries Genomics

Pollution Prevention

Sustainable Communities

All inquiries should be directed to Angela Archer, IISG fellowship program leader,, Purdue University, 765-496-3722.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of  Purdue Extension and University of Illinois Extension

IISG Knauss fellow helps connect ocean science and policy in the House of Representatives

February 28th, 2018 by

Last year, Denise Devotta was selected as a John A. Knauss Fellow, an opportunity for a unique educational experience for students interested in national policy decisions affecting ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources. Representing Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, this University of Illinois graduate student was matched with a host in the Washington, D.C. area for a one-year paid fellowship. Here she reflects on her experiences.

The past year has been an adventure of a lifetime. My placement as a Knauss fellow in Congressman Jared Huffman’s office gave me firsthand experience of the ways in which the U.S. Congress creates and determines science policy. During my time there, I introduced seven pieces of legislation on Congressman Huffman’s behalf, drafted statements and questions for him for 46 Congressional hearings and five times when he spoke on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives (more commonly known as ‘the Floor’). I created vote recommendations for him, covering 47 pieces of environmental legislation. I met over 70 individual constituents, delegates from federal and state agencies, and representatives from non-profit organizations (including NOAA, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the World Wildlife Fund) to discuss legislation pertaining to natural resource management in different parts of the country.

Denise Devotta (second from right) with the other 2017 Knauss fellows placed in Congressional offices, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Of all these incredible experiences, my favorites include staffing Congressman Huffman at Congressional hearings and on the Floor. Because Congressman Huffman is the most powerful Democrat on the Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee, I helped draft his talking points and questions for witnesses at Congressional hearings on key pieces of legislation affecting oceans, fisheries and freshwater management nation-wide. Being Congressman Huffman’s primary staffer during debates on the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act were particularly thrilling. Staffing Congressman Huffman when he discussed legislation on the Floor involved similar responsibilities. The main difference stemmed from the types of points and questions I included in Congressman Huffman’s statement. These were more closely tailored toward issues that other Members of Congress were likely to raise during the debate on the Floor.

Denise Devotta (right) staffing Congressman Huffman on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as he debated legislation concerning pesticide regulation in waterways.

Another highlight during my Knauss Fellowship year was visiting my boss’s beautiful district in Northern California in August 2017. I spent about two weeks travelling from San Francisco in the south to Eureka in the north, and I met with my boss’s constituents along the way to learn more about important natural resource management issues they were facing. Some of these issues included water management in the vineyards of Sonoma County, ocean acidification impacting oyster growing operations at Hog Island Oyster Company and forest fire issues in the Trinity Alps. In addition to this trip, the Knauss Fellowship funded my engagement in other professional development activities, including completing my PhD dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois, attending the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, and presenting at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg, Maryland.

My Fellowship has ended, but I am excited about starting work as a scientist for NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program in March 2018. Being a Knauss fellow in Congress has provided me with an invaluable network of contacts in science policy and research, and it has given me a rare skillset valuable to both fields. I am extremely grateful to NOAA’s Sea Grant program for giving me this opportunity, and strongly encourage eligible graduate and professional students to apply for the 2019 Fellowship class.

IISG brings a new communicator onboard

January 26th, 2018 by

We are happy to welcome Hope Charters to the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant team!

Charters has joined IISG as its communication coordinator. In her new role, she will be working to enhance communications efforts and continue reaching audiences in Illinois, Indiana and beyond with news and updates about IISG research, outreach and education.

Before joining the program, Charters worked as a marketing and communications coordinator in Purdue University’s College of Engineering. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a master’s degree from Indiana University.

New Great Lakes associate will enrich IISG outreach and education efforts

January 17th, 2018 by

Once again, one of IISG’s interns has made good. Allison Neubauer, who began her time with the program as one of our 2013 summer interns and continued on as an educator, is now IISG’s new visiting Great Lakes outreach associate. In her role as an outreach associate, she will work with two IISG specialists to develop products and engage audiences on Great Lakes literacy and natural lawn care.

Working alongside Sarah Zack, pollution prevention specialist, Neubauer will conduct outreach activities to raise awareness of pollution making its way into our waterways—including pharmaceuticals and personal care products, microplastics, and other emerging contaminants of concern. She will serve as the point person for the Lawn to Lake program, informing communities about natural lawn care practices to cutback nutrient and chemical pollution and conserve water.

Neubauer will also work closely with Kristin TePas, community outreach specialist, to manage Great Lakes literacy projects that connect educators and students across the basin with Great Lakes science and develop resources that share research and monitoring efforts conducted onboard U.S. EPA’s R/V Lake Guardian with regional stakeholders.

During her internship, Neubauer led the development of the Lake Guardian website and the production of nine interview videos that introduce students to opportunities in marine and science careers.

Neubauer holds two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Illinois biennial report recognizes positive, voluntary steps to reduce nutrient loss

August 28th, 2017 by

DECATUR, IL–As part of the state’s on-going commitment to reduce nutrient losses, the directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the release of the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report. This document, unveiled at the 2017 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, describes actions taken in the state during the last two years to reduce nutrient losses and influence positive changes in nutrient loads over time.

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) is one of many state strategies developed and implemented over the 31-state Mississippi River basin that are intended to improve water quality. Illinois’ strategy provides a framework for reducing both point and non-point nutrient losses to improve the state’s overall water quality, as well as that of water leaving Illinois and making its way down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Illinois agriculture has a positive story to tell,” said IDOA Director Raymond Poe. “We have seen a significant increase in the adoption of various best management practices. Our partners and stakeholders have done a tremendous job getting the word out about what we are doing in Illinois with the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Farmers understand the consequences of nutrient loss, and they support our quest to minimize losses.”

“In just two years, we are already seeing the impacts of Illinois’ strategy on water quality,” said Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina. “The collaborative efforts of our stakeholders are resulting in real improvements in Illinois’ waters and we look forward to future improvements that will be gained as additional practices are implemented.”

The biennial report contains an update to the original science assessment including nutrient load data from 2011–2015 for both point and non-point sources as well as sector-by-sector reports on activities conducted during the last two years targeted at nutrient loss reduction.

The report also contains information from a recent survey conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service as well as data from other existing sources to serve as metrics to measure progress towards overall water quality improvements now and in the future.

The Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Forum (AWQPF) reports that the agricultural sector invested more than $54 million in nutrient loss reduction for research, outreach, implementation and monitoring. These contributions have come from AWQPF members and other organizations that are working towards reaching the goals set forth in Illinois NLRS. Because of the proactive measures of various agriculture groups, Illinois farmers have become broadly aware of a variety of strategies that mitigate nutrient loss through the adoption of best management practices. Highlights include a move toward split spring and fall nitrogen applications and an increase in the number of acres dedicated to conservation practices such as a use of cover crops.

Since the release of the strategy two years ago, significant strides have also been made in limiting the amount of phosphorus discharge from wastewater treatment plants in Illinois. In the last year, point source sector members targeted key decision makers and practitioners to spread the message of nutrient loss reduction through regulatory updates as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. As of 2016, nearly 80 percent of all effluent from wastewater treatment plants in Illinois is regulated under a NPDES permit that includes a total phosphorus limit. This number will continue to grow as existing permits expire or come up for renewal. To demonstrate the commitment toward nutrient removal, wastewater treatment facilities report spending $144.96 million to fund feasibility studies, optimization studies and capital investment.

Illinois EPA, through its State Revolving Fund program, provides low interest rate loans to point-source projects addressing water quality issues, including nutrient pollution. Last year, Illinois EPA provided or granted $640,599,148 dollars to these projects. Illinois EPA also provides funding for nonpoint source projects designed to achieve nutrients reduction. Annually this program provides $3.5 million to nonpoint source projects.

“What’s made NLRS remarkable is that we had a broad suite of stakeholders that came together to work on the strategy, and they brought not only their ideas, but the support of their organizations. They all got behind it,” said Brian Miller, Illinois Water Resources Center (IWRC) and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) director. “It started with a science assessment from the university that identified problems and potential solutions. Working together we’re already starting to see some successes.”

This report, which was facilitated by IWRC and IISG, will be updated again in 2019. The science, monitoring and activity from each sector will be updated to demonstrate Illinois’ continued commitment to nutrient loss reduction.

“There is a lot more work that needs to be done,” said Warren Goetsch, IDOA deputy director. “However, in releasing this report at the Farm Progress Show, we are introducing these successes to farmers who may be somewhat apprehensive about trying new management practices. Increasing the exposure of our message will keep this effort in front of producers so we can continue to make progress in the years to come.”

This article is based on a press release from IDOA and Illinois EPA. Contacts are Rebecca Clark (217) 558-1546 and Kim Biggs (217) 558-1536.

Plastics pollution report highlights latest research and brainstorming

August 16th, 2017 by

This year’s International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference in Detroit, Michigan, was the most attended IAGLR conference ever, and IISG helped organize one of its popular sessions.

Sarah Zack, pollution prevention specialist, and Carolyn Foley, assistant research coordinator, along with Melissa Duhaime, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan, co-chaired a session titled “Plastics research in the Great Lakes: identifying gaps and facilitating collaboration.” This session was well-attended throughout the day, with as many as 70 people there for individual talks.

“While research on the effects of plastic contamination in the oceans has been building for some time, similar knowledge in freshwater systems is lacking,” said Zack. The talks in this session brought together recent studies, including citizen science initiatives, from the Great Lakes and beyond, looking at prevalence and impacts of plastics in waterways as well as some possible solutions to plastic contamination.

IISG hosted a discussion at the end of the day focused on microplastics, which are particles that are less than 5 millimeters in size, which is smaller than a pea. Microplastics, including beads, fragments, or fibers, are a major concern in the Great Lakes, as effects on fish and other members of the food web are not well known.

More than 20 conference attendees stuck around after a long day of talks. Fueled by snacks provided by Alliance for the Great Lakes, they shared their thoughts on microplastic-related datasets available to researchers and outreach specialists, defined the data that is needed to better understand the effects of microplastics in the Great Lakes, and listed organizations who are leading efforts to address this issue.

“Conferences are a great time to bring scientists together to brainstorm about the next great idea and to figure out where research gaps can be found,” said Zack.

Two Yellow Buoys is now an award-winning Twitter feed

July 20th, 2017 by

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s two Lake Michigan real-time monitoring buoys know that they’re popular. And if you follow the Twitter account, @TwoYellowBuoys, they’ll tell you so.

Part of this popularity may be because the buoys are festive. In addition to decking themselves out for holidays.


4th of July



Alternatives to Easter egg hunts.


Or maybe it’s because the buoys are clearly in love with science so they share interesting data patterns.



Here they introduce themselves to Bill Nye, the Science Guy.


The buoys’ hard work informing people about conditions in southern Lake Michigan was recognized with an APEX Award of Excellence for Social Media – Sites. This is the second IISG project to win a 2017 APEX Award. The buoys are proud to work alongside their Sea Grant colleagues, serving the people who live and recreate in southern Lake Michigan.

*The buoys would like to thank IISG Assistant Research Coordinator Carolyn Foley for managing their Twitter account. They also blame Carolyn for any mistakes made, because they’re buoys. It’s difficult to Tweet when you don’t have arms.

If you love the buoys, let them know!

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