May 2nd, 2017 by IISG
September 9th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy welcomed two IISG specialists to their roster of teachers recently.
Climate Specialist Molly Woloszyn and Education Coordinator Terri Hallesy carried on in the spirit of the academy by sharing their expertise with underrepresented fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Champaign, Illinois area.
The program was developed in 2013 by Ricky Greer, a K-12 education specialist, and Dr. Jerrod A. Henderson, a University of Illinois lecturer in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CHBE). Its name, St. Elmo Brady, honors the first African-American student to earn a PhD in chemistry in the United States in 1916. Although the program is housed in CHBE, it’s meant to introduce students to a range of STEM disciplines.
Woloszyn and the students toured the weather station with Jim Angel, the Illinois state climatologist. She also did an activity that demonstrated air pressure – the collapsing can. She then taught them how to make a rain gauge from a 2-liter bottle that they could take home.
“I had a really great time doing this event,” Woloszyn said. “It was really fun to interact with the students and see them be so interested in making the rain gauge.”
Hallesy spent her time with the students talking about the role aquatic invasive species play in altering the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. She used fun games like “Stop Asian Carp in their Tracks” and “Nab the Aquatic Invader,” to explain how students by making simple changes, like properly disposing of a pet fish, can do their part in helping to prevent the spread of AIS.
“I see them as agents for change in their community. The kids were so interested in learning about what they could do to help,” Hallesy said. “They loved it!”
Program director Joe Gamez has seen the positive impact the program has had on the students.
“Without this exposure, minorities and girls think, ‘Oh, this this is not for me. This is for other people. Other people do that kind of stuff,’” Gamez said.
“But when they get exposure to it, it changes the way they look at things. The exposure the children get to these STEM topics from people who are so knowledgeable and passionate has really made a difference.”
August 31st, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
With the boating season winding down for the year, Clean Boat Crew (CBC) volunteers and site leaders can take a deep breath knowing they engaged a record number of boaters, anglers, and other water recreationists this year to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
The CBC reached 4,431 water-lovers — 25 percent more than last year’s all-time high of 3,519 — at boat ramps and docks in 10 locations in Illinois and Indiana. The crews were out from Memorial Day weekend to August 9.
The program in its fifth year continued to educate about ways to prevent the transfer of AIS from one waterbody to another through simple cleaning techniques outlined in the Be a Hero – TransportZero™
- Remove plants, animals, and mud from all equipment
- Drain all water from your boat and gear
- Dry everything thoroughly with a towel
The crews distributed 8,000 pieces of outreach materials not only at busy marinas, but at several summer events: Gary’s Clean Water Days Festival, the Big Bass Bash, Hammond Marina’s Venetian Night, the Geoffrey Morris Memorial Fishing Tournament at North Point Marina, and Harbor Days at North Point Marina.
“The program continues to be well-received by the public, and more and more people recognize the message. But there’s still a lot of curiosity about it, which leads me to conclude that there’s still work to be done,” said Sarah Zack, an IISG organizer of the program.
June 3rd, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Optimism was high at the International Conference Asian Carp in Peoria a week ago Friday. The goal of this event, sponsored by the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, was to bolster the economy of the region by networking and sharing ideas and information on marketing Asian carp. And many of the attendees were very interested in exploiting this fishery.
Natural resource managers and entrepreneurs have a similar goal at this point, which is to remove Asian carp from the Illinois River. This bodes well for the river’s future.
IISG was in the room to share outreach information about Asian carp to participants from as far away as China and South America. The audience also represented a variety of professions, including researchers, food service professionals, processors, investors, and more.
In recent years, several Midwest businesses have jumped into the carp market. Schafer Fisheries, for example, has developed new products, such as dog treats and liquid fertilizer, but also processes fillets. Asian carp species have a mild flavor, and the conference crowd was treated to a variety of inventive carp dishes, from spring rolls to chili, which were all delicious.
The “if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” mantra has reaped some rewards. Matt O’Hara, with Illinois Department of Natural Resources, reported that the three-year catch at Marsielles Pool along the Illinois River has steadily declined. The leading edge of Asian carp moving towards the Great Lakes has stayed miles away from this critical freshwater resource.
If the enthusiasm at the conference translates to successful businesses, at some point they will need to be prepared to diversify when carp species have been reduced to manageable levels. At that point, they may be able to shift to native fish, which, in fact, are more lucrative.
Peoria was also the host for the annual Asian carp bowfishing tournament on Saturday, and IISG was there to talk with participants about how to prevent the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species. Both events were rescheduled from July due to high waters earlier in the summer. As it turns out, flood waters are very good for spawning. It’s likely that we’ll see Asian carp numbers increase in the future because they had a good spawn this year.
June 1st, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Another school year is coming to a close, and teachers across the country are beginning to pack up their classrooms for the summer. Books are being packed away, wall decorations are coming down, and classroom plants and animals are moving to a new home. And where that new home is can have large and lasting environmental impacts.
Common classroom pets like goldfish, bullfrogs, and red-eared slider turtles can become invasive if released into local rivers, lakes, and ponds. Many aquarium plants also pose a threat to nearby aquatic habitats. These invaders can crowd out native species, degrade water quality, introduce diseases, and limit recreation. Once established, aquatic invasive species are extremely difficult to control—Florida alone spends millions each year trying to control the aquarium plant hydrilla.
Teachers and students can help protect our waterways from the harmful effects of aquatic invasive species with a few simple steps. While you’re in the market for a classroom pet, look for native and non-invasive species. Knowing the scientific names will make this easier.
When the time comes to dispose of plants, seal them in a plastic bag and throw them in the trash. Fish, reptiles, and other animals should be returned to the seller or given to a friend or fellow teacher who has pledged not to release unwanted pets. If a new home can’t be found, ask a veterinarian about other options. And be sure to sterilize any water before pouring it down the toilet or sink.
Learn more about aquatic invasive species and what you can do to curb their spread at www.TakeAim.org.
May 28th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
During the summer of 2014 sixteen science teachers from all around the Great Lakes region spent a week on board the U.S. E.P.A ship R/V Lake Guardian on Lake Erie as part of the Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop. Sponsored by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, Ohio Sea Grant, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, teachers were connected with scientists in first hand explorations of the ecology, geology, and bio-geochemical processes of Lake Erie.
Fifth grade middle school science teacher David Murduck was introduced to many ideas for his classroom and field activities from his experience on the research ship:
Although I knew the experience on the R/V Guardian
was going to be amazing, I never dreamed that the workshop would have such an impact on my students. Towards the beginning of the school year my class spends a lot of time learning about the importance of qualitative and quantitative observation. This year my students were able to apply their understanding of metric measurement while learning about the Great Lakes. Students were engaged in an activity where they had to use yarn to outline, label, and organize the shorelines of the Great Lakes to scale. After graphing the shoreline metric distances, students compared the total shoreline distances of the Great Lakes to the U.S. shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Students then compared and contrasted the size of the Great Lakes to the total volume of water each lake holds, the metric mass of commercial fish caught, and the human population surrounding each Great Lake. This activity enabled me to reinforce the importance of metric measurement as we used metric rulers, triple-beam balances, and graduated cylinders in class. This also set the stage for in-depth discussion of the Great Lakes and the problems they face.
As the year progressed, students learned more about the Great Lakes, and specifically the Lake Erie watershed that they live in. Students learned about research that scientists aboard the R/V Guardian were completing. Research included a study of native and invasive species by Ruth Briland of The Ohio State University, a study of the presence of plastics by Sam Mason from State University of New York, and a study of chemicals and E. coli bacteria by Steve Mauro from Gannon University. This led to a better understanding of the importance of water quality. Macro-invertebrate studies and the use of water quality monitoring equipment lent for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed real-world application as students studied water in local tributaries of the Lake Erie watershed.
Follow-up allowed students to complete individual in-depth research related to invasive species of the Great Lakes. This information was presented with the use of visual projects such as PowerPoint, dioramas, or posters in class.
Students then applied what they had learned throughout the year by participating in an important stewardship project. With a unique partnership between our school and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, students planted native oak trees for the park. Park ranger John DeMuth came to each 5thgrade science class and discussed how the invasive Privot plant forces out native plants along the Cuyahoga River. He explained that native plants have deeper root systems that hold the soil more securely and slow erosion of the river banks. He also explained that unlike the past when pollution was the main
problem in the Cuyahoga River watershed, invasive species are now the real concern.
In culmination, with the help of high school horticulture students from the Trumbull County Technical and Career Center and park rangers from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, my students learned teamwork as they used gloves, eye protection, and loppers supplied by the national park to cut and stack the invasive plants along the river bank. National park employees later use controlled use of herbicides on the stumps to kill the plants. What an amazing year!
May 26th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
INVASIVE SPECIES EDITION—Where we take a moment to explore the species that threaten the Great Lakes region.
The most widely introduced crayfish in the world, this crustacean is a jack of all trades, a species used by humans more than any we’ve covered so far. The red swamp crayfish is present on every continent but Australia and Antarctica, and it has a role in everything from research and education to fishing bait–even acting as a biological control in Africa to eliminate snails that are key to the life cycle of schistomiasis, a disease that can cause liver damage, infertility, and bladder cancer. However it is probably most well known as a dish, served on plates the world over, with almost 50,000 tons harvested each year in the U.S. alone.
But for all their use, red swamp crayfish still represent a threat to many ecosystems. Native to the warm still waters of the southeastern United States, they have been found as far northwest as Washington, and have established populations up and down the east and west coasts, as well as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Commonly sold in pet stores, some of the spread can be contributed to careless release from private aquariums. But to the red swamp crayfishs’ credit, they are perfectly capable of spreading themselves, crossing miles of dry land from waterbody to waterbody, especially during wet seasons. And once they’ve established themselves, they’re almost impossible to eradicate.
A true survivor, the red swamp crayfish will dig chimney-like burrows into stream beds to cope with changing water levels, and be able to live in them for up to four months. Unlike most crayfish which are herbivores, it has been known to eat the eggs of fish and other crustaceans as well as snails, tadpoles, and small fish and amphibians in addition to plants. It can tolerate slightly brackish wateranother trait not shared with many other crayfish) and can grow quickly in small amounts of water up to about five inches long and weighing up to 50 grams. All these attributes combine to make an animal that out-competes native crayfish, and causes stream-bank erosion by loosening up sediment with its burrows, resulting in higher turbidity and destroyed crustacean and insect nesting beds.
Currently there are no prescribed methods to remove red swamp crayfish from invaded waterbodies. In many states they are illegal to transport, and people are encouraged to report any sightings.
May 21st, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
We’re continuing our celebration of Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month with a few words from Cathy McGlynn, coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, on how invasive species have changed our aquatic ecosystems.
I am your local co-coordinator of the Clean Boats Crew, an aquatic invasive species education and outreach campaign that is a collaboration of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership. My colleagues and I care very much about protecting aquatic ecosystems, and we know the value of prevention when it comes to invasion.
I haven’t always lived in the Chicago region. Once upon a time, I was a field biologist who lived in the Hudson River Valley and spent countless summer days canoeing to my research sites in the morning mist on the majestic Hudson River while being very careful to avoid tugboats and their wakes. I surveyed marsh birds and small mammals to see how invasive plants were impacting them. It turned out that native birds with special requirements, such as the marsh wren, were losing their nesting habitat to the invasive common reed. In between sites, I battled my way through beds of water chestnut, an aquatic invasive plant that has not yet been found in the Chicago area. I helped to survey and monitor native aquatic plants on the river with a team of volunteer kayakers because these plants provide important habitat for young fish, crabs, and insects and needed to be tracked. I was always careful not to walk around barefoot on the river’s beaches to avoid cutting my feet on zebra mussel shells or stepping on the barbed fruits of the water chestnut. During the time before I moved to this region, rock snot and Chinese mitten crab were starting to threaten the Hudson River and its wetlands.
After writing all of this, I realize that I don’t know a time, in my life anyway, that invasive plants and animals weren’t arriving and changing the Hudson River ecosystem.
Based on what I have learned in the five years I have been living near Lake Michigan, it seems that a similar history has unfolded for this amazing water body. I often wonder what it would be like if all invasions were prevented or ended upon arrival. I imagine a completely successful aquatic invasive species education and outreach program. The perfectly-executed Clean Boats Crew with 100 percent support from everyone with whom we’ve ever interacted and all the people with whom those anglers, boaters, and recreational water users communicated.
I imagine what Lake Michigan would look like and what creatures would be found there. I imagine a lake that does not have waters which have been filtered clean by zebra and quagga mussels and are clear and blue like the Caribbean. Rather I picture darker, murkier waters that contain all the tiny plants and animals that make up the phytoplankton and zooplankton that feed native fish and mussels.
In this imaginary world, no one in the entire Great Lakes region is worried about the arrival of Asian carp and the lamprey eel has stayed in the Atlantic Ocean. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia is not found in any fish throughout the lake. And round goby has never out-competed sculpin and logperch. Anglers happily fish native and non-invasive stocked fish and boaters readily remove plants and animals from their boats, drain their bilges and bait buckets, and dry their vehicles for five days because that is what needs to be done to protect our precious aquatic resources.
I imagine people stopping by our Clean Boats Crew booths at marinas and fishing tournaments in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana. Fortunately, that at least can become reality later this month.
May 14th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
INVASIVE SPECIES EDITION—Where we take a moment to explore the species that potentially threaten the Great Lakes region.
Zebra and quagga mussels have already made homes in the Great Lakes region, but there’s another invasive clam on the horizon we should keep our sights on. While still limited to countries in South America, researchers predict that the golden mussel could colonize areas in North America where zebra and quagga mussels could not, devastating what native clam populations remain.
Originally from China, the golden mussel was introduced to Argentina around 1990 by way of ballast water. The microscopic size of its larvae combined with its ability to attach to aquatic plants, ships, and fishing equipment has made its spread difficult to contain. By 2006, the golden mussel had made its way to Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay, where they now cost communities an estimated $200,000 a day in industrial and ecological losses.
Like zebra and quagga mussels, golden mussels clog pipes and alter food webs wherever they spread — only the golden mussel takes things a step further. Considered an “ecosystem engineer,” large populations of golden mussels often completely change the biological makeup of a lake’s sediment.
Because they are filter feeders, golden mussels greatly deplete the amount of suspended material in a water column, which in turn depletes the water’s oxygen levels. The end result is an ecosystem that favors detritivores and invertebrates like leeches, caddisflies, and other species that can live in the nooks and crannies golden mussels create, and are able to feed on golden mussel fecal matter. And native clam species stand little chance of survival as golden mussels have been known to surround and grow on top of them, starving them to death by sealing them shut.
As with most invasive species, the success of the golden mussel is rooted in its versatility. A freshwater clam, it can survive in higher temperatures, lower pH levels, and higher salinity than either zebra or quagga mussels. Although no effective method of control has been established, research is being conducted on the potential for sterilization via genetic modification.
INVASIVE SPECIES EDITION—Where we take a moment to explore the species that threaten the Great Lakes region.
They may not be what comes to mind when you think of invasive carp, but grass carp can have drastic and lasting impacts on aquatic ecosystems and water quality. Originally from eastern Asia, they have been introduced the world over as a biocontrol for aquatic weeds and can now be found in over 70 countries.
This wide range is made possible by their versatility—not unlike the hydrilla they are sometimes employed to eliminate. Grass carp can live in water temperatures from below freezing to over 100ºF, can survive in brackish waters, and are able to tolerate low-oxygen environments.
While they live mostly in slow moving and still waters, eggs are spawned in fast rivers, and must remain suspended for two to four days before they hatch. From there, grass carp grow quickly—as much as 10 inches in the first three months. An adult can grow to be upwards of 4 feet in length and more than 50 pounds on a diet of mostly aquatic weeds. But they have also been known to consume detritus, insects, and other invertebrates as well.
Grass carp were first brought to the U.S. in 1963 when they were imported from Malaysia and Thailand to aquaculture facilities in Alabama and Arkansas. Their first release into the wild is believed to have happened three years later when some escaped from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fish Farming Experimental Station in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Planned introductions began in 1969 in an effort to control nuisance plants. By the end of the 1970s, grass carp had been introduced in 40 states. Today it can be found in 45 states, with well-established populations throughout the Mississippi River Basin.
Grass carp are a highly regulated species, and for good reason. Because they are so adept at consuming plants, there is a risk that these veritable aquatic lawnmowers might leave a waterbody completely devoid of plant life and wipe out the food supply for other fish, insects, and waterfowl. A lack of plant life can also spur on algal blooms, which in turn lower oxygen levels. And without roots to keep sediment secure, the water is likely to become muddied, and spawning beds for other fish can be destroyed.
Because of these and other risks, grass carp used for weed control are sterilized by shocking the eggs with drastic changes in either temperature or pressure. But this process is not 100 percent effective, and fish sometimes escape into the wild. In some states, including Illinois, the use of grass carp is restricted to private ponds or pools. Those thinking about using the fish for personal use are encouraged to explore other weed-control options.