The Wilmette buoy returned to Lake Michigan earlier this week. But a few days before it departed, several of its biggest admirers stopped by to meet it at Lloyd Park in Winnetka, Illinois.
Wil, as some of the IISG scientists call it, lay prone in the parking lot withstanding the blustery winds and cold temperatures. The ugly weather didn’t stop the 10 or so Chicago-area sailors from coming to the open house, leaning in close and examining the body of the machine they’ve come to rely on after only one season.
One remarked at how much smaller it was than he thought. Others stood and posed with it for pictures.
It’s hard not to anthropomorphize the buoy. Once in the water, the weather and lake condition data and images it provides are like sage advice coming from a reliable friend.
“I’m with the Glencoe Boat Club and we were excited when it was put in,” Eric Brislawn of Buffalo Grove, Illinois said. “We’ve been watching data on it all summer and using it. We—the boaters, the sailors up here—had nothing like this anywhere nearby…so this really filled a nice gap for weather information.”
The buoy might not have made it in the water without the help of Laurie Morse of Glencoe, Illinois, who along with Purdue University, helped secure a grant to fund it.
“We have already noticed since it’s been in the water since 2015 that it’s made a difference in the quality of our marine forecast and it’s really important to all us recreational boaters,” said Morse, who was with her husband at the open house.
“Well, we look for it in the water,” Morse remarked. “I’ve never been successful in finding it on the lake, but this is the first time I’ve seen the buoy. So this is very exciting.”
Jay Beugly, IISG aquatic ecology specialist, and scientists Ed Verhamme and John Bratton from LimnoTech, organized the open house and were on hand to talk about all the nearshore environmental-sensing this bright yellow, 610-pound buoy is capable of.
“We were happy that people came with lots of questions. Some didn’t know much about it. Others followed it closely last year,” said Beugly. “This is the first full season that this buoy will be deployed, and we want people to know that it’s out there. We were excited to be able to stand next to the buoy while it’s out of the water and talk to folks and see how we might improve their experience.”
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™ campaign:
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.
With the water sports season in full swing, a coalition of Indiana officials and community groups is hosting a Water Safety Day to raise awareness of safe boating and swimming practices. Hoosiers are invited to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Michigan City on June 6 from 10 am to 2 pm.
More than 20 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year, and many of those incidents took place at the southern end of the lake. Since 2010, roughly 380 people have drowned in the Great Lakes according to data collected by the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project (GLSRP).
Water Safety Day will feature information on everything from choosing proper boating equipment to tools developed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) that tell beach-goers when and where it’s safe to be in the water. Paddlers and boaters can also hear about best practices from the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association (NWIPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
The event will also feature messages from a new regional water safety campaign with tips for steering clear of dangerous currents and waves. The Be Current Smart campaign encourages swimmers not to jump off structures or enter the water when waves are high. And parents are reminded to “be a water watcher” and keep a close eye on children while they’re in the water.
In addition to hosting Water Safety Day, the Southern Lake Michigan Water Safety Task Force will also participate in several Coastal Awareness Month events slated through June. The group, which was formed last year by IISG, includes representatives from Indiana’s Lake Michigan Coastal Management Program, Indiana Dunes State Park, USCG, NWS, IDEM, GLSRP and NWIPA, as well as officials and beach managers in several coastal communities.
With the end of Chicago’s boating season right around the corner, we thought this would be a good time look back at this year’s progress making boating and harbor activities more environmentally friendly.
The Illinois Clean Marina Program launched last year with one certified marina, 31st Street Harbor. This year, five new harbors joined the ranks by implementing a series of best management practices, bringing the state total to six in just its first year. Two more, North Point Marina and Diversey Harbor have also pledged to implement these same practices.
Clean boating includes preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). It was a banner year for Clean Boats Crew, an outreach effort that gives boaters, anglers, and others the information they need to stop the spread of AIS. During its four-year tenure, the volunteer program has spread the word about AIS prevention to more than 8,000 recreational water users in Illinois and Indiana, with more than 3,500 people reached this year alone.
The idea behind Clean Boats Crew is simple. Volunteers visit boat ramps and docks during the height of the boating season to talk with boaters, anglers, and other recreational water users about AIS and to demonstrate cleaning techniques that can help stop their spread. This year, site leaders and volunteers were onsite at Chicago’s Burnham and Diversey harbors, as well as Illinois’s Chain O’ Lakes and North Point Marina and Indiana’s East Chicago and Portage marinas.
In Illinois, site leaders and volunteers introduced water users to three simple steps at the heart of the prevention campaign Be a Hero – Transport Zero™:
–Remove plants, animals, and mud from all equipment –Drain all water from your boat and gear –Dry everything thoroughly with a towel
With the season over, IISG and the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, co-organizers of the Clean Boats Crew program, have turned their sights to next year and are looking for others to join the effort.
Earlier this week, a new environmental monitoring buoy joined a chain of similar buoys that are increasing boating and swimming safety and helping anglers target specific species of fish from Ludington, MI to Michigan City, IN. From Michigan Live:
Deployed roughly two miles off the shores of South Haven on Wednesday, the buoy can distribute improved wind and wave observations in addition to measuring wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, water temperature and wave height among other variables.
“Given South Haven’s strong connection to Lake Michigan I am excited for the addition of this station to the regional buoy network,” South Haven Mayor Robert Burr said in a statement. “The city’s goal is to provide area boaters, swimmers, and water safety professionals with up-to-date lake conditions. Conditions on the big lake can change fast and we want everyone to be prepared when venturing out on the water.
Click on the link above to read the complete article. And visit our buoy website to learn more about how real-time data is helping weather forecasters and researchers better understand the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan.
**Photo: Boaters and swimmers enjoy the water at South Haven Beach
The IISG aquatic invasive species team (AIS) kicked off their fishing tournament season with a bang earlier this week. Several members were onsite April 6 for a high school bass fishing tournament to talk with young anglers about the threat of AIS and what they can do to prevent their spread. Hosted by the Illini Bass Fishing Club, the third annual High School Open drew a record number of teams and anglers to central Illinois’ Clinton Lake.
IISG science writer Anjanette Riley joined the AIS team for the tournament and recalls the day’s events:
“If every fishing tournament this year was like the High School Open, this will be a great year for AIS outreach. During the couple hours we were onsite, Sarah Zack and Alice Denny talked with hundreds of anglers, coachers, and on-lookers from Illinois and Wisconsin.
But more than the numbers, what really made Sunday a success was people’s enthusiasm. Groups huddled around the IISG table to talk about Sea Grant, invasive species, and three easy steps to ensure invaders can’t hitch a ride to new waterbodies: remove, drain, dry. Many of these coaches said they would take the message—and the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers giveaways—back to team members not competing that day. And frequent announcements from Luke Stoner, the Illini club president, reminded the crowd of the risks AIS pose to their sport and the importance of “leaving the lakes better than we found them.”
The day also proved successful for many of the anglers fighting to catch the most and biggest bass. The fish were hesitant to bite, but more than half of the 79 competing teams weighed in at least one. Several teams brought in bags of fish weighing more than 6 lbs. The winning duo, though, sealed their victory with two fish weighing in at 8.3lbs, and the Big Bass award went to an Edinburg-South Fork student who caught a 6.46lb largemouth bass—a true “Clinton Lake slaunch.”
These hard-working high school anglers have a full season of fishing in front of them. In fact, for many of the teams, Sunday was their first day on the water this year. And their successes at the tournament will help them qualify to compete in sectional and state competitions.
Sunday was the first of many tournaments for IISG’s AIS outreach team as well. Sarah, Alice, and others will take their message of prevention to professional and amateur tournaments across Illinois and Indiana this spring. But the annual High School Open marked a rare and important opportunity to talk with young anglers about the importance of curbing the spread of AIS.”
To learn more about AIS, visit the IISG website. And watch for our “Be a Hero – Transport Zero” campaign this summer with how-to information on basic steps to take before leaving a marina or boat ramp.
Jay Beugly has joined the team as IISG’s newest aquatic ecology specialist. Located a Purdue University, he works closely with our research team to increase public awareness of the Michigan City nearshore buoy and help boaters, anglers, and beachgoers make use of the data. He also helps coordinate research and outreach activities on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.
Jay has a Master’s degree in biology from Ball State University, where his work on river and stream ecology earned him the 2009 Outstanding Graduate Student in Fisheries Award. He is currently working towards a PhD in aquatic community ecology.
Sarah Zack and Danielle Hilbrich, members of IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach team, set up a booth and talked with hundreds of visitors at the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, IL January 4-6. They attended the show in order to provide more information to fishermen and boaters about the dangers of aquatic invasive species, and introduce them to some simple practices that can help reduce the spread of invasives.
Many visitors to the IISG booth had experienced Asian carp jumping at their boats while on the water, and were very interested in ways they could protect themselves while fishing and boating in infested waters. In addition, Danielle and Sarah encouraged anyone that catches an Asian carp – accidently or on purpose – to cook it up and eat it. Asian carp have mild-tasting, white, flaky flesh that takes seasoning and marinades very well. Asian carp are a healthy choice too, since they’re low in contaminants and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many attendees said they were willing to try cooking Asian carp, so Danielle and Sarah shared recipes with them as well as copies of Louisiana Sea Grant’s video on how to fillet Asian carp.
The booth was highly visited throughout the weekend, and Danielle and Sarah had the chance to hand out hundreds of Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ stickers and brochures while offering people more information about invasive species. The booth was even featured on a 92.3 WIL, a popular St. Louis country radio station, and radio host Bo Matthews briefly talked with Sarah Zack about AIS prevention steps that people can take to stop the spread of AIS – inspecting for and removing aquatic plants and animals from equipment, draining all water, disposing of live bait in the trash, and drying recreational equipment before visiting another waterbody. Bo Matthews strongly supports IISG’s AIS-prevention message, and even put a Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! sticker on the radio station truck to help spread the word.
Changes in weather patterns, such as warmer winters and lower rainfall averages, can have large effects on water availability, lake levels, plant and fish life, and more. Because so many people and industries rely on the Great Lakes, those changes can have a significant impact beyond the obvious, as is the case for the shipping industry.
“For decades, the mathematics of waterborne transport here were simple. For every 10 to 11 metric tons of cargo that moved into and out of the Toledo port, about one metric ton of sediment left the channel. (Last year, 10.4 million metric tons of cargo were handled at the port.)
But with climate change, the equation is almost certain to get more complex and more expensive, say scientists and port managers. More mid-winter snow melts and rainstorms — and more frequent heavy rainfalls, especially in spring — may lead to higher soil-erosion rates, meaning that Great Lakes rivers are likely to carry more soil into harbors. Higher air temperatures already are warming the Great Lakes, blocking ice from forming, and increasing rates of evaporation that may lead to lower lake levels.”
Follow the link above to read the complete article on these potential consequences for the Great Lakes, the shipping and transportation industry, and the communities that rely on these resources.
This Thanksgiving, my Team expresses gratitude to all volunteers that gift us their time and talent, to @ILextension and @ILINSeaGrant for their leadership, & to @UofIFS for their continued support. Thank you to everyone that follows and engages with us!