Tribune focuses on Lake Michigan microplastics research

August 9th, 2013 by

As you read in yesterday’s blog post, IISG’s Laura Kammin and Anjanette Riley are taking part in a research trip on Lake Michigan this weekend investigating the presence and concentration of microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

The Chicago Tribune has more details about the research: 

“Calling the lake ‘its own separate little beast,’ Mason said she expects to find high levels of microplastics in Lake Michigan because it borders so many large cities and because water molecules are estimated to swirl around the lake for about 99 years on average before being replaced by water flowing in. Water stays longer only in Lake Superior, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On Friday the researchers boarded the Niagara at St. Ignace, Mich., and sailed from Lake Huron into Lake Michigan. After a stop in Milwaukee, the ship is scheduled to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. Along the way, researchers planned to collect almost 30 samples.
One scientist who sailed on last summer’s research trip is back in her lab, studying the chemicals that may be piggybacking on the microplastics gathered from Superior, Huron and Erie.
The particles ‘work like a sponge’ for pollutants, said Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Superior. One reason is that microplastics have a large surface area in relation to their size, which means there are plenty of places for the chemicals to stick.”
Read more about the ongoing research at the link above. 

Low rainfall isn’t necessarily a problem for your lawn

July 13th, 2012 by
Large portions of both Illinois and Indiana continue to experience very low rainfall and drought conditions, and many homeowners are wondering what to do about their lawns. With water in high demand, several  communities place watering schedules or restrictions in effect in order to conserve the available water. But what to do about your lawn? 
According to Richard Hentschel, a horticulture educator who works with our Lawn to Lake program, the simple answer is – nothing. 
From the Chicago Tribune
“’If your lawn is brown, it’s not dead,’ says Richard Hentschel, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in St. Charles ( ‘The grass has just hunkered down into survival mode. The plants have stopped growing and given up on their leaves to conserve water and are concentrating all their resources on keeping their roots and crowns alive.’”
Lawns are capable of surviving the conditions, but one area of concern is trees. 
“Lawns are easily replaced, but trees are not. Even large trees need help to survive a drought – and if they die, it can take 20 or 30 years to replace that shade. Stress from the 2005 drought killed trees over the next several years. So put trees at the top of the list for watering.
Let the hose trickle for a good long time in several places under the tree’s canopy. Or spiral a soaker hose loosely around a tree trunk. Or buy a soaker bag at the garden center that will slowly ooze water to the roots. Most of a mature tree’s roots are within 6 to 8 inches of the soil surface.”

Richard Hentschel and Rachel Rosenberg (who is also quoted in the article) are both involved in our Lawn to Lakes program, which provides information to retailers, homeowners, and landscapers about natural lawn care alternatives and their benefits.

For more information about gardens, lawns, and ways to maintain them in these conditions, head to the link above for the complete article, and find lawn care tips and specifics for Northern Illinois, including information about watering, drought conditions, weed issues, and more at the new Lawn Talk website.

In the news: Testing Lake Michigan water to maintain a safe shoreline

May 31st, 2012 by
With the Lake Michigan lakefront now open to swimmers for the season, the Chicago Park District will be using a new system to monitor bacteria level and ensure a safe swimming environment for visitors. 
From The Chicago Tribune: 
“Chicago’s new elaborate system of buoys and statistical models will monitor 16 of the city’s 24 beaches, and Park District officials are seeking grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand the system to cover all beaches by next summer.
The model will predict the levels of harmful bacteria at each beach using data on the location of sources of contamination, like colonies of sea gulls or sewer outlets; the motion of waves that can disturb bacteria growing in the sand; lake-current speeds; water temperature; and sunlight.”
Read more about the city’s new system for monitoring Lake Michigan here.
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