Champaign-Urbana collects 13,000 pounds of unwanted medicine

August 31st, 2017 by

Too much of a good thing wore out the old medicine take-back box at the Urbana Police Department, so it recently received an upgrade.

“People come in here all the time and fill this thing up,” said Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald. “The old one would fill up twice a week. It would just get packed.”

Since the department installed the box in 2013 as part of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension’s medicine take-back program, it’s only grown in popularity. This box’s new style still resembles a mailbox, but a new locking feature prevents people from forcing pharmaceuticals into an already full box. Nobody will walk off with this one either. It’s bolted to the ground.

Medicine take-back programs help prevent these chemicals from being flushed or thrown in the trash, potentially contaminating local waterways. Taking in unwanted medicines is a public safety issue too.

“If we can take it here in this box, it means they’re not in somebody’s grasp at home—toddlers take anything they can grab,” said Amy Anderson, Urbana animal control officer/community liaison, who manages the box.

The police department, along with more than 50 locations in four states—including one in Champaign and one at the university—are designated to accept prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including veterinary pharmaceuticals, but not illicit drugs, syringes, needles or thermometers. IISG provides each location with the drug collection box and works with community partners to ensure the program’s success. All collected drugs are incinerated—the environmentally preferred disposal method.

The Champaign and Urbana medicine take-back programs started in 2013 and have collected more than 13,000 pounds of medicine. The IISG take-back program as a whole, which was established in 2007, has collected more than 58 tons. In addition, Sea Grant has helped collect over 30 tons just from helping out in single-day events throughout the Great Lakes region.

Amy Anderson, Urbana animal control officer/community liaison, (left) and Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald pose with the new medicine take-back box in the lobby of the Urbana Police Department.

“The partnership we have with the Urbana Police Department, Champaign Police Department, and University of Illinois Police Department is so valuable,” said Sarah Zack, IISG pollution prevention extension specialist. “They do a great public service by operating this take-back program, and I hope that people can take advantage of the convenient drop-off locations in the C-U area.”

Be sure to visit to find your local take-back location.

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

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!

Lake Guardian display wins APEX Award of Excellence

July 18th, 2017 by

When a 180-foot ship marked with the words “U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY” docks on the shores of one of the Great Lakes or their connecting channels, people take notice. The research vessel Lake Guardian has incited curiosity for over 25 years as it has carried scientists across all five Great Lakes to collect and analyze samples of water, aquatic life, sediments, and air.

Last year, IISG completed a project to answer frequently asked questions about the ship and to communicate the important work done on board to monitor and protect the world’s largest surface freshwater system.

Allison Neubauer, Joel Davenport, and Kristin TePas received an APEX Award of Excellence for the colorful display they created about the R/V Lake Guardian. Easily transported and exhibited from one port to the next, the display is made up of two large posters that use graphics and accessible language to communicate key facts about the ship, such as its size and berthing capacity, and provide a glimpse into the scientific sampling processes and Great Lakes research topics that the vessel facilitates.

Since making its debut last spring the display has proven to be a hit with people drawn to the ship. In particular, the eye-catching infographics designed by Davenport have been the subject of praise.


Buoy lovers donate to keep life-saving weather data afloat

July 5th, 2017 by

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) is proud to support two real-time monitoring buoys in southern Lake Michigan, one located just north of Michigan City, Indiana and the other near Wilmette Harbor, Illinois. Recently, users have started pitching in with donations to help keep the buoys afloat.

The buoy program started when a Purdue researcher pointed out that there were no real-time data being collected in Lake Michigan’s Indiana waters. A few years later, concerned citizens and sailors pointed to a similar need for the Illinois shoreline. Now, the two IISG buoys are filling information gaps for anglers, sailors, swimmers, and weather professionals who are interested in this part of the lake.

Over the years, buoy users have made phone calls, emails, and interactions through Twitter and Facebook to share that the buoys are valued and needed. We at Sea Grant have enjoyed hearing how our fans use buoy information. All told, lake enthusiasts are checking our real-time buoy data nearly 30,000 times per year!

Putting a buoy in the water, year after year, requires many things to happen. Weather conditions, equipment, people, and technical services have to come together perfectly to keep the buoys operational. This program would be impossible without sufficient funding.

Sea Grant’s buoy managers, Carolyn Foley and Jay Beugly, try to support the buoys with grants, but those funds can be hard to come by. When the unexpected happens, like a power-generating solar panel comes loose, or it takes three trips to remove a hook found tangled in wires at a depth of 30 feet, we burn through our funds pretty quickly.

IISG is constantly on the lookout for partnerships to help keep the buoys afloat, but you can also make a donation. The funds raised will go directly toward the buoy program, supporting data charges, travel costs, repairs, and upgrades. Already, folks are stepping up and donating to keep the buoys operational.

We love providing the buoy data as a service to everyone and helping families stay safe during these summer days. Please join your fellow buoy fans and consider donating today!​

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

Indiana coastal ecosystem benefits are many

March 21st, 2017 by

We depend on nature for our health and well-being in what seems countless ways—from food, medicine, and shelter, to our quality of life. Yet when decision makers plan for a community’s future, there may be no concrete value ascribed to natural areas.

An IISG study supported by NOAA through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, has begun the process of defining the value of Indiana’s aquatic ecosystems.

“Ecosystem services are the benefits that people, communities, and economies receive from nature,” said Leslie Dorworth, IISG aquatic ecology specialist. “For example, a healthy food web in Lake Michigan is part of a thriving ecosystem, but it can also provide a benefit to those who engage in fishing.”

Dorworth, and Margaret Schneemann, IISG resource economist, sat down with 10 Indiana natural resource managers and decision makers to define coastal ecosystem services in the region. They identified the biggest threats to natural areas as nutrient pollution from a variety of sources, climate change, and physical changes to water bodies or water flow. The participants prioritized ecosystem services, including water purification, native flora and fauna, spiritual and aesthetic recreation, and the combination of erosion, sediment and flood control.

The list of priority coastal ecosystem benefits developed in this process became the driver for Dorworth and Schneemann’s literature search of studies in the Great Lakes region. They reviewed available economic value estimates of these coastal ecosystem services, finding only a few that included Indiana.

“We also found a mismatch in what ecosystem services were prioritized by coastal zone managers and those that are studied,” said Schneemann. “For example, there is a lack of research on spiritual and aesthetic values of the coastal zone, which is a top ecosystem service as identified by stakeholders along the Indiana coast.”

“The next step in this process is to work with Indiana coastal resource managers to refine research questions that when answered, will help them make decisions that are informed by what is important to people,” she added.

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

UpClose: Researcher measures impact of microplastics moving from rivers into Lake Michigan

December 12th, 2016 by

From his lab at Loyola University Chicago, aquatic ecologist Tim Hoellein investigates the interactions between common pollutants and organisms in rivers and streams. After several years of investigating microplastics in waterways flowing from Lake Michigan, he has now turned his sights to beginning to document the impact of microplastics carried into the lake.

In this new large-scale study, Hoellein and his team are quantifying how much rivers contribute to the plastic load in Lake Michigan by measuring plastics in water and sediment in several of the largest tributaries feeding the lake. In this twelfth and final issue of UpClose, the award-winning Q&A series gives readers an insider’s view of research on emerging contaminants. Each interview highlights a unique component of emerging contaminant research. Readers also learn about the complex, and sometimes tricky, process of conducting field studies and the potential implications of research on industries and regulations.

“The impacts of emerging contaminants on human and environmental health can be hard to document, let alone understand in the context of other issues facing Lake Michigan and other waterways in the Great Lakes basin,” said Laura Kammin, IISG outreach program leader. “The researchers highlighted in the UpClose series each tell a piece of this very complex story.”

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

Congratulations IAGLR student award winners!

June 13th, 2016 by

Three Purdue University students working with IISG researchers took home awards at this year’s IAGLR conference in Guelph, Ontario.

JGLR/Elsevier Early Career Scientist Award went to Jonah Withers, Purdue University, for his article “Diets and growth potential of early stage larval yellow perch and alewife in a nearshore region of southeastern Lake Michigan,” in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. This $750 award recognizes a scientist at the early stages of his or her career and is first author on the top-ranked article in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Co-authors include, IISG’s Carolyn Foley, associate research coordinator and Tomas Höök, associate director for research and Timothy Sesterhenn, and Cary Troy.

IAGLR-Hydrolab Best Student Paper Award

Margaret Hutton, a Master’s student with Paris Collingsworth, IISG Great Lakes ecosystems specialist, received one of two top oral presentations given by students at the Vermont IAGLR 2015 meeting for “Nearshore primary production in Lake Michigan: Analysis of trends using remote sensing techniques.”

Paul W. Rodgers Scholarship

The 2016 winner is Timothy Malinich, who works with Tomas Höök, for his project on the “Phenotypic plasticity of yellow perch and the role of phenotypic diversity in fish populations.” The $2,000 scholarship was established in memory of Paul W. Rodgers, who was vice president of LimnoTech, a Great Lakes researcher, and active supporter of IAGLR. It is given to a student to support the advancement of knowledge relating to Great Lakes aquatic ecosystem health and management. This is the final year this scholarship will be awarded.

IISG “Hooks” IAGLR leadership

June 9th, 2016 by

IISG Associate Director of Research Tomas Höök has been elected president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) for the 2016-2017 term. IAGLR, which got its start in the 1950s, is an organization made up of scientists conducting research of large lakes throughout the world.

Höök, currently the vice president, has been member of the organization since his days in graduate school at the University of Michigan.

“We try to keep IAGLR functioning smoothly and facilitating exchange of research information regarding large lakes of the world,” said Höök. That said, we are also exploring opportunities to grow IAGLR. Specifically, we are seeking to hold meetings in addition to the annual conference on Great Lakes research. Ultimately, we hope to better connect Great Lakes researchers with environmental managers, communicators, and educators.”

This year’s IAGIAGLR_SessionsLR conference was held in Guelph, Ontario from June 6-10 and several IISG researchers presented and chaired sessions.

Jay Beugly, aquaculture ecology specialist, presented on the usefulness real-time buoy data provides to a variety of stakeholders, ranging from recreational boaters to weather service professionals in the southern basin of Lake Michigan. Fellow IISG collaborators Carolyn Foley, Angela Archer, and Tomas Höök, along with Cary Troy of Purdue University, and Ed Verhamme, of LimnoTech were also part of the project.

A presentation by Community Outreach Specialist Kristin TePas shared best management practices for setting up and conducting science-based videocalls with K-12 classrooms. She also co-chaired a session on Great Lakes education and outreach.

Carolyn Foley, assistant research coordinator, shared her work on the contribution and effects of different terrestrial nutrient sources on the diets of small-bodied fishes in nearshore Lake Michigan.

Paris Collingsworth, Great Lakes ecosystem specialist, presented findings from research derived from two programs that monitor phosphorus and chlorophyll in Lake Erie.  The goal was to paint a more complete picture of lower food web level dynamics. Collingsworth also co-chaired a session dedicated to ecological connections in Lake Michigan.

In addition to contributing to eight presented projects, Tomas Höök a co-chaired a session on the global stressors on large-lake ecosystems.

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