October 10th, 2018 by Hope Charters
August 9th, 2018 by IISG
Crystal Hall is interning with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) as a recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest (PNW) with a B.S. in Biology and a concentration in Ecology. Funded by IISG and mentored by Leslie Dorworth, an aquatic ecology specialist with IISG and PNW, Hall is positioned with the U.S. Geological Survey to carry out work that moves projects forward through IISG, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
When I started my internship working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise other than something with fish. To be honest, I still don’t fully know. Over the six months I have spent at USGS, I have learned a great deal of information and have gotten to know a wonderful group of people.
I have worked on several projects and learned new things from each:
Round Goby Mesocosm
The purpose of the round goby mesocosm project is to look at the shed and decay rates of round goby DNA in water and sediment. Several round goby were placed into a tank, and weekly water and sediment samples were taken for environmental DNA (eDNA). After a set amount of time, the round goby were removed and weekly water and sediment samples continued to be taken to see how long before no round goby DNA was detected. Throughout this project, I learned a lot about eDNA and how concentrations are different in water and sediment.
Hall separates zebra mussels from quagga mussels on June 4, 2018. (Photo U.S. Geological Survey)
On the Cladophora project, we deployed EXO2 water quality sondes in the Great Lakes and collected samples of dreissenid mussels and Cladophora algae from several depths and quadrants for biomass and nutrient processing. Researchers are seeking to understand the influence of phosphorus on Cladophora growth. I have learned to successfully identify zebra mussels from quagga mussels. And I’ve learned that it is not zebra mussels invading the Great Lakes anymore—it’s quagga mussels.
Area of Concern
We test for E. coli in the water at Whihala Beach and Hammond Port Authority, which are part of the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern. This information is used to notify the public of whether the beach is safe for swimming. Scientists used to test several other beaches in the area as well, but many were removed from the project because the water quality improved and met standards.
A year ago, an artificial reef was put in at Jeorse Park Beach by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a large-scale restoration project for the beach. The U.S. Army Corps were hoping the reef would attract a number of native fish species that had once been in the area. In the artificial reef project I’m working on, I am assisting a master’s student with research that aims to see if this artificial reef has actually attracted native fish, or if round goby have colonized the reef since they’re attracted to rocky substrate.
Monthly water samples are taken and filtered for eDNA from several locations at Jeorse Park Beach, including surface water samples at the reef and water samples right above the substrate of the reef. After the sampling is complete, the DNA will be sequenced using fish primers for fish found in Lake Michigan to determine the composition of fish in the water based on the eDNA. Part of the project will be comparing the eDNA to traditional methods of monitoring (e.g., electroshocking).
I’ve learned so much. Before this internship, I knew nothing about freshwater reefs and artificial reefs. I didn’t know that breakwalls altered the flow of water in a way that can cause a buildup of E. coli and lead to unsafe water conditions. When I began my internship, everyone would talk about ongoing projects and try to inform me about the details of each one, but there was a lot that I didn’t understand. I’m proud to say that has changed, and now I am able to explain to others the projects we are doing, why we are conducting research in certain ways and what we are hoping to find.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to intern at USGS through Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and to work with a great group of people. I have definitely gotten more out of my internship than I was ever expecting, and while I still don’t know what I would like to do as a career choice, I’ve discovered that working on projects like these is certainly an option and something I very much enjoy.
Learn more about our internship opportunities online, or contact Angie Archer at (765)496-3722, email@example.com.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
June 26th, 2018 by Sarah Zack
Victoria Wallace is interning with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) as a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Integrative Biology and a B.A. in Global Studies.
Laying a foundation
On the first day of my internship, I brought a suitcase to work. I was leaving Champaign-Urbana that afternoon to begin a weeklong journey traveling up and down the western coast of Lake Michigan, from Chicago to Sheboygan to Milwaukee. The main event was the 2018 Great Lakes Areas of Concern Conference, held this year in Sheboygan, which was to be an immersive introduction to the themes and issues addressed during my internship.
The next morning, my new supervisor, Caitie Nigrelli, trotted me around the U.S. EPA office in Chicago, introducing me to her colleagues. It was the beginning of a whirlwind week of introductions, and I had to quickly learn to explain who I was and how my work would be relevant to a world I’d only just entered. A world, I came to learn, that was ruled by acronyms.
It quickly became hard for me to explain my internship to friends and family without clarifying at least three or four acronyms—shorthand used so ubiquitously by a small sphere of professionals that they often forget how foreign the strings of letters are to laypeople. And I was not much different when I arrived at this bustling conference in Sheboygan. Even though I studied biology and had been involved in research on aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes as an undergraduate at the University of the Illinois, I had never heard anyone talk about the Areas of Concern. That morning in the EPA office, I even asked a project manager what “AOC” stands for, unaware of just how green I was.
Learning about Areas of Concern
Over the course of my internship, I have come to see this world with much greater clarity, gaining familiarity not just with the terminology, but with many of the people who undertake these massive projects. The Areas of Concern (AOCs for short) are geographic areas, usually rivers and estuaries, throughout the Great Lakes that have undergone serious environmental degradation. Most of them have suffered historically from industrial and municipal pollution, often leaving behind a legacy of sediments containing toxic concentrations of substances such as PCBs, PAHs and heavy metals.
Because of their industrial histories and gradual degradation, the AOCs are also often some of the most economically depressed areas in the region. The list of AOC communities reads almost like a roll call of rust belt cities: Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Erie, Pa.; and Gary, Ind., all lie near or within Areas of Concern. And that’s just six of the 43 AOCs.
New restaurants, shops, condos and boat slips line the Sheboygan River.
One of those 43 is the Sheboygan River AOC, a location specifically chosen for the conference not because of the extent of its blight, but for the significance of its transformation. New development, an active harbor and a slew of recreational opportunities are a testament to the work of the AOC specialists—and to the social value of restoring a degraded resource. This is the final chapter of AOC restoration, when the community regains access to a waterfront it had turned its back on, sees its beauty and its potential, and adopts practices that promote its long-term health.
Wallace helped fourth grade students from East Chicago, Ind. discover the oddities and marvels of nature at the Grand Calumet Stewardship Day at a macroinvertebrate station.
After the crucible that was the AOC conference, I went on to see the Milwaukee Estuary AOC, helped facilitate a stewardship event in the Grand Calumet River AOC, and toured two sites in the infamous Cuyahoga River AOC. I’ve also produced outreach materials for the Muskegon Lake and St. Louis River AOCs. Most importantly, I’ve worked with Caitie to design a research project to better understand the social transformation after the remediation and restoration work is done. It’s being dubbed “revitalization” in the AOC world, and it’s changing how we think about environmental restoration.
If restoring a river can revitalize a community, what does that mean for the future of the Great Lakes? Can the history of exploitation be replaced with a narrative of stewardship, growth, and mutual benefit? I think that there’s a chance it can, but there needs to be a concerted effort. The research I’ve helped develop will push things in that direction by asking the AOC world to confront the question, “Who are we doing all of this for?” And, as a newly-minted environmental scientist, that’s certainly a question I’ll keep in mind as my career develops and matures.
Learn more about our internship opportunities online, or contact Angie Archer at (765)496-3722, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
September 12th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Gillian Flippo is interning with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) as a recent graduate of Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology and Society.
I am a native of Chicago, and working for the health of my local environment and community is of great interest to me. As an intern for the IISG pollution prevention team led by Sarah Zack, I was fortunate to attend the 2018 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference (ECAEC), held June 5-6 in Champaign, IL. Newly developed chemicals and substances are used to improve processes and products; however, they often have unintended consequences on human and environmental health, which is why they are of emerging concern. Regardless of whether these contaminants are old or new, many brilliant minds are working to understand their effects, how they move through the ecosystem and how to properly prevent and remove them. At ECAEC, I witnessed these minds come together. Organized by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the conference covered many important topics related to emerging contaminants over the course of two days.
A Widespread Problem
Keynote speaker Rainer Lohmann, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, studies the transport, fate and bioaccumulation of persistent contaminants. His findings demonstrated that these contaminants are not only found at the sites where they are being released. Through various methods such as the movement of water by ocean currents, the contaminants spread to some of the most remote places on earth.
These places that were once thought to be pristine, like the Arctic, are also feeling the effects of these potentially damaging chemicals. I learned that part of the reason these contaminants are found around the globe is because wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove many pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Therefore, they are released into nearby streams and rivers, which eventually make it to the ocean.
Mitigation and Prevention
Alison Franklin, PhD student at Penn State, speaks at the 2018 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference.
Fortunately, there are scientists like Alison Franklin from Pennsylvania State University, who are researching ways to mitigate the emerging contaminants released from wastewater treatment plants. Her research demonstrates the possibility of using soil as a natural filter to improve water quality and protect human health, focusing on antibiotics in wastewater effluent. Her results showed that groundwater concentrations of antibiotics were lower than the wastewater effluent concentration after being filtered through soil. This suggests that soil may be an adequate third step in wastewater treatment. I found this interesting because the process uses part of nature as a partner to help combat environmental challenges like emerging contaminants.
A wide variety of professionals attended the ECAEC, providing a multi-disciplinary approach to solving the problem of emerging contaminants. Jill Bartolotta from Ohio Sea Grant offered an interesting perspective on the issue, focusing on single-use plastic and the underlying behavioral barriers that inhibit people from using reusables. Her study sought to tackle the problem from the source so that plastic is prevented from getting in waterways in the first place. One interesting piece that caught my attention was that Bartolotta’s survey results showed that people have enough reusable bags, but they forget to bring them to the store. Therefore, people don’t need more reusable bags but instead need new ways to be reminded to use them. This shows that we need to dig deeper to find a new approach to tackle the problem of single-use plastic.
Bartolotta’s talk especially captivated me because it was relevant to my interests in engaging the public on environmental issues. For PPCPs and other emerging contaminants like plastic, it is important to understand the real source of pollution: people and their practices. People may unknowingly pollute because they are simply unaware that what they are doing is wrong, which is why education is important. Or there may be behavioral barriers and incentives that lead people away from environmentally sustainable options, which is why understanding the underlying causes and thinking of alternative solutions are important.
It was incredibly eye-opening to see the research and effort that is being put into tackling the issue of emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment. It became obvious to me after listening to the conference speakers that this issue needs input from many disciplines for us to truly understand and solve the problem. Despite the size and complexity of the issue, it made me feel hopeful to know that it has the potential to be fixed. The conference was great to experience in the beginning of my internship because it helped me understand the work and research going into understanding the issue of emerging contaminants, while challenging me to think of effective ways to communicate the problems to the public.
September 9th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Catherine Kemp and Jennifer Egert spent their summer working with Margaret Schneemann, IISG’s water resource economist.
Catherine’s work this summer focused on outdoor water conservation and natural lawn care outreach. As part of this, the University of Illinois student teamed up with Kane County and the Northwest Water Planning Alliance to create library displays highlighting a few easy steps homeowners can take to conserve water and reduce landscaping pollution.
“I also organized a composting workshop for gardeners and worked on a white paper exploring the connection between sustainable look food systems and water. My projects covered such a diverse range of topics that my internship was really engaging and enjoyable. It was so great to work on issues that I am passionate about.
There are so many organizations that inform and implement environmental policies in the Chicagoland area. I have learned a lot about the work they do and the importance of the large amounts of collaboration that occur here. My internship really opened my eyes to the opportunities available to me in the future.”
Jennifer, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, dedicated her internship to creating a new, condensed version of the Full-Cost Water Pricing Guidebook using updated data.
“I worked with Margaret to collect water rate data from 284 municipalities in northeastern Illinois and used GIS software to design effective visuals and maps summarizing municipal water rate changes over the past five years. I also included supplemental policy recommendations based on the visuals created along with best management practices for incorporating full-cost water pricing across the region.
What I enjoyed most about this internship was having the chance to use skills gained from my environmental science education and apply them to a project that has real implications for citizens in the area. I got to go home every day feeling like I had accomplished something worth-while that will benefit our environment and precious natural resources.”
Both Jennifer and Catherine say they will continue working on environmental issues after they graduate. Catherine plans to join the Peace Corps’s environmental program, while Jennifer hopes to work in environmental law and policy.
September 4th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
When we first introduced you to Allison Neubauer she was a summer intern working with IISG’s Kristin TePas to develop a website and other outreach materials for the U.S. EPA research vessel Lake Guardian. That was last summer. Today we are happy to announce that Allison is still working hard to improve Great Lakes literacy. Only now she is doing it as a member of our education team.
As a Sea Grant educator, Allison Neubauer works with Terri Hallesy to plan and facilitate educator workshops and develop classroom resources. She also plays a key role in IISG’s undergraduate service-learning courses at the University of Illinois by leading classroom activities and serving as a resource for students as they implement community projects.
Allison joined the education team as an assistant straight out of her internship. During that time, she helped plan and implement the Great Lakes B-WET project, which received an Outstanding Great Lakes Outreach Programming Award.
She holds two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one in geography and geographic information sciences and a second in earth, society, and the environment.
August 29th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This summer, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Jacob Wood spent his internship working with several members of our Purdue staff. He had this to say about his summer experiences:
“I applied for the IISG internship because I wanted to get more experience with GIS work related to the environment. And that is exactly what I got.
I spent most of the summer creating GIS maps that represent fish catch data for Lake Michigan so that local fisherman can get a better idea of fishing trends and hotspots. The overall goal is to make a web app to helps users determine the historically-best spots to catch fish like Chinook salmon and Lake Trout during a specific time of year. Towards the end of the summer, I also started working on maps representing climate change predictions for Lake Michigan. These maps will go towards aiding fisheries managers in understanding future biotic and abiotic conditions. Lastly, I worked on incorporating updated stream and land coverage data into the tipping points webtool, which shows individuals and planning groups how close a watershed is to known tipping points or ecosystem thresholds.
One of the things I liked the most about my internship is that I was encouraged to explore the software I was working with and any information related to the projects. Rather than just focusing on completing a job or making a deadline, I was able to set aside some time each week to discover different aspects of software and just try learning new things. Because of this, I developed numerous GIS skills this summer. Specifically, I have a stronger grasp now of how to use model building features to make work faster, easier, and replicable, as well as how to make maps that represent data clearly for everyone.”
Jacob is now a senior at Purdue University studying environmental and natural resources engineering. After graduation, he hopes to work as an environmental engineer with an agency like the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
August 19th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This summer, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Brittany Sievers spent her internship working with Kara Salazar, IISG’s sustainable communities specialist. She had this to say about her summer experiences:
“Since my internship covered many programs, I worked on different projects every day, which kept me busy and engaged. Some of my favorite projects were those that gave me an opportunity to develop my professional writing skills and become a published author. I wrote several curriculum pieces for the Enhancing Public Spaces program and pieces that will appear on the program’s website once it is complete. I expanded the Green Meetings and Events Planning Guide that a previous intern created by adding ‘cheat sheets’ for large events and professional meetings that summarized the information provided within the publication. Finally, I wrote scripts for two rainscaping training videos—plant selection and rain garden design.
I was also able to get out of the office and work directly with the public and other key stakeholders on several occasions. I was at the Wabash Riverfest with a trivia game geared towards children that I developed. I also assisted Kara during pilot testing of the Tipping Points and Indicators tool in Hobart, IN and with a presentation of the program during the 2014 Institute for Sustainable Development in Nashville, IN.
Since I plan to work in an outreach position in the future, this internship was perfect for me. I had not had work experience in outreach before, but I have enjoyed being active in several outreach clubs at Purdue to facilitate positive change on the Purdue University campus and the surrounding community. I know my experiences this summer will help my chances of landing a job and excelling in that position in the future.”
With her undergraduate work in natural resources and environmental sciences complete, Brittany is turning her sights to graduate school. In fact, she began work on a Master’s in marine conservation and policy earlier this week at Stony Brook University in New York.
July 28th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Erika Lower and Mark Krupa spent their internship working with Caitie McCoy, IISG’s social scientist.
“We did a little bit of everything this summer—from compiling reports on public perceptions of river cleanups in Detroit and Milwaukee to conducting interviews with community members to covering a day of outreach at Indiana’s Roxana Marsh” said Erika, a graduate from Virginia Tech who also interned last year with Virginia Sea Grant. “Working on so many diverse projects mean there was rarely a slow day at the office.”
Their favorite experiences came while onsite at Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment remediation projects. One such trip took them to the Upper Trenton Channel near Detroit to conduct a needs assessment that will help the project team tailor outreach products and messaging to those who use and visit the river.
“Our Detroit trip was definitely my favorite part,” said Mark, a University of Illinois alum. “We talked to over 30 different community members. It was great to see the site we had researched and really get to know the community, their concerns, and how they value the waterway.”
“How often do you get a chance to tour the site of a former oil refinery or conduct an interview from a powerboat in the middle of the Detroit River while watching the sun rise?” Erika added.
These experiences further boosted their interest in the social science and highlighted its importance in environmental conservation.
“I’ve always been interested in the human dimensions of environmental science, but actually getting out into the field and talking with community members about their hopes and concerns illustrated just how complex finding the best solution to environmental issues can be,” said Erika.
“Before this internship, I didn’t realize how important it is to address local perceptions and concerns surrounding environmental cleanup projects,” said Mark. “Also, I hadn’t realized how much thought goes into designing outreach materials in order to ensure they attract an audience and effectively communicate the message.”
With their internship complete, Erika and Mark are turning their attention to graduate school. Mark will begin a Master’s in public health at Saint Louis University later this month. And Erika plans to complete graduate work in science communication or environmental social science.
Scientists and engineers are working together to design a clean-up plan for Michigan’s Upper Trenton Channel, where high concentrations of historic pollutants pose a threat to aquatic life and public health. The process began about a year ago with a feasibility study. In January, local residents had a chance to weigh-in on an early draft of the plan. And in the coming years, this Great Lakes Legacy Act project could remove or cap around 240,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.
Just as important as the clean-up effort itself, is ensuring that local communities and other key stakeholders understand the project and its goals. But before they can begin public outreach, project partners have to understand and appreciate the role the channel and nearby Detroit River play in the communities.
That is where IISG’s social scientist Caitie McCoy and her interns Erika Lower and Mark Krupa come in. The three were in Michigan earlier this month to conduct a needs assessment that will help the project team tailor outreach products and messaging to those who use and visit the river.
They interviewed around 35 people with diverse backgrounds—everyone from area residents to city planners to members of boating associations—to learn more about their perceptions of the channel and river. The final results of the study won’t be available for a few months, but the interviews have already given Caitie, Erika, and Mark a better understanding of the interests and concerns surrounding this popular recreation site.
“One interesting thing we learned was that the safety of the channel and river during dredging is of prime importance to the community,” said Caitie. “This is a fast flowing channel, and we will need to explain the science and engineering behind what keeps stirred up sediment from flowing downstream during the project—in terms that everyone can understand.”
An impromptu trip on the channel also gave Caitie, Erika, and Mark deeper insight into how the community uses the channel and river. The trip—which set off bright and early on the 16th—was led by the Wyandotte Rowing Club. Later that night, the group took to the water once again with one of the residents they interviewed.
Similar studies for the Sheboygan River and St. Louis River Areas of Concern have already helped shape outreach efforts there and allowed project partners to gauge changes in community perceptions at the end of a clean-up project.
The Upper Trenton Channel, which sits about 20 miles south of Detroit, is part of the Detroit River AOC. Project partners include Michigan Sea Grant, Friends of the Detroit River, the Detroit River Public Advisory Council, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the U.S. EPA.