August 10th, 2016 by IISG
March 4th, 2016 by IISG
Lauren Schnoebelen interned in Chicago with IISG Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann. Lauren is a recent graduate from Northern Michigan University with a major in environmental science, a concentration in natural resources, and a minor in sustainability.
This summer I spent my time working as the Water Policy and Pricing intern for IISG at the offices of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was excited to work on policy issues and get familiar with township and village ordinances for water pricing, but I had never worked with large data sets before.
At first I was a little overwhelmed, but once I started getting the hang of it, I really enjoyed it because I got the opportunity to see what so many communities around me were doing to manage their water systems. After working for a month and a half on collecting as much data as I could get on water, sewer, and possible storm water rates, I needed to call village halls and water facilities to get any missing information.
The hope was to have all the rates available for the 2017 fiscal year. This gave me the opportunity to improve my communication skills by talking to dozens of people about what they charge their residents for water and sewer services. With this project done, I’m really excited to see how the final presentation of it will be in the Northeast Illinois Water and Wastewater Rates Dashboard.
Another opportunity that I was given was becoming a co-author of a published literature review. I helped to write about the economic value of ecosystem services in the Great Lakes region. This project allowed me to create and organize multiple tables displaying all the studies that were used in the paper and write summaries based on their subcategories of threatened ecosystem services. I also helped in editing and arranging the final layout of the literature review.
Throughout my summer, I was going to monthly meetings for the Northwest Water Planning Alliance and was involved in creating a community outreach brochure on establishing new lawns through seed or sod and their water requirements. This helped me see what communities are currently doing to work on water conservation and also how community outreach can lead to suggestions for policy change.
This internship gave me an opportunity that I haven’t had before. I worked on so many different aspects of water conservation which gave me great experience in creating a database, academic research and writing, and community involvement and outreach. With these skills, I know I will be extremely competitive in finding a full-time position in my field.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
April 7th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Adrienne Gulley, IISG pollution prevention outreach specialist, meets with five enthusiastic high school students from Peoria, Illinois. Gulley brought along the “EnviroScape,” a plastic model she uses to demonstrate how pollution affects water quality. The students belong to the selective 4-H Spark Tank, a program developed by University of Illinois Extension. Their goal is to “change the face of the South Side of Peoria through a beautification project” by building a hoop house—similar to a greenhouse. The students plan to raise native Illinois plants and vegetables to distribute to the community. Construction kicks off this spring.
September 17th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Residents across Illinois and Indiana are taking advantage of the warmer weather to plan garden and yard projects. Adrienne Gulley shares some with easy tips for keeping your lawn green and the water clean.
Nothing is more appealing than fresh flowers and green grass. But the chemicals we put on our lawns each year can end up in our lakes and rivers, where they lower water quality and harm aquatic ecosystems. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up your beautiful landscape to protect our waterways. This summer, take the Lawn to Lake pledge and adopt these natural lawn care practices:
- Mow at a 3” or higher. Longer grass shades out weeds and retains moisture better.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They’re a natural fertilizer.
- Aerate soil to reduce compaction.
- Water deeply, slowly and infrequently to build healthy root systems.
- Test your soil to determine your fertilizer needs.
- Fertilize with a thin layer of compost in the spring and fall.
If you aren’t practicing these tips already, it may be a good idea to simply focus on one tip at a time. Understanding the impact of nutrients from our lawns is the key to keeping our waterways healthy.
I will be sharing these and similar tips with members of the Illinois Lake Management Association during their Point of Discussion educational series tonight in Springfield. Visit lawntolakemidwest.org for more information.
September 12th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Lawn care decisions play a large role in local water quality and the health of aquatic wildlife. The fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals we put on our lawns can be washed into nearby lakes and rivers in stormwater runoff. Once there, these pollutants spur algae growth, clog gills, decrease resistance to disease, and suffocate eggs and newly hatched larvae.
The IISG-led Lawn to Lake program continues to educate homeowners, landscapers, and master gardeners on natural lawn care practices that can improve soil health and protect water quality. The program works with community partners across the region to conduct training workshops and provide ‘how to’ resources for a range of audiences.
Lawn to Lake outreach has led to management changes on an estimated 22,415 lawn acres. These changes are expected to reduce the use of lawn care chemicals, including weed and feed, by more than 3 million pounds a year, protecting nearby aquatic ecosystems from chemical-laden runoff while fostering healthy lawns.
To learn more about how IISG is empowering communities and individuals to secure a healthy environment, check out our 2013 program impacts.
February 26th, 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.
May 16th, 2013 by Irene Miles
One of the best online resources for sustainable landscape and lawn care in Illinois is now available in Spanish. Like its sister site Lawn Talk, Hablemos Del Cesdped includes tips and resources for planting and maintenance, including common lawn care mistakes to avoid.
With help from these sites, homeowners and landscape professionals in northern Illinois can cultivate healthy lawns while still conserving water and preventing harmful chemicals from washing into nearby lakes and rivers. Specific natural lawn care tips include testing soil and adjusting nutrient levels as needed at the start of the season, choosing the right grass for the site, and letting lawns go dormant during dry months. The sites also provide information on lawn cultivation equipment and choosing lawn care services.
December 6th, 2012 by Irene Miles
Phosphorous is a nutrient that has been linked to significant runoff problems and excessive algal growth in water bodies including the Great Lakes. Recently, Scotts Miracle-Gro announced that they will be removing phosphorous from their line of lawn fertilizers to address the issue and help reduce nutrient pollution problems.
From The Columbus Dispatch:
“The Marysville maker of lawn-and-garden products sees the move as a milestone for its industry, which it says is partly responsible for the phosphorus runoff that feeds one of the nation’s most costly and challenging environmental problems — nutrient pollution.
‘As consumers feed their lawns this spring, they should know they can get great results from our products while also protecting and preserving our water resources,’ said Jim Lyski, Scotts’ chief marketing officer, in a written statement.
Harmful algae blooms in coastal areas of the United States are estimated to have a yearly negative economic cost of at least $82 million, mostly because of their effects on public health and commercial fisheries, according to a 2006 report by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.’
Follow the link above to read the complete article, and visit our Lawn to Lake websitet to learn more about runoff issues and natural lawn care solutions.
While it may not be lawn care season in many parts of the country, it’s never too early to look ahead to next year and the best methods, tools, and information that are available to ensure healthy lawns and healthy ecosystems.
The University of Illinois’ website “Lawn Talk” is a useful and popular site offering an abundance of information to homeowners, property managers, and landscape professionals throughout northern Illinois.
Now updated and redesigned, the website’s new look and content were made possible in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Lawn to Lake program. Incorporating information and resources from these two entities has made it possible for the site to move beyond traditional, chemical-heavy lawn care advice by recommending natural lawn care resources. Additionally, the relationship between lawn care and water quality is better represented and respected by the up-to-date information on the site, creating a resource that helps protect the environment while ensuring the health and beauty of lawns and landscapes.
This site update also allows University of Illinois Extension to offer even more multimedia content, including instructional videos, interactive activities and features, and more.