Make water safety part of your fun at the beach

July 3rd, 2014 by
It’s Fourth of July! Let’s head for the beach! You’ve packed up towels and snacks and sunscreen for a day in the sun and surf. Now give some thought to water safety too.

Since 2010, 357 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP). To date, GLSRP has tracked 27 deaths this year, which is up from this time last year. This may be due to the water’s cold temperatures after a tough winter. Colder water uses up your energy faster than warmer water.
GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin and Bob Pratt teach water safety classes on beaches, in schools, and at other venues. On June 30, they brought their message to Ogden Dunes in Indiana, advocating for safer swimmers, safer waters, and safer responses.
Safer swimmers means learning how to swim, but if that’s not the case, putting on life jackets, or other flotation aids, especially for young children. It also means keeping a close eye on children in the water.
But children are not the only ones at risk. Young men make up 4 in 5 deaths from drowning. They tend to take more risks, or can be over confident about their swimming skills.
Safer waters mean swimming where there are lifeguards and away from structures that can cause dangerous currents around them.
Part of a safer response is knowing what it looks like when someone is in trouble in the water. “Hollywood portrays drowning as this very dramatic thing with the victim waving their arms and shouting for help, but when someone is drowning you will simply see their head tilted back in the water and a look of distress on their face,” said Benjamin.
The safe swimming experts recommend looking around the beach before trouble happens to spot items that can be used for floatation. For example, if you haven’t brought a cooler yourself, you will probably see others on the beach that can be used in an emergency.


If you find yourself in troubled waters, such as a rip current, the most important thing to do is not panic. Pratt recommends that you remember to flip, float, and follow. “Flip over on your back, float to conserve energy, and follow the current so that when you know where it is headed, you can swim out of it.”

Illini Bass Fishing Club helps IISG spread invasive species info

April 8th, 2014 by
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.     

Knauss Fellows head to D.C. to find and begin their new positions

December 13th, 2013 by
Two student applicants sponsored by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were selected as Knauss fellowship winners this year, and last month they traveled to the nation’s capital to find their respective positions working on water resource and environmental issues. 
Katherine Touzinsky and Sara Paver both wrote in to update us on the positions they selected and the specific areas where they will be focusing their energies. 
“Placement week – what to say?” Katherine writes. “Over the course of three days, I had 17 interviews for different positions, and each and every one seemed like something I had dreamed up. It was one of the most stressful and exciting experiences I’ve ever had. 
I was placed as a navigation R&D advisor for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The US Army Corps of Engineers provides vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters. I get to take a leadership role in research and development by helping to manage a national R&D agenda, make decisions about technical approaches, and integrate technical teams from federal, academic, and industry sectors. And I’ll get to actively participate in actual research projects too. For at least one week each month, I will be traveling to national DoD labs to meet scientists, get to know their research, and work to make connections between them and other governmental and non-governmental sectors.
I’m in the second year of my master’s program in ecological sciences and engineering (ESE). My thesis work is on the plasticity of Asian carp between the Illinois and Wabash Rivers, and I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with bowfisherman through most of my Asian sampling and extension activities. Right now I’m trying to choose whether or not I will continue on for my PhD and if so, on what topic. I’ve gained some crucial insight on my interests through working with ESE – what I love about ecology is studying interactions and, more broadly, systems. I’m so excited about the Knauss Fellowship year because it is going to let me get a bird’s eye view of the intersections between high-level government, scientists and researchers, the ecology of specific areas, and end users (fisherman, recreationalists, commercial operators, etc.).”
Sara also found placement week to be quite the experience. “Knauss placement week was a fun, speed-dating-esque marathon. It provided an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse of the breadth of work being done within NOAA and other host agencies. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with representatives from various host offices as well as incoming, current, and former fellows.

I selected a position at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences. Part of my responsibilities will be to facilitate peer review and award decisions for proposals submitted to the Ocean Section, including the Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) program.  I am really excited to be exposed to cutting-edge research and to see the grant review process first hand. I think that reading and participating in the review of the Coastal SEES proposals will be particularly enlightening due to their interdisciplinary nature.

I am graduating in December with a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having studied aquatic microbial ecology in Dr. Angela Kent’s lab. I am looking forward to broadening my understanding of how policy and the needs of society influence science and how science, in turn, informs policy. I plan to return to microbial ecology research armed with this knowledge following my year as a fellow.”
To learn more about the fellowship program, visit the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship website. And to find out about all of the fellowships available to undergraduate, graduate, and post-grad students, visit our fellowship page.

More than just fish on the list of aquatic invasive species to watch out for

June 25th, 2013 by

Aquatic invaders come in a number of shapes, sizes, and varieties, and aren’t limited to mussels or fish. In addition to our “Be A Hero – Transport Zerocampaign asking boaters and water users to be on the lookout for invasive species, IISG has helped fund “Hydrilla Hunt!,” a program to keep this invasive plant from overtaking Illinois’ waters.

Hydrilla verticillata, commonly known as “hydrilla,” is an aquatic invasive “superweed” – a non-native plant that can grow quickly in waterways and cause serious environmental and economic damages. But before this species takes over, Illinois partners are asking water lovers for their help in preventing hydrilla’s spread.
From the press release:
“Recognized as one of the world’s worst weeds, hydrilla can grow an inch per day and form dense mats of vegetation at the water surface. Within the past few years, hydrilla has been discovered in Wisconsin and Indiana and it is expected to arrive in Illinois very soon. Our desirable native aquatic plants, sport fishing, native wildlife, waterfront property values, and recreational uses might all be seriously impacted. 
‘Early detection of hydrilla could save Illinois millions of dollars in control costs,’ noted Cathy McGlynn, coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP). ‘Experience from other states shows that once a waterway becomes infested with hydrilla, it’s nearly impossible to control. Our hope in Illinois is to identify the plant at a very early stage when populations are still small enough to eradicate and manage,’ added McGlynn.”
Because this species can spread so quickly, the “Hydrilla Hunt!” program is asking boaters, fishermen, swimmers, sailors, and more to help locate it and notify them via e-mail with photos if possible. 

Find out more about the program and hydrilla as an invasive species by visiting the “Hydrilla Hunt!” website

*Photo courtesy of the Indiana Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program

IISG summer intern awarded for AIS research efforts

December 5th, 2012 by
University of Illinois Junior Lainey Pasternak, who interned this past summer with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach Team, wrote a guest blog about her experience working with IISG and, more importantly, about an award she received for her work. 

Lainey writes, “Over the summer I worked to help increase recreational water user knowledge of AIS through survey research and outreach. I designed and conducted a survey to help investigate the prevalence of AIS-preventative behaviors among boaters and anglers, a key demographic in the effort to prevent AIS spread. By the end of the summer, I had formulated a formal research report and academic poster presentation based on the final survey results. All efforts in the research and poster presentation were collaborated with my internship supervisor and coauthor, Sarah Zack. The final project of the internship was a presentation of my poster “Evaluation Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Outreach Efforts in the Southern Lake Michigan Watershed” at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference.

On September 24-25, I attended the Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. After submitting my research abstract and poster at the conference, I was awarded a student scholarship and honorable mention award for an undergraduate student poster. I had the opportunity to present my summer research at the student poster session throughout the duration of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant 30th Anniversary Reception, courtesy of the Illinois Chapter of the American Water Resources Association. Among the 30 registered students of the poster competition, I was one of the two conference award recipients, and the only undergraduate to receive mention.
My internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant marked an important beginning step in my environmental science career. Attending the Illinois Water Conference not only provided me the opportunity to display my research project, but also emphasized AIS as an important issue affecting Illinois’ waters. I was immersed in a learning atmosphere of networking and the active exchange of new ideas to utilize in possible future research. This conference was the first research opportunity I participated in, and I consider it a major scholarly, professional, and personal success. Receiving a student scholarship and undergraduate honorable mention at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference marked the end to a very rewarding and fulfilling student internship with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. I will be continually proud of all my work and the impact I was able to make.”
Congratulations to Lainey on her award, and we look forward to your continued research and outreach efforts to keep our waters safe.

In the news: Identifying potential causes of harmful algae in Lake Erie

September 10th, 2012 by
A two-part article on WKSU’s website delves into recent research attempting to understand the causes of harmful and often very large algal blooms in Lake Erie. The potential negative impacts these blooms can have include depleting nutrients from the waterway, endangering fish and wildlife health, and causing economic concerns by prohibiting or discouraging recreation, tourism, and other industries. 
Part one of the article delves into one major contributor identified by the research: agriculture. 
“Financial viability is the bottom line for most farmers here along the Maumee River. The Maumee passes through 4.5-million acres of farmland before entering Lake Erie at Toledo. Along the way it picks up a lot of topsoil from farm fields. Attached to that soil are fine particles of phosphorus, one of the nutrients that helps crops grow, but also feeds algae blooms. No-till farming has reduced particulate phosphorus runoff by nearly 40-percent. But researchers from Heidelberg University say their thirty years of water quality data shows that another form of phosphorus – called dissolved phosphorus – has risen dramatically in recent years. And to reduce that nutrient enough to curb Lake Erie algae blooms will take a whole new set of techniques.” 
The second article describes another common source of phosphorous and other problem substances – stormwater and sewage. 
“The sport fishing industry, beach resorts, amusement parks – all took a hit from the 2011 algae outbreak. Connor says cities …not just farms…have to do more to stay on top of it.
Overflows from sewage systems that collect storm water and waste water are a fairly regular occurrence in Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit and other communities around the lake. And it’s a huge cost to fix it.”
There is a lot of interesting information in both articles, and the occurrence of and concern over these algal blooms isn’t limited to Lake Erie. All of the Great Lakes and other nearby waterways can be susceptible, so the results of studies such as these are important in helping communities prevent the same types of problems in their areas. Our friends at Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure for beach managers that outlines more information about algal blooms, and IISG has produced a card for homeowners that explains how to properly care for your lawn without contributing to the phosphorous problem.

Summer interns helping to move IISG projects from paper to practice

July 27th, 2012 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant researchers and specialists have been able to extend internship opportunities to four students this summer. Working directly with our staff and researchers, the students will get hands-on experience in their field while helping us pursue ongoing projects. Read more about this year’s group of interns and the issues they’ll be helping us address and investigate below.

Naoki Wada

Naoki Wada is a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student studying at Purdue University, and is interested in how ocean waves can be harnessed as a sustainable energy resource. 

As a native of Japan, Naoki was particularly struck by the results of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami: “My home country, Japan, where the supply of natural resources is very scarce, experienced one of the largest earthquake and tsunami last year, putting most of their nuclear power plants out of operation due to the safety concerns and…forcing the nation to rethink their future energy security. As an island nation surrounded by the ocean, utilizing oceanic energy by means of wave/tidal/current/power generation can be a remedy.” Naoki feels that the United States can also benefit from technology related to ocean-generated power; in addition to providing sustainable energy, it doesn’t require as much land as solar or wind farms and may be more palatable to planners and developers. After his graduation at the end of this year, Naoki intends to pursue graduate work in this field.

During his 2012 summer internship, Naoki is working with IISG-funded researcher Cary Troy of Purdue University and IISG staffers Carolyn Foley and Angela Archer to deploy a real-time monitoring buoy off of Michigan City, IN. The buoy will beam information about wave height, water temperature, wind direction, and other variables to the web every 10 minutes. Naoki is responsible for getting the buoy up and running so that IISG and Purdue University can continue to deploy it every year in the same location. 

Sahana Rao

Sahana will be a senior at the University of Pennsylvania next year, and is majoring in Environmental Science with minors in Psychology and Economics. Sahana grew up in the Chicago area and considers Chicago her home, making this internship a terrific opportunity to work on issues close to her heart. 
Sahana is working at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) this summer with IISG/CMAP Water Resource Economist Margaret Schneemann to create an outdoor water use manual for the 80 member-communities of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA) in Illinois. The NWPA Outdoor Water Use manual is meant to educate homeowners about the consequences of outdoor water use and provide information on various approaches that homeowners or their communities can take to conserve water by reducing their outdoor use. The manual also contains information on a lawn-watering ordinance that the NWPA is recommending its member communities to adopt. 
Meredith Brackett

Meredith is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems Environment and Society. While planning to attend graduate school in the future, her internship with IISG will allow her to gain hands-on experience in the field as well as helping her find areas and issues for future study. 

Meredith explains more: “I am working with Dr. Paris Collingsworth this summer and we are conducting a study to compare zooplankton community data collected by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) with data collected by the Interagency Lower Trophic Level Monitoring Program of the Lake Erie Committee Forage Task Group (LEC-FTG). We are using statistical models to calculate zooplankton community similarity metrics at specific sample sites through time and space. This study will determine whether the LEC-FTG survey is capturing zooplankton community characteristics that are unique to those captured by the GLNPO data set.”

Lainey Pasternak

Lainey will be entering her junior year at the University of Illinois this fall, majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology.

As an intern with IISG, Lainey will be working to help increase recreational water user knowledge of and education about steps to prevent aquatic invasive species from spreading in the Southern Lake Michigan area. She will also be designing and conducting a survey to evaluate Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s current outreach efforts, and use those results to formulate a formal research report and academic poster presentation by the end of the summer. Lainey will then be presenting the findings and the entire scope of her internship work at the 2012 Illinois Water Conference at the University of Illinois. 
“Becoming an intern with IISG’s Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach team has allowed me to acquire a stronger knowledge base about the general AIS issues and management in the Great Lakes area, the role of recreational water users in their spread, and the importance of evaluating outreach campaigns,” Lainey says. “By surveying and speaking directly with the public, I will gain further insight into how to communicate current complex environmental issues with and to others. Overall, I am very excited to be a part of the Illinois-Indiana Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Team this summer and expect to make a difference in this area for our future clean waters.”
We look forward to the results of the hard work from our interns, and sharing their efforts in another post later this year. Check back to see how these projects are progressing.
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