Sea Grant-supported research publications have local to global impact

December 8th, 2020 by

Sea Grant-supported research is consistently published in high quality journals and is highly cited in local, regional and international publications, according to a recent study. This assessment of over 6,500 peer-reviewed publications from 2001-2015 also shows that while Sea Grant research projects typically address local issues, the work is often cited well beyond that, in fact, sometimes worldwide.

The Sea Grant program, which was established by Congress in 1966 to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources, accomplishes its mission with a three-pronged approach focused on research, outreach and education. At a federal level, Sea Grant is part of NOAA and local programs are typically situated in land-grant universities in coastal states.

With more than a third of program resources dedicated to fund research, a team of scientists came together to assess the impact of that work. The researchers were Carolyn Foley, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant research coordinator, Mona Behl, Georgia Sea Grant associate director and Rebecca Briggs, National Sea Grant Office research coordinator.

They used well-established tools to analyze the types of journals that have published Sea Grant research, the frequency these articles are referenced by other researchers, and, in a limited scope, the geographic range of these citations.

Sea Grant research is consistently published in a range of journals, from “high impact” prestigious publications to regional or state journals.

“The diversity of journals in which Sea Grant-supported research is published suggests that these researchers are advancing the program’s goals—to share timely results with those who stand to benefit most from them,” said Foley.

From 2001 to 2015, Sea Grant-supported publications have been steadily cited, with the oldest publications more than 43,000 times. This indicates that over time, Sea Grant publications are consistently consulted by other scientists to support their research, benefitting both local stakeholders and the broader scientific community. Analysis of the geographic reach of the two most frequently-cited articles—both over 5,000 times—revealed that the articles have been informing work done by scientists around the world.

In addition, by analyzing commonly used words in article titles, the research team found further indication of the place-based aspect of Sea Grant supported projects as well as the applied nature of the work. This was illustrated through the frequent use of the words management, use and effect, for example.

“Sea Grant is well known for funding research topics in their infancy—for example, harmful algal blooms, aquatic invasive species, and microplastics—and investigating causes and supporting stakeholder needs at the local level before they because widespread topics of focus,” said Foley.


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


Writer: Irene Miles
Contact: Carolyn Foley

Web-based tipping points tool will help communities protect and grow at the same time

July 16th, 2014 by
For land use planners, balancing community growth and environmental health is always a challenge. But after months of pilot testing, IISG is putting the final touches on a new web-based tool that will help them do just that. 
The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses the latest watershed research and cutting-edge technology to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their area are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in how they function. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps, simulators, and recommended response strategies to develop watershed-specific plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair. 
Specialists from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs have spent the last few months testing the tool in broad range of communities and divers audiences. Planning groups from the industrialized southern Lake Michigan to the more preserved northern Wisconsin and Minnesota can now use the decision support system to kick off the watershed planning process. In Indiana, Ohio, and New York, facilitators have also introduced planning consultants and state employees to tool modules so they can take the process back to their own communities. 
Experiences so far have been positive, with many users expressing excitement about the role Tipping Points and Indicators could play in improving watershed planning. Community members, local officials, and consultants were particularly interested in the tools’ recommended policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts tailored to local needs. In fact, a watershed advocacy group from the Duluth area mentioned they could have spent a whole day on that module alone. 
To further enhance the tool, users also recommended making maps and planning strategies more watershed-specific. Many of these refinements are being made now. Others, including the addition of the new land cover data and models that predict future tipping points, are expected in the coming months. 
And as the project grows, so does the lead team. Last month, IISG brought Purdue software developer Brandon Beatty onboard to help boost the usability of Tipping Points and Indicators and ensure it continues to rely on the latest research and technology. 
The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network.

Work continues on unraveling the Lake Michigan food web

March 17th, 2014 by
Research into the Lake Michigan food web has increased in the last decade, but there are still a lot of questions—exactly what is eating what, and how is that dynamic affected by environmental changes? To find answers to these and other questions, researchers from federal and state agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations will come together next month in Ann Arbor, MI. The two-day meeting will feature discussions on past and current food web studies and end with a plan for future research.   

The meeting kicks off April 1 with presentations on several Sea Grant- and EPA-funded studies. IISG’s Tomas Hook, Sergiusz Czesny, director of the Lake Michigan Biological Station, and Bo Bunnell of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center will discuss the state of Lake Michigan fish populations, including the results of a three-year investigation of the differences in nearshore food webs across the lake. Harvey Bootsma, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and NOAA’s Henry A. Vanderploeg will also be onsite to talk about recent findings on the diets of phytoplankton, algae, and other species at the bottom of the food chain. Additional presentations, orchestrated by IISG’s Paris Collingsworth and featuring IISG-funded scientist Cary Troy, will talk about research on the physical dynamics of the lake and steady flow of nutrients brought in by stormwater runoff—two important factors affecting food web structures. Paris will also introduce plans for upcoming monitoring and field activities in Lake Michigan as part of the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative.  

Conversations on the second day will turn to planning. IISG research staff will team up with representatives from the Wisconsin and Michigan Sea Grant programs to lead discussions on data still needed to understand how invasive species, contaminants, climate change, and other factors are affecting the Lake Michigan food web. Meeting attendees will also have an opportunity to briefly talk about their research and where they hope to go next. The gaps and next steps identified will help Lake Michigan Sea Grant programs identify research projects to fund in the coming years. 
This meeting is the third of its kind since 2008. And, like those before it, this year’s meeting is coordinated by IISG and GLRRIN Lake Michigan partners from Wisconsin Sea Grant, Michigan Sea Grant, the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the US EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, and the USGS Great Lakes Science Center. Previous meetings helped launch the 2010 Lake Michigan Intensive Monitoring Field Year and resulted in roughly $1.7 million in funding for food web projects. 
To learn more about the meeting and how to attend, contact Carolyn Foley. And stay tuned for instructions on how to stream this meeting in real time.  

Sea Grant staff from across the U.S. completed Sea Grant Academy last month

November 12th, 2013 by

Staff members from 20 different Sea Grant programs across the U.S. attended two Sea Grant Academy sessions this year (one week in April, and one in October). The academy was developed to give Sea Grant employees valuable training and professional development information in a variety of fields, benefiting their work and the work of all Sea Grant programs at large.

Five staff members from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant were able to attend, and participated in sessions ranging from the history of Sea Grant to project design and evaluation, social science training, time management, communicating the importance of ocean science to various audiences, and much more. 

IISG’s Danielle Hilbrich, Greg Hitzroth, Kristin TePas, Kara Salazar, and Sarah Zack were among the more than 40 Sea Grant professionals who completed both weeks of training and graduated from Sea Grant Academy with new information and skills to bring to their work protecting the Great Lakes. 

“Sea Grant Academy was a really unique opportunity to meet people from around the country that are working on the same issues we are,” said Sarah. “I thought that it was a great way to foster both partnerships between programs and friendships between specialists. I really enjoyed meeting all the attendees and hearing all about the great work they’re doing.”
And Kristin TePas wrote, “It was a great opportunity to connect with other Sea Grant specialists from around the country. Also, hosting the meeting in Duluth provided a great opportunity to showcase our freshwater coast and the issues surrounding the Great Lakes.”
To learn more about the National Sea Grant program and the work being done to protect America’s coastal resources, visit the NOAA Sea Grant webpage.

Sea Grant staffers take new interactive watershed planning tool for a spin

November 6th, 2013 by
Staff members from six Great Lakes Sea Grant programs met at Purdue University last week to preview a new web-based tool that will help local planners make sustainable land use decisions. The two-day workshop gave Sea Grant specialists a chance to work through the tool’s four-step process and suggest changes before they start using it with planning groups and communities next spring.

The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses watershed data and cutting-edge research to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their region are stressed by various factors to the degree that they are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in their functioning. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps and simulators to specify important regional priorities, pinpoint specific land use practices that threaten ecosystem health, and test how further development, restoration, or conservation projects would help or hurt. Together with suggested policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts, these features help planners develop watershed management plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair. 

Future facilitators from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs worked in groups to build mock watershed management plans for rural, suburban, and urban watersheds. Hands-on activities helped participants get familiar with the tool’s features, as well as ways to customize the process to meet the needs of communities they work with. They also learned how to use and set up different technologies that help larger groups collaboratively use computer-based programs, including the weTable, which transforms a regular tabletop into an interactive computer screen.


Perhaps the most important result of the workshop, though, was a list of feature and design changes to further increase the usability of the tool. Many of the suggestions focused on making land use data more accessible for the residents who join non-profits and local agencies in watershed planning groups. These and other refinements, including the addition of new data, will be made in the coming months.


The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Research and outreach partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, NOAA, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network. 

Top – Mark Breederland (Michigan Sea Grant) and Brian Miller (IISG)
Middle – Joe Lucente (Ohio Sea Grant) and Julie Noordyk (Wisconsin Sea Grant)
Bottom –  Mary Penney (New York Sea Grant) and Jarrod Doucette (Purdue University)


Winning teachers chosen in the IISG SeaPerch giveaway

September 5th, 2013 by

The SeaPerch Program, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, brings robotics and underwater science together to enhance classroom activities and curricula for a variety of grade levels. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant recently sponsored a contestto give away several of the kits to teachers of grades 6-12, and the six winners will be receiving their new kits in the coming weeks. Blake Landry, project partner and coordinator of the University of Illinois’ SeaPerch Program, is working with IISG to provide continued support and training to the teachers and their students.

Teachers were asked to complete a survey and provide details about how they wanted to integrate the SeaPerch technology into their science lessons, and the responses were outstanding. In addition to bolstering their own classroom activities, several teachers hoped to use the starter kit and accompanying science lessons to share with teachers throughout the area. One winner wrote, “The SeaPerch program and applications would be an excellent topic to present at the Illinois Computing Educators Conference targeting science teachers and integration of science and engineering.”

In addition to offering a new tool to teachers, the contest helps to further activity and curriculum development and provides educators an opportunity to network and share their ideas with others. All of which complements IISG’s goal of fostering Great Lakes science literacy and engagement throughout the region.

We’re proud of our successes in protecting Lake Michigan

July 29th, 2013 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s work each year touches on a variety of critical water concerns, but the common goal is protecting and preserving Lake Michigan. Each year we look back at some of our successes from the previous year as a way to guide continuing efforts. Below are just a few of the highlights from last year. 
IISG helps keep over 12,000 pounds of medicine out of local water

Research shows that pharmaceuticals impact water quality—the water we drink, bathe in, and use for recreation. Using the toilet or trash to dispose of medicine can put people, animals, and the environment at risk. To address this issue, in 2012 Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with law enforcement agencies and community groups to start 17 permanent medicine collection programs. IISG also assisted with single day collection events in six communities and helped promote the fall DEA collection program in 11 communities. IISG helped organize and promote these programs, wrote press releases, provided brochures, and purchased locked medicine collection boxes. As a result of these efforts, over 12,000 pounds of pills were properly disposed of through 17 permanent collection programs and six single-day events. The medicine was destroyed using high-heat incineration, reducing the potential for diversion or accidental poisonings and keeping the chemicals from polluting local water. 

30 Illinois communities implement green infrastructure projects

In light of climate change predictions that indicate bigger storms and more flooding, managing urban stormwater will become increasingly critical in northeastern Illinois and throughout the state. But planning and implementing effective, forward-looking infrastructure can help protect communities and allow them to adapt to changing weather conditions. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was funded by Illinois EPA to study the standards and costs of green infrastructure as a possible replacement or supplement to conventional urban stormwater infrastructure. The study found that, on average, green infrastructure practices are just as effective as conventional stormwater infrastructure, and are less expensive. In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly established a $5 million discretionary fund to support green infrastructure projects in communities around the state, a strong start to helping these areas plan and prepare for potential weather extremes.

Teachers and scientists give high marks to IISG’s Educator Day at IAGLR 2013

July 10th, 2013 by

From Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education:

Scientists and teachers had a unique opportunity to interact, network, and connect research with education during The Center for Great Lakes Literacy’s Educator Day at last month’s IAGLR 2013 conference in West Lafayette, Indiana. Among the many goals of the IISG-coordinated session, providing opportunities for teachers to share their science education needs with researchers and identifying ways to incorporate the latest Great Lakes research into their lesson plans were high priorities.  

The exchange of ideas was not only productive, but was a welcome and highly valued experience for all of the participants. The feedback received from both researchers and educators was outstanding, and offered a number of suggestions to guide another session like this in the future. 

Said one teacher of the event, “I was impressed! My experience with IAGLR exceeded my expectations. I was hoping to simply gather more information to ‘grow’ my Great Lakes curriculum. However, I was able to network with other teachers and scientists which I found so much more valuable than walking away with a stack of Great Lakes lesson plans.” 

Another educator was grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk to working researchers. “I am very thankful for the chance to interact with professionals in the field. Not only does attending scientific conferences refresh learned concepts, but allows for new learning, insight, and expansion of awareness. It also provided fresh ideas for project-based learning and the opportunity to network with potential collaborators.” 

The participating scientists were also glad to brainstorm ways that their work could be incorporated into classroom lessons.

“I always enjoy talking with teachers who are ‘in the trenches’ with younger students. They are faced with a different set of challenges (and opportunities) than we have at the college level. It was nice to hear that there are current efforts to better integrate math and science. It was also interesting to hear what teachers introduce in their classrooms to motivate and engage students in STEM areas.” 


IISG service learning course culminates in water protection projects

January 3rd, 2013 by
The University of Illinois’ Learning in Community (LINC) program provides service-learning opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields while earning course credit towards their degree. The program also gives various departments and units at the University a chance to expand their mission and get students involved in critical issues. 
This past fall term, the LINC Program offered a Sea Grant-focused course for eight University of Illinois students where they learned about environmental threats to local and regional waterways. They designed and executed projects based on what they had learned about proper disposal of unwanted medicines. 
At the conclusion of the course, students developed five activities focused on water issues, informing a larger audience about their importance and local impacts. 
The projects included: 
 – A presentation and activity for Urbana High School’s science club students
 – An article in the Green Observer and accompanying Facebook page about the importance of proper disposal of pharmaceuticals
 – Placement of brochures at the McKinley Health Center in coordination with the Directors of Health Education and the Pharmacy
 – A plan to spread the message about proper medicine disposal at student dormitories and to involve students in medicine collection events in 2013

The course and projects that resulted informed current University of Illinois students about important environmental issues, while giving them experience collaborating with each other, working with local organizations and businesses, and performing outreach to share the information they learned with residents of Champaign-Urbana.

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