Species spotlight: Hydrilla

May 7th, 2015 by
INVASIVE SPECIES EDITION—Where we take a moment to explore the species that threaten the Great Lakes region. 
What was originally seen as a decorative and easy-to-maintain aquarium plant is now one of the most noxious weeds in the U.S. Sold under the name “Indian star-vine” in the late 1950s, Hydrilla verticillata was first introduced after live samples were shipped from Sri Lanka to a Florida aquarium dealer. More than half a century after careless disposal into Florida’s waterways, hydrilla can now be found throughout the south and along the east coast, with populations extending inland to the Great Lakes region. Isolated communities have also been found in Idaho and Washington.
This spread is not surprising since hydrilla is unusually hardy and versatile. It can grow in as little as a few inches of water or as much as 20 feet. It requires very little light to thrive and is just as happy in a nutrient-rich environment as one deprived of nutrients almost all together. It can even grow in slightly salty conditions or in water as hot as 81°F. And while it can spread through seeds, hydrilla is also able to grow from stem fragments as well as tubers that can lie dormant for up to four years. Taken together, it’s little wonder that this perennial is found on every continent except Antarctica.
Hydrilla’s unique biological characteristics give it a leg up over many native plants in the Great Lakes region. For example, its early sprouting season and ability to grow rapidly leaves less light for natives later in the spring, making it harder for them to grow once they begin to sprout.
These same characteristics also make it a nuisance to other aquatic wildlife and humans. Growing as long as 30 feet, hydrilla vines form dense mats that alter the water’s pH and oxygen levels, which in turn makes it difficult for some fish species to reproduce and grow. These mats can also impede irrigation, hinder recreation, and clog water intakes to power plants.
Efforts to contain hydrilla have been historically cautious out of fear that the robust plant may mutate or develop a resistance to chemical herbicides—a fear that was realized when fluridine-resistant hydrilla was found in Florida. Today the Asian hydrilla leaf mining fly, weevils, and even the invasive grass carp are used to manage hydrilla invasions. These and other methods cost states millions of dollars a year.
In recent years, Illinois and Indiana have banned the sale, barter, and transport of hydrilla. Water gardeners, aquarium hobbyists, and others can learn how to recognize the plant—and distinguish it from the invasive Brazilian elodea—with our species WATCH card.
We’ll have more species spotlights on aquatic invaders throughout May in honor of Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Week. 

Two IISG projects chosen as APEX 2014 award winners

June 19th, 2014 by
The APEX awards are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant projects were selected this year for awards in two categories. 
Laura Kammin and Anjanette Riley of our Unwanted Meds program received an award in the category of Green Writing for their edition of UpClose with researcher Rebecca Klaper. The UpClose series interviews professionals working in the pollution and water quality fields to learn about the latest discoveries and projects related to pharmaceuticals and personal care products. 
Additionally, Sarah Zack, Pat Charlebois, and Jason Brown were awarded in the Green Campaigns, Programs & Plans category for their work on our “Be A Hero – Transport Zero” campaign and messaging, and for the website. The campaign is designed to show boaters, fishermen, and other recreational water users how simple it can be to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between water bodies. 
These projects are just two of the many that IISG continues working on to help the public learn about, protect, and preserve Lake Michigan and waterways throughout the two states. To learn more, visit our website.

Aquatic nuisance species committee releases guidelines to prevent AIS spread

June 18th, 2014 by
IISG’s Pat Charlebois and Sarah Zack were members of a committee on recreational water use, and Pat co-chaired a committee on water garden guidelines, both aimed at preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) through these two pathways. The committees recently completed their report, Voluntary Guidelines to Prevent the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species; Recreational Activities and Water Gardening, which provides guidelines for recreational water users and water gardeners to follow. 
The steps listed include cleaning, draining, and drying all recreational equipment (boats, vests, trailers, etc.) following a day on the water (for recreational water users), and purchasing/planting native plants or properly disposing of unwanted specimens (for water gardeners). 

There are more simple steps outlined in the two documents that can help prevent the spread of invasive species through these two pathways, as well as information about the importance of protecting waterways and native ecosystems. Visit the links above to read the complete reports, and visit our “Be A Hero – Transport Zero” and “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers” webpages for additional information. 

*Note: This post originally listed Pat Charlebois as a co-chair of the recreational water users committee and omitted Sarah Zack’s participation. The text has been corrected. 

IISG aquatic invasive species coordinator among ISAM award winners

June 4th, 2014 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Pat Charlebois was one of the professionals selected for this year’s ISAM awards. Recognizing outstanding invasive species work in the state of Illinois, the awards are an annual opportunity to highlight just some of the many important projects dedicated to protecting Illinois’ land and water from invasives. 
“In 2011, the ISAM committee decided to initiate an awards program to formally recognize and honor outstanding contributions to the prevention, control, and management of invasive species in the state of Illinois. For 2014, The Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month Committee would like to recognize recipients in five categories: Professional of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Professional Organization of the Year, Business of the Year, and Educator of the Year. Recipients of the 2014 ISAM awards were officially recognized at an awards ceremony in Springfield at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) office. IDNR Office of Resource Conservation Director Jim Herkert was on hand to present the awards. The ceremony was part of the 2014 Illinois Invasive Species Symposium on May 29th, 2014 at the IDNR Office Building in Springfield, IL… 

Pat is receiving this award for her leadership in aquatic invasive species education, outreach, messaging, and policy throughout the state. Pat’s hard work has contributed significantly to increasing the public’s awareness of aquatic invasive species. Through her efforts, the new ‘Be a Hero, Transport Zero’ campaign is being expanded towards a comprehensive campaign to address all invasive species spread throughout Illinois. In addition, Pat has been instrumental in supporting policy changes, such as the addition of 27 new aquatic plants to the Illinois Injurious Species list.”

Read about the other award recipients and their work protecting Illinois’ environment at the link above.

In the news: Asian carp could be approaching Lake Erie

April 28th, 2014 by
Asian carp may be getting a foothold in waters near Lake Erie according to recent water sample analysis. 
“Multiple water samples taken from the Muskingum River last fall carried the environmental signature of bighead carp, an invasive species threatening the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. A report released Friday by the Nature Conservancy — in conjunction with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and researchers from Central Michigan University — indicated 10 of the 222 samples from the river tested positive for bighead carp eDNA.
Asian carp have been established in the Ohio River for more than a decade, but these eDNA results indicate the fish could be present in the Muskingum some 80 miles north of where the Muskingum joins the Ohio at Marietta.
The Muskingum has a series of old dams and deteriorating locks, but if the genetic evidence is accurate, those have not provided a significant impediment to the carp moving up the river system.”
Read more about the findings at the link above.

Summer intern Alice continues on with IISG’s aquatic invasives team

April 21st, 2014 by
We first introduced you to Alice Denny last year when she worked as an IISG summer intern. Well, we liked her too much to let her go. When her internship ended, Alice became the newest member of our aquatic invasive species (AIS) team, located at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  
As an outreach assistant, Alice works on wide range of projects, including finding new opportunities to connect with recreational water users, aquarium hobbyists, water gardeners, and more. She will spend much of the summer spreading the word about AIS at professional and amateur fishing tournaments. Her message to anglers and boaters will be simple—be sure to remove, drain, and dry after a day on the water.      
Prior to her internship with us, Alice worked as a field technician in the Chicago area and conducted research on invasive species in New York state parks. She holds a Bachelor’s in Biology from Hartwick College and is a member of the Illinois Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program.     

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.     

New invasives from New Zealand found in Wisconsin

December 2nd, 2013 by
The New Zealand mud snail is on the move in Wisconsin, and officials are calling on anglers, hunters, and boaters to help prevent any further spread from this aquatic invader. 

The invasive snail first moved into the Great Lakes decades ago and took up residency in Lake Michigan about 5 years ago. Inland lakes and rivers in the Midwest, though, had remained snail-free. That is until last month, when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reported finding the snails in Black Earth Creek, about 25 miles north of the Illinois state line. 

To keep this rapidly-reproducing snail from taking over local waterways and forcing out native species, officials in Illinois and Wisconsin are asking recreational water users and other outdoor enthusiasts to take three simple steps after a day near the water:
·         Remove all plants, animals, and mud from boats, trailers, and equipment
·         Drain everything, including bait buckets and live wells
·         Dry everything with a towel
The small size of this invasive species—no more than 5 mm in length—makes them nearly impossible to spot. But diligently following these simple procedures can ensure that the New Zealand mud snail isn’t accidently carried unseen to from one body of water to another. 

To learn more about what you can do to help prevent the spread of the New Zealand mud snail and other invasive species, visit  

*Photo courtesy of Mohammed El Damir, Pest Management,

New campaign asks water lovers to help stop aquatic invaders

June 14th, 2013 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are collaborating on a new campaign to get boaters, fishers, divers, and everyone who loves spending time on the water involved in protecting the environment. 
Be a Hero – Transport Zero” is a multi-season message that strikes at one of the big problems facing our waterways – aquatic invasive species. With three simple steps, though, everyone can help stop the spread of these aquatic invaders. Each time you leave a body of water, just take a minute to go through these easy procedures: 
 – Remove any plants, animals, and mud from boats, trailers and equipment
 – Drain everything (bait buckets, live wells, etc.)
 – Dry everything with a towel
From boaters and kayakers to waterfowl hunters, scuba divers, sea plane operators, and more, everyone can help prevent invasive species from taking over their favorite waterways with these three actions. 
And visit to learn more about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.
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