Category:

We are looking for someone to lead our outreach team

April 25th, 2018 by

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is hiring a new outreach program leader to help connect our outreach specialists, scientists, and communities, with the goal of improving ecological, economic, and societal resilience in the two-state region.

IISG supports over 30 outreach specialists, communicators, educators, and administrators conducting environmental and natural resources outreach on a number of critical issues at local, regional, and national scales. The outreach program leader will be responsible for the coordination, development, expansion, and delivery of science-based programs that empower communities and people to make informed natural resource decisions.

This is a full-time academic position at the University of Illinois that will either be housed on campus in Urbana or in Chicago.

For more information about specific responsibilities, qualifications and the application process, visit the posting on the University of Illinois jobs board.

Purdue University directs Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant administration

February 5th, 2018 by

 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University will administer the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program (IISG), previously managed by the University of Illinois, effective Feb. 1, 2018. New IISG director Tomas Höök, a fisheries biologist in Purdue’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, will lead the administration.

IISG research, outreach and education efforts bring the latest science to southern Lake Michigan residents and decision makers and empower them to secure a healthy environment and economy.

The program has been a leader in the region on aquatic invasive species control, pollution prevention and Great Lakes literacy, and has developed decision tools that help communities grow while protecting natural resources. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant supports more than 50 permanent medicine collection programs in the Great Lakes region, has helped the Indiana aquaculture industry grow fivefold and provides resources for municipalities to plan for future water supplies.

Terri Hallesy talking to students

Terri Hallesy, IISG education coordinator, engages elementary students at the University of Illinois’ Brady STEM Academy about the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes.

IISG is funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Purdue University and the University of Illinois.

Tomas Höök, Director

“While Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has recently been administered by the University of Illinois, it has always been a truly bi-state program,” says Höök, who has served as IISG’s associate director for research since 2010. “For the past 16 years, the program has greatly benefitted from IISG leadership at Illinois, especially Brian Miller and Lisa Merrifield. With program administration moving to Purdue, IISG will continue to work to empower Lake Michigan communities in both Illinois and Indiana through applied discovery and information dissemination.”

Purdue University and the University of Illinois have worked closely to oversee IISG since 1982, periodically transferring the program directorship. Over its 36 years, the program has maintained an administrative presence at both universities.

“When I started my career with Sea Grant in 1994, we were going through an administrative transition similar to the one happening right now,” says Brian Miller, who has been program director for 11 years and is now retiring. “What we have accomplished since that time provides a wonderful platform for even greater growth in the future.”

Jay Beugly and Margaret Hutton, Purdue University

IISG Aquatic Ecologist Jay Beugly helps Purdue University student Margaret Hutton sample Lake Michigan water near Wilmette, Illinois.

IISG is part of the National Sea Grant College program, established in 1966 to protect and preserve America’s coastline and water resources to create a sustainable economy and environment. The network consists of a partnership between NOAA and 33 university-based programs in every coastal and Great Lakes state.

Landscape architects probe health effects of rain gardens

April 5th, 2016 by

University of Illinois PhD students Pongsakorn “Tum” Suppakittpaisarn, pictured above on the right, and Fatemeh Saeidi-Rizi, pictured above on the left, study rain gardens—but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of measuring infiltration rates and pollution reduction capacity, Tum and Fatemeh want to know what happens in our brains and bodies when we see this green infrastructure practice.

A growing number of studies draw connections between access to green spaces and our physical and mental health. But, Tum said, most of that work has revolved around larger, more ubiquitous landscapes like public parks and tree-lined streets.

“We know green spaces generally are good for mental health,” he said. “But the ‘how’ and ‘why’ is still unclear, especially with rarer landscape types like rain gardens.”

So Tum and Fatemeh, along with collaborators at the University of Illinois’ Sustainability and Human Health Lab and the Health People-Health Landscape Lab at National Taiwan University, are working together to measure physical responses and changes in brain activity triggered by images of rain gardens.

The team has compiled 216 rain garden photos taken across the U.S. into nine different videos. In Illinois, Tum will use biofeedback sensors to measure what happens to participant heart rates, body temperatures, and more when they see these videos.

Landscape_Architect_02

At the same time, Dr. Chun-Yen Chang’s team in Taiwan will use functional magnetic resonance imaging—better known as fMRI—to monitor and map changes in brain blood flow when participants are shown rain garden photos after being put through a series of tests designed to cause mental fatigue.

The researchers only began testing participants this spring, but they have a few predictions about the final results.

“It’s possible that seeing rain gardens in an urban space will help people recover from mental fatigue faster,” said Tum. “On the other hand, rain gardens with a lot of messy plants may make people feel uncomfortable, which may lead to them feeling more stress or mentally fatigue.”

IISG funds four new research projects

December 3rd, 2015 by
Residents of Illinois, Indiana, and the broader Great Lakes region will benefit from new IISG research. Altogether, the four, two-year projects will receive more than $780,000 starting in 2016.
 
John Kelly, a Loyola University biologist, will survey eight major rivers around the lake to trace the origins of microplastics pollution and what river characteristics—such as
surrounding land use or nearby wastewater treatment plants—may be driving this.
 
Purdue University’s Zhao Ma will lead an interdisciplinary team that seeks to reduce nutrients, sediment, and E. coli contamination in southern Lake Michigan. The team will use models to assess best management practices (BMP) for reducing runoff and the willingness of individuals to implement these BMPs. Looking at these two approaches together will allow them to optimize the best courses of action to reduce overall pollution.
 
A project led by Sara McMillan, who studies biogeochemistry and hydrology at Purdue University, will examine drainage ditch design from multiple perspectives. McMillan will compare designs that improve long-term stability and ecological effectiveness.
 
And Beth Hall, Midwestern Regional Climate Center director, will work with Paul Roebber of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to improve how flash flooding events in urban centers are predicted and communicated. Hall and Roebber’s project is partially funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Dreams can come true aboard the Lake Guardian

June 23rd, 2015 by

It may sound cheesy, but it’s always my dream and goal in life to make a difference in the world and to help others. I always thought this would be something I would have to do outside of my career, however, being an outreach intern for Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant allows me to integrate part of this dream into my career.

 
This coming fall I will be going into my senior year at the University of Illinois. I am majoring in advertising and minoring in both communication and sociology as well as receiving my certification in public relations. In addition, I am part of the James Scholar Program in the College of Media at U of I.
 
As an intern, I assist with outreach efforts associated with R/V Lake Guardian to increase awareness of the Lake Guardianmission and the research conducted on the ship. My specific duties entail developing a brochure about the ship, assisting with the Lake Guardian Dispatch blog, maintaining and reorganizing the Lake Guardian website, assisting with daily social media efforts, and assisting with a kiosk design for the ship. This past week (June 15-18) I was given the opportunity to climb aboard the Lake Guardian where I was able to develop a full understanding of the vessel along with assist with ongoing sampling, and conduct outreach efforts while on the ship.
 
Robert Browning once said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” This past week definitely exceeded my own grasp. My experience on Lake Guardian was a completely new experience for me and I admit that I was a little nervous going into it. After being on board for just a few hours, I was quickly reminded of how rewarding it is to take on a new experience. It truly makes you grow as a person and appreciate new things in life. A typical day for me consisted of photography and videography, live-tweeting, late night blog posting, and assisting with ongoing sampling throughout the day. The work days were long, but seemed to go by quickly. So did my time on the ship, I enjoyed every minute of it.
 
Our overall trip mission was to collect water, plankton, and benthic invertebrates for organic chemical analysis. This survey is known as the “Great Lakes Fish and Monitoring Surveillance Program: Pushing the Science (Clarkson University)” and assesses how contaminants cycle throughout the food web in Lake Michigan. The vessel consisted of a team of crew members (marine technicians, seamen, engineers, the captain and mates) as well as members from Clarkson University, SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Oswego, NOAA, U.S. EPA GLNPO, and IISG.
 
The trip was most definitely the experience of a lifetime. I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience the Lake Guardian hands-on and to help keep the Great Lakes clean for all through this internship.
 

Cure to TB may be living at the bottom of Lake Michigan

March 24th, 2015 by
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have unearthed a species of Lake Michigan bacteria that may become a powerful weapon in the fight against tuberculosis. Found in the sediment off the coast of Milwaukee, the microbe’s medicinal power lies in the small compounds it makes to defend itself. 
 


UIC researcher Brian Murphy and colleagues at the College of Pharmacy are still trying to pin down how the molecules attack the M. tuberculosis bacterium, but they know that the compounds display drug-like potency against a range of antimicrobial-resistant strains that rivals existing clinical treatments.
 
This study is part of a larger effort by Murphy and others to determine the disease-fighting potential of aquatic actinomycete bacteria. Current treatments for many diseases are built around the chemical defenses used by land-based bacteria, but a growing number of pathogens are now resistant to standard drugs. Results like these in Lake Michigan suggest that freshwater bacteria may create molecules that dangerous pathogens have yet to evolve defenses against, making the Great Lakes a potentially untapped reservoir of treatments for some of the world’s deadliest diseases.  
 
To understand the potential of the lakes, Murphy has collected more than 600 strains of freshwater actinomycete bacteria with support from an IISG Discovery Grant. The size and diversity of the library will help reveal both whether these bacteria are significantly different than their land-based cousins and if strains found in different lakes produce unique chemical defenses.

 

This analysis is still underway, but Murphy and his team have already discovered that the makeup of actinomycete communities in Lake Huron varies both by location and depth, a diversity that makes the lake a potentially important site in the hunt for new cures. 

Medicine disposal draws a crowd at public engagement symposium

March 19th, 2015 by

Allison Neubauer and Kirsten Walker were at the University of Illinois Public Engagement Symposium last week to raise awareness of IISG outreach in Champaign-Urbana. Allison had this to say about the event.  

The public engagement symposium was a great opportunity to find out what other local organizations and academic programs are working on. The crowds of people—both those staffing booths and walking through and exploring—were a true testament to Champaign-Urbana’s widespread effort to get involved and take collective action on local initiatives.
 
Our IISG table generated a lot of traffic. With spring on the horizon, many visitors were excited to learn about our mobile walking tour of downtown Chicago. Others stopped to discuss invasive species and ways they can help halt their spread.
 
But the biggest draw was our university Learning in Community (LINC) course poster, created by undergraduate students enrolled in our section last fall. These students focused on increasing awareness on campus about how pharmaceuticals contaminate our waterways. They also coordinated a take-back event for students and community members to properly dispose of their unwanted medication. The event was a big success, collecting 15 pounds of unused medicine for incineration in just six hours.
 
For Kirsten and I, what was particularly exciting and unique about this symposium was our ability to connect with others working locally on related problems. For example, a Champaign community health center invited us to discuss pharmaceutical disposal with their patients. There was also a UIUC engineering student interested in the homemade filtration system our LINC students created with local high schoolers to show how some contaminants can slip through wastewater treatment processes. She is currently working to design and implement a water system and health program in a rural Honduran community and was looking for ways to engage with local residents.

U of I students get hands-on with pharmaceutical disposal

December 15th, 2014 by
University of Illinois students and faculty took a break from the end-of-semester chaos earlier this month to take advantage of a single-day medicine take-back. The student-led event was part of the Learning in Community (LINC) service course facilitated by IISG.  
  

“We spoke to so many different people to put on this event, from police officers to student organization leaders on campus to Jimmy John’s representatives,” said Reema Abi-Akar, a senior in urban planning. “We looked into case studies of past medicine take-back events, learned the ropes, and slowly absorbed all of the components we needed to replicate to put on a successful event.”

 
“Preparations for the event were challenging,” added Rosalee Celis, project manager and senior in biomedical engineering. “There were various marketing aspects that still had to be completed and communication between a 10-member team over Thanksgiving break was difficult. However, the efforts exerted during this crunch time made the results more satisfying.”
 
The event was a success, collecting 15 pounds of unused medicine for incineration in just six hours. 
 
This was just one of the outreach projects led by the LINC students this year. The class, which includes eight students and two undergraduate project managers, also gave an interactive presentation to an ESL class at Urbana High School to raise awareness of the risks of pharmaceutical pollution and the importance of proper disposal.
 
“Our group truly feels like we made a difference in the community and spread the word about proper medicine disposal,” Reema said.
 
And the course has been an eye-opening experience for the students as well. 
 
To be honest, I started this experience with little to no knowledge about proper medicine disposal,” Reema continued. “All the old medications in my parents’ medicine cabinet were simply collecting dust for years because we never knew how to get rid of them. Once I came into this LINC class and my group began researching the subject further, I became more and more interested in it—and I believe I’m speaking for my entire group as well.
 
“I can now enter the professional workforce in the pharmaceutical industry with the awareness of potential environmental damage due to pharmaceutical waste,” said Rosalee. 

U of I students get creative with green infrastructure

November 20th, 2014 by

Eliana Brown recently joined the Illinois Water Resources Center as an outreach specialist. Prior to starting at IWRC, she worked at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Facilities & Services as the MS4 coordinator and at Illinois EPA as a field engineer. Eliana has a M.S. in environmental engineering and a B.S. in general engineering and marketing from the University of Illinois.

 
The following is a contributing post from Eliana, who has a passion for rain gardens and green infrastructure:
 
When you were a university student, did you ever reimagine your campus landscape? Students at the University of Illinois did exactly that as an assignment for Landscape Architecture (LA) 452, Native Plants and Design.
 
The U of I campus has 84 miles of storm sewer, most of which drain rainwater directly to Boneyard Creek. The LA 452 students designed landscapes with elements that capture water and allow it to soak in on-site to reduce loads to the existing storm sewer and creek. These elements (called green infrastructure) include rain gardens, swales, and green roofs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sees green infrastructure as a way to create sustainable, resilient communities that improve water quality.
 
EPA has a competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge that invites “student teams to design an innovative green infrastructure project for their campus showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.”
 
According to Jason Berner, EPA environmental protection specialist, who has been involved with administering the competition, it is a great way for students to see how green infrastructure is related to the larger campus master plan. “It moves us beyond single pilot projects, but at the same time, blends both small and large scale thinking,” he explained.
 
LA 452 instructor Tawab Hlimi is leading the U of I Campus RainWorks entry. Students in his class helped brainstorm ideas for the entry. One of those ideas is pictured. Student Jiwon

Kim reimagined the grounds at the National Soybean Research Building (which happens to house Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Illinois Water Resources Center). Native plant rain gardens intercept stormwater from the building roof and parking lot. During large storms, the design takes advantage of existing storm sewers by overflowing excess water to them.

 
Like many cities and universities, the U of I began installing storm sewers more than 100 years ago. Storm sewers benefit cities by draining flooded areas. However, they can overload receiving streams and cause unintended damage. Adding green infrastructure elements to the existing infrastructure helps ensure a healthier ecosystem on-site and downstream.
 
Per Hlimi, “Through a campus wide application of rain gardens, students hybridized native plantings with a superficial stormwater management strategy to meet multiple objectives: accommodating the ‘first flush’ of frequent storm events through detention, infiltration, and biofiltration, reducing the load on existing subsurface infrastructure, improving the water quality entering into the Boneyard Creek, creating habitat for pollinators, and rendering the campus landscape as living laboratory.”
 
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, students won’t have to imagine green infrastructure on campus. They’ll see it.
 
Learn how you can put in a rain garden on your property by checking out the Southern Lake Michigan Rain Garden Manual.
Skip to content