October 30th, 2018 by iisg_superadmin
March 27th, 2017 by Irene Miles
Lately, Sheboygan is on the upswing. This city in Wisconsin that sits along the Sheboygan River is booming with new housing, more tourism, and more water-based recreation opportunities, according to a recent Great Lakes Commission study. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), as part of a team of partners, provided expertise that contributed to this success story.
Not so long ago, the river was considered a black eye on the community. Labeled one of the most polluted rivers in the country, it was contaminated with an alphabet soup of PCBs and PAHs. With funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, approximately 300,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment (or 15,000 full dump trucks) were removed from the river in 2012-2013. As a result, river-goers enjoy a deeper river with better navigation and access, and a cleaner habitat for fish and wildlife to thrive.
“There’s no question in my mind that if that cleanup effort hadn’t gone on, we would not see the kind of development and enthusiasm going on in our community,” said Adam Payne, Sheboygan County administrator. “It absolutely triggered a lot of the good things that are in play.”
As is typical for projects funded through the Great Lakes Legacy Act, partners were key to its success, including federal, state, local—agencies, non-for-profits, private companies—the list is extensive. “The level of collaboration and teamwork was unprecedented of anything I had seen in my career,” added Payne.
For its part, IISG funded research to assess the economic impact of the contaminated river on housing prices. “We looked at actual sales of single family houses in the area from 2002-2004,” explained John Braden, University of Illinois economist (now retired). “And we surveyed 850 residents to understand people’s perceptions of the river, and their willingness to pay more for housing if the river was cleaned up.”
Braden found that property values for homes within five miles of the contaminated waterways were significantly depressed—an 8 percent discount, on average. This research and related Sea Grant outreach helped illustrate the value of the cleanup, helped to keep the Sheboygan community informed about the remediation process as it happened, and helped to change the conversation about sediment remediation.
“Sediment remediation is very expensive, so how can we justify these multi-million dollar projects?” said Caitie Nigrelli, IISG social scientist. “The main goal is to improve environmental quality of water resources, but if we understand more of the benefits, we can make a better case for these projects.”
Nigrelli worked with a Sheboygan outreach team in 2012 to provide information to stakeholders and the public. She helped convey the results of Braden’s research in her outreach efforts through publications and other venues. In addition, bringing her social science expertise to the project, she oversaw a study to bring community perceptions to light to better understand how to communicate about the sediment remediation project and its benefits to the public.
“We found that while the river was viewed as an asset, it had a negative stigma,” said Nigrelli. “Our interviews before the remediation revealed that residents saw the water as unclean and some were hesitant and even afraid to come in contact with the water.”
Due to years of sedimentation, the depth of Sheboygan River was also viewed as a major concern as its shallowness limited access for larger boats and sailboats. While the point of the remediation was to remove contaminants, a side benefit was an increase in river depth. These and other findings helped Nigrelli and the outreach team target public information to address specific concerns.
Payne describes the value of a well-informed public in terms of just getting through the remediation process. “To put it in perspective, when we were removing the contaminated soil from the river and harbor, we had trucks coming and going through the heart of the city every three to five minutes, 24/7. That’s disruptive, lots of dust, noise, traffic and that obviously raises folks eyebrows and raises concerns. I think where outreach efforts were so helpful is in raising awareness with the public—these potential benefits are why we are going to go through this.”
To learn more about remediation partnership possibilities, “A Seat at the Table: Great Lakes Legacy Act” is a new video that explains what it means to be a cost-share partner with the Environmental Protection Agency under GLLA. The video uses interviews with partners to describe the benefits and challenges of cost-share partnering, the cost-sharing mechanism, examples of in-kind services and the flexibility of partnerships.
To see what successful partnerships can accomplish, follow Nigrelli (@Gr8LakesLady) on Twitter as she has been sharing 22 sediment site success stories, including before and after photos, contamination causes, partnerships and cleanup details. Follow and join the conversation using #22SedimentStories.
December 3rd, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
A collaborative research project about the impacts of quagga mussels in Lake Michigan has led to more funding for the issue from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The original project, jointly supported by the Illinois-Indiana and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs, looked at the effects of this invasive mussel in the deep parts of Lake Michigan on plankton abundance, the phosphorus cycle, and water movement.
The new project is funded by the Biological Oceanography and Physical Oceanography divisions of NSF for more than $1 million with the expectation that the results will be useful in understanding conditions in other large lakes as well coastal areas.
The principal investigators are Harvey Bootsma and Qian Liao with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,
and Cary Troy with Purdue University. David Cannon is a Ph.D. student working on the project at Purdue.
In the original project, the team discovered that quagga mussels in Lake Michigan are eating more plankton than what is reaching them by sinking from above. They’ll be looking at how and why this could happen with the new project.
“We think that food delivery to the bottom of the lake is not just determined by the passive settling of phytoplankton as it’s sinking through the water, but that
plankton is always being circulated in the lake,” said Bootsma. “It’s like the plankton are on a kind of conveyor belt where they’re going up and down.”
The researchers now will be studying turbulence in the entire water column.
Troy studied the impact mussels have on water movement as they filter it—sucking in water and spitting it
out. “Although this filtering has a dramatic effect on water quality, we found that quaggas do not strongly influence movement throughout the entire water column,” explained Cannon.
But the movement they cause in the thin layer immediately above the lake bed—a
phenomenon consistent throughout the year thanks to stable temperatures at the bottom of Lake Michigan—is an element missing from most mussel filtration models.
The researchers also found that the mussels are changing the phosphorus cycle in the lake. “The nutrient-loading models used to set limits for phosphorus aren’t accurate anymore because of these new components to the ecosystem – bottom-dwelling filter feeders,” Bootsma said. “They have changed the rules for how Lake Michigan works.
“Lake managers have a conundrum right now. They’ve got too much algae in the nearshore zone and they want to reduce phosphorus to solve that problem. But there’s not enough phytoplankton in the offshore zone because of the mussels. So if they reduce phosphorus loading in the lake, they could make that offshore problem even worse so that there’s virtually no food left out there for the rest of the food web,” Bootsma said.
With the new project, Bootsma said his team hopes to determine what the “sweet spot” is for phosphorus loading. “There may not be one perfect phosphorus load that solves both the nearshore and offshore problem, but we’d like to try and find one that minimizes the nuisance algae while at the same time keeps the offshore animals alive with enough plankton production.”
The NSF project will start this spring. “Although we’re focusing on Lake Michigan, the work has implications for most of the other Great Lakes as well as other lakes in general that are being invaded by mussels,” Bootsma said. “We’re looking at a fundamental change in the way lakes work, and that’s the kind of thing the NSF is interested in.”
“It’s generally accepted that the ecosystems of smaller, shallower lakes—Lake Erie, for example—are at the greatest risk of quagga mussel invasion,” Cannon added. “Our results could help show other researchers that the effects of mussels on large, deep lakes cannot be ignored and, more importantly, how they can be accounted for.”
Irene Miles, IISG coordinator of strategic communication, contributed to this post.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.
October 12th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
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.
April 29th, 2015 by iisg_superadmin
Lincoln Park and I are both coming to the end of an exciting chapter this fall. As my internship with
IISG comes to a close, Phase 2 sediment remediation work in in Lincoln Park in Milwaukee is also finishing up.
Four years and more than 170,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment later, Lincoln Park is looking to reap the benefits of the newly cleaned Milwaukee River. As contractors work to remove equipment, sediment samples are being taken to ensure no contamination has been missed.
To commemorate this truly historic milestone, IISG environmental social scientist Caitie Nigrelli
and I traveled to Milwaukee to spend some time on the river and celebrate the success with our clean-up partners. Hospitable as usual, Friends of Lincoln Park members took us around the city allowing us to catch a glimpse of the possibilities that environmental reinvestment holds for community revitalization.
Within the park, we took advantage of the warm fall weather for a canoe trip through the remediated portion of the river. As we paddled, perennial grasses and beaver-cut branches secluded us from Lincoln Park’s urban setting. We were not the only ones out experiencing the newly restored park; kill-deer, great blue herons, and other wildlife were also enjoying a clean habitat.
Although remediation work is complete, there is still much to be done within the park. Much like sediment remediation, successful ecosystem restoration is a long process. Started in 2012, the 11-acre Phase 1 restoration work is finally showing the fruits of its labor.
Many bees could be seen buzzing around native asters (see photo) and goldenrod on the shoreline at the west end of the park. Like Phase 1, restoration work in the East Oxbow of the river will bring a diversity of native plant species, stabilize the shoreline, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.
After watching the sun set over the river, Caitie and I completed our day at the Friends of Lincoln Park
restoration celebration. Over cake and ice cream, representatives from the Milwaukee County Parks and CH2M, an environmental consulting company, presented information on the remediation and restoration progress.
The neighborhood unity fostered through this river cleanup is impressive. As a new chapter begins for the river, park, and neighbors alike, seeds of passion and park investment are spreading, akin to the native seeds of restoration to come.
December 9th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Over 200 bags of trash, some shopping carts, mattresses, and a port-o-let were removed from Milwaukee’s Lincoln Park earlier this month during an annual river cleanup led by Milwaukee Riverkeeper. The event drew nearly 3,500 residents and local officials to rivers across the city. Almost 100 of these volunteers were members of the Friends of Lincoln Park. Formed last October, this cleanup was the group’s first outreach project, with many more slated for 2015.
Members of the Lincoln Park community first came together in response to ongoing efforts to rid the Milwaukee River bottom of legacy contaminants like PCBs and PAHs. Phase two of the Great Lakes Legacy Act project was underway, and with the river making up such a large portion of the park, the community was taking notice. With support from focus groups conducted by Caitie McCoy and UW-Extension’s Gail Epping Overholt, residents were inspired to create a way to voice their thoughts and concerns on the direction of the park.
The result was the Lincoln Park Friends Group, who, in association with Milwaukee County Parks, the Park People, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Sea Grant, is now working to revitalize Lincoln Park in a way that brings together the surrounding community.
“Most members have grown up enjoying the parks,” said David Thomas, secretary for the Friends of Lincoln Park. “We all think of the parks as a valuable community resource.”
The group hopes to instill a similar sense of stewardship in other community members. Along with plans to clear out areas overgrown with invasive plants, some members have expressed an interest in creating youth groups to provide opportunities to learn how to fish or canoe and to get to know the park’s natural surroundings in general.
“There’s a ton of work to do, but we want to build organically,” Thomas added. “We want to build it slowly, and we want it to be strong and sustainable.”
***Photo credit: Friends of Lincoln Park
October 7th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Scenes of massive snowfall in Great Lakes communities like Kalamazoo and Buffalo may become a thing of the past. A new study out of the University of Wisconsin suggests the region could see less lake effect snow as soon as the mid-21st century due to climate change. The total amount of precipitation will likely go up, but warmer temperatures and less lake ice means the air blowing east across the lakes will bring rain instead.
From the Post-Standard:
The biggest change from snow to rain would be in November, the study shows, making the massive lake effect storm near Buffalo last month less likely by 2100. That storm dumped 90 inches of snow in some areas in five days. Thirteen people died and more than 100 miles of the New York State Thruway was shut down for days.
[Michael] Notaro’s article was published in the Journal of Climate just days before the Buffalo-area storm. He is a senior scientist at the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research in Madison, Wisc.
The paradox of lake effect snow, however, is that before it begins to drop off after 2050 it might actually increase for a few decades, according to research by Notaro and Colgate University professor Adam Burnett.
“My original idea was that in the short run, as the lakes become warmer and and lake ice disappears, we would still have enough cold air around to produce lake effect snow,” said Burnett, whose 2003 study showed a rise in lake effect snow from Lake Ontario. “You could end up with some pretty serious snows like we saw in Buffalo.” Read more
***Photo A: Lake effect snow near Buffalo, NY in November. Photo by Michael Garrood.
***Photo B: From WGGB in western Massachusetts.
September 18th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Scientists from Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research (IGLR) are expanding their basin-wide Great Lakes coastal wetlands monitoring program with help from grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs. The program is one part of a collaborative project that brings together researchers from IGLR, Notre Dame, and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The results will help natural resource managers better target protection and restoration efforts.
From the Midland Daily News:
They also will be able to help assess the importance of coastal wetlands as they relate to the food web of the Great Lakes ecosystem by studying otoliths, or fish ear bones, to determine where fish are obtaining energy for growth.
Otoliths grow daily, similar to rings found in the trunk of a tree. With the use of a precise laser beam, IGLR researchers can sample the chemical composition of targeted areas of the otoliths and relate this “chemical fingerprint” to specific coastal wetlands, even when fish are caught in the open water of the Great Lakes, far from any wetlands.
It is hoped that this research will result in a long-term, sustainable monitoring program aimed at restoring and protecting Great Lakes coastal wetlands, which provide a critical habitat for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and an essential spawning and nursery habitat for many fish species of ecological and economical importance to Michigan’s $7.5 billion commercial and sports fishing industry. Read more.
The research project is one of three awarded a combined total of $380,000 from IISG earlier this year. Additional projects seek to uncover the connections between sediment removal projects and a community’s ability to weather environmental hazards and identify why people adopt stormwater management practices.
And IISG continues to fund strong research projects like these. In fact, last month we announced a new funding opportunity for research addressing key economic planning questions facing the Great Lakes region. Researchers may request up to $96,000 for 18 months. Proposals are due by 5 pm CST on Nov. 17, 2014. Read the full RFP for information on project and application requirements.
March 17th, 2014 by iisg_superadmin
Exciting changes are coming to Wisconsin’s Lincoln Park, part of the Milwaukee River Area of Concern. Phase two of Great Lakes Legacy Act efforts to remove historical contaminants from the river bottom is set to begin next month. And park neighbors and stakeholders from across Milwaukee County are already well on their way to launching a Friends of Lincoln Park group that will help foster greater community stewardship.
More than 20 neighbors came together for the first time earlier this month to get to know each other, discuss potential group goals, and brainstorm ways to achieve them. They were joined by numerous local and regional organizations interested in protecting Lincoln Park, including University of Wisconsin Extension, Milwaukee County Parks, the Park People, and the Illinois-Indiana and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs.
Nothing is official yet, but the meeting ended with two main goals on everyone’s mind: fostering a sense of community with the park at the center and protecting the local environment.
“For a long time, the park was very community centered, but it has become more of an outsider attraction in the last few decades,” said Caitie McCoy, IISG’s social scientists and co-host of the meeting. “The group had great ideas for re-energizing community interest with events that bring locals out to enjoy all the resources the park has to offer.”
The idea for a Friends group took shape during focus groups conducted this spring by Caitie and UW-Extension’s Gail Epping-Overholt. They spoke with a variety of people living or working near Lincoln Park to better understand community perceptions of the park and ongoing sediment remediation efforts. When the results of the needs assessment were in, it was clear that residents were interested in forming the Friends of Lincoln Park.
The results will also play a key role in shaping public outreach and project messaging as dredging kicks off again this fall for phase two of the remediation. More than 120,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment have already been removed from the Lincoln Park segments of the Milwaukee River, and this next round of dredging is expected to remove another 35,000 cubic yards. Together with cleanup efforts in nearby Blatz Pavilion lagoon, the two Lincoln Park projects are expected to reduce the amount toxic PCBs flowing into the Milwaukee River system by 70 percent, a drop that will go a long way towards delisting the AOC.
To learn more about recommendations to come out of the needs assessment, download the full report from our products page. And if you live in the area and are interested in joining the Friends of Lincoln Park, come out to the next meeting on October 9. Contact Caitie McCoy at email@example.com for more information.
Special thanks to IISG interns Erika Lower and Mark Krupa for their help analyzing and the results of the needs assessment and to Jane Harrison at Wisconsin Sea Grant for taking notes during the focus groups and helping to coordinate the Friends meetings.
***Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Extension.
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.