Illinois Natural History Survey News
Illinois Natural History Survey News
Dr. Paul Gillan Risser passed away 10 July 2014 at the age of 74. Dr. Risser served at the 5th Chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey (1981-1986). After receiving his PhD in Botany and Soils from University of Wisconsin in 1967, Risser returned to his home state of Oklahoma, joining the faculty of University of Oklahoma. He also served as assistant director of the Oklahoma Biological Station, director of the Oklahoma Biological Survey and chairman of the Department of Botany and Microbiology before leaving in 1981 to join the INHS as Chief.
During his time at INHS, Dr. Risser oversaw the 125th Anniversary Scientific Symposium and open house and was author or co-author on 23 papers, book chapters, and conference proceedings. He published over 100 scientific papers and wrote or edited 6 books during his career, including the often cited "The True Prairie Ecosystem," published in 1981.
Dr. Risser left INHS in 1986 to become Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at University of New Mexico. In 1992 he went on to become President of Miami University of Ohio, before taking the position of President at Oregon State University in 1996. In 2002, Dr. Risser returned home to Oklahoma, as chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. He went on to become the Acting Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Chair and Chief Operating Officer of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet.
Dr. Risser led a distinguished career, both in science and in administration. In celebration of his life and recognition of his unwavering commitment to education, the family suggests contributions to the Paul G. Risser Scholarship Fund at the University of Oklahoma. Checks may be written to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, 100 Timberdell Road, Norman, OK 73019.
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
The Illinois Natural History Survey Medical Entomology Lab has reported the first positive tests for West Nile Virus this year from samples collected in Evanston. For more information on the Medical Entomology Program, visit our website: http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/research/medent/
Read the article in the Evanston Patch
The Awards for Publication Excellence (APEX) are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and one of the Illinois Natural History Survey projects was selected this year for an award.
Sarah Zack, Pat Charlebois, and their IL-IN Sea Grant colleague 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 www.TransportZero.org 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.
Read more at the Lakeside Views Blog.
Roger Melo, a PhD student in Brazil, spent 6 months at INHS through the Science Without Borders program. An interview on his experiences was written up for the "INCT Herbario Virtual da Flora e dos Fungos." During his time at INHS, Melo worked under INHS Mycologist Andy Miller in the Evers Laboratory examining and identifying collections of fungi from Brazil.
Read the interview here: http://inct.florabrasil.net/csf-roger-melo/
If your browser does not automatically translate from Portuguese, download a pdf here.
INHS Lake Michigan Biological Station's Aquatic Invasive Species oordinator, Pat Charlebois, was honored as Professional of the Year by the Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month Committee.
"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."
For more information, visit the Illinois Indiana Seagrant Blog - Lakeside Views
Project F-69-R, also known as the “Sport Fish Population and Sport Fishing Metric” project, is developing a Fish Quality Index that will help fisheries biologists evaluate and compare the quality of sport fishing for various species in different water bodies. The collaborative project is headed by INHS Sport Fish Ecologist Jeff Stein. This information can be used to inform anglers of the best places to catch a particular species and to help fisheries biologists manage those species.
Read the full article in Outdoor News.
Read more about Project F-69-R
Visit our website for more information on the Sport Fish Ecology Lab's research projects.
INHS Mammalian Ecologist Ed Heske was featured in an article about White Nose Syndrome where he said that the situation "looks kind of pessimistic." Heske is part of a multidisciplinary team led by INHS researchers, that has been surveying Illinois caves for signs of WNS over the past three years. Heske told the Chicago Tribune, "We can only hope that some kind of natural resistance emerges from this, like West Nile that does not have the impact it once had. But bats won't come back like birds because they do not reproduce as fast."
Read the full article in the Chicago Tribune
Visit our website for more information on White Nose Syndrome research at INHS
Illinois River Biological Station director Andrew Casper and affiliate Kevin Irons were guests on WTVP's "At Issue" to discuss invasive species and their impact throughout the Illinois River watershed. A variety of invasives were discussed, including Rusty Crayfish, Round Goby, Grass Carp, Asian Carp, and Zebra Mussels
Watch the video here.
INHS Invertebrate Biologist Dr. Steven J. Taylor can be seen in the new David Attenborough documentary on the Galapagos Islands. Steve was filmed while studying the invertebrate communities in volcanic tubes.
Watch the segment on volcanic tubes
For more information visit Steve Taylor's website.
Michael Jeffords and Susan Post recently published a book through the University of Illinois Press, "Exploring Nature in Illinois." The book shares information on many of their favorite locations to explore in Illinois and how to find interesting things while you are at it.
For the last 40 years, one day each spring, birders across Illinois go out and identify as many species of birds as they can. This data is compiled into a database managed by the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Visit our website for more information on the Spring Bird Count.
Northern Public Radio featured the Spring Bird Count
INHS Mycologist Andy Miller was interviewed for an article about hunting mushrooms in Illinois.
"This time of year folks are hunting morels, which seem to grow best if the temperatures are around 75F during the day and 50F at night and there is ample rainfall. Also, these conditions frequently coincide with the flowering of May apples and oak leaves being 1/2 to 3/4" long. We've had anything but steady temperatures this Spring, but with the recent rainfall, if the temperatures would increase slightly, hopefully the morels would start appearing. This season has definitely been delayed by at least a month compared to previous years."
Read the whole interview.
For more information on mycological research, visit the Miller Laboratory Page.
A recent study by INHS Sport Fisheries Ecologist Jeff Stein suggests that anglers involved in catch and release fishing should release male largemouth bass as quickly as possible to return to nest guarding. "One of the main conclusions of the study was that in a lake where there are very few brood predators, when you angle a male away from his nest and then immediately release him, the chance of a negative impact is less, but if the nest is located in a part of a lake where there is a high density of brood predators, once the male is removed, predators get into the nest very quickly," said Stein. "On average, the time it took brood predators to begin eating bass young was less than five minutes in cases where the nest was located near schools of brood predators."
Read an article about the study in Nature World News.
On Sept. 1, 1914, Martha, the last living passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. This seemingly abundant bird had been decimated by hunting, leaving them vulnerable to other predators.
Following the opening of an exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, INHS Ornithologist Kevin Johnson, who reconstructed the family tree of the passenger pigeon, was interviewed.
"For the first time, people became aware that you could have this super abundant bird that everyone knew about, and that people could actually cause their extinction," Johnson said. "I guess that raised public awareness that humans can cause the extinction of animals on a scale that hadn't really been done before."
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was established to protect certain migratory birds.
Remembering the passenger pigeon 100 years later
Press release from Long-extinct passenger pigeon finds a place in the family tree
Following the discovery of fossil stick insects by a team of Chinese and French scientists, INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads and Illinois State Entomologist Chris Dietrich were contacted by National Geographic to comment.
Heads told National Geographic that the discovery of fossilized plant mimicking insects, "is yet more tantalizing evidence of early insect-plant coevolution."
Dietrich added that there may be more discoveries to be made in collections of fossil insects waiting to be examined.
National Geographic Article
INHS Lake Michigan Biological Station researcher Charles Roswell and co-authors Sergiusz Czesny, Josh Dub, and Will Stacy were invited to present on the “Status and Trends of Yellow Perch Fishing and Harvest in Lake Michigan,” at the Lake Michigan Yellow Perch Summit hosted by the Lake Michigan Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The summit took place at the UIC forum in Chicago and consisted of talks about the status of the Lake Michigan ecosystem and perch fishery by researchers and managers for members of the public (in-person and streamed live online), followed by discussion among all participants (stakeholders, researchers, and managers).
Researchers Rich Pendleton, Levi Solomon, and Blake Bushman of the INHS Illinois River Biological Station are helping to educate the next group of Conservation Police Officers. The trio provided hands on training to Illinois Conservation Police Officer Cadets concerning fish sampling and identification with demonstrations on the Illinois River.
INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joseph Spencer and his colleagues in Crop Sciences and Entomology recently released a study in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology with findings that there is variation in the effectiveness of RNAi treatments on western corn rootworm (WCR), a major agricultural pest.
Current methods for controlling WCR include crop rotation and genetically modified corn. Research published last year found that some WCR have microbes in their guts allowing them to survive on soybeans long enough to lay their eggs in soil that will be rotated to corn the following year.
While the RNAi treatment tested decreased survival in non-rotation-resistant WCR, the treatment did not decrease the survival of rotation-resistant rootworms. The results suggest that the success of an RNAi treatment may depend on the characteristics of the target population.
U of I News Bureau Release
INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer presented a talk on "Rootworm Biology and Behavior" in the webinar "Corn rootworm Management in the Transgenic Era." Over 300 people attended this webinar, archived at the link below.
Last year, INHS researchers described over 100 species new to science. The Prairie Research Institute Library wrote a nice summary of the papers published by INHS scientists in 2013.
Prairie Research Institute Library Blog
INHS Researcher Samantha Carpenter was featured in an article in Michigan State University's Great Lakes Echo, about the high levels of dieldrin and other contaminants in the bodies of river otters. Carpenter was lead author on a study published in October in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.
In this article, Carpenter said, “One of our take-home messages for fish-eating animals is that exposure to the banned pesticide dieldrin may be greater in streams and rivers of the Midwest than elsewhere, given that it was used very intensively in the Corn Belt.
“While the concentration of dieldrin in Illinois watersheds was higher than previously thought, and higher than reported elsewhere in North America, there is no single all-encompassing benchmark we compare it with to say it is generally ‘high’” because of the lack of more research,” she said. “We need to understand more about which watersheds are more heavily contaminated than others.”
See more about the research here
With all the hype surrounding Punxsutawney Phil, Environmental Almanac's Rob Kanter decided to interview INHS Mammalogist Joe Merritt, who reported that groundhogs don't generally come out of hibernation until early March. According to Merritt, while groundhogs do hibernate, most mammals in Illinois do not truly hibernate, rather they go into a state of "winter lethargy." Of the 60 mammal species in Illinois, only 16 truly hibernate, 12 of which are bats.
For more interesting information on how mammals survive the winter, read Environmental Almanac.
Watch a short video on groundhogs from INHS Outreach Group
A recent study by INHS researchers Jeffrey M. Levengood, David J. Soucek,, Gregory G. Sass, Amy Dickinson, and John M. Epifanio showed that overall, concentrations of arsenic, selenium, and mercury in bighead and silver carp from the lower Illinois River do not appear to be a health concern for a majority of human consumers. The full results of the study have been published in the journal Chemosphere.
Average mercury concentration in fillets was below the US Food and Drug Administration Action Level and EPA Screening Value for Recreational Fishers, though some individual fish had mercury concentrations high enough to recommend limiting consumption by sensitive groups (children < 15 years and women of childbearing age) to 1 meal/week. Mercury concentrations were greater in bighead carp and were elevated in both species taken from the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. "These fish are low in mercury in comparison to many other commercially available fish. However, as always consumers need to make informed decisions about their food choices," said Dr. Jeff Levengood, lead investigator of the study.
Arsenic and selenium concentrations in bighead and silver carp fillets examined did not pose a risk to human consumers. Inorganic arsenic concentrations were undetectable and concentrations of selenium in carp fillets were well below the 1.5 mg/kg threshold for restricting the number of meals according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. "Carp species, size and collection location should be considered in judging risks associated with uses of these fish taken from the Illinois River ", Levengood said.
Members of the Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists came to the Illinois Natural History Survey to help identify some of the 2,300 insect specimens that were collected by an "amateur" entomologist and donated to INHS. The volunteers were assisted by INHS Entomologists Joe Spencer, Sam Heads, Michael Jeffords and Susan Post. Portions of the collection will stay at INHS and others will be used for educational purposes through the Master Naturalist Program and Sugar Grove Nature Center.
Read more in the Environmental Almanac
On 25 January 2014, INHS Biologist Steve Taylor gave a presentation at a ceremony announcing the purchase of 535 acres of land over Illinois' largest and most biologically diverse cave. Fogelpole Cave is home to several protected species including the endangered Illinois Cave Amphipod and Indiana Bat. Taylor serves as science advisor for the project, which is being managed by Clifftop, a non-profit organization.