Illinois Natural History Survey News

Illinois Natural History Survey News

  • 8/26/2016Lisa Sheppard writer Lisa Sheppard by Lisa Sheppard published by Lisa Sheppard


    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – When clearing out the foliage from an aquarium or backyard water garden this fall, keep water hyacinth and other invasive plants out of streams, rivers, and other waterways.

    Water hyacinth has been described as “the world’s worst aquatic weed,” lovely in the garden, but a nuisance in the river, according to Andy Casper, director of the Illinois River Biological Station of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.  At this time of year, the plant can be spread easily.

    “Water hyacinth is the aquatic version of kudzu,” Casper said.  “It grows faster than any other plant competing with it, quickly taking over a pond or river-bed.”

    As the plant spreads out over a water surface, it blocks the sun, so native plants can’t survive.  Fish that once hid amongst the underwater plants to hunt for their prey and young fish that hide from predators experience a changed habitat. 

    Additionally, in the fall as the water hyacinth dies, it sinks to the river bottom, decomposes, taking the oxygen out of the water in the process.  Too little oxygen can lead to large fish kills in the winter when oxygen is naturally in short supply.

    Deliberately dumping water hyacinth plants in the waterways will cause the plant to spread, as well as composting plants too close to a river, stream, or drainage ditch. Backyard flooding can also cause the invasive plant to spread into nearby surface water areas.

    In one case in which plants spread, an individual composted water hyacinth plants on a pile at the edge of a yard located close to the river.  The result was a big pile of water hyacinth down river, Casper said. 

    “All it takes is one good growing season, and the plants take over,” he said.

    In a survey of the entire Illinois River from Hennepin, IL to Joliet, IL by airplane and boat, INHS staff discovered 15 individual water hyacinth beds in the river. In addition, fish surveys also showed that whole water hyacinth seeds were present in the digestive tracts of carp, indicating a threat of dispersal of the seeds to other areas. Seeds were present in 27 percent of the digestive tracts of the common carp examined, regardless of their proximity to water hyacinth beds.

    For proper disposal of water hyacinth, place plants in a plastic garbage bag and throw them away. Keep all plant parts away from waterbodies because the seeds are tiny and can be missed by the naked eye.

    Water hyacinth is an economically important plant for the water gardening industry.  For this reason, the sale of water hyacinth has not yet been prohibited by the State of Illinois, as the debate continues on whether it survives a cold winter, according to Pat Charlebois, INHS aquatic ecologist.  Many states, and the City of Chicago have prohibited the sale of this plant.

    Water hyacinth is just one of many invasive aquatic plants that should not be discarded in waterways.  Hydrilla, a formerly common aquarium plant, is another plant that carries a financial toll when it spreads uncontrolled.  Plants such as these clog waterways, impeding boat navigation.  With government cleanup, millions of dollars may be spent, and recreational areas may be closed, reducing recreation-based incomes.

    “Hydrilla is such an aggressive plant and spreads so quickly that it can take years to completely remove it in lakes and rivers,” Charlebois said.  “Because of this, the State of Illinois has an early detection and rapid response plan in place in case hydrilla shows up in an area.”

    Charlebois and colleague Greg Hitzroth, INHS outreach specialist, are seeking to change the behavior of people who purchase and use plants for outdoor water gardens and indoor aquariums, encouraging them to dispose of all aquatic plants in sealed plastic bags in the trash.  Consumers can find a list of Illinois’ invasive plants at The State of Illinois regulates some plants, but others, which are not regulated, can be just as much of a nuisance. 

    Consumers often look to retailers for advice on which plants to purchase and how to care for and dispose of them.

    “We partner with retailers, educating them not only on which species should not be sold, but also giving them alternatives,” Hitzroth said.  “We have had success with this effort because most retailers want to do the right thing.”

    There’s a loophole in these efforts, though. “A huge market for aquatic plants is offered for sale online, which can be difficult to regulate,” Charlebois said.  “This is a sticky wicket because retailers in another state may not know which plants cannot be sold or shipped to customers in Illinois.”

    Charlebois and Hitzroth have been working with wholesalers, retailers, scientists, hobbyists, consumers, and others and attending hobbyists’ tradeshows to create outreach material that aims to prevent the spread of aquatic invaders in trade. They also worked on a statewide campaign about invasive species.  Part of that effort is the Release Zero campaign, which aims to provide suggested alternatives to release plants based on published guidelines for teachers and water garden hobbyists from the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF).  

    More information about aquatic invaders in the market place (AIM) can be found at Alternatives to the release of aquatics in trade can be found at 


    Media contacts: Andy Casper, 309-543-6000,
    Pat Charlebois, 847-242-6441,
    Greg Hitzroth, 217-300-0182,

  • 8/9/2016Craig Miller writer Craig Miller by Craig Miller published by Craig Miller

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Guns, gear, gas for the truck, drinks for the cooler, and the faithful dog: such recreational expenses for a day of duck or goose hunting in Illinois add up to a big boost to the local economy, according to Craig Miller, human dimensions scientist at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute.

    Before the start of the 2012-2013 hunting season, Miller and his team surveyed 5,000 waterfowl stamp buyers in Illinois to track typical expenditures of hunters for a big-picture view of the economic impact of a single hunting trip. The survey divided the direct expenses into three categories: transportation, food and beverages, and other shopping, services and entertainment.

    Expenditures provided by hunters were analyzed using IMPLAN, an economics assessment modeling program used by the U.S. Forest Service and others to determine economic outputs.

    Results from 1,882 hunters (42 percent) revealed that trip expenditures totaled $37.5 million, and durable goods expenditures, including clothing, decoys, guns, dogs, boats, and other costs, totaled $105 million. The total direct costs were $143 million.

    “Adding the total direct and indirect costs equaled $261 million,” Miller said. “This impact is huge, and it’s the rural, local economies that benefit from this recreation market. Every dollar that waterfowl hunters spend generates $1.86 for the local economy. ”

    A further breakdown of the survey showed that for each bird harvested in Illinois, $453 is generated for the economy. The sport also generates 2,556 jobs and contributed $20.5 million in state and local taxes.

    Consequently, any policy or regulation changes such as a change in the length of the hunting season could have a significant impact on these rural economies.

    “It is important to keep in mind that this is one recreation activity for one season. When we consider economic contributions across other hunting activities for multiple years, we begin to see the positive economic force that hunting has to our local, rural economies,” Miller said.


    Media contact: Craig Miller, 217-244-0691;

  • 7/6/2016

    The Illinois Natural History Survey has presented awards to eight graduate students for their research accomplishments. Among the awardees include the following:

    Rachel Moran won a Philip W. Smith Memorial Award for Research in Natural History for her project “Speciation Via Male-Driven Character Displacement in Darters.” The fund provides research support for graduate students in the fields of systematics or ecology of living organisms.

    Lisa Mitchum, Department of Animal Biology, received the R. Weldon Larimore Scholarship in Research for Stream Ecology for her project “Color Vision in Largemouth Bass.”

    Linnea Meier, Entomology Department, won a William H. Luckmann Award for Student Research in Applied Entomology. The fund provides support for student attendance and presentation of research at a professional society meeting.  Her research project is titled “Species-Specific Blends of Shared Pheromone Components Minimize Interspecific Attraction Between Two Species of Cerambycid Beetles in the Subfamily Lamiinae.”

    The following students have received the Herbert Holdsworth Ross Memorial Fund, which provides research support for graduate students in the field of systematics, including taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography, and related subjects.

    Daniel Raudabaugh, "Taxonomy of Freshwater Fungi from Alkaline Stream and Bog Habitats"

    Christian Millan-Hernandez, "Determining the Evolutionary Forces Driving Dryinidae (Hymenoptera: Chrysidoidea) Diversity"

    Hannah Wahl, "Systematics and Biodiversity of Fungi Found in Deep-Water Sediments of the Great Lakes"

    Aron Katz, "Comparative Phylogeography of Codistributed Cave-Adapted Springtails (Collembola)"

    Kyle Parks, "A Phylogenetic Survey of Gene Evolution in an Endosymbiotic Virus, Polydnavirus, in Response to Parasitoid Host Switching in Parapanteles (Braconidae: Microgastrinae), a Parasitoid of Macrolepidopteran Caterpillars."


  • 2/16/2016

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoINHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Muturi was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the threat of Zika virus in Illinois.

    Muturi says that Aedes aegypti, which transmits Zika, has been found in Illinois but does not thrive in our climate. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopinctus, is found in Illinois, but has not been found to transmit Zika, though more research is needed. Muturi says the key to controlling Aedes mosquitoes is to remove any standing water.

    "Aedes mosquitoes can breed in very small containers that normal people wouldn't think are dangerous," Muturi said. "Anything that can hold water, no matter how small it is, that's what they like."

    Chicago Tribune article

    INHS Medical Entomology Lab

  • 2/9/2016

    snakeIn a recently published paper, INHS Conservation Geneticist Mark Davis and colleagues recommended elevating several rattlesnake subspecies to full species status. The team collected data from 3000 individuals, measuring physical characteristics and analyzing genetic samples. 

    “We are able to see that these different subspecies, which have different habits, live in different areas and have other different characteristics, have heads that have been shaped differently over evolutionary time,” Davis said.

    Recognizing the differences between species is important to conservation of biodiversity.

    Read article from the U of I News Bureau

    Read paper in PLOS ONE

  • 1/15/2016

    The Prairie Research Institute, with researchers from INHS and our sister surveys, has helped the Forest Preserve District of Cook County identify areas for restoration under the Next Century Conservation Plan. Restoration on Deer Grove West in Palatine is underway.

    Chicago Tribune Article

    Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan

  • 1/12/2016

    eaglesINHS Ornithologist Mike Ward was contacted about the increase in eagle sightings in the area. According to Ward, there were fewer than 20 eagle nests in Illinois in the 80s, whereas during the last spring bird count, there were an estimated 200 eagle nests.


  • 12/21/2015

    Villager and conservationist maintaining their relationship through ongoing exchange. Photo via Bridget Henning.INHS Post doctoral researcher Bridget Henning, had a paper published recently looking at market based conservation in Papua New Guinea. Her research found that although villagers were concerned with the condition of the forest, they placed more emphasis on their relationship with conservationists, expecting conservationists to be present in the village, reciprocate their hospitality, participate in customary ceremonies, and respond to requests for material goods. This research explained that the relationship that maintained the conservation project was not market-based, it was a customary Melanesian exchange relationship that involved material goods, social interactions, and moral obligations.

    Read the Mongabay article "Here’s why market-based initiatives alone won’t save the world’s forests and climate" to find out more about how this research relates to climate change discussions at the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) approaches.

    Read the paper "Market-based Conservation in Melanesia: Contrasting Expectations of Landowners and Conservationists" in Conservation & Society.

  • 12/17/2015

    INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor was contacted about cave dwelling bats and White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Taylor is part of a team from the Illinois Natural History Survey monitoring caves throughout Illinois for signs of WNS.

    “There is no magic cure at this point. There are things that people are looking at.”

    For more information on White-Nose Syndrome research at INHS visit our website

    Watch a video about INHS White-Nose Syndrome research


    Read the full article in The Southern

  • 11/6/2015

    INHS entomologist R. Edward DeWalt and graduate student Eric J. South of the Illinois Natural History Survey and Department of Entomology have a recently published paper on the size of stoneflies on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Not only did their results show that there were significantly fewer species, compared to the mainland, but also that smaller stonefly species appeared to be more capable of recolonizing the island. This study was published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

    Read full press release from ZooKeys

    Read the paper "Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera on Isle Royale National Park, USA, compared to mainland species pool and size distribution" doi: 10.3897/zookeys.532.6478

  • 11/4/2015

    juvenile cowbirdINHS Ornithologists Matt Louder, Mike Ward, Wendy Schelsky, and Jeff Hoover have new research published about the behavior of juvenile cowbirds, a nest parasite. They found that juvenile cowbirds leave the host's nest at night and return in the morning. This may be part of their strategy involved in avoiding imprinting on their host species.

    “Among other things, cowbirds have got to learn to eat like cowbirds or they’re not going to survive very long,” Hoover said.

    The paper “Out on their own: A test of adult-assisted dispersal in fledgling brood parasites reveals solitary departures from hosts” is available online

    Read the News Bureau Story

  • 10/21/2015

    INHS Aquatic Entomologist Ed DeWalt was featured in a video put out by the National Park Service: Scientists and Citizens: Investigating Aquatic Insects in Great Lakes National Parks

    "Scientists and Citizens: Investigating Aquatic Insects in Great Lakes National Parks"
    Filmmakers spent a day with Ed DeWalt Phd, Illinois Natural History Survey, and Fei Xiong, a visiting scholar from China, as they surveyed the Crystal River in Sleeping Bear Dunes for invertebrates, particularly stonefly larva. Ed is interested in whether the stream is healthier within the boundaries of the National Park than through private lands.

    The Great Lakes Research and Education Center provides Ed with volunteers who help him monitor insect populations in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In the film below, Victoria Brinson describes her work collecting and analyzing specimens for the research. Joy Marburger, Phd. explains why it’s important for the Great Lakes Research and Education Center to encourage citizen science.

  • 10/21/2015

    INHS Mycologist Andy Miller and graduate student Daniel Raudabaugh were featured in a video produced by the Prairie Research Institute on their research into White-Nose Syndrome in bats.



    Read more about their research below or from the Illinois News Bureau

  • 9/10/2015

    A new study from INHS graduate student Matthew Louder, and INHS Ornithologists Wendy Schelsky, Jeff Hoover, and Amber Albores found that female cowbirds monitor nest success of their offspring and will lay their eggs in the most successful host nests. This, combined with previous work by Jeff Hoover and colleagues, shows that female cowbirds aren't just abandoning their eggs in a host nest.

    Nests that fledged cowbirds were much more likely to be parasitized by ccowbirds again than those that failed to fledge cowbirds. “They’re learning both from success and from failure,” Hoover said.

    Read the story from Illinois News Bureau

    Read the article "A generalist brood parasite modifies use of a host in response to reproductive success" in Royal Society Proceedings B

  • 8/25/2015

    fungusIllinois Natural History Survey Mycologist Andrew Miller was awarded a National Science Foundation Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs) grant to digitize microfungi collections.  Miller will lead the Microfungi Collections Consortium, a group of 38 institutions across 31 states, in their efforts to digitize the more than 1.2 million specimens including slime molds, smut fungi, and powdery mildew.  An additional 1.1 million existing records will also be added to the online portal known as the MyCoPortal (


    Read full story here

  • 8/24/2015

    CWDResearch findings by INHS Wildlife Epidemiologists Mary Beth Manjerovic, Michelle L. Greena, Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and University of Illinois colleague Jan Novakofski were referenced in an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Their research, found that after Wisconsin discontinued culling deer populations with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the prevalence of CWD in Wisconsin had an average annual increase of 0.63%. During that same time period, Illinois continued government culling and there was no change in prevalence throughout Illinois.

    Read the paper "The importance of localized culling in stabilizing chronic wasting disease prevalence in white-tailed deer populations"

    Read the editorial "Follow Illinois, not Wisconsin, to slow spreading CWD"

  • 8/18/2015

    fatmucketINHS Aquatic Biologist Jeremy Tiemann led a team in a baseline survey of mussels in Crystal Lake Park, finding only a female Fatmucket. The team will return in 5-10 years to see if the planned installation of in-stream riffles improves the habitat and changes the mussel population. Read the article in the News Gazette.

  • 7/21/2015

    Miller and Raudabaugh by L Brian StaufferA new study from INHS Mycologist Andrew Miller and grad student Daniel Raudabaugh has found that the yeast Candida albicans produces a compound: trans, trans-farnesol, that inhibits growth of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats.

    This naturally occurring cave microbe already exists in bat inhabited caves and this research suggests that, “inoculating hibernating bats with these microbes to use tt-farnesol as a control agent could increase the bats’ chances of surviving the infection,” Raudabaugh said.

    Read the paper in Mycopathologia

    Read the U of I News Release

    Read the article in The Wildlife Society Bulletin

  • 7/1/2015

    mosquito larvaeA recent study by INHS graduate student Allison Gardner, INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Juma Muturi and their colleagues found that leaf detritus in standing water can influence reproduction in mosquitoes.  Leaves from invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive, yielded higher emergence of adult Culex pipiens mosquitoes (the vector for West Nile Virus). Leaves of native blackberry resulted in high numbers of eggs, but low adult emergence.

    Read the news release

    Read the paper in Parasites & Vectors

    For more information on the Medical Entomology Program, visit our website.

  • 6/18/2015

    A new paper by INHS affiliate Matthew Allender, INHS Graduate student Daniel Raudabaugh and Mycologist Andrew Miller was published on Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, the causative agent of snake fungal disease. This a serious emerging fungal pathogen of North American-endemic and captive snakes and has been a factor in the decline of the Eastern Massasauga in Illinois.

    Researchers observed Ophidiomyces to be active at a range of temperatures and pH, and to have the ability to utilize a variety of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur resources.

    As the fungus has been found to be limited at lower temperatures this study suggests that snake populations that hibernate in the lower part of the thermal range should have less infection during the spring than snake populations that hibernate in the upper part of the thermal range.

    The researchers also suggest that with increasing global temperatures, snake populations will be more vulnerable to O. ophiodiicola infection in regions experiencing frequent mild winter conditions.

    Watch a video about the Illinois Natural History Survey's research on the Eastern Massasauga and Ophidiomyces 


    Read the Illinois News Bureau Release

    The paper, “The natural history, ecology, and epidemiology of Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and its potential impact on free-ranging snake populations,” is available online or from the U. of I. News Bureau.

  • 6/1/2015

    INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was interviewed by the News Gazette in response to a reader's question "Are there any reports of venomous snakes and snakebites in Champaign County in the last 10 years? Last 100 years?”

    Phillips said that there are records for Massasauga Rattlesnakes in Champaign County from the 1800s and that there was a vague report of a venomous snake bite around 1900, but no newspaper article to confirm. The draining of wet prairies and conversion to agriculture were the likely cause of the demise of Massasaugas in Champaign County.

    The closest location rattlesnakes have been seen in recent times is Allerton Park, but Phillips said, "We haven’t seen them there in almost a decade and we’ve done some pretty serious searching, not just casual stuff, but directed surveys for them."


    Read the complete interview
    More information on INHS research on Massasaugas


  • 5/27/2015

    prickly pearINHS Ecologist Randy Nyboer was asked about the plants and animals of the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie Nature Preserve. These remnant habitats are important to many species more common to the deserts of south western United States, including Prickly Pear Cactus.

    Read the full article

    Read an INHS Reports about the Will County Sand Prairies

  • 5/26/2015

    stink bugIllinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey director Kelly Estes was asked about Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, native to Asia, currently found in the eastern United States. Estes explained that BMSB are good hitchhikers, able to be transported by people and packages. This, and other species will be discussed during the Invasive Species Symposium this Thursday at University of Illinois.

    More information on the Invasive Species Symposium

    Read the article in the Bellevillle News

    Visit the CAPS webpage

  • 5/25/2015

    caonesINHS scientists will be participating in a Bioblitz organized by The Wetlands Initiative (TWI) at Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes in Putnam County on June 13-14. Citizen scientists are invited to help document all of the flora, fauna, and fungi of the area over the course of 24 hours.

    Bureau County Republican News article



  • 5/20/2015

    batsWhite Nose Syndrome, the fungal disease that leads to mortality in bats, has now been confirmed in 11 counties in Illinois. First discovered in New York in 2006, the fungus has spread west, first being detected in Illinois in 2013.

    INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor told an NPR affiliate that, "between 2013 and 2015, it was like a 95 percent decrease in the number of bats at this site, which in 2013 was in excess of 25,000 bats,"

    DNR Press Release

    NPR Story

    INHS White Nose Syndrome Webpage