Illinois Natural History Survey News

Illinois Natural History Survey News

  • 11/26/2013

    Photo by April BarnesJunior High students are once again adding to our knowledge of biodiversity in Illinois.  Prairie Central Junior High Science teacher Scott Saffer and his seventh grade students conduct herpetological field surveys each year in Livingston County.  After catching and identifying reptiles and amphibians, the students have their finds confirmed by INHS Herpetologists Andrew Kuhns and Chris Phillips.  This year the students found three more species not previously documented in Livingston County.

     “It’s great that these kids are out making real contributions to science. Their finds help us update the known ranges for these species,” said Kuhns.

    Pantagraph Article

  • 11/26/2013

    LevinIn a recent paper in Phytokeys, INHS Botanist Dr. Geoffrey Levin described a new species of Drypetes from Costa Rica.  This new species of flowering tree produces asymmetrical drupes (fleshy fruits), leading to its name Drypetes asymmetricarpa.

    Read the paper

  • 11/6/2013

    bullfrogINHS post doctoral researcher Tanya Hawley Matlaga, INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips, and INHS Ecotoxicologist David Soucek report that bullfrogs are less sensitive to elevated chloride concentrations than some other amphibian species. The study was designed to mimic the level of salt found in roadside ponds following de-icing events.  The study found that bullfrog tadpoles did not experience reduced survival, growth, or ability to evade predation in elevated chloride concentrations, and thus, their populations are not expected to be impacted by road salt.  While this is good news for bullfrogs, it's an additional stress for other species inhabiting ponds with these voracious predators. 

    Read the article in Hydrobiologia

  • 11/4/2013

    This week's Environmental Almanac featured recent research by two groups of INHS researchers - Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla's Wildlife Epidemiology Lab and Dr. Andrew Miller's Mycology Lab.

    Environmental Almanac


     For more information on this research, read the posts below.

  • 10/24/2013

    bat with white noseINHS Mycologist Andrew Miller and graduate student Daniel Raudabaugh recently published a paper on the fungus Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans, which causes white nose syndrome in bats.  In this first, in depth study of the basic biology of the fungus, the researchers found that P. destructans can survive on a wide variety of nutrient sources.  

    According to Raudabaugh, “It can basically live on any complex carbon source, which encompasses insects, undigested insect parts in guano, wood, dead fungi and cave fish.  We looked at all the different nitrogen sources and found that basically it can grow on all of them. It can grow over a very wide range of pH; it doesn’t have trouble in any pH unless it’s extremely acidic.”

    This research indicates that even if the bats are absent from the cave, the fungus can persist. “All in all the news for hibernating bats in the U.S. is pretty grim,” Miller said.

    Illinois News Bureau

    Read the research article in PLOS ONE: Nutritional Capability of and Substrate Suitability for Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the Causal Agent of Bat White-Nose Syndrome


    White Nose Syndrome research at the Illinois Natural History Survey


  • 10/21/2013

    researchersINHS Wildlife Epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and postdoctoral researchers Mary Beth Manjerovic and Michelle Green conducted research on the effectiveness of culling deer to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  CWD is a 100% fatal disease in deer, likened to Mad Cow Disease.  Their paper, "The importance of localized culling in stabilizing chronic wasting disease prevalence in white-tailed deer populations," compared the culling strategy used in Illinois to the two different management strategies used in Wisconsin over a decade.

    From 2003-2007, both Illinois and Wisconsin were actively culling and there were no statistical differences between state CWD prevalence estimates. In 2007, Wisconsin ceased culling and average prevalence over the next five years was 3.09 ± 1.13% with an average annual increase of 0.63%. Illinois continued government culling and there was no change in prevalence throughout Illinois.


    "Despite its unpopularity among hunters, localized culling is a disease management strategy that can maintain low disease prevalence while minimizing impacts on recreational deer harvest."


    Read the News Release from U of I News Bureau

    Read the research article in Preventive Veterinary Medicine: "The importance of localized culling in stabilizing chronic wasting disease prevalence in white-tailed deer populations"

    Listen to the interview on Focus 580

    Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory

    University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

  • 10/16/2013

    researchers - photo by Brian StaufferINHS researchers Samantha Carpenter and Nohra Mateus-Pinilla recently published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.  Carpenter, Mateus-Pinilla, and University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory researchers, analyzed liver tissue samples from 23 river otters looking at 20 organohalogenated compounds used in agriculture and industry.

    “The PCBs, dieldrin and DDE were the contaminants that we detected in highest concentration, in terms of average concentrations,” Carpenter said. “And male river otters had significantly higher concentrations of PCBs compared to females.”

    PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls used in manufacturing which were banned in 1979

    DDE is a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT which was banned in the 1970s

    Dieldrin is an insecticide and byproduct of the pesticide aldrin used across the Midwest and banned in 1987

    Read the paper

    Illinois News Bureau Release

    Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory

    University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory


    Red Orbit
    News Room America


  • 10/16/2013

    stiltgrassJapanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) was recently discovered in DuPage County in Northeast Illinois.  One of the most aggressive invaders in the forests of southern Illinois,  the DuPage County discovery, along with the discovery of populations in Will County in 2011 and in McHenry County in 2012, indicates that stiltgrass has the potential to establish anywhere in Illinois.

    Finding and controlling any new populations before they become well established is crucial to management.  Please keep a look out for this species and if you find a suspect population, please report it.  There are many people and programs available to help you with verification of ID and control strategies.  

    If you are in NE Illinois, you can report populations to the New Invaders Watch Program at

    For areas outside of NE Illinois, you can report infestations to Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan Invasive Species Campaign Coordinator at

    For more information: Illinois CAPS Program

  • 10/7/2013

    kevinINHS Malacologist Kevin Cummings will be honored by Prairie Rivers Network with the Outstanding Public Servant award this year in recognition of his dedication to protecting and promoting the health of rivers and their wildlife.  Kevin has spent his career researching and protecting freshwater mussels, most recently working to reintroduce endangered mussels back to Illinois' rivers.  The award will be presented at the Annual Dinner on October 11, at the I Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S First Street in Champaign IL.

    Prairie Rivers Network

    Reintroduction project



  • 10/1/2013

    SJT and FSA collecting invertebratesScientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Prairie Research Institute at University of Illinois have discovered four new species of springtails - minute ancient relatives of the insects - in the caves of the Salem Plateau in southern Illinois. The four new species: Onychiurus pipstrellae (the Bat Cave Springtail), Pygmarrhopalites fransjanssens (Jannsens’ Globular Springtail), Pygmarrhopalites salemsis (the Salem Plateau Springtail) and Pygmarrhopalites incantator (the Wizard Springtail) are described in a paper published recently in the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies – URL:

    According to Dr. Felipe Soto-Adames, “these animals may be small, but they represent a unique piece of the wondrous diversity of life on our planet as well as an important part of our state’s natural history.”

    In their surveys of the Salem Plateau caves, Soto-Adames and co-author Dr. Steve Taylor found 49 species of springtails, including the 4 new species and five additional species that had never before been documented in Illinois. 

    Springtails (Order Collembola) are tiny, insect-like animals, typically less than 6 mm (0.24 in) long; the four new species range in size from 0.65 mm (0.03 in) to 2.2 mm (0.09 in). The name springtail comes from the furcula, a forked, tail-like appendage capable of propelling an individual up to 10 cm (3.9 in).  As decomposers and nutrient recyclers, springtails are an important part of many ecosystems.

    Press Release

    INHS Blog post about the new species

    More information on springtails

  • 10/1/2013

    Fall is the time for many insects to start making their ways indoors for the winter.  The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys is believed to have been introduced from Asia and can be a pest on tress and crops.  

    Researchers are still trying to determine the range of the BMSB and need your help.  If you believe you have BMSB, we would be very interested in looking at it. (click image at left to enlarge) To positively confirm any insect as BMSB, we need to look at an actual specimen. Suspect stink bugs may be sent to Kelly Estes, 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820. Please put stink bugs in a crush-proof container (pill bottle, check box, etc).

    Illinois CAPS Blog

    Factsheet on BMSB

  • 10/1/2013

    CAPS logoThe schedule is up for the First Detector workshops for 2014.  This program, a cooperative effort between University of Illinois Plant Clinic, University of Illinois Extension, and the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program (Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute), is a great way to learn about new pests, diseases, and plants heading into Illinois.  Last year, the trainings focused on forested ecosystems; this year the focus is on Landscape and Nursery pests.

    Objectives of the Illinois First Detector Program:

    • Improve first-detector training and invasive species awareness 
    • Reduce potential risk from pathogens and pests
    • Increase rapid and affordable plant diagnostic support to local, state, and national agriculture and green industry programs as well as other end users.

    Dates for the 2014 First Detector Workshops

    January 14     Peoria
    January 16     Collinsville
    February 20    Murphysboro
    February 27    Rockford
    March 12         Decatur
    March 27        Joliet

    Illinois CAPS website

     Download flyer

  • 9/5/2013

    timber rattlesnakeA timber rattlesnake was found dead on the road near Carrollton, Illinois, which according to INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was a "little bit shocking."  Timber rattlesnakes have been declining in Illinois and are classified as threatened under the Illinois Endangered Species Act.  Phillips, who has studied snakes for the past 25 years in Illinois was contacted by The Telegraph newspaper about this unusual find and said the sighting was odd, not just because of the rarity of the species, but the species is typically found along the bluffs closer to the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.  

    The Telegraph

    Timber Rattlesnake Page

    Venomous Snakes of Illinois Page

  • 9/4/2013

    Joe SpencerINHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer is looking at rotation-resistant western corn rootworms, which are causing severe injury to crops. Crops modified to resist infestation by insects and crop rotation are some of the methods to control injurious insects, but some rootworms have developed resistance to these mechanisms. Repeated use of the modified corn year after year has given the rootworms time to adapt. Producers are encouraged to watch their fields for injury.  

    The Bulletin

    The Globe

    Investor Place

  • 9/4/2013

    cummings and tiemannOver the course of a week, 1000 endangered mussels were collected from under a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania, packed for safe transport, quarantined, marked, measured, and released into new sites in Vermilion County, Illinois.  This is the third relocation from Pennsylvania to Illinois as part of the Species Survival Plan for two endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell and the clubshell.

    News Gazette Article

    Press Release

    Inside Illinois Press Release


  • 8/26/2013

    differential grasshopperfossil differential grasshopperINHS Paleo-entomologist Sam Heads and collaborator Yinan Wang recently described the first fossil record of the differential grasshopper.  The specimen, a species which is still alive today, was found in material from the Late Pleistocene McKittrick tar pits of southern California.

    Heads Laboratory Webpage

  • 8/26/2013

    northern riffleshellINHS researchers Jeremy Tiemann, Kevin Cummings, Sarah Bales, Alison Price, and Diane Shasteen are working to reintroduce endangered northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels to sites in Vermilion County.  Approximately 1000 mussels were collected from the Alleghany River in Pennsylvania, under a bridge slated for replacement in 2018. Following quarantine and tagging, the mussels will be released at sites found to meet the requirements necessary for survival.  

    Press Release

  • 8/19/2013

    mosquitoGlencoe, Northbrook, Wilmette, Kenilworth have all had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus in August.

    Winnetka-Glencoe Patch
    Northbrook Star
    Wilmette-Kenilworth Patch

    INHS Medical Entomology Lab

    Tips and information about protecting yourself and the community from West Nile Virus from North Shore Mosquito Abatement District

  • 8/16/2013

    monarchINHS Entomologist Michael Jeffords was interviewed about the current state of monarch butterflies in Illinois.  

    “Last year’s drought had a twofold effect. Fewer monarchs were produced in the Midwest, and those that were had a tough time migrating to Mexico as they had a thousand miles of virtually nectarless landscape to cross in Texas and northern Mexico," Jeffords said.

    Herald Review

    Species Spotlight on Monarch Butterflies

  • 7/12/2013

    OspreyTara banding ospreyINHS Ornithologist Tara Beveroth is assisting the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as they work to restore osprey populations in Illinois.  Five nestling osprey were brought from Langley Airforce Base in Virginia to the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, where they were given health assessments, fed, measured, and banded.  This it the first of a series of osprey translocations over the next ten years.

    Decatur Herald-Review Article

    Video of Osprey being fed - by Tara Beveroth

  • 7/12/2013

    mosquitoMosquito samples from Morton Grove tested positive for West Nile Virus at the INHS Medical Entomology Lab.

    Niles Morton Grove Patch

    INHS Medical Entomology Homepage

  • 7/9/2013

    samfossil insectINHS Entomologist Sam Heads is part of a collaborative effort to digitize fossil insect collections across the country.  The Fossil Insect Collaborative is a joint venture between the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), the American Museum of Natural History, the Yale Peabody Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, the University of Colorado, the University of Illinois, and the University of Kansas. According to the Fossil Insect Collaborative, "Fossil insects provide a unique deep-time record of ecological and evolutionary response to past environmental changes and therefore are invaluable for understanding the impacts of climate change on the current biodiversity crisis."  The project officially kicked off the 1st of July, 2013.

    Fossil Insect Collaborative

    Heads Lab of Systematic Entomology & Insect Paleontology

  • 6/26/2013

    western corn rootwormUniversity of Illinois researchers, including INHS Behavioral Entomologist Dr. Joseph Spencer, found that differences in the microbial community in the gut of western corn rootworms (WCR) can change their ability to survive crop rotation.  Crop rotation, switching between corn and soybeans is used as a method to control WCR as soybean leaves are typically toxic to WCR.  Researchers have found that some WCR are able to survive long enough on soybeans to reproduce.  This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found "significant and consistent differences in the relative abundance of various types of bacteria in the guts of rotation-resistant and nonresistant rootworms. These differences corresponded to differing activity levels of digestive enzymes in their guts and to their ability to tolerate soybean plant defenses."

    Dr. Spencer is quoted as saying, "It's not just the rootworm that we have to worry about. There's really this whole conspiracy between the rootworm and its co-conspirators in the gut that can respond fairly quickly, relatively speaking, to the assaults that they face."

    Press Release

    Read the full article in the Early Edition section of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

  • 6/19/2013

    eastern box turtleFor the past 49 years, box turtles have been collected from the wild and brought to Danville for the annual Turtle Reunion and Races, a charity event.  This has been a concern to herpetologists, including INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips and U of I Wildlife Veterinarian Matt Allender (an INHS Affiliate), for several reasons including the possibility of spreading diseases.  The two scientists have been collaborating on a long term study of the health of box turtles in Vermilion County.  They have been testing for diseases including ranavirus, a contagious disease with high mortality that is also a threat to amphibians. Allender said ranavirus has been classified as the biggest threat to amphibian biodiversity.

    After speaking with IDNR, the president of the Turtle Club, Mike Puhr, said that they will stop the racing of live turtles because they don't want to contribute to the disease problem among the turtle population.

    News Gazette Article

  • 5/6/2013

    buffaloINHS Fisheries Research Scientist Josh Sherwood was called out by WCIA to catch and identify some large fish found in a drainage ditch.  The large fish were Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), usually found in large rivers, but spawn in tributaries.  The flooding caused by the recent heavy spring rains likely allowed the adults to swim up to these ditches where they will lay their eggs before returning downstream.


    For more information visit the Sport Fish Ecology Lab  or WCIA news video