Illinois Natural History Survey News

Illinois Natural History Survey News

  • 11/16/2012

    yetterINHS Waterfowl Ecologist Aaron Yetter conducts weekly aerial surveys and on Nov 13 found more waterfowl than average for this time of year.
    Yetter counted 305,310 ducks along the Illinois River compared to the10-year average of 234,434 birds for this same week and 356,735 ducks on the Upper Mississippi River compared to the 10-year average of 226,801 birds.
    "It looks like we got a big push of new mallards.  We also have well above average numbers of pintails, gadwalls, lesser scaup and other species."

    Field and Stream

    Waterfowl 360

    Aerial Invetory Data

  • 11/9/2012

    INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was interviewed for a recent installment of Environmental Almanac.  Phillips was contacted by a photographer who captured an image of an elusive, fully aquatic amphibian known as a siren, being eaten by a Great Blue Heron in Vermilion County.  Sirens are known from southern Illinois but have never been detected by the extensive INHS herpetological surveys of Vermilion County over the past 20 years.  Phillips said "It goes to show you there are still some surprises out there for a herpetologist in the Midwest."

    Photo by Jessica Runner
    Photo by Jessica Runner

    Environmental Almanac

  • 11/9/2012

    SpyreasINHS Botanist Greg Spyreas was interviewed for a radio segment on WBEZ, a Chicago based NPR affiliate.  The host of Curious City contacted Spyreas to find out how to find the most biologically diverse place in Chicago.  His suggestion was to find large areas with a variety of habitats and indicator species, such as Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh on the southeast side of Chicago.

    According to Spyreas, "The Chicago Region probably has more habitat types and species than just about any other comparably sized area in the Midwest, due to its fortuitous geographic location, soils, topography, glacial history, lake Michigan, etc. And it is certainly one of if not the  most important in terms of biodiversity. "

    Read the full article

  • 11/1/2012

    sherwoodINHS Fisheries Biologist Josh Sherwood was featured in a recent Environmental Almanac about the Fishes of Champaign County surveys.  Sherwood is conducting the 5th iteration of the surveys that began in 1885.

    The original Fishes of Champaign County survey was conducted by Stephen A. Forbes between 1885 and 1901 and found 65 species of fishes.  A 2nd version of the Fishes of Champaign County was conducted by Forbes and Robert E. Richardson, and added 14 species to the list.  R. Weldon Larimore and Phillip W. Smith conducted the 3rd survey in the 1950s and added 9 more species to the list. Larimore and Peter Bayley conducted the 4th survey in 1987 and brought the species list to 94 species of fishes.

    History of the Fishes of Champaign County

    Environmental Almanac

  • 10/8/2012

    bill handel

    INHS Plant Ecologist Bill Handel has been surveying railroad prairies for the Illinois Department of Transportation for years.  He recently told a reporter with the News Tribune that  Because most of the

    state is converted to agriculture, [the best prairie] is wedged between the railroad tracks and the road,

    Handel's reports, and the reports of other INHS researchers, go into a database used by state agencies to protect native habitats when planning construction projects, mowing along roadways or applying pesticides.

    Northwest Indiana Tribune

    News Trib

    Download PDF

  • 10/3/2012

    surveying for pestsThe Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) program is a joint effort between several state and federal agencies to safeguard our nations food and environmental security from invasive pests that threaten our production and ecological systems. This program focuses on state surveys of harmful or economically significant exotic plant pests, diseases, and weeds that have eluded first-line of defense inspections.

    Illinois CAPS coordinator Kelly Estes discusses the current and upcoming surveys, including new techniques for monitoring.

    Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month Article

  • 10/1/2012

    sarah balesINHS Field Biologist Sarah Bales accompanied a group to survey mussels at Lake of the Woods.  The group of citizen scientists found 314 individual mussels of 14 native and one introduced species.  According to Bales, only one species that was previously found there was not found by this group, and that species is rare.  She also said that the range of sizes found indicates the mussels are reproducing and that the habitat had not been degraded significantly.

    Environmental Almanac

  • 10/1/2012

    Don WebbIn September, the Illinois Natural History Survey said goodbye to longtime Entomologist/Insect Systematist Don Webb, who passed away on September 5th at the age of 73.  Dr. Webb joined the survey in 1966 and was actively involved at INHS even after his retirement in 2007.  Dr. Webb conducted research around the world and was an author on nearly 100 journal articles, book chapters, monographs and proceedings.  In addition to his career in science, he was also a musician and an avid sports fan.

    News Gazette

    Society for Freshwater Science

    Some of Dr. Webb's Publications

  • 9/25/2012

    aphidINHS Entomologist David Voegtlin reported that this year's soybean aphid population had its lowest recorded impact, starting early but then disappearing.  The low trap numbers so far this fall indicate that there may be lower numbers of eggs overwintering and a smaller flight of aphids in the spring.


    Agri Marketing
    Farm Industry News

  • 9/20/2012

    dieterichSeveral people have reported seeing European Hornets attack and kill hummingbirds this year.  INHS entomologist Chris Dietrich told "The Southern" that he had heard of this happening but that typically the hornets don't sting.  “Hummingbirds can hold their own in most cases,” Dietrich said. “If there is a nest near the feeder, the wasps tend to be more aggressive around their nests."

    The Southern

  • 9/10/2012

    planting musselsEndangered riffleshell and clubshell mussels collected in Pennsylvania earlier this summer have begun being relocated into Illinois Rivers.  The mussels were placed, one by one into the gravel of their new stream.  Each mussel has a rice sized transponder attached to its shell to identify it, enabling scientists to non-invasively monitor their progress in their new environment.

    Previous articles about collecting the mussels

    News Release

    News Gazette

    News Gazette Photo Gallery

    World Fishing Network

  • 9/3/2012

    Recent research by INHS Ornithologist and Parasitologist Kevin Johnson has found that bird lice have undergone convergent evolution, evolving different body shapes dependent on where they live on the bird.  Despite the morphological similarities between lice from the wings of different bird groups, the species are more closely related to other lice species on the same bird group.  The same pattern holds true for lice from the head and body.

    Illinois News Bureau

    Link to video

  • 8/27/2012

    cummings musselsIllinois scientists worked with others from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commision, the US Fish and WIldlife Service, and state agencies from Ohio and West Virginia to relocate federally endangered mussels from the Alleghany River in Forest County Pennsylvania.   Approximately 3,900 federally endangered riffleshell and clubshell mussels were gathered from the Alleghany River to be relocated to sites in Illinois and Ohio in advance of the removal and reconstruction of the Hunter Station Bridge. 

    According to INHS malacologist Kevin Cummings, more than 70% of the 300 species of North American mussels are endangered or threatened with the greatest threat being loss of habitat.  "Of the 300 species of mussels living in North America, 98 percent of them live in free-flowing rivers.  And if you look at a map of large rivers in the United States, there are very few free-flowing rivers left.  [Mussels] are a great indicator species and, when they start to wink out, you know you have an (environmental) issue."

    Times Observer

    View article

    News Gazette

  • 8/8/2012

    ellisINHS Botanists have been involved in prairie reconstructions on the U of I campus.  Currently, the area along Florida Ave and Orchard is being reconstructed, after having been designated a "No-Mow-Zone."  According to Botanist Jamie Ellis, their approach to ecological restoration "is evolving and emerging" as they adapt to new challenges.  One of the big challenges is that it's a large area that was lawn grass for a long time.  Additionally, prairie plants can be slow to take hold in a new area.

    News Gazette Article

  • 8/8/2012

    hooverwarblerHot, dry temperatures have been a devastating problem for some species.  INHS Avian Ecologist Jeff Hoover was interviewed for an article about the impact of this year's drought on songbirds.  According to Hoover, caterpillar populations have been impacted by the drought, which means less food for the nestlings and more time spent foraging by adults.  Their monitoring has shown a failure of 37% of nests this year, compared to 22% in 2010.

    The Southern

  • 8/6/2012

    INHS researchers tapped into the innovative nature of engineering students to design systems that would help address questions about North American River Otters.  As part of their senior design projects, 4 groups of students set out to tackle different problems. 

    One device, the Otter Print Shooter, is a pressure and motion sensitive camera encased in clear box, under ground.  When an otter steps on the box, the print shooter takes a photo of the paw.  Otter paw prints are believed to have unique patterns, similar to fingerprints.  The Otter Stalker System wirelessly connects multiple trail cameras, thereby increasing the field of view, allowing the researchers to capture more of the behavior of river otters.


    To read more about this interdisciplinary collaboration:
    Electrical and Computer Engineering Media Center

  • 8/6/2012

    INHS scientists gathered with colleagues to document as many species as possible in a 24 hour period in a Bio-blitz at Salt Lick Point Soil and Water Reserve.  A videographer documented the event for WSIU.


    INHS Staff in the News

    WSIU website

  • 7/2/2012

    Heath HageyINHS Forbes Biological Field Station Director Heath Hagy was interviewed by an NBC affiliate about the effects of thousands of dead fish near Havana, IL.  The water levels of the lake have been drawn down to improve habitats for migratory birds, resulting in thousands of fish carcasses.  While some residents are concerned about the botulism impacting the waterfowl, Hagy states that is unknown because most of the waterfowl will not be back here for several months.

    Read the story






  • 6/20/2012

    eagles by Steve Lundysteve baileyThe recent discovery of a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in Lake County has been described as "a fairly big deal."  According to INHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey, the Chicago area did not have breeding pairs of eagles until recently, and he knew of only one other nesting pair in Lake County.  This discovery brings the total to 5 active Bald Eagle nests in the Chicago area this season.

    The Republic

    Daily Herald

  • 6/18/2012

    dewaltmayfly by Ron JohnsonINHS Aquatic Entomologist Ed DeWalt told the Peoria Journal Star that the presence of large numbers of mayflies indicates the water quality is high enough to support this species that spends the majority of its life in water.  Mayflies emerge from the water this time of year for to live out their short adult life stage - finding a mate and returning to the water to lay eggs.  While some people see them as a nuisance, they don't bite and according to Ed DeWalt, "they will make a mess for a week and then they'll be gone."


    Peoria Journal Star

  • 6/15/2012

    allenderIChris phillipsNHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips and UI Wildlife Veterinarian Matt Allender are combining their efforts in an attempt to better understand the health of reptile populations in Illinois.  Historically, conservation efforts have focused on habitat preservation and restoration, but in recent years, devastating diseases have been observed in wildlife populations.  Through collaboration with INHS herpetologists, Allender has found a bacterial infection in box turtle populations and a fungal infection in Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake populations.

    Environmental Almanac

  • 6/15/2012

    Dave PhillippINHS Conservation Geneticist Dave Philipp studied bass for 20 years, finding that genetics plays a role in which fish are caught.  Fish that are more aggressive, thus more likely to bite a hook, pass that trait on to their offspring.  As those aggressive fish are caught and removed from the population, the remaining fish are genetically harder to catch.  This is one of the theories suggested to explain the mystery of why the Pennsylvania Largemouth Bass State Record has stood for nearly 30 years.

    Pittsburgh Tribune

  • 6/14/2012

    snapping turtleA barrier designed to prevent Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan had the unintended consequence of catching a snapping turtle.  This was the first known instance of an animal trapped in the mesh and the turtle was released unharmed.  When first installed, migrating turtles were completely blocked by the carp barrier.  Subsequent gates installed along the length of the barrier allow turtles to migrate through.  The location of the gates was based on the multi-year radio telemetry study conducted by INHS herpetologists on the endangered Blandings' Turtle and other turtles in the area.

    Daily Herald

  • 6/4/2012

    Joe SpencerINHS Insect Behaviorist Joe Spencer has observed corn rootwork larvae in their second instar, which indicates the adults can be expected to emerge in about 2 weeks.  This is earlier than previous years, but not unexpected given the warm spring. 

    IPM Bulletin

  • 5/31/2012

    New videos about the InvertNet project, featuring Chris Dietrich, Chris Taylor, Andy Miller have been posted at the InvertNet Vimeo website.  Learn about the collections and the field work that provides specimens to them.

    InvertNet Interviews

    InvertNet Homepage