April 11, 2012

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Outreach team reaches hundreds at National Science Teacher Association Conference

AIS Specialist Sarah Zack, AIS Assistant Danielle Hilbrich, IISG Associate Director for Education Robin Goettel, and Education Specialist Terri Hallesy, attended the National Science Teacher Association’s 2012 Conference March 29-31, and got a tremendous response to the educational resources, tips, and information they offered to the many teachers in attendance.
Danielle said “Our table was located in the NOAA booth on a very busy corner in their ecosystem section and had an extensive amount of traffic throughout the conference. Our outreach materials included the brand new “Don’t Let It Loose” poster, which promotes the safe disposal of classroom organisms.”

The “Don’t Let It Loose” poster contains helpful information for teachers about properly disposing of any unwanted classroom organisms. In addition, smaller “tip-card” versions of the poster were available, as well as an adoption pledge containing care tips for students and their families to use when adopting a classroom organism. The highlight of the table was the specimens available for teachers to look at, including a zebra mussel-encrusted shoe, which was a great catalyst to engage teachers in conservation about invasive species.

“We had a fabulous turnout of over 5,000 classroom teachers and informal educators at the NOAA-Ecosystems booth,” said Robin Goettel, “which featured our outreach and education resources on Great Lakes aquatic invasive species and marine invaders.”

Visitors learned about how the “Nab the Aquatic Invader” website can be used as an excellent learning tool for grades 4-10, and how the GLRI “Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers” education and outreach initiative informs people what they can do to prevent the spread of aquatic “hitchhikers.” They also distributed brochures on Great Lakes Literacy principles, and CD-ROM copies of the COSEE/Sea Grant “Fresh and Salt” curriculum on important Great Lakes and marine issues.

The response and turnout for the event were fantastic, and the event was instrumental in helping spread the word about these important issues and initiatives. The booth at the conference would not have been possible without the invitation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and information and products provided and developed by U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and NOAA Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant AIS outreach team is part of the Illinois Natural History Survey's Lake Michigan Biological Station in Zion.

See also: IISG educators and specialists got the chance to reach hundreds of teachers at the National Science Teachers Associate 2012 Conference 

Want to get involved? check out our part-time opportunities

February 7, 2012

Outreach Specialists Team Up to Protect Our Waters!

By Danielle Hilbrich & Sarah Zack

This year, anglers and boaters who attended the “Let’s Go Fishing Show” in Collinsville, IL from January 6–8 got a chance to do more than buy new fishing gear and check out the latest boats. Two outreach specialists joined forces to educate them about ways they can help protect rivers and lakes. Laura Kammin, pollution prevention program specialist with Illinois Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Sarah Zack, aquatic invasive species specialist with IISG and INHS, co-hosted a booth to highlight some of the problems facing our waters—improper disposal of unwanted medicines and aquatic invasive species. The IISG outreach specialists explained to 236 show attendees how to find local medicine collection programs or how to safely dispose of unwanted medicines if programs are not available in their area. In addition, showgoers were able to explore the display of aquatic invasive species information, including preserved specimens and Asian carp mounts. Over 360 boaters and anglers were informed of the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ campaign, which explains what steps to take in order to prevent the transport of invasive species.

Show attendees were very impressed with the booth. Several people shared how glad they were to see this information made available. One showgoer even went so far as to say that their booth was the best booth he’d seen, and that it was the most important booth at the show. Laura and Sarah will team up again at the “Rockford Boat, Vacation, and Fishing Expo” from February 17–19.

For more information on how you can safely dispose of medicine contact Laura Kammin (lkammin@illinois.edu).

For more information about aquatic invasive species and the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! campaign contact Sarah Zack (szack@illinois.edu) or visit www.protectyourwaters.net. The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant AIS outreach team is part of the Illinois Natural History Survey's Lake Michigan Biological Station in Zion.

February 1, 2012

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquatic invasive species outreach team has updated and redesigned the bighead and silver carp WATCH card. In addition to the fresh design, we've changed the card to highlight the term "Asian carp" to match what people are hearing in the media, added pictures of the juvenile fish in comparison with a shad, and included the national STOP Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) phone number.

If you’re interested in ordering these pocket-sized cards, please visit the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant webpage:

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant AIS outreach team is part of the Illinois Natural History Survey's Lake Michigan Biological Station in Zion.

For more information, please contact:
Danielle Hilbrich, Aquatic Invasive Species Assistant
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program &
Illinois Natural History Survey
Prairie Research Institute
University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
c/o Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022

Coastal Plain Division

The 14th Natural Division on the map is the Coastal Plain Division, encompassing most of Alexander, Pulaski and Massac Counties in the southern tip of Illinois. (map)

South of the Shawnee Hills, the land flattens, the drainage is poor, and frequent flooding occurs. Only knolls and ridges of the Cretaceous Hills break the broad plain of alluvium from the Cache, Ohio, and Mississippi River bottoms that make up this division. The coastal plain of Illinois resembles lands that surround the present-day Gulf of Mexico. This division is divided into the Cretaceous Hills and the Bottomlands sections. The Cretaceous Hills extend in a narrow band from the Mississippi to the Ohio rivers. They are low hills made of gravel, sand, and clay and are remnants of the more broadly spread Cretaceous deposits in Kentucky and Tennessee. The hills are low and contain many seep springs. Plants associated with northern bogs can be found here, including sphagnum moss and a profusion of ferns. The Bottomlands Section contains southern swamps of bald cypress and water tupelo at their northern most limits. The trees may be surrounded by a thick green blanket of duckweed, its surface broken only by the ribbon of a swimming cottonmouth. Heron Pond State Natural Area, with its long boardwalk, is an excellent place to discover this division.

Shawnee Hills Division

The 13th Natural Division is the Shawnee Hills Division, encompassing much of Hardin, Pope, Johnson, and Union Counties, as well as the southern parts of Jackson, Williamson, Saline and Gallatin Counties. (map)

Just south of where the Illinoian glacier stopped lie massive escarpments—the backbone of southern Illinois. The landscape is characterized by high, east-west sandstone cliffs that form the Greater Shawnee Hills. Lower hills underlain by limestone and sandstone are known as the Lesser Shawnee Hills. The topography is very rugged, with many bluffs and ravines. Clear, rocky streams widened and deepened the ravines forming canyons, shelves, steps, and shelter bluffs. Where the slopes are steep, bare rock is exposed. Most of this division was forested, yet openings occurred—barrens and glades. Barrens are grassy openings found on rocky, south- facing slopes that have only a thin layer of soil. Vegetation includes small, gnarled, and twisted blackjack and post oaks. Prairie grasses and the occasional blazing star grow here. Glades are open expanses of bedrock on bluff tops, dominated by red cedar. Although prairie grasses such as little bluestem occur, the ground is likely to be covered with moss and lichens. This division is divided into two sections, the Greater Shawnee Hills, of which Ferne Clyffe State Park is a good example, and the Lesser Shawnee Hills. Cave in Rock State Park is found in this section.

Ozark Division

The 12th Natural Division is the Ozark Division in southwestern Illinois. (map)

A narrow band from northern Monroe County to Alexander County makes up the Ozark Uplift, a domelike geologic structure of exposed, ancient bedrock centered in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Great limestone bluffs mark the edge of the Mississippi Valley. Sandstone ravines in Randolph County and the sinkhole region of Monroe County, with its caves and springs, make this landscape unique in Illinois. This division is divided into three sections. The Northern Section was glaciated during the Illinoian glacial episode and is underlain with relatively pure limestone. The Central Section, which was also glaciated during the same period, is underlain with sandstone. The Southern Section is unglaciated and underlain with cherty limestone. Prior to settlement most of this division was forested and a rich assemblage of tree species can still be found here. This is the only division where shortleaf pine occurs naturally. Hill prairies occurred on the river bluffs of the Northern Section. Unique organisms include the eastern coachwhip snake and the plains scorpion. Visit Pine Hills in Union County and Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve in Monroe County to experience this division.

Wabash Border Division

The 11th Natural Division is the Wabash Border Division, stretching from Vermilion County south to Gallatin County.(map)

The eastern border of Illinois contained the great trees that made up the last stronghold of the eastern deciduous forest. Traces of this magnificent forest still remain in the landscape surrounding theWabash and Vermilion rivers. This division is divided into three sections: Bottomlands, Southern Uplands, and Vermilion River. The Wisconsin glacial-episode impacted the Vermilion River Section, while all three sections were influenced by the earlier Illinoian glacial episode. This division is a transition zone between forest and prairie, but lowland and upland forests dominate the landscape, containing a great diversity of trees: beech, tulip poplar, cottonwood and several species of oak—pin, overcup, cherrybark, bur, Shumard, and swamp white. The understory is a garden of spring ephemerals with a nearly continuous cover of forest vegetation. In addition to a large number of tree species, the state’s only National Wild and Scenic River is found here with several species of fish found nowhere else in the state, including the bluebreast and harlequin darters. To experience this division visit the Russell Duffen Nature Preserve in Vermillion County and Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County.

Southern Till Plain Division

The 10th Natural Division is the Southern Till Plain Division is the second largest division in Illinois. (map)

This division encompasses the area south of the Shelbyville Moraine, the Sangamon River, and Macoupin Creek. The Illinoian glacial episode reached its southernmost limit just beyond this division. The bedrock consists of sandstone, limestone, coal, and shale. A layer of thin soil with poor internal drainage, usually loess or till, covers the bedrock. Many of the soils have a high clay content leading to “claypan” subsoil. From north to south the glacial till becomes thinner.

This division is divided into two sections. The Effingham Plain Section which is a relatively flat plain drained by the Kaskaskia River, contained mostly prairie, while the Mt. Vernon Hill Country Section has rolling, hilly topography and was mostly forested. Found in both sections are post oak flatwoods which occur on the hardpan, clay soil. Trees do not live excessively long in a flatwood forest. They undergo a regular cycle of 150 to 200 years, and when they reach a certain size, the trees are inevitably blown down because of their shallow root penetration in the clay soil. Post Oak Rest Area along I-57 is a good example of this community type.

Lower Mississippi River Bottomlands Division

snakeThe 9th Natural Division on the map is the Lower Mississippi River Bottomlands Division stretches along the Mississippi River, from Madison County south to the northern part of Alexander County. (map)

This division includes the Mississippi River and its floodplain from Alton to the Thebes Gorge. The Mississippi River is muddy here due to the silt load brought in by the Missouri River. The soils have developed from this alluvium and are either finely textured and well-drained with areas of sand, or clayey with poor drainage. The division is divided into two sections—the Northern, which originally contained prairies, marshes, and forest, and the Southern, which was densely forested. The Northern Section contains the American Bottoms, a montage of swales, backwater lakes, ridges, and river terraces. When Charles Dickens visited the area in 1842 all he could hear was the loud chirping of frogs and all he could see on the “unwholesome, steaming earth” was mud, mire, brake (overgrown marshland) and brush. Horseshoe Lake, which is a U-shaped ox-bow, is now a state park. The Southern Section’s forests have not only pin, overcup, and cherrybark oaks, but also species associated with bottomland swamps. Look for pumpkin ash, swamp cottonwood, and bald cypress in La Rue Swamp and listen for the calls of green treefrogs.


Middle Mississippi River Border Division

The 8th Natural Division on the map is the Middle Mississippi River Border Division.(map)

The narrow band of river bluffs and rugged terrain along the Mississippi River floodplain from Rock Island County to St. Clair County and the lower Illinois River valleys make up this division. Bedrock cliffs and outcrops of limestone and sandstone are common along the river bluffs. Hill prairies occur atop south and west-facing bluffs, while oak-hickory forests predominate in the ravines and on cooler, north- and east-facing slopes. Deep deposits of loess (windblown silt) form high bluffs. Two peaks in Pere Marquette State Park are examples of loess deposits—McAdams Peak and Lovers Leap. The division is divided into two sections— Glaciated and Driftless. The topography of the Glaciated Section is a result of the Pleistocene glaciers—the Illinoian and pre-Illinoian stages. Unusual habitats found here include limestone glades, loess hill prairies, and glacial-drift hill prairies. The topography of the Driftless Section is rougher because the area escaped the glaciers. Limestone and sandstone outcrops frequently occur. Unusual habitats found here include limestone glades and loess hill prairies. Pere Marquette State Park is found in this section.

Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River Bottomlands Division

The 7th division is the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River Bottomlands Division. (map)

This division encompasses the rivers and floodplains of the Mississippi River from Wisconsin to where it meets the Missouri River in Calhoun County. It also stretches along the Illinois River and its major tributaries south of LaSalle. This division is divided into two sections—Illinois River and Mississippi River. Broad floodplains and gravel terraces formed by glacial floodwaters characterize the terrain. Both big rivers have oxbow lakes, but backwater lakes are found only in the Illinois River and its major tributaries south of LaSalle. The Sportsman’s and General Guide described this area in 1877: “The most noted sporting grounds in Central Illinois, if not in the whole State, lie upon the Illinois River . . . The game here is of great variety and abundance . . .” Much of this land was originally forested and forests still occur along the broad floodplains. Prairies, marshes, and moist savannas also occurred. One unique habitat in this division was originally classified as a springfed bog or a “hanging fen.” This rare natural community is characterized by sloping peat at the edge of a moraine.

Illinois River and Mississippi River Sand Areas Division

The 6th Natural Division is the Illinois River and Mississippi River Sand Areas, encompassing much of Mason County as well as parts of Whiteside, Henderson, Woodford, Peoria, Putnam, Tazewell, Cass and Scott Counties.(map)

The sand areas and dunes in the bottomlands of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers comprise this division. Dry sand prairie and scrub oak forest, dominated by black and blackjack oak, are the natural vegetation. The division is divided into two parts—Illinois River and Mississippi River sections. The meltwaters of the Wisconsin glacial episode greatly affected the formation of both the Havana sand deposit (Illinois River) and the Hanover-Oquawka sand deposit (Mississippi River). The Havana sand was formed as meltwater cascaded down the prehistoric course of the Illinois River. The Hanover-Oquawka deposit occupies an expanse between the bluffs on the east and the Mississippi River on the west. In both of these areas, tremendous floods carried a huge volume of sand and gravel downstream at breakneck speed, depositing material when the water slowed. Look for prickly-pear cactus, three-awn grass, little bluestem, and Indian grass in Sand Ridge State Forest or Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie Nature Preserve.