Plants can alter West Nile virus risk

from left: Juma Muturi, Director of Medical Entomology, Illinois Natural History Survey; Allie Gardner, phd graduate student; and Brian Allan, professor of entomology

from left: Juma Muturi, Director of Medical Entomology, Illinois Natural History Survey; Allie Gardner, phd graduate student; and Brian Allan, professor of entomology

University of Illinois Researchers, including Ephantus Muturi from the Illinois Natural History Survey, have just published a paper showing how leaf litter from landscape plants affects populations of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.   They report that certain nonnative plants, including honeysuckle, appear to favor survival of the vector mosquito larvae.


Posted in INHS, Institute Highlights, Invasive species, Prairie Research Institute, Publications | Leave a comment

Emerging fungal disease of snakes

gr_miller_andy150515_aScientists at the University of Illinois, including Illinois Natural History Survey mycologist Andrew Miller have published a detailed account of an emerging fungal disease of snakes which is a threat to both wild and captive snakes.

Posted in INHS, Institute Highlights, Prairie Research Institute, Publications | Leave a comment

Using News Reports to Track Wildlife Black Markets

Read the full story in Wired.

The international black market in wildlife—alive or dead—is notoriously difficult to track. Hunters and smugglers don’t report their take for the same reasons that drug dealers don’t report profits to the IRS. But if you could actually track those networks, maybe you could do something about them. That’s what sent Nikkita Patel, a veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, to an unusual source of data on the illegal wildlife trade: the news.

The news reports are typically gruesome: a frozen tiger carcass found in a truck in Vietnam, or a dead rhino lying in a wildlife sanctuary with its horn hacked off. But the overall news is even worse…

But without knowing exactly what’s going on, wildlife agencies and researchers can’t stop these killings. So Patel turned to HealthMap, a tool the Boston Children’s Hospital created 10 years ago. The tool searches multilingual news aggregators and forums for media reports, parsing them for relevant keywords. It was already tuned to the wildlife trade, in part because animals can be vectors for disease spread. HealthMap records the key information in each article, such as the location of the reported illegal transaction, and keeps a tally of the number of individuals from each species traded.

Patel’s research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relies more on that data than previous illegal wildlife trade work. “It’s looking at who the key players are,” Patel says, “and how to best break down trade networks.”

Posted in Biodiversity, INHS, Publications | Leave a comment

Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan for the Forest Preserves of Cook County

NCRMP-thumbThe Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, produced by the Prairie Research Institute, provides data-driven guidance to the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC)–which celebrated their 100th anniversary in February–for managing preserves in the coming century.  The FPCC manages >69,000 acres preserving diverse ecosystems and archaeological sites enjoyed by millions every year.

Posted in INHS, Institute Highlights, ISAS, ISGS, ISTC, ISWS, Prairie Research Institute, Publications, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

An Updated Look at PCBs in Illinois Published by Prairie Research Institute

The Prairie Research Institute has published An Updated Look at PCBs, a report stemming from the Sept. 17 scientific workshop on “PCBs and Their Impact in Illinois”.  The one-day workshop on the University of Illinois Chicago campus gathered leading authorities on the history and science about the persistent pollutant.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a class of synthetic chemicals widely used in industry as a coolant and electrical insulator. The report, videos of panel presentations, and other useful information are available for viewing on the PCB workshop website.

Posted in Prairie Research Institute, Publications | Leave a comment

Field Museum Online Field Guides

The Field Museum of Natural History has developed a comprehensive collection of field guides to species from over 30 countries. Visitors can browse the guides by geographical regions and subject (plants, animals, fungi and lichens, and algae), as well as alphabetically by title.

They also include a step-by-step guide to creating your own field guide and uploading it to their collection, a form for requesting that they make a specific guide for you, and links to other identification tools.

Posted in Environmental education, INHS, Publications | Leave a comment

Map of Life’s new app: The world’s biodiversity in the palm of your hand

Read the full story from Yale University.

Never has knowledge of the world’s biodiversity knowledge been more at your fingertips, thanks to a new smartphone app: the Map of Life. No matter where you are, the app can tell you what species of plants and animals are nearby.

Building on the Map of Life’s unrivaled, integrated global database of everything from bumblebees to trees, the app tells users in an instant which species are likely to be found in their vicinity. Photos and text help users identify and learn more about what they see. The app also helps users create personal lists of observations and contribute those to scientific research and conservation efforts.

Posted in Biodiversity, Smart phone apps | Leave a comment

Funding for Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is soliciting scientific research proposals for their Research in Sustainable Solid Waste Management program.  The program seeks to fund projects on waste minimization, recycling, waste conversion, diversion strategies, and landfilling.  Past awards have ranged from $15,000 to $500,000.  Proposals are accepted twice per year in January and July.  The next proposal submission deadline is July 15.

NOTE:  Although education is a primary mission of EREF, the above funding opportunity focuses on research.  Ideas for educational projects can be explored with EREF directly by phone or email to EREF at (919) 861-6876 ext. 102 or

Posted in Funding opportunities, ISTC, Prairie Research Institute, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Illinois Water Day 2015 April 10

wwd_130px_0The second annual Illinois Water Day takes place this Friday, April 10, from 1pm-5pm in the NCSA Lobby.  Scheduled events are free and include a screening of Cowspiracy, a panel discussion, and a poster session.  Light refreshments will be served during the poster session.    Advance registration is requested.

Posted in Events, INHS, ISAS, ISGS, ISTC, ISWS, Water | Leave a comment

2015 EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study

Open date:  April 8, 2015  –  Close Date: May 26, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the posting of the Request for Applications, 2015 EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study with the goal of offering Graduate Fellowships for master’s and doctoral level students in environmental fields of study. Subject to availability of funding and other applicable considerations, the Agency plans to award approximately 55 new fellowships in the Fall of 2015. Master’s level students may receive a maximum of two years of support ($88,000). Doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years ($132,000), usable over a period of five years.

Supporting these fellowship grants is in line with the Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research Program. EPA’s SHC Research Program provides useful science and tools for decision makers at all levels to help communities advance sustainability as well as achieve regulatory compliance. SHC is collaborating with partners to conduct research that will result in science-based knowledge to guide decisions that will better sustain a healthy society and environment in America’s communities.  The research is intended for decision-makers at the federal, regional, state and community levels.

Posted in Funding opportunities | Leave a comment