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Natural History Survey

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  • Eades wins award for efforts in the field of biodiversity informatics

  • Early Warm Weather brings early insects

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer told WBEZ that the early warm weather means bugs can mature faster, allowing them to emerge much sooner than they are normally expected to, but this does not necessarily mean there will be more of them.

  • Earn course credit for attending INHS seminar series

    Students may earn one credit for attending the INHS seminar series by registering for NRES 512/IB 546, starting Fall 2023 with instructor Dr. Suneeti K. Jog. Students will be required to attend INHS seminars (in-person or virtual) to get full credit, and it is a Pass/Fail course. Graduate faculty are asked to encourage their graduate students to sign up for this course.

  • eDNA helps researchers track and identify endangered and at-risk species

    A promising technology and unlikely collaboration give scientists greater insights into five rare and hard to find species in Fort Polk, Louisiana. 

  • Effects of recent fish kill on waterfowl populations unknown

    INHS 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.

  • Effects of Turbidity on Growth and Feeding of Juvenile Crappies: The Difference is Black and White

  • two men hold tray of insect specimens

    Effort clarifies major branch of insect tree of life

    A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences collected a vast amount of molecular data on the Hemiptera order of insects and used the information to help tease out their family relationships and evolutionary history.

  • Emerald Ash Borer adults emerging

    According to Illinois CAPS Coordinator Kelly Estes, "Recent reports indicate that emerald ash borer adults have begun emerging in several areas of the state. Over the past two weeks we have been notified of adults in central Illinois in the Bloomington-Normal area as well as recent reports from NE Illinois in the Chicago area." For more information and resources on Emerald Ash Borer Beetles, visit the Illinois CAPS Blog and the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Website.

  • Emerald ash borer quarantine area expanded

    The Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program posted that Champaign and Vermilion Counties have been added to the Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine Area.

  • Emiquon producing massive crappie

    INHS Fisheries Technicians Kenny Lookingbill (sunglasses at right) and Collin Hinz (left), reported that recent fish surveys at Emiquon turned up massive crappies, the largest weighing in at 3.4 pounds, 17 inches long. Emiquon is an approximately 3,000 acre restored natural area along the Illinois River and based on these surveys may become the best crappie fishery. INHS Illinois River Biologial Field Station and the INHS Forbes Biological Field Station study the waterfowl and fish populations in that area as a means of evaluating the success of the restoration and management.

  • Endangered bumblebees to be counted and studied this summer

  • Endangered mussels released in Illinois streams

    Endangered 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.

  • End to live turtles in the Turtle Races

    For 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.

  • Engineering students help INHS researchers

    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.

  • Entomologists stifled by Indian bureaucracy

    An international collaboration to study insects in the Western Ghats mountains in southern India is stalled due to a hold up by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). INHS' Paul Tinerella and Michael Irwin are involved in trying to keep the project moving along. View the complete Nature article

  • Environmental factors affecting growth rates of popular sportfish in the Illinois River

  • Eric Schauber

    Eric Schauber to helm Illinois Natural History Survey

    Eric Schauber, an animal ecologist currently at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has been selected as the next director of the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey. Schauber will begin his appointment on July 1, 2018.

  • Exploring personality effects in largemouth bass

    INHS studies have shown that largemouth bass have distinct personalities and that these different types affect predator-prey interactions and possibly habitat use. The explorers tend to have a relatively indiscriminant diet, consuming any prey they encounter, while non-explorers discriminate in their diet selections, focusing on the most profitable prey items. 

  • Few Chicagoland wetlands left without non-native species, study finds

    The wetlands in and around Chicago are overwhelmingly invaded by non-native plants, according to a new study by University of Illinois researchers. The study, which pulls together species occurrence data from over 2,000 wetlands in the urban region, is the first to describe wetland invasion patterns on such a large scale in the Chicagoland area.

  • Few hunters know how their duck stamp dollars are spent

    Illinois hunters each pay $25 for an annual federal duck stamp to legally shoot waterfowl, yet few know how their money is used, according to a University of Illinois study.

  • Fig wasps older than known fig trees

    INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads found an ancient fig wasp that pre-dates any known fig trees. According to Heads, “This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it's the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it's the oldest representative of its family. More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That's a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”

  • Finding darters where no one thought to look

    INHS staff spent the last two summers sampling small, overlooked streams throughout much of the greater Chicago region and discovered that the Iowa darter has been hiding out in streams so small that biologists haven’t bothered to sample them. It appears that there are enough healthy populations in these small streams that this fish is in the process of being taken off the state threatened-species list.

  • plants and fungi

    Fire-spawned forest fungi hide out in other organisms, study finds

    When a wildfire obliterates a forest, the first life to rise from the ashes is usually a fungus – one of several species that cannot complete its life cycle in the absence of fire. Scientists have long argued about where and how such pyrophilous (fire-loving) fungi survive, sometimes for decades, between fires. A new study finds that some of these fungi hide out in the tissues of mosses and lichens.

  • First comprehensive treatise on leafhopper genus Zyginama published

  • First fossil of differential grasshopper described

    INHS 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.

  • Fish Quality Index a "potential game changer"

    Project F-69-R, also known as the “Sport Fish Population and Sport Fishing Metric” project, is developing a Fish Quality Index that will help fisheries biologists evaluate and compare the quality of sport fishing for various species in different water bodies. The collaborative project is headed by INHS Sport Fish Ecologist Jeff Stein. This information can be used to inform anglers of the best places to catch a particular species and to help fisheries biologists manage those species. Read more about Project F-69-R and the Sport Fish Ecology Lab's research projects.

  • Forests help shield streams from pollutants in cropland areas

    Streambank forests that help to buffer streams from pollutants are particularly important for stream quality, even in areas such as east-central Illinois where cropland predominates and the river system has deteriorated, according to a University of Illinois study.

  • Eastern massasauga rattlesnake

    For now, Illinois’ imperiled eastern massasauga rattlesnakes retain their genetic diversity

    Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and the loss of genetic diversity are the three main factors driving the extinction of many wild species, and the few eastern massasauga rattlesnakes remaining in Illinois have certainly suffered two of the three. A long-term study of these snakes reveals, however, that – despite their alarming decline in numbers – they have retained a surprising amount of genetic diversity.

  • Fossil Insect Collaborative kicks off

    INHS 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. The project officially kicked off the 1st of July, 2013.

  • Four-leaf clover: Rare variation of a common, edible weed (and may be good luck)

    INHS Botanist Greg Spyreas was interviewed for an article about four-leaf clovers. He explained that it is a developmental anomaly and couldn't attest to its luckiness. Having found a four-leaf clover once may or may not explain that his "whole life has been good luck.”

  • Fowl flocking to Emiquon

    According to the latest aerial inventories there were 63,225 ducks at Emiquon on Oct. 17. At the same time last year there were 50,775 ducks. Emiquon is a 6,900 acre Nature Conservancy reclamation along the Illinois River, established in 2005.

  • Free workshops give adults a chance to learn to hunt game, waterfowl

    A new program developed by the Illinois Natural History Survey with support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources aims to encourage more adults to hunt. The Hunter Recruitment Program is offering a series of free workshops around the state, giving new hunters an opportunity to learn from experienced mentors and to get hands-on experience hunting for deer, turkey, squirrels, pheasants, ducks, geese and other game.

  • Freshwater mussel behavior altered by exposure to antidepressants

    INHS Post-doctoral researcher Andrea Fritts is a co-author on a recently published study examining the effects of the antidepressant fluoxetine on the behavior of freshwater mussels, which could impact their survival and role in their ecosystem. The study found that chronic exposure led to "increases in movement, decreased time to movement, and increased likelihood of diurnal movement, and increased rates of lure display in mussels. Changes in mussel movement [in the wild] are likely to increase susceptibility to predation, and may also alter sediment nutrient cycling and oxygenation through changes in bioturbation provided by mussels."

  • Freshwater mussels: overlooked and under appreciated

    Environmental Almanac writer Rob Kanter wrote "Freshwater mussels: overlooked, under appreciated residents of Illinois streams" earlier this month, referencing the INHS publication Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest. Malacologist Kevin Cummings was consulted for the post and reported that North America has the greatest diversity of freshwater mussels, with nearly three hundred species and subspecies. Illinois is/was home to eighty of these species, but only about half of them are currently found with regularity.

  • bluegill fish

    Friendlier fish may be quicker to take the bait

    The bluegill on your dinner plate might have been more social than the rest of its group, according to a new study from the University of Illinois, and its removal from the lake could mean major changes for the remaining population.

  • Fungus that causes white nose syndrome is a survivor

    INHS 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. White Nose Syndrome research at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Gail Kampmeier helps Darwin Core to get ratified

    Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) announced the official ratification of Darwin Core as a TDWG standard. Darwin Core is one of four TDWG standards. Gail Kampmeier, INHS entomological researcher, served as the Review Manager for the Darwin Core project since February 2009. She fostered a peer and public review of the standard, including many discussions and updating of the draft standard. To learn more about the Darwin Core standard, please visit this website. Information on the Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) can be found here at this website.

  • Gail Kampmeier receives Honorary Membership in ESA

    INHS Entomologist Gail Kampmeier had the title of Honorary Member of the Entomological Society of America bestowed upon her this year. The purpose of Honorary Membership is to acknowledge those who have served the ESA through significant involvement in the affairs of the Society that has reached an extraordinary level. The number of Honorary Members cannot exceed 1% of the membership and thus, this is a great honor. Gail is joined in recognition this year by INHS Affiliate Kevin L. Steffey.

  • Getting the scoop on Illinois mussels

    Rob Kanter, who writes Environmental Almanac spent the day with INHS field biologists as they both looked for, and relocated, some Illinois mussels. Kanter's article also discusses sampling techniques and the life-cycle of this animal. 

  • Girl Scouts provided habitat for Illinois bats

    When it came to earning their Silver Award, which encourages scouts to complete a project that helps their community, Girl Scout Troop 51978 from Westmont, Illinois, decided to support bat conservation with help from Illinois Natural History Survey associate mammalogist Tara Hohoff.

  • The insect now known as Kaikaia gaga, a new genus and species of treehopper.

    Grad student names new treehopper species after Lady Gaga

    The insect now known as Kaikaia gaga represents a new genus and species of treehopper.

  • Graduate Student Awards in Natural History

    The Illinois Natural History Survey has presented awards to eight graduate students for their research accomplishments.

  • Greater Prairie Chickens can't endure without human help

    Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey report that the greater prairie chicken cannot persist in Illinois without help.

  • Hear the Sound of Owls Calling at Night

    “Birds of omen, dark and foul,” wrote Sir Walter Scott about owls, once considered harbingers of doom, death, and destruction. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches and an owl's call meant someone was about to die.

  • Heavy rains wash away mosquito larvae, but mosquitoes repopulate standing waters

    Entomologist Rich Lampman was interviewed by Chicago's CBS affiliate WBBM about mosquitoes.  According to Lampman heavy rains in northern Illinois in July may have flushed out larvae in standing water. Unfortunately, any puddles left over will be colonized by new mosquitoes. Dumping standing water every couple of days can help keep mosquito numbers down.

  • Herbivores play important role in protecting habitats from invasive species

    Researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Morton Arboretum have been examining the potential role of herbivores on the invasion of non-native plant species in diverse plant communities.

  • Herons persist in Chicago wetlands despite exposure to banned chemicals

    Results of a study led by INHS wildlife toxicologist Jeff Levengood were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Great Lakes Research. The study reports that Chicago-area herons are still being exposed to banned pesticides.

  • High water may affect migrating wildlife

    An article in the July 10, 2009 edition of the "The Courier" (Lincoln, IL) written by Chris Young talks about the effect that the wet summer could have on Illinois plants and the migratory species that pass through IL in the autumn.

    Randy Smith, an INHS scientist at the Forbes Biological Field Station, says that the weeds that migrating species need may not be able to grow if the water levels don't recede. Without food for migrating animals, they might not stop over in Illinois.

    The entire article can be read on the NewsBank site with subscription access: High water makes habitat harder to find.

  • Historic numbers of waterfowl in the Illinois River Valley

    INHS researchers at the Forbes Biological Station recorded the historic numbers of waterfowl this year in the Illinois River Valley. At migration’s peak, 329,590 mallards were counted, the highest number since 1999. Northern pintails (141,840), green-winged teal (179,620), gadwall (146,300) and northern shovelers (49,060) were present in the highest numbers since the survey began. Learn more about the waterfowl aerial inventories. Follow the Forbes Biological Station on Facebook.

  • Hospitable Illinois wetlands in spring signal happy waterfowl hunting in fall

    When waterfowl return to Illinois in early spring on their way north, will they find enough food for a two-week layover? A limited food supply during spring migration and subsequent declines in duck populations can affect Illinois’ multi-million-dollar waterfowl hunting industry, say researchers from the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI).