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Natural History Survey

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  • INHS researchers address vector borne diseases through CDC Center of Excellence

    INHS Scientists Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and Richard Lampman will partner with the College of Veterinary Medicine to conduct research for the new Upper Midwestern Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The center is headquartered at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Illinois team will develop forecasting models and statistical spatial risk maps of regionally important mosquitoes and ticks and the diseases that they cause. Using optimization algorithms, historical data on field trapping of mosquitoes and ticks, and other ecological methods, the Illinois team will also help determine the level of surveillance data required to make effective control decisions.

  • Tick-infested songbirds help spread Lyme disease

    Songbird species that carry the ticks responsible for Lyme disease and other diseases forage close to the ground in large wooded areas, according to a recently published study by Christine Parker, a graduate research assistant at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • 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).

  • Cornboy vs. the Billion-Dollar Bug

    There is, despite the name, nothing urban about Piper City, Ill. It is a farm town with a skyline of grain elevators, a tidy grid of pitch-roofed houses and, a few blocks beyond, endless fields: corn, soybean, corn, soybean, corn, corn, corn, perfectly level, perfectly square, no trees, no cows, no hedgerows, no bare land. In late August of 2013, a man named Joseph Spencer followed a corn-flanked county road northwest from Piper City until his GPS advised him to leave the road altogether and turn onto a gravel track. Spencer, an entomologist who studies farm insects, was looking for a farmer named Scott Wyllie.

  • Applications Accepted for a Student Research in Applied Entomology Award

    Applications will be accepted for the 2017 William H. Luckmann Award for Student Research in Applied Entomology until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 31.

  • Most Mussels Survive River Relocation

    Relocating freshwater mussels from the path of a bridge construction site to a safer zone upstream is proving to be a time- and cost-effective conservation practice. Mussel survival rate after relocation is high, according to new research from the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI).

  • Researchers Reconstruct the Stonefly Fauna of Ohio

    The aquatic nymphs of stoneflies are indicators of water and habitat quality and quantity. Loss of this habitat is resulting in rapid decline of many species, which are at serious risk of disappearing from agricultural and urban areas of the Midwest, according to Ed DeWalt, aquatic entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Widespread Shallow Groundwater Contamination Found in Southwestern Illinois Cave Streams and Springs

    Researchers have detected prescription and over-the-counter medications and personal care products in Illinois groundwater, an indication that humans are contaminating water that is vital to aquatic life.

  • Digitization Projects Make Nature Collections Available to Everyone

    Extinct feather lice, invasive fish from the Great Lakes, and rare plants from Pakistan are a few of the millions of species no longer viewed just in dark academic warehouses and museums. Curators at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) who have helped to preserve these biological specimens are digitizing them for anyone who is interested in science to view them online.

  • Invasive Species Workshop Trains First Detectors in Illinois

    The 2017 Illinois First Detector Workshop on invasive plants, diseases, and insects will be offered at eight Illinois sites beginning in January 2017.

  • Moving Firewood Long Distances Can Spread Invasive Insects

    What’s in your firewood? Tree-killing insects or diseases may be hiding in or on firewood that may be transported hundreds of miles to campsites or fireplaces.

  • Scientists Debunk Myths about Illinois Bats

    Bats, long associated with Halloween and tales of horror, have far more to fear from humans than we do from them. Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, monitor bats statewide by capturing, identifying, and banding individuals in fine-meshed netting (mist nets) and collecting acoustic recordings of high-frequency bat calls.

  • 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.

  • Study Finds Recent Size Changes in Illinois River Mussel Shells

    Man-made levees and water pollution have made an impact on the fish and other fauna of the Illinois River throughout the 20th century, but researchers at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), University of Illinois, have taken an even longer view of human-induced changes in freshwater mussels, dating back to pre-Columbian times.

  • Study Finds Illinois Farmers View Feral Hogs as a Nuisance

    Illinois farmers, even those who have experienced no damage to their land or crops, dislike feral hogs and support hog control, according to a new study from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are on the Move This Fall

    An invasive stink bug species has been found in five newly invaded Illinois counties this year, according to Kelly Estes, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) coordinator in the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey Staff Member Received Outstanding Service Award

    Margaret Wingard, sponsored research coordinator at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, has received the 2016 University of Illinois SPaRC Outstanding Service Award for her support of research administration.

  • New Bacterial Leaf Disease is Confirmed in One Illinois Corn Field

    In a recent survey of approximately 340 corn fields in 68 Illinois counties, bacterial leaf streak was confirmed in only one county, according to Kelly Estes, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) coordinator, Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Beware of Climate Neoskepticism

    Skepticism and uncertainty should not excuse inaction in protecting the environment from human-caused climate change, say scientists in a new essay published in the journal Science on August 12.

  • Invasive Plants from Water Gardens and Aquariums Must be Disposed of Properly

    When clearing out the foliage from an aquarium or backyard water garden this fall, keep water hyacinth and other invasive plants out of streams, rivers, and other waterways.

  • Study Finds Waterfowl Hunters’ Spending Benefits Rural Areas

    Guns, gear, gas for the truck, drinks for the cooler, and the faithful dog: such recreational expenses for a day of duck or goose hunting in Illinois add up to a big boost to the local economy, according to Craig Miller, human dimensions scientist at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute.

  • Graduate Student Awards in Natural History

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

  • Study Found Male Fish that Had Female Qualities in the Des Plaines River

  • Digitization Project Finds Anthrax Samples in Collections

    When anthrax became a household name in 2011, even curators of some herbaria were unaware that samples of Bacillus anthracis, the source of anthrax, had been housed in their microfungal collections for more than a hundred years. Recently, a digitization project at the Illinois Natural History Survey unearthed the whereabouts of historical samples, including one at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Threat of Zika in Illinois low, but precautions can be taken

    INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Muturi was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the threat of Zika virus in Illinois. Muturi says that Aedes aegypti, which transmits Zika, has been found in Illinois but does not thrive in our climate. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopinctus, is found in Illinois, but has not been found to transmit Zika, though more research is needed. 

  • Six new rattlesnake species in Western United States

    In a recently published paper, INHS Conservation Geneticist Mark Davis and colleagues recommended elevating several rattlesnake subspecies to full species status. The team collected data from 3000 individuals, measuring physical characteristics and analyzing genetic samples.

  • Restoration begins on Cook County Forest Preserve lands

    The Prairie Research Institute, with researchers from INHS and our sister surveys, has helped the Forest Preserve District of Cook County identify areas for restoration under the Next Century Conservation Plan. Restoration on Deer Grove West in Palatine is underway.

  • Bald Eagles "making an impressive comeback"

    INHS Ornithologist Mike Ward was contacted about the increase in eagle sightings in the area. According to Ward, there were fewer than 20 eagle nests in Illinois in the 80s, whereas during the last spring bird count, there were an estimated 200 eagle nests.

  • Midwest Experiences Warmest and Wettest December on Record

    In a year when many state records were broken, 2015 ended with historically warm temperatures and well above-normal precipitation, leading to the warmest and wettest December on record for the Midwest, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS).

  • Relationship between conservationists and Papua New Guinea villagers more than just monetary

    INHS Post doctoral researcher Bridget Henning, had a paper published recently looking at market-based conservation in Papua New Guinea. Her research found that although villagers were concerned with the condition of the forest, they placed more emphasis on their relationship with conservationists, expecting conservationists to be present in the village, reciprocate their hospitality, participate in customary ceremonies, and respond to requests for material goods. This research explained that the relationship that maintained the conservation project was not market-based, it was a customary Melanesian exchange relationship that involved material goods, social interactions, and moral obligations.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey Ornithologist Receives Grant to Determine "Who's the father?" for Hatchling Greater Prairie-Chickens

  • Are all your ducks in a row? Surveyors take to a plane to know!

  • Smaller stoneflies may be better at colonizing islands

    INHS entomologist R. Edward DeWalt and graduate student Eric J. South of the Illinois Natural History Survey and Department of Entomology have a recently published paper on the size of stoneflies on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Not only did their results show that there were significantly fewer species, compared to the mainland, but also that smaller stonefly species appeared to be more capable of recolonizing the island.

  • Juvenile cowbirds sneak out of the nest at night

    INHS Ornithologists Matt Louder, Mike Ward, Wendy Schelsky, and Jeff Hoover published a new paper about the behavior of juvenile cowbirds, a nest parasite. They found that juvenile cowbirds leave the host's nest at night and return in the morning. This may be part of their strategy involved in avoiding imprinting on their host species.

  • INHS Entomologist featured in video by National Park Service

    INHS Aquatic Entomologist Ed DeWalt was featured in a video put out by the National Park Service: Scientists and Citizens: Investigating Aquatic Insects in Great Lakes National Parks.

  • Cowbirds aren't just deadbeat parents

    A new study from INHS graduate student Matthew Louder, and INHS Ornithologists Wendy Schelsky, Jeff Hoover, and Amber Albores found that female cowbirds monitor nest success of their offspring and will lay their eggs in the most successful host nests. This, combined with previous work by Jeff Hoover and colleagues, shows that female cowbirds aren't just abandoning their eggs in a host nest. Nests that fledged cowbirds were much more likely to be parasitized by cowbirds again than those that failed to fledge cowbirds.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey Mycologist Awarded $780,668 to Digitize Microfungi Collections

    Illinois Natural History Survey Mycologist Andrew Miller was awarded a National Science Foundation Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs) grant to digitize microfungi collections.  Miller will lead the Microfungi Collections Consortium, a group of 38 institutions across 31 states, in their efforts to digitize the more than 1.2 million specimens including slime molds, smut fungi, and powdery mildew.  An additional 1.1 million existing records will also be added to the online portal known as the MyCoPortal (http://mycoportal.org/portal/index.php).

  • Baseline mussel survey finds only one female Fatmucket

    INHS Aquatic Biologist Jeremy Tiemann led a team in a baseline survey of mussels in Crystal Lake Park, finding only a female Fatmucket. The team will return in 5-10 years to see if the planned installation of in-stream riffles improves the habitat and changes the mussel population.

  • Mowing dry detention basins makes mosquito problems worse, team finds

  • Cave microbe produces compound that inhibits the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome

    A new study from INHS Mycologist Andrew Miller and grad student Daniel Raudabaugh has found that the yeast Candida albicans produces a compound: trans, trans-farnesol, that inhibits growth of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats.

  • Planting native plants may reduce risk of west nile virus

    A recent study by INHS graduate student Allison Gardner, INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Juma Muturi and their colleagues found that leaf detritus in standing water can influence reproduction in mosquitoes. Leaves from invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive, yielded higher emergence of adult Culex pipiens mosquitoes (the vector for West Nile Virus). Leaves of native blackberry resulted in high numbers of eggs, but low adult emergence.

  • New paper published on Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, the fungus causing snake fungal disease

    A new paper by INHS affiliate Matthew Allender, INHS Graduate student Daniel Raudabaugh and Mycologist Andrew Miller was published on Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, the causative agent of snake fungal disease. This a serious emerging fungal pathogen of North American-endemic and captive snakes and has been a factor in the decline of the Eastern Massasauga in Illinois. Watch a video about the Illinois Natural History Survey's research on the Eastern Massasauga and Ophidiomyces 

  • Chris Phillips interviewed about venomous snakes

    INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips was interviewed by the News Gazette in response to a reader's question "Are there any reports of venomous snakes and snakebites in Champaign County in the last 10 years? Last 100 years?” More information on INHS research on Massasaugas

  • Illinois' remnant sand prairies provide important habitats

    INHS Ecologist Randy Nyboer was asked about the plants and animals of the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie Nature Preserve. These remnant habitats are important to many species more common to the deserts of south western United States, including Prickly Pear Cactus.

  • Monitoring for Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

    Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey director Kelly Estes was asked about Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, native to Asia, currently found in the eastern United States. Estes explained that BMSB are good hitchhikers, able to be transported by people and packages. This, and other species will be discussed during the Invasive Species Symposium this Thursday at University of Illinois.

  • Citizen scientists invited to participate in bioblitz

    INHS scientists will be participating in a Bioblitz organized by The Wetlands Initiative (TWI) at Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes in Putnam County on June 13-14. Citizen scientists are invited to help document all of the flora, fauna, and fungi of the area over the course of 24 hours.

  • White Nose Syndrome found in three additional counties

    White Nose Syndrome, the fungal disease that leads to mortality in bats, has now been confirmed in 11 counties in Illinois. First discovered in New York in 2006, the fungus has spread west, first being detected in Illinois in 2013. INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor told an NPR affiliate that, "between 2013 and 2015, it was like a 95 percent decrease in the number of bats at this site, which in 2013 was in excess of 25,000 bats."

  • Periodical cicadas possibly to emerge in southern Illinois this year

    INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich was interviewed about the emergence of 13 and 17 year cicadas this spring in southern Illinois. It is uncertain how abundant they will be, as “the cicadas require forest habitats, so they are not found out in open areas or areas that have been paved, or where the trees have been removed, so they’re really going to be restricted to areas where there is natural forest.”

  • New study reveals evolutionary patterns of grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids over the past 300 million years

    INHS Orthoperterist and Paleontologist Sam Heads was co-author on a recently published study determining the evolutionary relationships of the grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. The current study is based on genetics rather than morphological characteristics.

  • Research team lead by INHS scientist receives award

    Brenda Molano-Flores (INHS), colleagues, and graduate students received an Appreciation Award from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in recognition of their leadership in the conservation of natural resources in northwest Florida.