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Illinois Natural History Survey

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  • INHS Reports: Fighting the spread of aquatic invasive species in the marketplace

    Aquatic invasive species are non-native organisms that harm the environment, economy, or human and livestock health. Illinois is especially vulnerable to aquatic invaders. Harmful effects of aquatic invasive species that reside in the lake include the multimillion dollar annual cost to industry and water utilities, reduced recreational activities, and degrading native habitats. One way that aquatic invaders are introduced to the Great Lakes region is through the buying and selling of species.

  • Brian D. Anderson retires from PRI

    On July 8 Prairie Research Institute staff and supporters gathered to bid a fond farewell to Brian D. Anderson, who retired from PRI at the end of June after serving as director of the Illinois Natural History Survey and interim director of PRI.

  • Zebra finch study finds mixed impact of early-life stress

    A bout of early-life stress can have lifelong impacts on two key signals that help male zebra finches attract mates: beak color and song complexity. But rather than being uniformly negative, a recent study published in Functional Ecology found that the consequences of stress are mixed. Stressed males wind up with duller, less colorful beaks but sing more complex songs.

  • Researchers sample a DC swamp to study a spineless creature

    INHS ecologist Matthew Niemiller led a recent study that used an environmental DNA approach to search for Hay’s Spring amphipod in its Rock Creek Park home. “It’s not a cute, cuddly or charismatic species. But we’re still learning more and more about groundwater ecosystems. And there is evidence that these crustaceans are important indicators of groundwater quality, and may play important roles in water purification and nutrient cycling over time.”

  • Bird gets worm, makes history

    Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Loren Merrill describes how he observed the unusual behavior of a pied-billed grebe from his balcony, leading to an insight published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

  • INHS Reports: Angler survey on Lake Michigan fishing

    INHS researchers examined Lake Michigan fishing from social and economic perspectives. They surveyed anglers to collect information about angler expectations and needs in the Lake Michigan fishery and to ascertain the economic importance of fishing as a recreational activity. 

  • New science shows intense harm caused by fishing for nesting bass

    Angling for nesting bass during the spawning season decreases lake wide recruitment of bass, according to a massive 22-year study by INHS researcher David Philipp.

  • Scientists find world’s oldest fossil mushroom

    Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey. Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, INHS scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Survey finds farmers feel responsibility to protect land and waters

    Agricultural producers are typically blamed for applying fertilizer that pollutes local waters and carries oxygen-depleting nitrogen and phosphorus to the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, a strong majority of Illinois farmers believe they are doing their part to protect the environment, according to a study from the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute (PRI).

  • Migratory birds bumped off schedule as spring shifts

    New research shows climate change is altering the delicate seasonal clock that North American migratory songbirds rely on to successfully mate and raise healthy offspring, setting in motion a domino effect that could threaten the survival of many familiar backyard bird species. A growing shift in the onset of spring has left nine of 48 species of songbirds studied unable to reach their northern breeding grounds at the calendar marks critical for producing the next generation of fledglings, according to a paper published on May 15, 2017, in Scientific Reports. The Illinois Natural History Survey was one of several institutions contributing to the study.

  • Where the wild turkeys aren't

    The wild turkeys have not been cooperating with avian ecologist Christine Parker as she attempts to catch, weigh, measure, and fit them with micro-GPS units to learn about their habits.

  • INHS team discovers new invasive clam species

    They found it in the Illinois River near the city of Marseilles, Illinois, about 80 miles west of Lake Michigan—a strange entry point for an invasive Asian clam. The scientists who found it have no idea how it got there. But the discovery—along with genetic tests that confirm its uniqueness—means that a new species or “form” of invasive clam has made its official debut in North America. This is only the latest invasive aquatic species to settle in North America, said Illinois Natural History Survey aquatic ecologist Jeremy Tiemann, who discovered the new clam with INHS mussel field biologist Sarah Douglass in late 2015.

  • INHS genetic testing confirms new Illinois state-record crappie was a hybrid

    “INHS was excited to be able to assess Ryan's massive slab crappie,” said INHS conservation biologist Mark Davis. "The genetics show that the mother of the record fish was a black crappie, while the father was either a white or a hybrid crappie.”

  • Digitization efforts make wealth of INHS collections more accessible

    INHS is home to over 9 million biological specimens, including plants, insects, fish, reptiles, and fossils. Learn how we're digitizing these specimens to make them accessible to everyone.

  • New scientific technique predicts a climate change scenario in national parks

    A University of Illinois researcher has created a new method to study potential climate change in protected areas.

  • Snake Road sojourn

    INHS Conservation Biologist Mark Davis describes his journey along Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest in search of snakes, frogs, salamanders, and other creatures in the wild.

  • Strong floods drive warblers away from their known breeding sites

    Fewer migratory Swainson’s Warblers return to breed after high flood waters alter the quality of their wetland forest habitat, according to new University of Illinois research published in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Lice and bacteria, partners in parasitism

    Illinois Natural History Survey scientist Kevin P. Johnson and former INHS post-doc Bret Boyd participated in a study that sought to better understand the evolutionary history of bacteria residing within lice.

  • Illinois team tackles mysterious disease afflicting wild and captive snakes

    Researchers in the Illinois Natural History Survey are investigating every aspect of snake fungal disease, hoping to find a treatment.

  • INHS employee linked to a famous entomologist from the 19th century

    A staff member at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) recently learned of her family connection to a renowned amateur entomologist whose butterfly and beetle collection makes up a significant part of the 7.3 million specimen insect collection at INHS.

  • New lecture series named for renowned aquatic biologist

    In recognition of James Karr's contributions to aquatic biology and environmental management, a new James R. Karr Lecture in Aquatic Biology will kick off on Friday, April 14 with an inaugural address from its namesake.

  • Casting a net for conservation

    Go Behind the Scenes with graduate research assistant Benjamin Williams as he catches ducks and records data along the Wabash River.

  • Long-term fish monitoring in large rivers

    INHS scientists examined five long-term fish monitoring programs in large rivers in the U.S. They outline best practices in Fisheries Magazine.

  • Study shows disease can be more effective in controlling invasive species than management efforts

    Populations of the common carp, introduced from Eurasia and historically the most abundant fish species in parts of the Illinois River, declined from the 1970s to the 1990s and have never made a comeback. A recent University of Illinois study showed that natural factors, including disease, can more effectively curb invasive species populations than human management efforts.

  • Report: Milkweed losses may not fully explain monarch butterfly declines

    Steep declines in the number of monarch butterflies reaching their wintering grounds in Mexico are not fully explained by fewer milkweeds in the northern part of their range, researchers report in a new study.

  • 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.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey takes campus lead on bird awareness

    After years of collecting dead birds at the Forbes Building, some of the INHS staff decided to find a solution to modify the large windows that were causing so many avian deaths. After consulting with the University of Illinois’ Architectural Review Committee (ARC), staff chose an Acopian Bird Saver for the south windows and a lined window film for the north windows where most of the bird casualties occurred.

  • INHS partnership offers undergraduates research experiences in ecology

    The Illinois Natural History Survey will partner with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on a three-year grant providing immersive research experiences to undergraduates in the areas of archaeology and ecology. Research opportunities will begin this summer.

  • 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.