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Natural History Survey

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  • Illinois’ mild winter might benefit insect pests this spring

    Above normal air temperatures this winter kept Illinois average soil temperatures higher than usual. These mild conditions are favorable for insect pests that overwinter in Illinois, but many other factors will affect insect populations for the upcoming growing season, according to scientists at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), a part of the University of Illinois.

  • Rare shrimp found in Des Plaines River

    INHS Astracologist Christopher Taylor and INHS Ichthyologist Emeritus Larry Page were interviewed about an unusual animal found during aquatic surveys in Lake County in NE Illinois. Lake County Forest Preserve staff turned up a "Palaemonetes kadiakensis," glass shrimp or Mississippi grass shrimp, whose range is typically further south. Taylor said that there are only five species of freshwater shrimp in North America and this particular species has adapted to live further north than the others. Page added that this species is usually found in cleaner streams, so this could be a good sign for the health of Des Plaines River.

  • PhD entomology student receives 2018 Luckmann Award

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • Skunk cabbage—Illinois' earliest native flower

    INHS Botanist John Taft and Outreach Coordinator Jen Mui were quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage, Illinois' earliest flowering native plant, gets its name from the foul odor produced as it generates heat. The heat and odor attract pollinators including flies, carrion beetles and honey bees. A link to a video about skunk cabbage pollination produced by the Outreach Department was also included in the article.

  • hunting mourning doves

    Scientist studies support for non-lead ammunition in dove hunting

    A large majority of Illinois mourning dove hunters would oppose a state ban on lead shot when hunting doves, according to an Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) survey focused on beliefs about lead vs. non-lead ammunition. Hunters who already use steel shot for hunting waterfowl because of federal restrictions are the group most likely to oppose these same restrictions when hunting doves.

  • Reagan Lee

    12-year-old pursues love of paleontology by volunteering in INHS lab

    It's not unusual to find 12-year-old Reagan Lee in the INHS paleontology lab on a Saturday, scanning for fossils embedded in chunks of amber from the Dominican Republic.

  • Arsenic, mercury and selenium in Asian carp not a health concern to most

    A recent study by INHS researchers Jeffrey M. Levengood, David J. Soucek, Gregory G. Sass, Amy Dickinson, and John M. Epifanio showed that overall, concentrations of arsenic, selenium, and mercury in bighead and silver carp from the lower Illinois River do not appear to be a health concern for a majority of human consumers. The full results of the study have been published in the journal Chemosphere.

  • leafhopper

    Illinois team reports results of Earth BioGenome pilot project

    The Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence, catalog, and characterize the genomes of all of Earth’s eukaryotic biodiversity over a period of 10 years. With seed funding provided by the Illinois Innovation Network, the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology have completed a year-long pilot study to demonstrate the potential for Illinois to join a global network of communities engaged in genome sequencing and the conservation of biodiversity. 

  • PRI scientists provide winter soil conditions and an insect pest forecast for Illinois

    Near-average winter soil and air temperatures are an indication that crop insect pests may have survived the cold in Illinois, according to scientists Jennie Atkins and Kelly Estes at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois.

  • 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).

  • Loss of our colleague Arlo Raim

    We are very sad to confirm that early Friday, August 20, 2010 our colleague Arlo Raim was killed in an accident while working in DuPage County. Arlo worked for the Illinois Natural History Survey in various scientific and technical capacities since 1975.

  • Mild winter leads to butterfly innundation

    Environmental Almanac writer Rob Kanter consulted retired INHS Entomologist Mike Jeffords to find out why central Illinois has been inundated with red admiral butterflies. According to Jeffords, the red admirals we see in spring are migrants that overwintered to the south and the few that survived the winter here. This year the mild winter allowed greater survival and the subsequent swarms of red admirals. Jeffords, along with Susan Post (another retired INHS Entomologist) have found that other butterflies are active and numerous earlier than usual this spring. They reported seeing 22 species of Illinois butterflies before April, which is twice their usual number.

  • Greg Spyreas stands in the woods

    Decadeslong effort revives ancient oak woodland

    Vestal Grove in the Somme Prairie Grove forest preserve in Cook County, Illinois, looks nothing like the scrubby, buckthorn-choked tangle that confronted restoration ecologists 37 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team that focused on rooting up invasive plants and periodically burning, seeding native plants and culling deer, the forest again resembles its ancient self, researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Auriel Fournier

    Auriel Fournier elected First Vice President of Wilson Ornithological Society

    Fournier, director of the Forbes biological station and waterfowl ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) began her journey with the Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), an international scientific society comprising professional and amateur ornithologists, when she attended the Society’s Annual Meeting in 2015 as a Ph.D. student. She will serve as First Vice President for two years before serving as President in 2025

  • Holly Tuten, vector ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS).

    Improving the health of Illinoisans through mosquito and tick surveillance and research

    PRI's medical entomology team’s state-of-the-art research and surveillance activities help Illinois reduce the risks associated with mosquitoes and mosquito-borne pathogens, improve the effectiveness and sustainability of mosquito-borne pathogen control approaches, and develop and maintain robust emergency outbreak preparedness capacity.

  • 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.

  • Stoneflies, a bioindicator of river quality, mapped across Ohio

    INHS scientists worked with peers at Western Kentucky University to conduct a statewide assessment of stoneflies in Ohio. Utilizing over 30,000 specimens from 18 museums they determined that there are between 102 and 120 species of stonefly in Ohio. These environmentally sensitive insects are an indicator of river health and this study will help Ohio prioritize high quality streams for protection.

  • Zebra mussels found in DuPage Co.

    Kristin TePas, Aquatic Nuisance Species Assistant Coordinator with the Illinois Natural History Survey's Lake Michigan Biological Station, is quoted in four articles describing the zebra mussel's appearance in Bartlet, IL at the Deep Quarry Lake. The appearance of the mussels in the lake is concerning to scientists as they are an invasive species, and have not previously been documented there. The articles can be accessed via NewsBank:

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Dr. Paul G. Risser, 5th Chief of INHS in memorium

    Dr. Paul Gillan Risser passed away 10 July 2014 at the age of 74.

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • Dr. Jelka Crnobrnja-Isailovic and Jaclyn Adams working with a snake in a field of grass

    Uncovering the mystery of Kirtland's snakes

    The Kirtland's snake is shy and secretive, and, as a result, not a lot is known about it. A group of researchers is working hard to change that. They're developing a better understanding of this small but beautiful snake that is widely scattered in small enough numbers to put it on Illinois' threatened species list.

  • INHS researchers discover 4 new species in Illinois caves

    Scientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Prairie Research Institute at University of Illinois have discovered four new species of springtails—minute ancient relatives of the insects—in the caves of the Salem Plateau in southern Illinois.

  • Dr. Hoover's research on "Retaliatory mafia behavior by a parasitic cowbird favors host" featured in PNAS

  • Dr. Richard Sparks recognized by The Nature Conservancy

    Dr. Richard Sparks, the Director of Research for the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, received the Illinois River Valley Conservation Award from the Nature Conservancy on October 2, 2007 in recognition for his work advancing the science and management of large rivers in Illinois and around the world. For more information, visit this website.

  • Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap

    Camera-trap study captures Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, other rare beasts

    Scientists deployed motion-sensitive camera traps across a 50-square-mile swath of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southern Sumatra and, over the course of eight years, recorded the haunts and habits of dozens of species, including the Sumatran tiger and other rare and endangered wildlife. Their observations offer insight into how abundant these species are and show how smaller creatures avoid being eaten by tigers and other carnivores.

  • 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.

  • Higher soil temperatures this winter foretell potential crop pest problems

    Winter 2023-24 has been warm throughout Illinois, creating conditions ripe for insects to overwinter, according to scientists at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois.  

  • Valeria Trivellone

    How can the world prevent emerging infectious diseases, protect food security?

    According to a new report co-written by Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Valeria Trivellone, climate change, poverty, urbanization, land-use change and the exploitation of wildlife all contribute to the emergence of new infectious diseases, which, in turn, threaten global food security. Trivellone spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how global authorities can tackle these intertwined challenges.

  • Boom of record breaking bass over?

    INHS Conservation Geneticist Dave Philipp studied bass for 20 years, finding that genetics plays a role in which fish are caught. Fish that are more aggressive, thus more likely to bite a hook, pass that trait on to their offspring. As those aggressive fish are caught and removed from the population, the remaining fish are genetically harder to catch. This is one of the theories suggested to explain the mystery of why the Pennsylvania Largemouth Bass State Record has stood for nearly 30 years.

  • Juvenile Bighead Carp more vulnerable to predation

    INHS graduate student Eric Sanft, presented "Vulnerability of Juvenile Asian Carp to Predation by Largemouth Bass" at the recent Midwest Fish and Wildlife meetings. His research found that bighead carp are more susceptible than other carp species to predation by largemouth bass. Read more about Asian Carp research from our Kaskaskia River Biological Station.

  • 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.

  • Puma

    Study: Black bears are eating pumas' lunch

    A camera-trap study in the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California reveals that black bears are adept at finding and stealing the remains of adult deer killed by pumas. This “kleptoparasitism” by bears, as scientists call it, reduces the calories pumas consume in seasons when the bears are most active. Perhaps in response to this shortage, the pumas hunt more often and eat more small game when the bears are not in hibernation.

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

  • INHS researching snakes at Allerton Park

    Jon Griesbaum, a student in Dr. Christopher Phillips lab, is studying the movements of Fox Snakes at Allerton Park using radio telemetry. The snakes that are captured and marked are then tracked for a year. Griesbaum hopes that learning more about the snakes range and behavior will enable policy makers to make informed and better choices about wild areas. Articles about Griesbaum's study appeared in the 7 September issue of the News-Gazette, the 4 September issue of Environmental Almanac, and can be found archived.

  • INHS mycology herbarium receives Alan D. Parker Collection

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

  • INHS astacologist Christopher Taylor discovers new species of crayfish

    A recent UI News Bureau release reported on the discovery of a new species of crayfish by INHS astacologist Chris Taylor. The new crayfish belongs to the genus Barbicambarus, which in addition to being big is very distinctive. Most notably, Barbicambarus have unusual bearded antennae; the antennae are covered with a luxurious fringe of tiny, hair-like bristles, called setae, which enhance their sensory function. The article has been picked up by Reuters and has spread to news sites everywhere including New ScientistDiscovery NewsYahoo NewsChristian Science MonitorEureka, and Science Blog.

  • Saving the Illinois cave amphipod

    Dr. Steve Taylor, INHS macroinvertebrate biologist, was interviewed for an article in the online magazine Smile Politely. The article discusses the habitat, range and human impacts that eventually placed the Illinois Cave Amphipod on the Endangered Species list in 1998.

  • Smallmouth Bass released in DuPage River will help evaluate habitat restoration success

    Approximately 100 smallmouth bass were released into the DuPage River yesterday. The fish, which spent the first 7 years of their lives in the Jake Wolf Fish Hatchery, have been fitted with a plastic tag with an ID number and phone number for anglers to call if they catch one of these fish. The size and location data collected from this will help track their movement and give insight into the success of habitat restoration projects within the DuPage basin. This project is a collaboration between the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Natural History Survey. For more information about the project, visit the I Fish Illinois Website.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.