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Natural History Survey

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  • 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.

  • INHS and IDNR survey mussels in the Kishwaukee River

    The Kishwaukee River basin in northern Illinois remains one of the most mussel-rich resources in the state. In 2012, the INHS Urban Biotic Assessment Program began studying the fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and mollusks of the Kishwaukee River along the Illinois Tollway I-90 overpass. In 2015 UBAP began a longterm monitoring program of the mussel population at the site. Each August, a team of researchers from INHS, IDNR, and local land management agencies descends on the same location and intensively samples the mussels in the area over the course of a week.

  • 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.

  • Crows are back, but West Nile Virus here to stay

    During the years following the discovery of West Nile Virus in Illinois, Crow populations dropped from 300,000 to 110,000 birds. According to INHS Ornithologist Mike Ward, crows were highly susceptible to West Nile Virus, possibly because of their specialized immune systems and social lifestyle.  The cause of the rebound is not fully understood, but Ward stated that antibodies to fight off the virus have been discovered recently. Wet conditions during the summer may have also decresed breeding of the mosquito species that carries West Nile Virus.

  • Aerial view of fully installed submerged rubble ridges

    Underwater innovation at Illinois Beach State Park to help mitigate coastal erosion

    This past summer, with funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a US Army Corps of Engineers crane carefully placed over 10,000 tons of stone five hundred feet offshore of Illinois Beach State Park (ISBP) and Hosah Park, a Zion Park District property wedged between the north and south units of IBSP. These stones form three “rubble ridges” that are intended to work in concert to lessen storm waves and protect the eroding beach and unique terrestrial ecosystem in the dunes while preserving views and enhancing fish habitat.

  • IL endangered birds found with DDT byproducts in Chicago marshes

  • 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.

  • More endangered mussels being released in Illinois

    INHS researchers Jeremy Tiemann, Kevin Cummings, Sarah Bales, Alison Price, and Diane Shasteen are working to reintroduce endangered northern riffleshell and clubshell mussels to sites in Vermilion County. Approximately 1000 mussels were collected from the Alleghany River in Pennsylvania, under a bridge slated for replacement in 2018. Following quarantine and tagging, the mussels will be released at sites found to meet the requirements necessary for survival.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • Graduate Student Awards in Natural History

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

  • New videos on InvertNet featuring INHS scientists at work

    New videos about the InvertNet project, featuring Chris Dietrich, Chris Taylor, Andy Miller have been posted at the InvertNet Vimeo website. Learn about the collections and the field work that provides specimens to them at

  • Small-mouthed salamander observed in Hancock Co.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The convergent evolution of bird lice

    Recent research by INHS Ornithologist and Parasitologist Kevin Johnson has found that bird lice have undergone convergent evolution, evolving different body shapes dependent on where they live on the bird. Despite the morphological similarities between lice from the wings of different bird groups, the species are more closely related to other lice species on the same bird group. The same pattern holds true for lice from the head and body. Learn more about Kevin Johnson's research through this video by the U of I News Bureau.

  • 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.

  • INHS Scientists Drs. Joseph Spencer and Rich Lampman quoted in article on minute pirate bugs

    Dr. Joseph Spencer and Dr. Rich Lampman were quoted in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette article talking about minute pirate bugs. The article described why the insects bite humans, and describes the insects as, ultimately, beneficial. Illinois Natural History Survey affiliate May Berenbaum was also interviewed for the article. A copy of the article, which was published in the News-Gazette on October 3, 2008, can be found on the NewsBank site.

  • cluster of Humboldt penguins on the shoreline

    Blood markers predict Humboldt penguin nest type, reproductive success

    Researchers looked at metabolic markers in the blood of 30 Humboldt penguins nesting in the Punta San Juan Marine Protected Area in Peru, finding that penguins in guano-rich burrows and unsheltered locations had consistent – and distinct – patterns of several sugars in their blood. 

  • "I am a Botanist", "Reclaim the Name" Challenge!

    As one of the oldest biological surveys with a long history of botanical research, INHS Botanists support The Botanical Society of America "I am a Botanist", "Reclaim the Name" Challenge!

  • 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.

  • New miniature grasshopper-like insect is first member of its family from Belize

    A new species of Neotropical Orthopteran has been described by INHS Entomologists Sam Heads and Steve TaylorRipipteryx mopana belongs to a group of small and unusual insects related to grasshoppers that includes the North American pygmy mole crickets. This new species comes from the Toledo District of southern Belize, an area of tropical rainforest that is largely unexplored by entomologists. It was named in honor of the Mopan, a Mayan people that live primarily in the area of Belize where the species was discovered. The entomologists will return to the region this coming spring to study the local insect fauna in more detail.

  • INHS breaks ground on new building

    The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), a division in the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, held a groundbreaking ceremony July 10, 2009 for its new facility, the future home of the plant and fungus collections from the INHS and the University's departments of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences.

  • INHS researcher awarded Distinguished Service Award

    Mark Wetzel, research scientist and oligochaetologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), was awarded the 2014 Distinguished Service Award in May by the Society for Freshwater Science, an international scientific organization with over 1,800 members in over 40 countries that promotes understanding of freshwater ecosystems.

  • INHS staff attend 5th North American Duck Symposium

    Illinois Natural History Survey staff and students were well represented at the 5th North American Duck Symposium held in Toronto, August 17-21. This prestigious symposium is held every three years and is attended by hundreds of scientists from Europe and North America. Forbes Biological Station director Joshua Stafford was a member of the Scientific and Student Awards committees, co-organizer of a special session on Duck Foods and Foraging Habitats in North America, and co-author of two plenary talks, two student talks, and one student poster. Randy Smith and Aaron Yetter each provided poster presentations based on recent work conducted at the Forbes Lab. University of Illinois Ph.D. candidate (NRES) Ben O'Neal received one of only five travel awards from the Delta Waterfowl Foundation to attend the conference. Ben also garnered the award for "Best Ph.D. Presentation" for his presentation titled Waterfowl on Weather Radar: A New View of Dabbling Duck Migration (co-authored by Stafford and Ron Larkin). The Web site of the symposium, with photos and conference proceedings, may be viewed at:

  • Could Asian carp be competing for food with eagles?

    INHS Scientists Dr. Gregg Sass and Dr. John Chick were interviewed by Chris Young for an article that questions the cause of the decline of the Bald eagle, and other birds, at the Starved Rock Lock and Dam. One of the possible contributors to the decline may be due to the presence of Asian carp.

  • Bald Eagles nesting in NE Illinois

    The recent discovery of a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in Lake County has been described as "a fairly big deal." According to INHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey, the Chicago area did not have breeding pairs of eagles until recently, and he knew of only one other nesting pair in Lake County. This discovery brings the total to 5 active Bald Eagle nests in the Chicago area this season.

  • Safety in numbers for 13- and 17-year cicadas

    That loud buzzing heard across the southern half of Illinois this month?  It's the mating calls of periodical cicadas emerged after spending 13 years underground. Most cicada species emerge after 2 to 5 years, but some species have longer cycles and emerge en masse. According to INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich we are should consider ourselves fortunate to have those loud inundations of periodical cicadas. "Illinois has five different (periodic) broods, two 13-year and three 17-year," he said. "We're kind of lucky. We get to see them more often than people further west. Cicadas are found mostly in the tropics, but there are 25 to 30 species in Illinois and close to 100 in the U.S."

  • Joseph Parkos

    INHS scientist comments on rebranding of invasive fish as 'copi'

    Illinois officials this month announced that "Asian carp" would now be called “copi” in an attempt to make the fish more desirable for eating. Joseph Parkos, the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake and Sam Parr biological stations, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about scientific initiatives to study and control carp/copi fish populations and the potential for rebranding to aid those efforts.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Digitization of biological collections will make fragile specimens more accessible for study

    The biological collections of the Illinois Natural History Survey are among the largest in the nation, with nearly 10 million specimens collected over the past 150 years. These collections document our natural heritage and can be studied to understand variations within and between species, changes over time, and countless other topics. Many of the specimens are fragile and must be stored and handled with extreme care. As part of a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at INHS are working with several other institutions to digitize collections, taking high resolution images from a variety of angles. Scientists from around the world will be able to see the images of the specimens and physically handle only the ones that they need for closer examination. For more information on the invertebrate side of the project, check out the InvertNet website.

  • Taxonomists stand up and count your species

  • a deer

    Occurrence of hemorrhagic disease in Illinois: Four decades of spatial and temporal changes

    For Outdoor Illinois Journal, scientists in the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory review the evolving understanding of two vector-borne viral disease affecting both domestic and wild ruminants in Illinois—bluetongue  and epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

  • 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 (

  • Purple martin migration behavior perplexes researchers

    Purple martins will soon migrate south for their usual wintertime retreat, but this time the birds will be wearing what look like little backpacks, as scientists plan to track their roosting sites along the way.

  • Kevin Johnson and colleagues find Passenger Pigeon a place in the family tree

    INHS Ornithologist Kevin Johnson and his colleagues published a paper on the phylogenetics of the extinct Passenger Pigeon. They found that its closest living relative is not the mourning dove, but actually other large pigeons found in Central and South America, but even those are distant relatives. “The passenger pigeon is in a monotypic genus, which means there is only one species in that genus: Ectopistes migratorius,” [Johnson] said. “This bird is pretty diverged from its nearest relatives, meaning it had a unique place in the world. It represented a unique lineage that’s now gone.” For more information, read the press release or an article published by Science 2.0.

  • New species of leafhopper named for INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich

    A new species of leafhopper has been named for INHS Entomologist Christopher Dietrich in recognition of his extensive work on the group. The new species, Futasujinus dietrichi, is described in a paper in the October Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

  • 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.

  • Largemouth Bass behavior inherited from parents, but also learned

    INHS Fisheries Geneticist Dave Phillipp and his lab have studied Largemouth Bass for decades. His findings, including that vulnerability to being caught by anglers is inherited and that bass can learn from negative experiences, were featured in a news story picked up by media across the country.

  • Tommy McElrath wields a net in Trelease prairie

    Chasing bumble bees on a patch of prairie

    Illinois Natural History Survey insect collection manager Tommy McElrath conducts surveillance for bees at the prairie near the University's Trelease Woods. Only 11 of the 18 bumblee bee species historically collected in Illinois have been seen in the last 15 years. Of those remaining here, three are endangered or threatened.

  • Citizen scientist mussel survey finds 14 species

    INHS Field Biologist Sarah Bales accompanied a group to survey mussels at Lake of the Woods. The group of citizen scientists found 314 individual mussels of 14 native and one introduced species. According to Bales, only one species that was previously found there was not found by this group, and that species is rare. She also said that the range of sizes found indicates the mussels are reproducing and that the habitat had not been degraded significantly.

  • Remnant prairies protected by railroads

    INHS Plant Ecologist Bill Handel has been surveying railroad prairies for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for years. The data Handel and his colleagues at INHS gather are used by IDOT and other state agencies to protect native habitats when planning construction projects, mowing along roadways, and applying pesticides. 

  • Researchers from the Illinois Natural History Survey use electricity to stun the fish for capture

    Illinois sportfish recovery a result of 1972 Clean Water Act, scientists report

    Populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish and other sportfish are at the highest levels recorded in more than a century in the Illinois River, according to the Illinois Natural History Survey, which has surveyed fish there since 1957.

  • 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.

  • Science in support of the Forest Preserves of Cook County developing the Natural and Cultural Resources Master Plan