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Illinois Natural History Survey

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  • Southern White Pelicans at Rend Lake in large numbers

    INHS Ornithologist T.J. Benson was featured in an article about the Southern White Pelicans currently being seen in large numbers at Rend Lake. Unlike the Brown Pelicans, which dive into the water for food, White Pelicans align themselves in a circle and scoop up the fish. Benson stated that in the spring the birds might migrate through more quickly needing to get to the breeding grounds, the fall migration can be more spread out, with birds lingering in places with good resources. Asked about the number of birds, he stated that "Anecdotally, you're definitely seeing more and more. It's kind of true that wetland birds in general are tending to do better over time. Some of that is habitat restoration and cleaning up waterways."

  • PhD entomology student receives 2018 Luckmann Award

  • The Field Guide to the Sphinx Moths of Illinois is available!

    Though often overlooked, there are more than 60 species of Sphinx Moth in Illinois. These large beautiful aerobatic moths are sometimes called Hummingbird Moths or Hawk Moths. A sign of their importance, sphinx moths were chosen as Pollinator of the Month for October 2010 by USFWS. The Field Guide to the Sphinx Moths of Illinois is available for purchase by calling 217-244-2415 or emailing

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luckmann award funds students’ professional conference participation

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Field Manual of Illinois Mammals available now

  • Japanese Stilt Grass alert

    Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) was recently discovered in DuPage County in Northeast Illinois.

  • 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.

  • INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor interviewed about White-Nose Syndrome

    INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor was contacted about cave dwelling bats and White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Taylor is part of a team from the Illinois Natural History Survey monitoring caves throughout Illinois for signs of WNS.

  • 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).

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Dr. R. Weldon Larimore, in memoriam

    Richard Weldon Larimore, long-time aquatic biologist of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), died on January 14, 2015 at Urbana, Illinois. He was 91. He is survived by his wife Glenn E. Larimore and three sons Richard L., Kenneth, and Michael Larimore.

  • Butterflies of Illinois field guide is now available from University of Illinois Press

  • Team finds first wild alligator snapping turtle in Illinois since 1984

    Researchers report the first sighting in 30 years of a wild alligator snapping turtle in Illinois. The discovery may be a sign of hope for this state-endangered species, or the animal could be the last of its kind to have survived in Illinois without human intervention, the researchers say.

  • 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.

  • Nature Sketches by Gladys and Ruth Dudley on Exhibit

    The Illinois Natural History Survey currently has on display an exhibit entitled, "Nature Sketches by Gladys and Ruth Dudley," in the Forbes Natural History Building on the campus of the University of Illinois. This exhibition, prepared by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, presents sketches and watercolors by Illinois natives Gladys and Ruth Dudley.

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois: A Field Guide, now available

    The first boxes of our newest field guide, INHS Manual 14: Butterflies of Illinois, arrived late this afternoon and are now available for purchase! Stop by our publications office between 8 a.m. and noon weekdays, or visit our secure online shopsite. The book is $21.80 with tax (plus shipping if ordering online or by phone).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • INHS mycology herbarium receives Alan D. Parker Collection

  • 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.

  • Canaries in the Catbird Seat now available

    Canaries in the Catbird Seat, the INHS publication celebrating the INHS sesquicentennial, is now available for purchase. INHS Special Publication 30 is 306 pages long, and includes color photographs and graphics. The book is edited by Christopher A. Taylor, John B. Taft and Charles E. Warwick. In celebration of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s 150th anniversary, this book incorporates observations made since 1858 by INHS staff and associates. These accounts are summarized and recounted in the chapters of this volume in a language accessible to the broad audience of citizens interested in our shared natural heritage as well as the wider scientific community. Canaries in the Catbird Seat can be purchased for $30.00 (plus shipping and handling) by calling (217) 244-2161 or emailing

  • 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.”

  • Profile of John Chick and National Great Rivers Research and Education Center

    The recently ran an article, "Water Wonders", profiling Dr. John Chick, INHS Aquatic Ecologist, and the role he will play in The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center in Godfrey, Illinois.

  • Research on diving ducks continues

    Researchers at the INHS Forbes Biological Station have banded lesser scaup over the past two seasons to examine their use of restored habitats. Director Heath Hagy hopes to have funding to continue taking blood samples to look at metabolites and contaminants in the birds. “There are a lot of scaup here,” Hagy said. “We are catching 200-400 per day and we are only getting 10-20 recaptures, so there are a ton of birds out there."

  • Kevin Johnson elected Fellow of American Ornithologists' Union

    This year, INHS Ornithologist Kevin Johnson was elected as a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union. Fellows are chosen for their exceptional and sustained contributions to ornithology and service to the Union. Johnson's work has included systematics and the coevolution of host-parasite relationships. Some examples include his work on the passenger pigeon and lice.

  • Be A Hero - Transport Zero campaign to stop the spread of exotic species wins award

    The Awards for Publication Excellence (APEX) are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and one of the Illinois Natural History Survey projects was selected this year for an award. Sarah Zack, Pat Charlebois, and their IL-IN Sea Grant colleague Jason Brown were awarded in the Green Campaigns, Programs & Plans category for their work on our “Be A Hero – Transport Zero” campaign and messaging, and for the website. The campaign is designed to show boaters, fishermen, and other recreational water users how simple it can be to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species between water bodies.

  • 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.

  • Greg Sass discusses Silver Carp and electric fish barrier

    Greg Sass discusses silver carp and the electric fish barrier In a January 9, 2009 article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The article focuses on the impediments to the electric barrier that is supposed to protect Lake Michigan from invasive species moving through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Silver carp, like Asian carp, is an invasive fish threatening the Great Lakes. Greg Sass, INHS Illinois River Biological Station Director, said that silver carp 'accounted for more than 50% of the catch' during 18 weeks of sampling last summer. The full-text of the article can be found on the NewsBank website: Fish fence may get turned on this month But Asian carp barrier for Great Lakes would be at just 25% power

  • Danville, crow capital of the world

    INHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey told the Chicago Tribune that Danville has "the largest winter roost of crows that we know about in the U.S. and Canada." Christmas Bird Counts found 121,500 crows, whereas a year ago, the count was 238,000. INHS Affiliate Mike Ward added that the drought caused a resurgence of West Nile virus, to which crows are particularly vulnerable. Crows rebound well, which might be bad news for the residents of Danville who have unsuccessfully tried many things including trucks with a "cannon" booming to scare the birds.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Illinois aquatic macroinvertebrates poster published

    In collaboration with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Dr. Paul Tinerella has completed a 2-sided (24" X 36") color poster of Illinois aquatic macroinvertebrates. The poster represents general aquatic macroinvertebrate species in Illinois and is part of the ongoing IDNR Poster Series. The poster boasts color images of common, but generally unseen Illinois aquatic macroinvertebrates. Christine Fleener and Evan Glynn of the -WBSL- lab provided field assistance in collecting and preparing a number of animals for the poster. Additional contributions were made by INHS scientists Kevin Cummings, Dr. Mike Jeffords, Dr. Chris Taylor, Dr. Steve Taylor, and Mark Wetzel, who contributed additional color images and text for macroinvertebrates within their specialty areas. External contributors included Dr. Jochen Gerber and Dr. William Roston. Special thanks are extended to Valerie Keener, IDNR, for arrangement, logistics, and extensive efforts in seeing the poster to publication.

  • 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.

  • Invasive species of honeysuckle cause big problems

    INHS plant ecologist Greg Spyreas was cited in an article about invasive bush and Japanese honeysuckle. Based on his previous research, establishment of Japanese honeysuckle decreases the value of an area for wildlife by crowding out native plants. These invasive species of honeysuckle sprout earlier and keep their leaves longer, which shades out other plants. The best method of control is early detection and eradication.

  • 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.