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Natural History Survey

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  • INHS joins effort to digitize North American parasite collections

    The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) joins Purdue University and 25 other institutions to lead an effort to modernize the world’s knowledge of arthropod parasites by digitizing more than 1.3 million specimens using a three-year, $4.3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

  • American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) egg  (parthenogen) showing banding pattern indicative of potential  viability.

    INHS researchers reveal “virgin birth” in a crocodile

    In a recent study published in the journal Biology Letters, this is the first known instance of a crocodile virgin birth, but virgin births (parthenogenesis) have been recorded in fish, birds, lizards, and snakes. Parthenogenesis is a natural form of asexual reproduction in some animals where viable offspring are produced from an otherwise unfertilized egg. Mark Davis, a conservation biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and co-author on the study helped examine the crocodile fetus' genomic makeup, ultimately discovering that the fetal genome resulted from reproduction without a male crocodile’s genetic contribution. 

  • 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.

  • Endangered bumblebees to be counted and studied this summer

  • Researchers need your brown marmorated stink bugs

    Fall is the time for many insects to start making their ways indoors for the winter. The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys is believed to have been introduced from Asia and can be a pest on tress and crops. Researchers are still trying to determine the range of the BMSB and need your help. If you believe you have BMSB, we would be very interested in looking at it.

  • Working with scientists better informs managers’ decisions on bird conservation

    Scientists studying birds have the data, and conservation managers make the decisions in the field, but if the two groups collaborate, together they can form the best outcomes on real-world bird conservation issues.

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • Recorded bird calls entice warblers to nest in conservation areas

    Some species of migrating songbirds return each year to their favorite summer home in the Midwest, where food and nesting sites are plentiful. A University of Illinois scientist and a biologist from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found that recorded birdsongs could coax endangered Kirtland’s warblers to a new breeding site hundreds of miles from their usual destination for their own protection.

  • Researchers survey and study mosquito vectors for the Zika virus in Illinois

    Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey are surveying and collecting adult female mosquitoes in Illinois and testing how effective insecticides are against them, particularly the Asian tiger mosquito, a species capable of transmitting the Zika virus.

     

  • Black bear in a field of lupines

    Translocation is a viable option for problem bears

    One way to manage bears who damage property and crops is to move them to a different area within their geographic range. Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) scientists studying translocation have found that capture and release does not lower bears’ survival rates, so it’s a good option for handling nuisance bears.

  • 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. 

  • Researchers find link between avian malarial infections and body condition in migrating ducks

  • Western corn rootworm behavior in soybeans offers clues to understanding rotation resistance

    Illinois farmers’ concerns about increasing western corn rootworm populations and plant damage in rotated cornfields have University of Illinois researchers taking a closer look at how rootworm diets affect the beetles’ flights from soybeans to cornfields.

  • Aquatic biology team showing the mussels they've found

    Surveys and relocations protect vulnerable mussel populations

    In the summer’s heat, an Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) aquatic biology team can be found in shallow rivers or streams under bridges slated for reconstruction, wading in water and sliding their fingers through the rocks and sediment below, searching for the edge of mussel shells. They’ll move the mussels they find out of harm’s way of construction equipment that will soon roll into the area.

  • Few hunters know how their duck stamp dollars are spent

    Illinois hunters each pay $25 for an annual federal duck stamp to legally shoot waterfowl, yet few know how their money is used, according to a University of Illinois study.

  • Eades wins award for efforts in the field of biodiversity informatics

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • Soil temperatures this winter in Illinois were warmer than normal

  • Be A Hero: Release Zero

    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.

  • Drone in the sky

    New project is multistate, on-farm study of futuristic corn rootworm management

    As the toxins from Bt corn become less and less effective at managing western and northern corn rootworms, what’s next? It will take a combination of innovative techniques to provide sustainable control, according to University of Illinois researchers, who are gearing up for a project involving next year’s crops.

  • Learn to Hunt Program bases hunter recruitment on science

    Today’s hunters are more diverse and more likely to hunt for the meat than for the camaraderie of fellow hunters than in generations past. Understanding these motivations and constraints with scientific data helps staff of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s (INHS) Learn to Hunt Program draw new hunters to the activity.

  • 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.

  • copperhead snake photo by Chuck Smith

    Severe drought shuts down reproduction in copperhead snakes, study finds

    A long-term study of copperhead snakes in a forest near Meriden, Connecticut, revealed that five consecutive years of drought effectively ended the snakes' reproductive output.

  • Salt Fork in Champaign County

    Scientists take a historical look at fishes of Champaign County streams

    Using data spanning 120 years, scientists in the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have a unique view of long-term changes in stream fish populations and their habitats in Champaign County. The best news: several fish species that were last seen here in the 1960s have returned to the county, suggesting some streams are improving.

  • PRI projects and data boost agricultural producers’ productivity

    With some of the best farmland in the country, Illinois has a competitive advantage over other states in the agriculture sector. The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois is leveraging this advantage, investing in Illinois’ agriculture economy by offering programs, tools, and research projects to support producers and address current farming issues.

  • Eastern woodrat

    Study explores reasons why relocated woodrat populations have fared well in Illinois

    In a new study, researchers analyzed capture histories of 205 woodrats in the summers of 2013 and 2014 in areas of the Shawnee National Forest where woodrats had been reintroduced. The goal was to estimate local population size and determine how abundance and survival rates were associated with availability of nest-site crevices in rocks, the abundance of owls as predators, availability of nut-producing trees, and the risk of raccoon roundworm infection, which is fatal to woodrats.

  • Japanese Stilt Grass alert

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

  • Monarch butterfly

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

  • Why do ducks eat that?

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Bitter cold in January likely won’t reduce field crop pests in the spring

    Despite the record cold air temperatures, soil temperatures averaged slightly warmer than normal this winter. Consequently, the Arctic conditions are expected to have little effect on overwintering field crop insect pest populations.

  • 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 on a boat

    Research fieldwork comes with safety challenges

    Prairie Research Institute (PRI) researchers and technicians may not know exactly which hazards they’ll face when they conduct fieldwork to study the natural world. What they do know is that there are plenty of dangers to prepare for as they start another field season.

  • a hand clad in a purple latex glove holds a small snake against a grassy backdrop

    PRI offers applied science internships for summer 2022

    PRI is offering hands-on summer internships that will enable undergraduate students from populations underrepresented in graduate study at Illinois to explore careers in applied science. There are opportunities in atmospheric science and climate; biology, ecology, and environmental science; geology; sustainable energy; and water supply and safety. To see all of the internship options and to apply, visit https://go.illinois.edu/PRI-interns

  • Survey seeks ideas to help specialty crop growers make pest control decisions

    Researchers at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute are developing new pest degree day tools for the state’s specialty crop growers. A short online survey offers growers the opportunity to contribute their opinions on how this information is delivered.

  • 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.

  • Digital Extended Specimens provide richer data, global access

    In an article published in BioScience, a team of collaborators including Deborah Paul, biodiversity informatics community liaison with the Species File Group at the Illinois Natural History Survey, describes the Digital Extended Specimen, a network of information with biodiversity data at its core.

  • 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.

  • Study finds minimal risk of exposure to legionella from irrigated wastewater at a safe distance

    Potential exposure to legionella bacteria in municipal wastewater used to irrigate crop fields will likely not pose a health threat to residents living downwind, according to a postdoctoral researcher at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Mentors and students at the end of the workshop.

    Mentors help Illinois students learn to hunt at workshop

    Seventeen University of Illinois students developed their hunting skills at a free two-day workshop at Allerton Park in September. The workshop was part of a statewide program developed by the Illinois Natural History Survey with support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; the goal is to encourage more Illinoisans to participate in hunting, an activity important to both the economy and ecosystems of Illinois.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luckmann award funds students’ professional conference participation

  • 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.

  • PhD entomology student receives 2018 Luckmann Award

  • 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.