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Natural History Survey

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  • Soil temperatures this winter in Illinois were warmer than normal

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • Field Manual of Illinois Mammals available now

  • black bear

    Data analysis paints a clearer picture of translocation success among black bears

    Javan Bauder and Max Allen analyzed data from 1,462 translocations of 1,293 black bears in Wisconsin from 1979 to 2016, evaluating translocation success of black bears across Wisconsin.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • Japanese Stilt Grass alert

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 pubs-sales@inhs.uiuc.edu.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Monarch butterfly

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

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • PhD entomology student receives 2018 Luckmann Award

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Luckmann award funds students’ professional conference participation

  • 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.

  • 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. 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Why do ducks eat that?

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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 pubs_sales@inhs.illinois.edu.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”