On July 23, the Illinois Natural History Survey's Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS) celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reunion at Riverfront Park in Havana, Illinois. Staff and alumni gathered to celebrate the station’s history, scientific discoveries, stories and adventures, friends, and colleagues. More than 300 scientists have been part of the Illinois River Biological Station over the years, conducting world-class research on our rivers to help better understand and improve our aquatic natural resources. Havana is in the heart of the Illinois River Valley and its rich and vast natural resources have been the catalyst for the long history of scientific research in the area.
In July 1972, Richard E. “Rip” Sparks joined the Illinois Natural History Survey and was stationed at Havana. At his suggestion, the River Research Laboratory was created as a unit of the Havana Station. The River Research Lab’s reputation as a leader in river science was quickly established by Sparks and his investigations on the toxicity of contaminants to bivalves and fishes in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
The Illinois River Biological Station has grown to a staff of more than 50 people, including PhD. scientists, post-doctoral research associates, large river ecologists, aquatic field technicians, and many graduate students.
IRBS is one of six stations of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program’s Long Term Resource Monitoring element (LTRM), funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and administered by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. IRBS staff also coordinate the Long Term Survey and Assessment of Large River Fishes in Illinois (LTEF) on the Illinois River Waterway and select pools on the Upper Mississippi River, black carp research on the La Grange Reach of the Illinois River, invasive carp monitoring throughout the length of the Illinois River as part of a multi-agency collaboration, fish and vegetation monitoring and research at the Emiquon Preserve, and aid in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ongoing management of bighead and silver carps in the Upper Illinois and Mississippi rivers. IRBS staff also coordinate and undertake various other research programs and graduate student projects focusing on large river ecosystems and are active in outreach to the public.