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Natural History Survey

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  • 1000 more endangered mussels released in Illinois rivers

    Over the course of a week, 1000 endangered mussels were collected from under a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania, packed for safe transport, quarantined, marked, measured, and released into new sites in Vermilion County, Illinois. This is the third relocation from Pennsylvania to Illinois as part of the Species Survival Plan for two endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell and the clubshell. Read the entire story from the U of I News Bureau, INHS, and the News Gazette.

  • 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.

  • 2009 William H. Luckmann winner announced

    Nicholas A. Tinsley has won the 2009 William H. Luckmann Award for Research in Applied Entomology. His research project, "Effects of Current and Future Soybean Aphid Management Tactics on Soybean Aphids and Their Natural Enemies in Illinois," will help scientists and growers improve methods of Soybean Aphid integrated pest management. The William H. Luckmann Award is given for research that focuses on aspects of applied entomology such as arthropod pest management, use of insects in biological control programs, pollinators, or natural areas health. The research may be carried out for agricultural, horticultural, urban, medical or natural areas systems. Visit the Illinois Natural History Survey webpage to learn more about the William H. Luckmann award.

  • 2014 Illinois First Detector Workshops for invasive species announced

    The schedule is up for the First Detector workshops for 2014. This program, a cooperative effort between University of Illinois Plant Clinic, University of Illinois Extension, and the Illinois Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program (Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute), is a great way to learn about new pests, diseases, and plants heading into Illinois. Last year, the trainings focused on forested ecosystems; this year the focus is on Landscape and Nursery pests.

  • A spotted turtle in water

    30 years of data show spotted turtle communities are still vulnerable

    Populations of the endangered spotted turtle in Illinois are holding up better than those in other states, based on 30 years of data at the University of Illinois. Still, only two populations remain, and the predictions are poor.

  • assassin bug fossil

    50 million-year-old fossil assassin bug has unusually well-preserved genitalia

    The fossilized insect is tiny and its genital capsule, called a pygophore, is roughly the length of a grain of rice. It is remarkable, scientists say, because the bug’s physical characteristics – from the bold banding pattern on its legs to the internal features of its genitalia – are clearly visible and well-preserved. Recovered from the Green River Formation in present-day Colorado, the fossil represents a new genus and species of predatory insects known as assassin bugs.

  • Aaron Yetter elected Secretary of the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society for 2009

    Aaron Yetter has been elected Secretary of the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society for 2009. The states represented in the North Central Section, one of eight sections in the country, are: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. More information about the mission of The Wildlife Society, and the purpose of its sections, can be found on the organization's homepage.

  • Paleontologist Sam Heads in the lab

    A donation for the ages

    A recent gift of thousands of fossils provides insights about a dynamic stage in the climatic evolution of North America.

  • non-native cattail

    Aggressive, non-native wetland plants squelch species richness more than dominant natives do

  • bird banding

    A marvelous morning of migratory bird banding

    In a look Behind the Scenes, avian ecologist Tara Beveroth, other INHS staff, and students band birds at the Phillips Tract natural area. Data that they gather will be sent to the federal Bird Banding Laboratory, which collects, archives, and disseminates information for avian research. 

  • Leellen Solter and Sam Heads

    Ancient katydid fossil reveals muscles, digestive tract, glands and a testicle

    Fifty million years ago in what is now northwestern Colorado, a katydid died, sank to the bottom of a lake and was quickly buried in fine sediments, where it remained until its compressed fossil was recovered in recent years. When researchers examined the fossil under a microscope, they saw that not only had many of the insect’s hard structures been preserved in the compressed shale, so had several internal organs and tissues, which are not normally fossilized. 

  • A new species of Drypetes described

    In a recent paper in Phytokeys, INHS Botanist Dr. Geoffrey Levin described a new species of Drypetes from Costa Rica. This new species of flowering tree produces asymmetrical drupes (fleshy fruits), leading to its name Drypetes asymmetricarpa.

  • Annual Spring Bird Count - May 10th

    For the last 40 years, one day each spring, birders across Illinois go out and identify as many species of birds as they can. This data is compiled into a database managed by the Illinois Natural History Survey. Visit our website for more information on the Spring Bird Count.

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

  • Ph.D. candidate Sulagna Chakraborty, center, led a study of farmer awareness of ticks and tick-borne diseases with U. of I. pathobiology professor Rebecca Smith, left, and Illinois Natural History Survey wildlife veterinary epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla.

    Are Illinois farmers aware of the risk of tick-borne diseases?

    Tick-borne illnesses like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are on the rise in Illinois, and outdoor workers like farmers are at higher risk than those who spend more time indoors. 

    blog post

    blog postsTick-borne illnesses like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are on the rise in Illinois, and outdoor workers like farmers are at higher risk than those who spend more time indoors. 

    Tick-borne illnesses like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are on the rise in Illinois, and outdoor workers like farmers are at higher risk than those who spend more time indoors. 

  • Arsenic, mercury and selenium in Asian carp not a health concern to most

    A recent study by INHS researchers Jeffrey M. Levengood, David J. Soucek, Gregory G. Sass, Amy Dickinson, and John M. Epifanio showed that overall, concentrations of arsenic, selenium, and mercury in bighead and silver carp from the lower Illinois River do not appear to be a health concern for a majority of human consumers. The full results of the study have been published in the journal Chemosphere.

  • Asian Carp barrier catches turtle

    A barrier designed to prevent Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan had the unintended consequence of catching a snapping turtle. This was the first known instance of an animal trapped in the mesh and the turtle was released unharmed. When first installed, migrating turtles were completely blocked by the carp barrier. Subsequent gates installed along the length of the barrier allow turtles to migrate through. The location of the gates was based on the multi-year radio telemetry study conducted by INHS herpetologists on the endangered Blandings' Turtle and other turtles in the area.

  • Asian carp still doing well

    Thad Cook, of the Illinois River Biological Station, took an impressive photo of carp that appeared in a web log of the Peoria Journal Star.

  • Asian tiger mosquito

    Asian tiger mosquito gains ground in Illinois

    Researchers report that the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has become more abundant across Illinois in the past three decades. Its spread is problematic, as the mosquito can transmit diseases–like chikungunya or dengue fever–to humans.

  • jumping silver carp

    Assessment of Asian carp in Illinois waterways

    Scientists and policymakers have long struggled with managing Asian carp numbers in Illinois waterways. PRI's Joe Parkos and Steve Butler explain what's working to scale back these intruders as they inch toward the Great Lakes.

  • Attack of the Flying Fish

    The Illinois Times talks to Kevin Irons, INHS LTRMP Fish Specialist, about sampling for Asian carp. Irons catalogs some of the things that he does to make sampling on the Illinois River safe.

  • Auriel Fournier

    Auriel Fournier elected First Vice President of Wilson Ornithological Society

    Fournier, director of the Forbes biological station and waterfowl ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) began her journey with the Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), an international scientific society comprising professional and amateur ornithologists, when she attended the Society’s Annual Meeting in 2015 as a Ph.D. student. She will serve as First Vice President for two years before serving as President in 2025

  • Bald Eagles "making an impressive comeback"

    INHS Ornithologist Mike Ward was contacted about the increase in eagle sightings in the area. According to Ward, there were fewer than 20 eagle nests in Illinois in the 80s, whereas during the last spring bird count, there were an estimated 200 eagle nests.

  • 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.

  • Banned chemicals persist in river otters

    INHS researchers Samantha Carpenter and Nohra Mateus-Pinilla recently published a paper in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. Carpenter, Mateus-Pinilla, and University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory researchers, analyzed liver tissue samples from 23 river otters looking at 20 organohalogenated compounds used in agriculture and industry. Read stories from the Red Orbit and News Room America.

  • Baseline mussel survey finds only one female Fatmucket

    INHS Aquatic Biologist Jeremy Tiemann led a team in a baseline survey of mussels in Crystal Lake Park, finding only a female Fatmucket. The team will return in 5-10 years to see if the planned installation of in-stream riffles improves the habitat and changes the mussel population.

  • Bass learn from experience not to take the bait

    Largemouth bass apparently don’t learn to avoid fishing lures from other bass but instead from their own past experiences, according to University of Illinois research.

  • "Bearded" crayfish species—what else is out there?

    INHS Astacologist Chris Taylor was interviewed by On Earth about the new species of "bearded" crayfish he described earlier this year. He described crayfish as "one of the most important, if not the most important link" between primary producers (which they eat), and predators like fish and birds (which eat them). He added that uncovering a new species in a well studied area "just reinforces the point that we don't know everything about these aquatic ecosystems, and that there are still discoveries to be made."

  • Buckeye butterfly

    Become a citizen scientist for pollinators with University of Illinois

    University of Illinois Extension is calling all lovers of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that keep our crops and gardens growing to join scientists in tracking their distribution and habitat use across the state, from the comfort of your home, school, or community garden.

  • Beware of Climate Neoskepticism

    Skepticism and uncertainty should not excuse inaction in protecting the environment from human-caused climate change, say scientists in a new essay published in the journal Science on August 12.

  • Biology of Small Mammals, by INHS mammalogist Joe Merritt selected as an "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2010

    The Biology of Small Mammals, by INHS mammalogist Joe Merritt was selected by Choice Reviews as one of the "Outstanding Academic Titles" of 2010. It was one of 10 books selected for the list from the Zoology category.  Choice Reviews is a publication of the American Library Association.

  • Loren Merrill

    Bird gets worm, makes history

    Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Loren Merrill describes how he observed the unusual behavior of a pied-billed grebe from his balcony, leading to an insight published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Bobwhites nesting in a field of flowers.

    Bobwhites listen to each other when picking habitat

    Northern bobwhites are attracted to a habitat based on whether other bobwhites are present there, research led by Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist Michael Ward. This phenomenon, called conspecific attraction, could aid conservation efforts.

  • Boom of record breaking bass over?

    INHS Conservation Geneticist Dave Philipp studied bass for 20 years, finding that genetics plays a role in which fish are caught. Fish that are more aggressive, thus more likely to bite a hook, pass that trait on to their offspring. As those aggressive fish are caught and removed from the population, the remaining fish are genetically harder to catch. This is one of the theories suggested to explain the mystery of why the Pennsylvania Largemouth Bass State Record has stood for nearly 30 years.

  • 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.

  • Serina Taluja scans a plant specimen from the INHS herbarium

    Bringing yesterday's plants to digital life

  • Brown marmorated stink bug in Illinois

    The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is a new invasive species being found in Illinois that is getting a lot of media attention. INHS Entomologist Chris Dietrich discussed the bugs in the Geneva Republican, stating that with no natural predators, these bugs can become a nuisance species. He adds that, “They’re actually considered a delicacy in some parts of Mexico.” Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey Entomologist, Kelly Estes was interviewed about the bugs on WGLT - Bloomington NPR affiliate and WILL 580. This species has been confirmed in Cook, Kane, Champaign and McLean counties but scientists are still determining the extent of its spread. She asks that if you think you have this (or other pest species) send her a photo or the actual specimen for positive identification. She can be contacted at

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are on the Move This Fall

    An invasive stink bug species has been found in five newly invaded Illinois counties this year, according to Kelly Estes, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) coordinator in the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

  • Bullfrogs insensitive to road salt

    INHS post doctoral researcher Tanya Hawley Matlaga, INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips, and INHS Ecotoxicologist David Soucek report that bullfrogs are less sensitive to elevated chloride concentrations than some other amphibian species. The study was designed to mimic the level of salt found in roadside ponds following de-icing events. The study found that bullfrog tadpoles did not experience reduced survival, growth, or ability to evade predation in elevated chloride concentrations, and thus, their populations are not expected to be impacted by road salt. While this is good news for bullfrogs, it's an additional stress for other species inhabiting ponds with these voracious predators.

  • Bumblebee populations declining

    The bumblebee crisis was discussed in a February 21, 2008 post to the North Carolina State University Insect Museum blog. The article discusses what factors are contributing to the bumblebee's decline and mentions research done by Solter labs. Lee Solter is an Associate Scientist and Insect Pathology Research Leader with the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Bumper crop of mosquitoes, but not West-Nile Virus, yet

    According to INHS Medical Entomology Director Ephantus Juma Muturi, despite the large number of mosquitoes out now, the level of West-Nile Virus is still very low. The optimal breeding environment for West-Nile Virus bearing mosquitoes is dry, warmer weather, when the larvae are not washed away by heavy rains.

  • Monarch butterfly

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

  • Sumatran tiger captured by camera trap

    Camera-trap study captures Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, other rare beasts

    Scientists deployed motion-sensitive camera traps across a 50-square-mile swath of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southern Sumatra and, over the course of eight years, recorded the haunts and habits of dozens of species, including the Sumatran tiger and other rare and endangered wildlife. Their observations offer insight into how abundant these species are and show how smaller creatures avoid being eaten by tigers and other carnivores.

  • A new study adds to the evidence that apex predators like pumas play a unique role in ecosystems that is not fulfilled by smaller carnivores.

    Camera-trap study provides photographic evidence of pumas' ecological impact

    A camera-trap study of two ecosystems – one with pumas and one without – adds to scientists’ understanding of the many ways apex predators influence the abundance, diversity and habits of other animals, including smaller carnivores. The study followed multiple members of the order Carnivora, looking at how the largest carnivore in each locale influenced the behavior and presence of other animals in the same vicinity.

  • Camera trap study reveals the hidden lives of island carnivores

  • Carp play a role in disseminating plant seeds in the Illinois River

  • Casting a net for conservation

    Go Behind the Scenes with graduate research assistant Benjamin Williams as he catches ducks and records data along the Wabash River.

  • Cat disease Toxoplasmosis found in muskrats and minks

    INHS Graduate student Adam Ahlers led a study on the prevalence of Toxoplasmosis, a disease spread by cats. The researchers found antibodies for Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, in 18 of 30 muskrats and 20 of 26 minks tested for the disease in central Illinois.