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Natural History Survey

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  • 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:

  • Zebra finch study finds mixed impact of early-life stress

    A bout of early-life stress can have lifelong impacts on two key signals that help male zebra finches attract mates: beak color and song complexity. But rather than being uniformly negative, a recent study published in Functional Ecology found that the consequences of stress are mixed. Stressed males wind up with duller, less colorful beaks but sing more complex songs.

  • Yeast byproduct inhibits white-nose syndrome fungus in lab experiments

  • 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.

  • Winter tips for bird feeders

    Christopher Whelan, an avian biologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, recently offered some tips for keeping overwintering birds in your yard. The tips were featured in the Like an Eagle-Soar blog and were offered through the National Wildlife Association.

  • Winter bald eagle count a new record

    In an article published February 23, 2008 in The Daily Journal, Survey scientist Randy Nyboer discusses the this year's record bald eagle count. Though the count is unfinished, it has already surpassed previous records. Visit this website to view the complete article.

  • Widespread Shallow Groundwater Contamination Found in Southwestern Illinois Cave Streams and Springs

    Researchers have detected prescription and over-the-counter medications and personal care products in Illinois groundwater, an indication that humans are contaminating water that is vital to aquatic life.

  • Why do ducks eat that?

  • White Nose Syndrome found in three additional counties

    White Nose Syndrome, the fungal disease that leads to mortality in bats, has now been confirmed in 11 counties in Illinois. First discovered in New York in 2006, the fungus has spread west, first being detected in Illinois in 2013. INHS Cave Biologist Steve Taylor told an NPR affiliate that, "between 2013 and 2015, it was like a 95 percent decrease in the number of bats at this site, which in 2013 was in excess of 25,000 bats."

  • White Nose Syndrome confirmed in Illinois

    INHS researchers and their collaborators have confirmed the presence of White Nose Syndrome (WNS)—a disease fatal to several of our bat species—in Illinois. Read more about WNS and the work INHS researchers are doing to understand the disease on the INHS website.

  • Where the wild turkeys aren't

    The wild turkeys have not been cooperating with avian ecologist Christine Parker as she attempts to catch, weigh, measure, and fit them with micro-GPS units to learn about their habits.

  • West Nile Virus confirmed in Evanston

    The Illinois Natural History Survey Medical Entomology Lab has reported the first positive tests for West Nile Virus this year from samples collected in Evanston. For more information, visit the Medical Entomology Program website.

  • West Nile found in Champaign county mosquitoes

    INHS Medical Entomology Program confirmed the presence of West Nile Virus in a mosquito sample from the Champaign Department of Public Health. Champaign is the 12th county to have positive mosquito samples this year. No human cases have been reported yet this year, but the CDPH recommends dumping standing water and taking general precautions.

  • Western corn rootworm webinar

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer recently presented a webinar on Western Corn Rootworm, a longtime pest of corn crops in the United States. INHS scientists have been studying WCR, and ways to control them, for over 100 years. This webinar presents a review of WCR biology, the history of corn rootworm as a pest species and the WCR's adaptation to crop rotation that began in Illinois. The use of Bt-transgenic corn for rootworm management is introduced along with assumptions about WCR behavior in refuge and Bt corn. Data on WCR behavior and mating in several different configurations of refuge and Bt- corn are presented to illustrate how the placement of refuge affects the biology and ecology of mating WCR beetles.

  • Western corn rootworm developing resistance to rotation

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer is looking at rotation-resistant western corn rootworms, which are causing severe injury to crops. Crops modified to resist infestation by insects and crop rotation are some of the methods to control injurious insects, but some rootworms have developed resistance to these mechanisms. Repeated use of the modified corn year after year has given the rootworms time to adapt. Producers are encouraged to watch their fields for injury. This story was reported in InvestorPlace and the Bulletin.

  • 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.

  • Western corn rootworm beetles likely to emerge soon

    INHS Insect Behaviorist Joe Spencer has observed corn rootwork larvae in their second instar, which indicates the adults can be expected to emerge in about 2 weeks. This is earlier than previous years, but not unexpected given the warm spring.

  • Tiemann snorkels in Rio Valles

    Weightless in San Luis Potosi

    Field biologist Jeremy Tiemann describes a recent trip to the Valles River basin in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi to collect freshwater mussels. 

  • Waterfowl study helps evaluate Illinois River habitat

    INHS Waterfowl Biologists have been monitoring restored wetlands along the Illinois River to determine if restoration efforts have been successful for waterfowl populations. Chris Young of the State Journal Register went along and documented the diving duck surveys.

  • Waterfowl numbers better than last year

    Aerial surveys this November showed 20 times more ducks on Lake Chautauqua than during the same period last year. The Green-winged Teal made up the majority of those waterfowl, with conditions on the lake this year being favorable. INHS Waterfowl Biologist Randy Smith said, "Green-winged teal like it when the water is so shallow that they can stand up, just an inch or two deep with lots of vegetation." This year's surveys have found that Lake Chautauqua has more than one third of all the ducks at the 16 sites sampled in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

  • Waterfowl counts higher than average

    INHS Waterfowl Ecologist Aaron Yetter conducts weekly aerial surveys and on Nov 13 found more waterfowl than average for this time of year. Yetter counted 305,310 ducks along the Illinois River compared to the10-year average of 234,434 birds for this same week and 356,735 ducks on the Upper Mississippi River compared to the 10-year average of 226,801 birds. "It looks like we got a big push of new mallards. We also have well above average numbers of pintails, gadwalls, lesser scaup and other species," Yetter said.

  • two yellow prothonotary warblers perched on a branch

    Warmer springs mean more offspring for prothonotary warblers

    Climate change contributes to gradually warming Aprils in southern Illinois, and at least one migratory bird species, the prothonotary warbler, is taking advantage of the heat. A new study analyzing 20 years of data found that the warblers start their egg-laying in southern Illinois significantly earlier in warmer springs. This increases the chances that the birds can raise two broods of offspring during the nesting season, researchers found.

  • Vector mosquitoes detected earlier than expected

    INHS Medical Entomologist Richard Lampman was featured on a News Channel 15 story about mosquitoes.  Because of all of the rain, the "nuisance" mosquito population is expected to be above average. The recent hot dry weather has resulted in "vector" or disease-carrying mosquito eggs being found earlier than expected this year.

  • Variation in effectiveness of RNAi treatment in western corn rootworm

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joseph Spencer and his colleagues in Crop Sciences and Entomology recently released a study in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology with findings that there is variation in the effectiveness of RNAi treatments on western corn rootworm (WCR), a major agricultural pest.

  • US Army Corps releases report on Asian carp and electric barriers

    The US Army Corps of Engineers released a report on the operation of the electric barrier system in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. This study focuses on the smaller individuals, which may be better able to cross the barriers. Prior research by Illinois Natural History Survey scientists about the efficacy of the electric barrier systems for adult fish is cited.

  • U of I Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, advised by Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, receives honor

    The University of Illinois Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society has been selected from over 20 universities as the 2007-2008 North Central Section Student Chapter of the year. The group is advised by INHS researcher Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, and the membership has several students associated with the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • U of I Press publishes book authored by INHS staff

    Michael Jeffords and Susan Post recently published a book through the University of Illinois Press, "Exploring Nature in Illinois." The book shares information on many of their favorite locations to explore in Illinois and how to find interesting things while you are at it. The book is available through the U of I Press and was featured in an article in The Southern.

  • Aerial view of fully installed submerged rubble ridges

    Underwater innovation at Illinois Beach State Park to help mitigate coastal erosion

    This past summer, with funding from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a US Army Corps of Engineers crane carefully placed over 10,000 tons of stone five hundred feet offshore of Illinois Beach State Park (ISBP) and Hosah Park, a Zion Park District property wedged between the north and south units of IBSP. These stones form three “rubble ridges” that are intended to work in concert to lessen storm waves and protect the eroding beach and unique terrestrial ecosystem in the dunes while preserving views and enhancing fish habitat.

  • Undergraduates gain valuable experience working with INHS researchers

    Kendall Annetti, an undergraduate student at University of Illinois, has been working on a research project surveying game birds for blood parasites. Under the guidance of INHS Wildlife Epidemiologist Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, Kendall is completing the research portion of her James Scholar Program experience. The invaluable experiences gained by the many students mentored here at the Illinois Natural History Survey help prepare them for careers in science and beyond.

  • Anna Bengtson looks at tissues under a microscope

    Undergrads choose their own adventure in this wildlife research group

    Don’t be fooled by the name: The wildlife and chronic wasting disease research group has a broader mission than you might think. Yes, the research focuses on white-tailed deer, primarily, and on CWD, a baffliing affliction of deer and elk. But for the dozens of undergraduate students who have joined this collaborative effort over the years, the group also is a portal, of sorts, to wide-ranging adventures in research. “More than 50 undergraduates have worked with us in the past 15 years. And most have gone on to successful careers,” said Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, a veterinary epidemiologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey who leads the effort with animal sciences professors Jan Novakofski and Michelle Green.

  • 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.

  • Turning the tables: Application of commercial fishing helps fight the spread of Asian carp

    The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is using federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help Illinois’ commercial fishermen suppress the exploding invasive carp population. The project—which brings together multiple agencies and Illinois universities, including the Illinois Natural History Survey and the University of Illinois—is a complex undertaking involving the newest technology in bubble, sound, and electric barriers and fish-counting sonar, coupled with centuries-old stalwarts such as gill nets.

  • Tri-Point students work and learn with INHS herpetologists

    A group of students from Tri-Point Jr. High visited the herpetology collection at INHS and conducted field work with Herpetologist Andy Kuhns. The students were able to help with surveys for amphibians and reptiles at Ballard Nature Center. In addition to finding several species of reptiles and amphibians, the students learned about their habitats, biology and conservation.

  • 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.

  • Tick-infested songbirds help spread Lyme disease

    Songbird species that carry the ticks responsible for Lyme disease and other diseases forage close to the ground in large wooded areas, according to a recently published study by Christine Parker, a graduate research assistant at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Threat of Zika in Illinois low, but precautions can be taken

    INHS Medical Entomologist Ephantus Muturi was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the threat of Zika virus in Illinois. Muturi says that Aedes aegypti, which transmits Zika, has been found in Illinois but does not thrive in our climate. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopinctus, is found in Illinois, but has not been found to transmit Zika, though more research is needed. 

  • Thinking ahead: Corn rootworm management for 2018

    Illinois corn growers in the northern and central parts of the state have come to expect some rootworm damage, but University of Illinois entomologists say putting management plans in place now could help growers avoid major losses.

  • The threat of invasive species

    INHS Affiliate and former director of the Illinois River Field Station was featured on CBS Sunday Morning in a story about invasive species. On the Asian Carp, Sass stated "We've seen explosive population growth, a population that has almost doubled every year. We're fairly confident we have the highest wild densities of Asian carp anywhere in the world." David Lodge of Notre Dame says studies estimate that invasive species cost the US Economy on the order of at least $120 billion annually. There are 30 federal agencies involved in the fight against invasive species, with about $1.5 billion spent annually. Education and prevention are key to warding off the invasive species.

  • gray squirrel

    The squirrel experiment

  • The extinction of the passenger pigeon

    On Sept. 1, 1914, Martha, the last living passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. This seemingly abundant bird had been decimated by hunting, leaving them vulnerable to other predators. Following the opening of an exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, INHS Ornithologist Kevin Johnson, who reconstructed the family tree of the passenger pigeon, was interviewed.

  • The convergent evolution of bird lice

    Recent research by INHS Ornithologist and Parasitologist Kevin Johnson has found that bird lice have undergone convergent evolution, evolving different body shapes dependent on where they live on the bird. Despite the morphological similarities between lice from the wings of different bird groups, the species are more closely related to other lice species on the same bird group. The same pattern holds true for lice from the head and body. Learn more about Kevin Johnson's research through this video by the U of I News Bureau.

  • The Biology of Small Mammals published

    Dr. Joseph F. Merritt, INHS Mammalogist, is the author of The Biology of Small Mammals, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. The book covers  small mammals, which are defined as weighing 11 pounds and under. The book, 336 pages long, also includes black and white photographs and illustrations. It can be ordered from

  • Adult WCR female

    The best laid plans: Did insect resistance management hasten Bt resistance in western corn rootworm?

    Illinois Natural History Survey scientists studied behaviors of the western corn rootworm to learn why the insect pests have developed a resistance to Bt corn hybrids, once a deterrent that was as effective as soil insecticides but without the human health risks and environmental concerns associated with broad-spectrum insecticides.

  • 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.

  • Chris Taylor and Eric Larson standing in a stream

    Team discovers invasive-native crayfish hybrids in Missouri

    In a study of crayfish in the Current River in southeastern Missouri, researchers discovered that the virile crayfish, Faxonius virilis, was interbreeding with a native crayfish, potentially altering the native’s genetics, life history and ecology. Reported in the journal Aquatic Invasions, the study highlights the difficulty of detecting some of the consequences of biological invasions, the researchers say.

  • Team discovers how western corn rootworm resists crop rotation

  • Taxonomists stand up and count your species

  • Tari Tweddale to give lecture at GIS Day

    Tari Tweddale, GIS/Remote Sensing Specialist and Illinois Gap Analysis Project Coordinator at the Illinois Natural History Survey, will present a seminar called, "GIS in Conservation Biology: Modeling Vertebrate Species Distribution in the Illinois GAP Analysis Project " at GIS Day at Illinois State University. The full line-up of presenters can be found in this Word document which will download to your computer.

  • Targeted culling of deer controls disease with little effect on hunting

  • Tarantulas in jars

    Tarantulas in a pickle jar

    Tommy McElrath takes readers Behind the Scenes of the INHS insect collection. "Storing your dead tarantulas in a gallon-sized pickle jar is not the best solution to long-term preservation. Especially when those tarantulas are toe-tagged – like corpses in a morgue."