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Natural History Survey

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  • INHS kit makes USDA news

    The Emerald Ash Borer Kit offered by INHS was featured in the December 28, 2007 News & Events section of the USDA's National Invasive Species Information Center website.

  • Illinois Birds: A Century of Change applauded by USFWS and IDNR

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources put out a press release praising the most recent INHS Special Publication. “This book demonstrates the importance of investing in long-term research to provide the information needed by natural resource managers to make wise, science-based resource management decisions.  It also emphasizes the importance of public-private, and state-federal partnerships in responding to landscape scale natural resource challenges,” said Marc Miller, Director of the Illinois DNR. “The long term data collected by these surveys provides the information necessary to evaluate changing bird distributions,” said Tom Melius, Midwest Regional Director of the Service. "Illinois Birds: A Century of Change is a benchmark in bird research that will inform current and future bird conservation priorities, and serve as a model for bird research across the United States.” The book was also reviewed in the Rockford Register Star, the BirdBooker Report and the Herald Review.

  • INHS ornithologists participate in Christmas Bird Count

    Les Winkeler, the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan, accompanied Jeff Hoover, Dave Thomas and Matt McKim-Louder on the Cypress Creek Christmas Bird Count. With 64 species identified by their team, Jeff Hoover said, "This is the birdiest Christmas bird count I can ever remember." Winkeler also wrote a side piece about his adventure with the three INHS ornithologists, likening it to "playing in a foursome with Tiger, Jack and Arnie. It's like taking batting practice with George Brett, Rod Carew and Ichiro Suzuki."

  • Historic numbers of waterfowl in the Illinois River Valley

    INHS researchers at the Forbes Biological Station recorded the historic numbers of waterfowl this year in the Illinois River Valley. At migration’s peak, 329,590 mallards were counted, the highest number since 1999. Northern pintails (141,840), green-winged teal (179,620), gadwall (146,300) and northern shovelers (49,060) were present in the highest numbers since the survey began. Learn more about the waterfowl aerial inventories. Follow the Forbes Biological Station on Facebook.

  • Herons persist in Chicago wetlands despite exposure to banned chemicals

    Results of a study led by INHS wildlife toxicologist Jeff Levengood were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Great Lakes Research. The study reports that Chicago-area herons are still being exposed to banned pesticides.

  • Miscanthus, a biofuels crop, can host western corn rootworm

    Dr. Joe Spencer, INHS Insect Behaviorist, and Sathyamurthy Raghu, INHS Affiliate, recently published a paper in PLos ONE. This paper is the first to identify Miscanthus, which is a crop that can be used for biofuels, as a host to corn rootworm. Corn rootworm is estimated to be a billion dollar yearly problem to the United States’ corn industry as the as the corn rootworm damages the plant's roots and leads to a significantly decreased yield.

  • Illinois scientists look for signs of disease that killed millions of bats

    White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection devastating to bat populations, has not yet been detected in Illinois bat populations. As a preventative measure, Illinois caves on public lands have been closed to the public since 2010. This winter an interdisciplinary team of INHS researchers will begin surveying caves in Illinois for evidence of White Nose Syndrome, taking tissue, air and soil samples. Their goal is to form a more complete understanding of the cave environment including the fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms present.

  • Conservation efforts help some rare birds more than others, study finds

  • 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.

  • Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer

    Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, epidemiologist with INHS, recently spoke with Eilee Heikenen-Weiss for the Eight Forty-Eight program on Chicago Public Radio. The show discusses Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and DNR efforts to sample populations and prevent the spread of the disease. View the transcript or listen the audio* for the January 17, 2008 episode. * Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of animal dissection

  • 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. 

  • Contaminated sediments affecting wetland mice

    Jeff Levengood and Ed Heske recently published an article entitled "Heavy metal exposure, reproductive activity, and demographic patterns in white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) inhabiting a contaminated floodplain wetland" in Volume 389, Issues 2-3 of Science of the Total Environment.The article discusses the effects of using contaminated sediments from Lake DePue, Illinois to create a wetland that is home to white-footed mice. View the Science of the Total Environment article at ScienceDirect. Accessible through subscription only.

  • Illinois Natural History Survey Chief to retire

    David Thomas, Natural History Survey Chief since 1997, will retire on February 29, 2008. View the complete press release here.

  • Survey scientists researching moist-soil resources for waterfowl

    Natural History Survey scientists, Joshua Stafford, Aaron Yetter, Chris Hine, Randy Smith, and Michelle Horath have been continuing the moist-soil research of Frank Bellrose from the Forbes Biological Station and F. C. Bellrose Waterfowl Research Center in Havana since 2005. In an article featured in the March 2008 issue of Outdoor Illinois, the scientists discuss their research, the work of Frank Bellrose, and management issues for moist-soil habitats.

  • Natural History Survey part of proposed University of Illinois unit

    During his February 20, 2008 State of the State and Budget Address, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed a plan to merge the Illinois Natural History Survey, Geologic Survey, Water Survey and Waste Management and Resource Center into a new University of Illinois unit, the Institute for Natural Sciences and Sustainability. The proposed plan would remove the Surveys from the Department of Natural Resources effective July 1, 2008. More information about this proposal is available from the University of Illinois News Bureau, State Journal-RegisterPrairie State OutdoorNews-Gazette, and The Pantagraph.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Early Warm Weather brings early insects

    INHS Behavioral Entomologist Joe Spencer told WBEZ that the early warm weather means bugs can mature faster, allowing them to emerge much sooner than they are normally expected to, but this does not necessarily mean there will be more of them.

  • "Periodic table for flies" mapped

    The Fly Tree of Life project has mapped the 260-million-year evolution of the order Diptera. The 152,000 named species of flies are ecologically important as disease vectors, pollinators, and decomposers and this groundbreaking project will facilitate future research into the convergent evolution of traits such as blood feeding and wing-loss. Read the study's abstract here.

  • Entomologists stifled by Indian bureaucracy

    An international collaboration to study insects in the Western Ghats mountains in southern India is stalled due to a hold up by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). INHS' Paul Tinerella and Michael Irwin are involved in trying to keep the project moving along. View the complete Nature article

  • Long-term fish monitoring in large rivers

    INHS scientists examined five long-term fish monitoring programs in large rivers in the U.S. They outline best practices in Fisheries Magazine.

  • Illinois Birds: A Century of Change receives more attention

    Co-author Mike Ward was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about the recently published "Illinois Birds: A Century of Change." Mike Ward said that the results of the most recent studies were somewhat encouraging. "There's definitely reason to be concerned for certain species of birds, but I don't think we're at the worst point in the last 100 years. I think the worst point was definitely somewhere between the 1950s and now, when our waters were really contaminated and there was a wider use of nasty pesticides. There's reason for concern today, but on the flip side there are definitely triumphs."

  • Program gathers data to combat tickborne disease in Illinois

  • INHS scientists seek new sites for mussel relocation

    INHS researcher Jeremy Tiemann is part of a team working to relocate endangered mussels from a bridge construction site in Pennsylvania to Illinois rivers. The first mussels (relocated in 2010) were given PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags to allow monitoring and after a year and a half, approximately 80% of the relocated mussels had survived. An additional 1200 were transplanted in 2012, and now, new locations are being sought for additional transplants.

  • Dinosaurs may have had lice

    A recent article in Biology Letters, authored by INHS Ornithologist Kevin Johnson and his colleagues Vincent Smith, Tom Ford, Paul Johnson, Kazunori Yoshizawa, and Jessica Light, reveals that the ancestors of the lice found on modern day birds and mammals began to diversify prior to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs at the Cretaceous–Palaeogene boundary, 65 million years ago.

  • Mosquito larvae exposed to stress may be better able to transmit viruses

    In a recently published article in Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, INHS Medical Entomologists Ephantus J. Muturi and Barry Alto revealed that exposing mosquito larvae to temperature and insecticide stress may actually increase their ability to transmit viruses. At 30°C but not at 20°C, Ae. aegypti larvae exposed to insecticide were more likely to transmit the virus compared to control treatments. These findings suggest that environmental factors experienced by aquatic stages of mosquitoes contribute to the risk of arbovirus transmission.

  • 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.

  • PRI experts help assess climate change impact on Illinois

    Illinois is undergoing a rapid change in weather patterns that has started to transform the state, according to a new scientific assessment by The Nature Conservancy in Illinois. Scientific experts from across PRI contributed to the report, including Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford; Water Survey scientists Daniel Abram, Walt Kelly, Momcilo Markus, Sally McConkey, and Ashish Sharma; and Natural History Survey scientists Sergiusz Czesny, Jim Ellis, Chris Stone, and John Taft.

    Read more about the report and its findings from the Nature Conservancy.

  • Morel hunting tips from INHS Mycologist Andy Miller

    INHS Mycologist Andy Miller was interviewed for an article about hunting mushrooms in Illinois. For more information on mycological research, visit the Miller Laboratory Page.

  • Spawning Bigmouth Buffalo found in local Champaign drainage ditch

    INHS Fisheries Research Scientist Josh Sherwood was called out by WCIA to catch and identify some large fish found in a drainage ditch. The large fish were Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), usually found in large rivers, but spawn in tributaries. The flooding caused by the recent heavy spring rains likely allowed the adults to swim up to these ditches where they will lay their eggs before returning downstream.

  • 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.

  • InvertNet conference merges systematics and technology

    INHS Bioinformatician Matt Yoder was interviewed about the InvertNet Spring 2012 Conference held in April at University of Illinois.  Yoder said that the conference merged systematists with computer programers and engineers. InvertNet is funded by the National Science Foundations Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) program to provide unprecedented access to specimen images and data from invertebrate collections.

  • Dogs find turtles that researchers can't

    This past week INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips enlisted the help of a team of 8 dogs to locate box turtles as part of a long term population study. The dogs, Boykin Spaniels, and their handler, John Rucker have helped researchers across the country locate box turtles. The study in Illinois is a collaborative effort between the INHS and the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine to monitor the health and ecology of the box turtle populations in an effort to conserve this species. Their small size, high energy, keen sense of smell and ability to fight through thorns enabled the dogs to out-turtle the humans 42 to 4 this week. They will return in June.

  • Citizen scientists invited to participate in bioblitz

    INHS scientists will be participating in a Bioblitz organized by The Wetlands Initiative (TWI) at Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes in Putnam County on June 13-14. Citizen scientists are invited to help document all of the flora, fauna, and fungi of the area over the course of 24 hours.

  • Slow spring for soybean aphids

    INHS Entomologist Dave Voegtlin conducted his annual spring survey for soybean aphids on buckthorn in Indiana and Michigan. He found the majority of locations had no soybean aphids and only a few sites had low numbers of colonies.

  • Fish Quality Index a "potential game changer"

    Project F-69-R, also known as the “Sport Fish Population and Sport Fishing Metric” project, is developing a Fish Quality Index that will help fisheries biologists evaluate and compare the quality of sport fishing for various species in different water bodies. The collaborative project is headed by INHS Sport Fish Ecologist Jeff Stein. This information can be used to inform anglers of the best places to catch a particular species and to help fisheries biologists manage those species. Read more about Project F-69-R and the Sport Fish Ecology Lab's research projects.

  • 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.

  • Conservation efforts work to improve migratory bird habitat

    INHS Ornithologist TJ Benson was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article about migratory birds and bird habitat restoration projects in the Chicagoland area. Benson says that there has been a decrease in shrub land birds over the past century and that studies are currently being done with miniature video cameras to document predation on these birds.

  • Researchers track the secret lives of feral and free-roaming house cats

    A team of University of Illinois researchers, including INHS wildlife veterinary epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and mammalogist Ed Heske, conducted a two-year radio telemetry and activity tracking project on 42 adult cats in Central Illinois to answer that question. They found that pet cats spent only 3 percent of their time engaged in highly active pursuits, such as running or stalking prey while un-owned (feral) cats were highly active 14 percent of the time. Even feral cats stayed near human structures, according to Mateus-Pinilla. The study, "Home range, habitat use, and activity patterns of free-roaming domestic cats" was published in The Journal of Wildlife Management.

  • INHS herpetologists and U of I veterinarians collaborate for turtle conservation

    INHS Herpetologist Chris Phillips and U of I Wildlife Veterinarian Matt Allender are combining their efforts in an attempt to better understand the health of reptile populations in Illinois. Historically, conservation efforts have focused on habitat preservation and restoration, but in recent years, devastating diseases have been observed in wildlife populations. Through collaboration with INHS herpetologists, Allender has found a bacterial infection in box turtle populations and a fungal infection in Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake populations.

  • Snake fungal disease parallels white-nose syndrome in bats

  • 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.

  • INHS waterfowl data used to set hunting seasons

    Aerial surveys conducted by INHS Waterfowl Ecologist Aaron Yetter are being used to help determine the waterfowl hunting seasons for the next 5 years. "Aerial waterfowl surveys conducted by Aaron Yetter of the Illinois Natural History Survey show limited numbers of ducks in the Upper and Lower Mississippi Area near the proposed start date of the North Zone season. The Upper Mississippi area, which includes Keokuk, Iowa, Nauvoo and the Keithsburg Refuge, showed 1,160 ducks on Oct. 11 and 2,335 ducks on Oct. 18, according to the 2010 survey. On Nov. 2, just days after the Central Zone opener, surveys showed 22,470 ducks in the area. The same movements are reflected in the Lower Mississippi region, which includes Swan Lake, Cannon Refuge and Shanks Refuge. On Oct. 11, there were 10,280 ducks counted. On Oct. 18, there were 35,555 ducks. On Nov. 2 there were 81,765 birds. On Nov. 16, there were 171,970. One reason hunters would favor an earlier start to the season would be to avoid the late-season freeze that often negates the final week or two of hunting."

  • 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.

  • Dr. Heads blogs as part of UK National Insect Week

    The Illinois Natural History Survey's insect systematist, Dr. Sam Heads, has been asked by the Royal Entomological Society to keep a blog as part of the UK National Insect Week. This is an outreach project aimed at raising the profile of entomology.

  • Positive tests for West Nile

    Mosquito samples from Morton Grove tested positive for West Nile Virus at the INHS Medical Entomology Lab.