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Illinois 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.

  • Midwest Experiences Warmest and Wettest December on Record

    In a year when many state records were broken, 2015 ended with historically warm temperatures and well above-normal precipitation, leading to the warmest and wettest December on record for the Midwest, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS).

  • INHS field manual mentioned in Environmental Almanac

    Rob Kanter encourages his readers to pick up a copy of Joyce Hofmann's "Field Manual of Illinois Mammals" in a December 4, 2008 article for Environmental Almanac discussing beavers. Kanter cites Hofmann's field guide as, "written with attention to the interests of readers who are not scientists" and also states that the book, "is distinguished by first-rate photographs and original color drawings." The 358 page field guide covers 60 species and is designed to fit in a pocket. Each species features a color illustration by Aleta Holt and a distribution map. Species accounts include scientific and common names, physical descriptions of all animals and their skulls (including measurements and dental formulas), comparisons with similar species, discussions of each animal’s natural history (e.g., habitat, diet, reproduction), brief descriptions of foot tracks, and notes on status and distribution in Illinois. Generalized shapes of front and hind tracks are illustrated, as are characteristic track patterns of some species. In addition, two dichotomous keys are provided for each order. The book is available by contacting the INHS Publications Office at (217) 244-2161 or at the following e-mail address: pubs-sales@inhs.uiuc.edu. Please reference "Manual 12" when ordering.

  • INHS plant ecologist finds that many retailers sell mislabeled invasive vines

    Gardeners hoping to celebrate the beauty of American bittersweet — a native vine that produces orange berries in the fall and is used for wreaths — may be unwittingly buying an invasive bittersweet instead. That’s because many Midwestern retailers are selling oriental bittersweet with labels misidentifying it as the native plant, researchers report.

  • 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.

  • INHS staff members give book picks in Environmental Almanac

    Rob Kanter creates a list of environmental books in the December 11, 2008 issue of Environmental Almanac. Kanter asked some people with environmental interests if they would suggest some books for the list. Both Jamie Ellis, Illinois Natural History Survey botanist, and Dr. Chris Phillips, Illinois Natural History Survey Herpetologist, were asked to suggest books for the year-end list. The entire list can be viewed at the following URL: An environmental book list for the holidays which is on the Environmental Almanac website.

  • Restoration begins on Cook County Forest Preserve lands

    The Prairie Research Institute, with researchers from INHS and our sister surveys, has helped the Forest Preserve District of Cook County identify areas for restoration under the Next Century Conservation Plan. Restoration on Deer Grove West in Palatine is underway.

  • 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.

  • Updated catalogue of names and descriptions of the oligochaetes now online

    INHS Oligochaetologist Mark J. Wetzel and John W. Reynolds (Oligochaetology Lab, Ontario, Canada) recently launched a new website presenting the second edition of Nomenclatura Oligochaetologica, as Nomenclatura Oligochaetologica Editio Secunda – a catalogue of names, descriptions, and type specimens of the Oligochaeta.

  • William Anderson receives Award of Merit

    William L. Anderson was the recipient of the 2007 Professional Award of Merit from the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society on December 5th at the Annual Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference held in Madison, Wisconsin. The Wildlife Society’s Professional Award of Merit is given periodically to outstanding wildlife professionals, who live in the eight-state North-Central Section, for their contribution to scientific knowledge and their leadership over a period of several years. Read more about the award press releases from the DNR and the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Snowy Owls invade Illinois

    This winter, Snowy Owls have been sighted in Illinois almost daily. According to INHS Ornithologist Steve Bailey, "It's probably the biggest Snowy Owl invasion in years." He explains that this year's high lemming population led to an increase in young snowy owls. Bailey asks bird watchers to be responsible and keep their distance. Flushing an owl causes them to expend a great deal of energy and these birds have already migrated up to 1,000 miles. And as for those fabulous photographs of a snowy owl approaching the camera with talons outstretched? Those are often staged by photographers baiting the owls with captive raised mice. Bailey reminds bird watchers to "keep the bird's welfare in mind," and not lure the owls towards dangerous roadways with store bought mice that may harbor diseases.

  • Fig wasps older than known fig trees

    INHS Paleontologist Sam Heads found an ancient fig wasp that pre-dates any known fig trees. According to Heads, “This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it's the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it's the oldest representative of its family. More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That's a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”

  • Mild weather confusing to plants and animals?

    With warm temperatures this winter, some people have been concerned about the effect on plants and animals. A Northern Leopard frog and a Western Chorus frog were among the interesting finds causing a stir this winter. INHS Herpetologist Michael Dreslik said that this particular sighting was not much to worry about as these frogs are cold tolerant with Western Chorus frogs beginning to breed in mid-February. Lake County News-Sun

  • 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.

  • It's ok to feed birds in the winter

    INHS Avian Ecologist Jeff Hoover was interviewed by The Southern about the ongoing debate of whether or not to fill bird feeders in the winter. “By and large feeding can have a positive effect on birds, particularly in hard winters," Hoover said.

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

  • 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.

  • Winter 2011 INHS Reports now available

    The Winter 2011 INHS Reports is now available. The cover story is on the INHS Library Open House for the John K. Bouseman Natural History Survey Library Endowment Fund. Inside, there are articles on: A Strategic Approach to Establishing Grasslands in Illinois, Homer Buck—In Memoriam, What Doesn't Kill Mosquitoes Makes Them More Dangerous, two new publications available from INHS, and Species Spotlight and Naturalist's Apprentice on Eastern Meadowlark.

  • DeWalt, Giordano, and Chabot discuss phylogeography of aquatic insects at ESA

    Drs. R. Edward DeWalt and Rosanna Giordano and graduate student Ember Chabot presented their research on the phylogeography of two species of stoneflies (Insecta: Plecoptera) at the December annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Indianapolis, IN. Central TN & KY and the AR & MO Ozarks both served as refugia for these species, with TN & KY contributing most to repopulation of the North. More work is underway to determine routes of dispersal, if other refugia were used, and to determine if these patterns hold for other species.

  • Env. Almanac posts about Confluence Field Station

    Rob Kanter writes about the Confluence Field Station at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center which will open in the Spring of 2010. The article ran in the Environmental Almanac blog. More information can be found by reading the "Confluence Field Station will enhance efforts of National Great Rivers Research and Education Center" post.

  • 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.

  • Master Naturalists help identify insects for collection

    Members of the Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists came to the Illinois Natural History Survey to help identify some of the 2,300 insect specimens that were collected by an "amateur" entomologist and donated to INHS. The volunteers were assisted by INHS Entomologists Joe Spencer, Sam Heads, Michael Jeffords and Susan Post. Portions of the collection will stay at INHS and others will be used for educational purposes through the Master Naturalist Program and Sugar Grove Nature Center.

  • Digitization of biological collections will make fragile specimens more accessible for study

    The biological collections of the Illinois Natural History Survey are among the largest in the nation, with nearly 10 million specimens collected over the past 150 years. These collections document our natural heritage and can be studied to understand variations within and between species, changes over time, and countless other topics. Many of the specimens are fragile and must be stored and handled with extreme care. As part of a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at INHS are working with several other institutions to digitize collections, taking high resolution images from a variety of angles. Scientists from around the world will be able to see the images of the specimens and physically handle only the ones that they need for closer examination. For more information on the invertebrate side of the project, check out the InvertNet website.

  • Could Asian carp be competing for food with eagles?

    INHS Scientists Dr. Gregg Sass and Dr. John Chick were interviewed by Chris Young for an article that questions the cause of the decline of the Bald eagle, and other birds, at the Starved Rock Lock and Dam. One of the possible contributors to the decline may be due to the presence of Asian carp.

  • The Nature Conservancy video of Asian Carp features Dr. Chick

    The Nature Conservancy has produced a short video, called "Tracking Asian carp on the Mississippi," that features Dr. John Chick, INHS Aquatic Ecologist and Director of the INHS' Great Rivers Field Station, discussing the problem that the invasive Asian carp are posing to Illinois' rivers.

  • INHS graduate student interviewed for Medill Reports

    Whitney Banning, a doctoral candidate whose advisor is Dr. Christopher Phillips, was interviewed for an article that appeared in the On-line version of Medill Reports. Medill Reports is produced by graduate journalism students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The article, "Local turtles disappear as urbanization destroys Illinois wetlands", focuses on Blanding's turtle, which is a state-threatened species in Illinois. In the article, Banning encourages individuals to watch for turtles crossing roads and also to report turtle sightings.

  • Merritt answers how mammals cope with the cold

    With all the hype surrounding Punxsutawney Phil, Environmental Almanac's Rob Kanter decided to interview INHS Mammalogist Joe Merritt, who reported that groundhogs don't generally come out of hibernation until early March. According to Merritt, while groundhogs do hibernate, most mammals in Illinois do not truly hibernate, rather they go into a state of  "winter lethargy." Of the 60 mammal species in Illinois, only 16 truly hibernate, 12 of which are bats. Watch a short video on groundhogs from INHS Outreach Group

  • New division joins the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability

    The newly formed Illinois State Archaeological Survey has become the fifth division of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability. The Illinois Natural History Survey welcomes a new Survey among its ranks.

  • Mike Ward discusses Bald eagles in IL

    Dr. Michael Ward, Critical Trends Assessment coordinator at the Illinois Natural History Survey, discusses bald eagle population trends in the 31 January 2009 edition of "The State Journal Register." The bald eagle, which is no longer federally listed as endangered, is also being considered for removal from the state list. Ward says that the bald eagle populations in the state are on the rise and that, “the trajectory is really positive.” The full text of the article is available at NewsBank. The article was also picked up by GateHouse News Service, and was printed in the 2 February 2009 edition of the Lincoln, IL "The Courier."

  • Illinois Times features INHS waterfowl research

    An Illinois Times article follows INHS technicians Danielle DeVito and Curt Kleist as they attach radio transmitters to ducks inside the Emiquon Preserve near Springfield, IL. The birds are being tagged in an effort to study the ducks' migration inside of the preserve. Dr. Joshua Stafford, Director of the INHS Forbes Biological Station, hopes to learn about how and where mallards spend their time at Emiquon. The data that has been collected from the transmitters will be processed to see if any patterns emerge.

  • Dr. Merritt discusses animal hibernation in State-Journal Register

    A February 5, 2010 article called "Animals adopt strategies to survive winter" is available On-line in the State-Journal Register. Chris Young focuses the first half of the article on birds, but the second half is dedicated to mammals, including the groundhog. Dr. Joesph F. Merritt is quoted in the latter half. The article can be read at the State-Journal Register's site, or at the NewsBank site.  Additionally, the article was also picked up by the GateHouse News Service, and ran in the Siskiyou Daily News (Yreka, CA), The Courier (Lincoln, IL) and the Norwich Bulletin (CT).

  • Soil characteristics may be related to chronic wasting disease persistence, study finds

    Deer infected with chronic wasting disease are doomed to a slow and certain death, eventually wasting away as they lose the ability to eat and drink. There is no cure and no vaccine, and the number of infected deer continues to rise every year. But University of Illinois scientists recently published a new study that could help explain the movement of the disease across the landscape.

  • "Life in the Soil" a must-read for naturalists and gardeners

    Author James Nardi, adjunct scientist with INHS, discusses his new book "Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners" in a February 7, 2008 article published in the Anchorage Daily News. The well-organized book features information on a wide array of animals living in the soil beneath our feet. Readers will find taxonomic data, information on food web interactions, and species impact for gardeners. A December 20, 2007 Washington Post article discusses the book and its release. His book is available for purchase at Amazon.com.

  • Coming back strong: Illinois Bald Eagle populations on the rise

    Bald Eagle populations in Illinois are on the rise. In 1980, Bald Eagles were found breeding only in extreme Southern Illinois, but in surveys during 2008, nesting pairs were found in 67 Illinois counties. Part of the increase is attributed to the ban of DDT in 1972, but according to INHS Ornithologist Mike Ward, that was just the beginning. Environmental regulations have led to cleaner waterways (enabling eagles to more easily catch fish) and eagles have become more comfortable around humans. Being able to be near people gives them a lot more places to breed in Illinois, Ward said.

  • 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

  • Illinois Birds lead author Jeff Walk interviewed on Chicago Tonight

    Jeff Walk, lead author of Illinois Birds: A Century of Change, was interviewed on WTTW's Chicago Tonight on 9 February 2011 about the book and about the changes in bird populations. Jeff was also quoted in an article about how the snow and cold temperature are affecting wildlife.

  • INHS researchers seen in "Outdoor Wisconsin" program

    Illinois Natural History Survey scientists Dr. Greg Sass and Kevin Irons were interviewed by Dan Small from "Outdoor Wisconsin" about Asian carp, an invasive species that are not only an environmental problem, but a physical hazard for boaters as well. The ten minute interview, which focuses on the Illinois River, can be viewed on YouTube on the Outdoor Wisconsin channel (episode #2601).

  • Applications for Luckmann Award sought

    Dr. William H. Luckmann served as a researcher and administrator for applied entomological programs at the Illinois Natural History Survey from 1949 through 1984. Applications for the William H. Luckmann award are now being accepted. Additional information about the award, including deadlines and requirements, can be found on the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois website.

  • 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. 

  • INHS botanist Jamie Ellis on "In the Garden"

    INHS Botanist Jamie Ellis was on the WCIA morning show "In the Garden" segments this morning, 2/17/2011, giving tips to gardeners and landscapers about using native plants and avoiding exotic invasive plant species.

  • 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.

  • INHS researchers described more than 100 new species in 2013

    Last year, INHS researchers described over 100 species new to science. The Prairie Research Institute Library wrote a nice summary of the papers published by INHS scientists in 2013. Prairie Research Institute Library Blog

  • 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.