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Natural History Survey

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  • Hear the Sound of Owls Calling at Night

    “Birds of omen, dark and foul,” wrote Sir Walter Scott about owls, once considered harbingers of doom, death, and destruction. In Medieval Europe, owls were thought to be witches and an owl's call meant someone was about to die.

  • 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.

  • Amblyomma maculatum (Gulf coast tick), female (left) and male (right)

    Disease-carrying coastal tick established in Illinois

    Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey and Southern Illinois University have new evidence of the Gulf Coast tick becoming established in Illinois. They also have found that it often harbors a pathogen that can make people sick. 

  • Research team examines incubation temperatures for robin eggs

  • Owls eat roadkill, research finds

    Owls have never been known as scavengers that eat decaying flesh, but the behavior is more widespread than once believed, according to University of Illinois researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) who photographed owls scavenging in the night.

  • 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.

  • Exploring personality effects in largemouth bass

    INHS studies have shown that largemouth bass have distinct personalities and that these different types affect predator-prey interactions and possibly habitat use. The explorers tend to have a relatively indiscriminant diet, consuming any prey they encounter, while non-explorers discriminate in their diet selections, focusing on the most profitable prey items. 

  • Healthy deer. Photo by Susan Post, INHS.

    Chronic wasting disease in Illinois: resources and disease dynamics

    Protecting the deer herd from chronic wasting disease has economical value to the State of Illinois, recreational value to deer hunters, and a health value for CWD-susceptible animals. Currently, there is no treatment or vaccination against CWD. Management based on removal of infected deer in areas where disease is present is the only known strategy to control the spread of CWD.

  • Scientists foretell the fate of Illinois’ threatened and endangered plants in a changing climate

    Scorching summers are predicted for Illinois’ future, threatening already vulnerable plant species. University of Illinois scientists have presented a new way to prioritize restoration efforts, not necessarily focusing on the most precarious plants.

  • Researchers studied bobcat population in Wisconsin.

    Researchers find that data from hunters can help assess bobcat population

    Wildlife managers track animal groups to control populations and determine the number of permits provided to hunters and trappers each year. Whether data are taken from the forest or from hunter surveys, their accuracy is necessary to inform conservation, according to Javan Bauder, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois’ Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Researchers describe crayfish conservation concerns and strategies

    Whether you call them crayfish, crawfish, or crawdad, this creature needs protection nationwide to prevent extinction, according to Chris Taylor, Illinois Natural History Survey curator at the University of Illinois. In a recent article published in the journal Hydrobiologia, Taylor and colleagues have outlined possible strategies for conservation practices to protect crayfish from invasive species, habitat changes, and potential overexploitation.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Illinois stream fauna: A look back at pre-settlement biodiversity

    INHS researchers used species record data from INHS research collections, other museums, and trusted sources to model and predict the historical distributions of three main aquatic groups—freshwater mussels, stoneflies, and fish.

  • Researchers suspect that nightjars are declining in Illinois

    Although the Eastern Whip-poor-will is rarely seen, its distinct call occasionally can be heard in forests from dusk until dawn. Once common, Whip-poor-wills and other nocturnal nightjar species are disappearing from Illinois forests as their habitats shrink and change, according to data from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), a division of the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute.

  • Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) Photo: Susan Post, INHS

    Scientists call for global effort to monitor odonate populations

    INHS ecologist Jason Bried and more than 30 co-authors published an article calling for a worldwide effort to monitor not just locations but also quantities of Odonata species.

  • Recent surveys find few of once-common bat species

    Bat species that used to be common in Illinois are scarce in recent surveys, sending up a red flag.

  • holding a crayfish

    New atlas website maps crayfish locations across the U.S.

    Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have developed the new American Crayfish Atlas, the first website to provide nationwide coverage of crayfish distributions, showing where crayfish species have been found and the extent of their ranges.

  • Survey shows species of marsh birds that decline when nearby cities thrive

    Wading into the springtime muddy marshland, pushing aside a wall of plants taller than her head, ornithologist Anastasia Rahlin looks and listens for signs of black terns and yellow-crowned night herons. She plays a recording, waits 30 seconds, and listens for a return call. The species of birds that she doesn’t find in the marsh are the ones she doesn’t want scientists to forget.

  • Scientists find new fungi at the bottom of the Great Lakes

    Far beneath the hulls of sailing ships on the Great Lakes are sediment habitats active with what may one day prove to be a priceless treasure. University of Illinois scientists hope that freshwater fungi inventoried in a new study might potentially contribute to a future treatment for childhood cancer.

  • 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.

  • An eastern red bat.

    Project succeeds in increasing east-central Illinois bat population

    Thirty minutes before sunset, Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) scientists and volunteers set up chairs in the prairie grass at Coles County’s Warbler Ridge Nature Preserve, look up at the summer twilight sky, and wait for the bat show to begin. Soon, the bats emerge from their bat houses to feed and fly off into the night. A good showing of bats is exciting news for the scientists: bat-focused habitat conservation efforts have proven to be effective in attracting and nurturing bat populations, but this work can take time to pay off.

  • Pinto Bean

    Celebrated squirrel’s legacy lives on for visitors

    Pinto Bean, the beloved piebald squirrel that lived and died on the University of Illinois campus, is back. The squirrel’s taxidermied remains are now on display at the Forbes Natural History Building lobby, where visitors can see its rare gray and white coloration that attracted fans and followers at the university.

  • Free workshops give adults a chance to learn to hunt game, waterfowl

    A new program developed by the Illinois Natural History Survey with support from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources aims to encourage more adults to hunt. The Hunter Recruitment Program is offering a series of free workshops around the state, giving new hunters an opportunity to learn from experienced mentors and to get hands-on experience hunting for deer, turkey, squirrels, pheasants, ducks, geese and other game.

  • lichen

    INHS among collaborators on NSF-funded project to digitize bryophytes and lichens

    The Illinois Natural History Survey is among 25 institutions across the U.S. that will image and digitize associated metadata for close to 1.2 million lichen and bryophyte specimens thanks to a $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

  • Scientists Debunk Myths about Illinois Bats

    Bats, long associated with Halloween and tales of horror, have far more to fear from humans than we do from them. Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Prairie Research Institute, monitor bats statewide by capturing, identifying, and banding individuals in fine-meshed netting (mist nets) and collecting acoustic recordings of high-frequency bat calls.

  • Invasive Plants from Water Gardens and Aquariums Must be Disposed of Properly

    When clearing out the foliage from an aquarium or backyard water garden this fall, keep water hyacinth and other invasive plants out of streams, rivers, and other waterways.

  • Study finds ethical and illicit sources of poison frogs in the U.S. pet trade

    With their vibrant colors and small size, poison frogs are popular among amphibian pet owners in the U.S. Most poison frogs come from legitimate frog breeding operations here and abroad, but some are still snatched from the wild illegally in their native countries, according to Devin Edmonds, doctoral student at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS).

  • Asian tiger mosquito

    Researchers track the invasive Asian tiger mosquito in Illinois

    The exotic Asian tiger mosquito, known to transmit diseases to humans, is more widespread in southeastern Illinois than previously realized, according to Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) researchers who conducted a study on how invasive mosquito communities form and shift because of different land uses.

  • Two western diamondback rattlesnakes interacting near dens.

    New research shows rattlesnakes are social animals

    Researchers found that a population of rattlesnakes formed social groups that they frequently interacted within. Despite having overlapping home ranges, they rarely if ever interacted with snakes outside of their social groups. The groups were not formed based solely on geography or family relationships, but rather appear to be based on the time of year, as they leave and return to their winter homes.  

  • Eric Schauber

    Eric Schauber to helm Illinois Natural History Survey

    Eric Schauber, an animal ecologist currently at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has been selected as the next director of the Prairie Research Institute’s Illinois Natural History Survey. Schauber will begin his appointment on July 1, 2018.

  • A stonefly in the Kathroperlidae family

    INHS entomologists identify new family of stoneflies

    Entomologists at the Illinois Natural History Survey have discovered a new family of stoneflies, a finding that helps scientists studying the insects organize information and distinguish the species that need protecting.

  • 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.

  • Researchers rescued stranded mussels on the Vermilion River

  • brown marmorated stinkbug

    Improved pest degree day calculators are available for the 2021 growing season

    Two updated pest degree day calculators from the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) are now available for commodity and specialty crop growers in Illinois, featuring seven-day weather forecasts, graphs, and insect emergence maps to track accumulated degree days and light for the most notorious pests.

  • Tagging a turkey with a GPS monitor

    Prescribed fires affect wild turkey habitat selection

    Prescribed fires used to improve the health of forests influence where wild turkeys choose to nest and roam, according to recent research at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). It turns out that turkeys prefer a variety of forest conditions, from non-burned plots to forests burned each year.

  • eDNA helps researchers track and identify endangered and at-risk species

    A promising technology and unlikely collaboration give scientists greater insights into five rare and hard to find species in Fort Polk, Louisiana. 

  • Girl Scouts provided habitat for Illinois bats

    When it came to earning their Silver Award, which encourages scouts to complete a project that helps their community, Girl Scout Troop 51978 from Westmont, Illinois, decided to support bat conservation with help from Illinois Natural History Survey associate mammalogist Tara Hohoff.

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

  • Jim Lamer

    INHS welcomes Jim Lamer as director of the Illinois River Biological Station

    Jim Lamer joined the Illinois Natural History Survey as a large river ecologist and director of the Illinois River Biological Station in Havana. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Scientists use modeling techniques to tease out coyote and fox population trends in Illinois

    Asking licensed Illinois trappers about their experiences and the numbers of coyotes and foxes they harvest is one way to discover animal population trends. The trick, though, is to account for trappers’ motivations that can be swayed by economic factors and weather.

  • black bear

    Data analysis paints a clearer picture of translocation success among black bears

    Javan Bauder and Max Allen analyzed data from 1,462 translocations of 1,293 black bears in Wisconsin from 1979 to 2016, evaluating translocation success of black bears across Wisconsin.

  • Joseph L Sencer rating roots before catching corn rootworm beetle populations so their eggs can be collected for bioassays in 2021. 

    Illinois researcher warns of growing corn rootworm threat

    Corn rootworms inflict more than $1 billion annually in lost revenue and control costs. PRI insect behaviorist Joseph L. Spencer regularly travels across Illinois collecting corn rootworms and studying their behavior, ecology, and their growing resistance to pest management, particularly resistance to Bt corn hybrids and crop rotation.

  • American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) egg  (parthenogen) showing banding pattern indicative of potential  viability.

    INHS researchers reveal “virgin birth” in a crocodile

    In a recent study published in the journal Biology Letters, this is the first known instance of a crocodile virgin birth, but virgin births (parthenogenesis) have been recorded in fish, birds, lizards, and snakes. Parthenogenesis is a natural form of asexual reproduction in some animals where viable offspring are produced from an otherwise unfertilized egg. Mark Davis, a conservation biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and co-author on the study helped examine the crocodile fetus' genomic makeup, ultimately discovering that the fetal genome resulted from reproduction without a male crocodile’s genetic contribution. 

  • Researchers photograph bats under bridges with a borescope

  • Forests help shield streams from pollutants in cropland areas

    Streambank forests that help to buffer streams from pollutants are particularly important for stream quality, even in areas such as east-central Illinois where cropland predominates and the river system has deteriorated, according to a University of Illinois study.

  • Ant in the Sanderson collection

    National Science Foundation awards more than $480,000 to amber preservation project

    The National Science Foundation has awarded more than $480,000 to a Prairie Research Institute project to preserve and digitize an extensive collection of Dominican amber that is in danger of deterioration without proper curation and care. The plants, arthropods, and vertebrates captured in the amber provide insights into life 16-18 million years ago, during the Early Miocene epoch.

  • Check in with INHS online before heading out to hunt or fish

    Whether it’s for hunting or fishing, the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) collects data and provides information and education to support hunters and anglers in exploring Illinois and its many biological resources.