Environment & Weather
Federal agencies release Asian carp environmental DNA study findings PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Sarah Gross   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:43

CHICAGO – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) today, Feb. 20, released an interim report for the Asian Carp Environmental DNA Calibration Study (ECALS), which is a three-year study funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as scoped by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework.

"The purpose of ECALS is to improve the understanding and interpretation of Asian carp environmental DNA results, so we can refine and make this relatively young monitoring tool the most effective to detect live Asian carp presence," said USACE Environmental DNA (eDNA) Program Manager Kelly Baerwaldt.

Initial ECALS efforts within this report focus on identifying alternative sources of eDNA beyond a live Asian carp, whereas marker development to aid in detecting the specific species and calibration experiments that look at factors that may influence the detectio n, degradation or persistence of DNA will receive greater attention in 2013.

Among preliminary findings:

  • Storm sewers, fisheries sampling gear, fish-eating birds, dead fish carcasses, barges, and sediments may contribute to a positive eDNA detection without a live fish being present
  • DNA can stay on these sources for a numbers of days
  • Tagged-bird studies show large variations in bird movement and consumption of Asian carp in the wild, which may lead to positive detection of Asian carp eDNA in bird feces
  • Shedding rates of DNA from Asian carp were not affected by different temperatures or flow rates of water
  • DNA from Asian carp sperm can be detected for over two weeks after release from an Asian carp

The agencies will host a stakeholder conference call Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. (Central) to answer questions regarding this report. Call-in information is USA Toll-Free: 877-336-1839, USA Caller Paid/International Toll: 636-651-0008, A ccess Code: 8506361, Security Code: 0000.

"Partnership is key in the successful planning, research and implementation of a comprehensive Asian carp prevention plan, and we are confident we have the right people on board to thoroughly explore eDNA uncertainties," said USGS Researcher Jon Amberg.

The ECALS Team will continue to investigate alternative sources and pathways for eDNA detections beyond a live fish; examine how environmental variables such as light, temperature and w ater velocity impact eDNA detections; explore the correlation between the number of positive samples and the strength of the DNA source, develop more efficient eDNA markers to cut the sampling processing time in half and model eDNA transport specific to the Chicago Area Waterway System.

"As members of the ACRCC, we are committed to preventing Asian carp from becoming established in the Great Lakes through participating in extensive monitoring of the waterways and additional research on eDNA," said USFWS Midwest Region Hatchery Supervisor Kurt Schilling.

The report, executive summary and fact sheet are posted on Asiancarp.us.

Asian carp DNA surveillance programs determine the presence of Asian carp by detecting the genetic material (DNA from shed cells in slime, feces, urine, etc.) in water samples to correlate DNA detection with the possible presence of invasive silver carp or bighead carp.


First-Ever Indoor Hailstorm Created at IBHS Research Center PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Joseph King   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:15

Tampa, Fla. (February 20, 2013) – Demonstrating innovative leadership in building science and property damage prevention, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is conducting the first-ever, full-scale indoor hailstorm at the world-class IBHS Research Center in South Carolina.

“IBHS is blazing a new trail in applied research – with ice and air cannons,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “Meticulously recreating hailstorms at the IBHS Research Center will enable our scientists to conduct a multi-faceted, first-of-its kind research initiative, exploring several aspects of building material and assembly performance that researchers have never been able to explore before.”

Among the many unique aspects of IBHS hailstorms is the use of thousands of very highly realistic hailstones, which are painstakingly created by IBHS scientists. Dr. Tanya Brown, IBHS research engineer – and a meteorologist – uses a mixture of tap water and seltzer water to attain the appropriate shape, density and hardness that closely mimics hailstones produced by Mother Nature. This laboratory work is based on, and supplemented by, field research during which the IBHS team tracked several storms to gather extensive data on which to base hand-made hailstones.

Among the challenges facing IBHS researchers is the fact that – unlike size and density – there is no standard definition or measure for the compressive strength, or hardness, of hailstones.

“It makes sense that harder hailstones will cause more damage, but we need to explore that,” says Dr. Brown. “To do that, we had to create a compressive force device, and it had to be portable enough to take into the field, where we could find and measure actual hailstones.”

Research Center staff used a load cell (like those found in bathroom scales), vice, and balance to measure hailstone mass, and a caliper to measure stone dimensions. The vice was customized to include the load cell and was interfaced with a complex computer program to measure compressive force needed to crush different hailstones; they combined this data with GPS information about the location of where each hailstone fell in order to tie hail characteristics back to specific storm attributes.

Another distinctive aspect of IBHS laboratory work involved creating an effective system to properly deliver hailstones. After investigating numerous options, IBHS researchers determined there was no off-the-shelf solution. So, the engineers designed and built multi-barreled hail cannons, which they mounted on the Research Center catwalk, 60 feet above the test specimen house inside the center’s massive test chamber.

“Creating hailstones and designing and building the hail cannons were two of the greatest challenges we faced,” Dr. Brown said. “But, like every research project we undertake at IBHS, getting the science right is paramount. We thoroughly investigated many hailstone formulas and hailstone delivery prototypes to ensure our hailstorm capabilities provide the closest match possible to Mother Nature.”

During the full-scale IBHS hailstorm, multi-barreled hail cannons deliver approximately 8,000 to 10,000 hailstones (with diameters of 1”, 1.5” and 2”) at up to 76 miles per hour. The cannons are aimed a 20 ft. by 20 ft. residential-style test specimen featuring different types of roofing and siding materials. In the first-ever demonstration of this capability, to simulate a common residential space, IBHS will place a car and typical outdoor furniture, toys, and accessories near the structure.

Key construction features of the home used in the demonstration, to illustrate different levels of performance in a hailstorm, include:

  • Roofing – one plane of the roof is covered with standard, non-impact resistant 3-tab asphalt shingles; another plane is covered with impact-resistant architectural asphalt shingles. The other two planes of the roof is covered with standing seam metal roofing. In one case, the metal roofing is installed directly over the rood deck; in the other case, the metal roofing is installed over a layer of asphalt shingles – a common real world occurrence and one which may enable more hail damage.
  • Exterior walls – two sides are covered in fiber-cement siding; the other two feature standard vinyl siding.
  • Windows – both vinyl and aluminum windows are installed.
  • Gutters – both aluminum gutters and downspouts are installed.

“We are interested in all types of materials that are used on the exterior of buildings. While there are impact-resistant standards for roofing materials, there are absolutely no such standards for siding or fenestration, such as doors and windows,” Rochman said. “This is incredible, given the many millions of dollars consumers and insurers spend each year on repairing or replacing these materials. One of our goals is to advance development of such standards.”

IBHS’ hail research initiative also will:

  • investigate the impact of aging on the performance of building materials when subjected to hail impacts;
  • document differences between cosmetic and structural damage – and provide insights and guidance about best practices when it comes to evaluating, as well as repairing and replacing building components exposed to hail; and,
  • help people who manage and evaluate different types of risk, including high winds and hail, to understand how various building materials, systems and types are vulnerable to hail damage.

Editor’s note: IBHS has produced additional media assets for use with this story, including video and photos. To access and download extra assets please visit the IBHS Hailstorm Demonstration Resources page: http://www.disastersafety.org/research-center/hail-demo/#resources.

or via direct message on Twitter @jsalking.

for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, big and small. Follow IBHS on Twitter at @DisasterSafety and on

# # #

About the IBHS - IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.

5 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste & Ocean Pollution PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Veronica Grey   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:02

It’s a growing problem in the northern Pacific Ocean and one that could change life on our planet within the next 20 years.

“I remember the first time I felt it; I was paddling out on my surfboard and noticed a mushy, plastic-like substance sliding through my fingers. That’s what started my obsession with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” says charity fundraiser and environmentalist Veronica Grey. “The patch is located between Hawaii and California in the northern Pacific Ocean, where millions of small bits of plastic have gathered in a vortex of ocean currents known as a gyre.”

As someone with ample experience raising awareness for worthy causes, Grey paired her professional skills with her personal passion for the ocean, creating the award-winning documentary “Aqua Seafoam Shame,” (www.Pacific-TV.com), which spotlights the mess in the ocean that has garnered precious little media attention, she says.

“Fifteen years ago The Patch was the size Texas, but now it’s the size of the continental United States,” says Grey, who used her iPhone to shoot the documentary, which features renowned scientists, journalists and environmentalists.

Plastic in the ocean has far-reaching implications that, if not addressed within 20 years, could change life on this planet, she says. To date, 177 species of sea life are known to ingest plastic; other species feed on those creatures, extending the chain of damage.

“People eat the seafood that eats plastic, and the planet gets its rain from the oceans, which are being polluted at an exponential rate,” she says. “We use significantly more of our planet’s surface as a dump than for growing food; this has to change.”

To begin addressing plastics pollution, Grey encourages people to use alternatives:

• Americans buy 2 million bottles of water every five minutes; ditch plastic bottles and use glass or recyclable cans.

• Carry a cost-effective canvas bag instead getting disposable plastic bags at the grocery store. We waste 10 billion plastic bags every week!

• Do not line your trash cans with plastic bags. Use paper bags or nothing.

• Skip the lid on your to-go drinks. The paper cup is normally recyclable but the lid usually isn't.

• Remember that each and every time you flush; it all ends up in the ocean. Be mindful of what you toss in your toilet!

About Veronica Grey

Veronica Grey is an award-winning author and filmmaker. A graduate of UCLA, she is a regular contributor to TV stations across the country and is the recipient of the 2011 New Media award from the Pare Lorentz Film Festival. “Aqua Seafoam Shame” is a critically acclaimed documentary that explores the diagnosis that 25 percent of our planet's surface is now a landfill, due to the Pacific garbage patch and plastics. The movie also explores the process by which conscientious companies, some because of her encouragement, switched from plastic to a more sustainable alternative. Grey was born on PI (3.14) in PI (Philippines Island) and she is recognized as a numbers savant.

Volunteers Needed to Wrap Trees for Million Trees Project PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Natalie Linville-Mass   
Thursday, 21 February 2013 08:34

Davenport, IA/February 20, 2013 - Chad Pregracke’s Quad Cities-based environmental group needs volunteers for the MillionTrees project which improves the health of rivers in the Midwest, by re-establishing hardwoods that have been depleted by over-harvesting, flooding and disease.   Living Lands & Waters, an East Moline, Illinois non-profit organization is planning to distribute its 500,000th tree this spring.

Tree wrapping events will occur at the following location from 9am to 5pm Thursday, March 28th through Sunday, March 31st:

QCCA Expo Center, North Hall, 2621 4th Avenue, Rock Island, IL

Volunteers, including families with children, are invited to take part in tree wrapping events being held at the end of March. Registration is not required, but recommended, especially for groups of 10 or more.  Volunteers can come and go as you please; stay for one hour, a couple hours or all day.  For questions or to register, please contact Ashley at Ashley@livinglandsandwaters.org or at 309.737.5913.

Volunteers will be asked to help with the following:  bundling trees in newspaper, dipping roots in water, placing trees in bags, and/or tying. Participating children MUST be supervised.  Volunteers are asked to wear warm and comfortable clothes that can get dirty.

Trees provide shelter and nut-bearing hardwoods are a viable food source for wildlife and migratory birds.  Slow-growing hardwoods like oaks have a harder time re-establishing themselves without help, and are often crowded out by faster growing species, like cottonwoods, willow and silver maples. Re-establishing hardwoods helps increase biodiversity, reduce erosion and run-off and improve water and air quality.

Trees will be distributed in April to individuals, families, schools, park districts, businesses and organizations throughout 10 states.  The goal of the MillionTrees Project is to grow and plant 1 MILLION trees.

Anyone interested in volunteering may contact MillionTrees Project Coordinator, Ashley Stover at Ashley@livinglandsandwaters.org or at 309.737.5913. More information on the MillionTrees Project can be found at www.livinglandsandwaters.org/get-involved/million-trees


News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Dustin Vande Hoef   
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:30

2nd annual recognition highlights farmers serving as local leaders in environmental stewardship

(DES MOINES) – Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today were joined by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Director Chuck Gipp from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to announce that nominations are open for the 2013 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Awards.

Nominations are due by June 15, 2013 and the nomination form can be found here.

“These awards are an opportunity to recognize the many farmers that are taking significant voluntary steps to protect the soil and improve water quality here in Iowa,” Branstad said.  “Iowa farmers take great pride in caring for the soil and water, and we want to lift them up as examples for other farmers to follow.”

“Iowa is fortunate to be at the forefront in agriculture and to keep our leadership position we must protect and conserve our state’s natural resources and fertile soil for future generations,” Reynolds said.  “Agriculture plays a critical role to Iowa’s global competitiveness and economic status.”

The award is a joint effort between the Governor, Lt. Governor, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources to recognize the efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to healthy soils and improved water quality.

It seeks to recognize the exemplary voluntary actions of farmers that improve or protect the environment and natural resources of our state while also encouraging other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success.

Farmers that are nominated should have made environmental stewardship a priority on their farm and adopted best management practices throughout their farming operation.  As true stewards of the land, they recognize that improved water quality and soil sustainability reaps benefits that extend beyond their fields to citizens of Iowa and residents even further downstream.

“A critical component of the recently revealed Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is to increase the amount of voluntary, science-based conservation practices that are on the landscape,” Northey said.  “Recognizing farmers who are taking the lead in conservation is a way to encourage others to consider adopting some of the same practices on their land.”

An appointed committee of representatives from both conservation and agricultural groups will review the nominations and select the winners. The recipients will be recognized at the Iowa State Fair.

The award was created in 2012 and 67 Iowa farm families were recognized during the inaugural award ceremony at the Iowa State Fair.  Winners receive a certificate as well as a yard sign donated by Monsanto.


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