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GLIN==> Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Awards $450,000 to New Research

September 1, 2005
Source: Phil Mankin (217)244-6916; pmankin@uiuc.edu
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Awards $450,000 to New Research
URBANA - Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has awarded a total of $450,000 to six research projects that address human and environmental health issues in the southern Lake Michigan region. For the years 2006-2007, IISG will support studies on aquatic invasive species; contaminants in drinking water, lakes and rivers; and the medicinal potential of Lake Michigan bacteria.
"These projects will provide new information that will play a critical role in future water resource policy making, planning, and management," said Phil Mankin, IISG research coordinator.
Three researchers from the University of Illinois will assess the impact of contaminants, but from a variety of perspectives. John Braden, an economist, will measure the financial benefits of cleaning up contaminated sites for communities near Great Lakes Areas of Concern, which are waters that have an impaired ability to support aquatic life. Braden hopes to speed up informed decision-making about contaminated sediment remediation in the Great Lakes.
Robert Hudson, an environmental chemist, will study the distribution and concentration of methylmercury--the form of mercury that poses a threat to human health and the environment--in wetlands along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Wetlands can be a major source of methylmercury in streams and lakes.
Contaminants in drinking water will be the subject of Michael Plewa's research. Ironically, the process of disinfecting drinking water can result in the development of by-products that, in some cases, pose human health implications. Plewa, a geneticist, will assess the toxicity of a number of disinfectant by-products, known as DBPs, on mammal cells.
Two research projects will provide key information for managing the problem of aquatic invasive species in local waters. Nadine Folino-Rorem, a marine biologist at Wheaton College will study Cordylophora caspia, a hydroid from the Caspian Sea that can be found in southwestern Lake Michigan. Little is known about the diet of these tiny, bottom-dwelling, invertebrate organisms in Lake Michigan and their impact on the food chain.
The electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is designed to prevent invasive species from moving between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. However, despite the barrier, barges and boats may provide these species transportation through the canal. Dan Schneider, an aquatic ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey and the U of I, will identify the risks that these vessels pose for transferring organisms and which species should be targeted for management efforts.
Finally, stepping into a new frontier, which may have implications beyond the region, Jimmy Orjala, a medicinal chemist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will look to the waters of Lake Michigan for cures for disease. Taking advantage of new technology, he will culture Lake Michigan bacteria that previously could not be grown in the lab, and test these microbes for their anti-cancer and anti-tuberculosis properties.
"Through these six studies, we will shed new light on some critical problems that affect environmental quality and human health. The results of these efforts will be more finely-tuned resource policies and, ultimately, healthier, more vibrant communities," said William Sullivan, IISG director.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is one of more than 32 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966, Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs.  Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana.

Irene Miles
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
376 NSRC
1101 W. Peabody Dr.
Urbana, Il 61801
(217) 333-8055
FAX (217) 333-8046