Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Awards New Research Funding
March 17, 2008
URBANA — Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, a program supporting research, education and outreach that contribute to a sustainable environment in the two states, announces funding awards for four research projects for 2008-2010.

"These projects address some long-term concerns facing the Great Lakes, including human health, wetland management and restoration, and sustainable coastal development," said Brian Miller, IISG director. "Outcomes from these studies will inform in policy and management decisions related to economic and environmental sustainability in the region."

The first project addresses concerns about the rising number of beach closings along southern Lake Michigan due to contaminated waters. With Sea Grant funding, Kizhanipuram Vinodgopal and Julie Peller from Indiana University Northwest will develop a fast, innovative way of detecting sewage in swimming waters. They will establish a system to rapidly alert managers when a problem is detected, which can result in more timely decisions on beach closures.

Nancy Tuchman of Loyola University Chicago will study the impact of invasive plants on the ability of wetlands to filter nitrogen. Wetlands play an important role filtering excess nutrients and other contaminants from a watershed. The concern is that a significant change in wetland plant species may alter that process. Tuchman will provide science-based recommendations to managers charged with maintaining the integrity of coastal wetlands and help them prioritize efforts to manage invaded ones.

In the Lake Calumet area, wetland restoration is the order of the day. This region on the southeast side of Chicago and northwest Indiana has endured decades of industry and now is in need of rehabilitation. Yanqing Lian and George Roadcap of the Illinois State Water Survey and Ximing Cai of the University of Illinois are developing modeling tools to assess ecosystem restoration plans and develop restoration benchmarks for the region.

Finally, IISG is funding a cutting edge project to create computer-simulated versions of coastal cities in northern Indiana. Jie Shan of Purdue Universities School of Civil Engineering will develop 3-D data collection technology for urban planning. "This technology will provide users with the capabilities to interact, modify, manipulate and demonstrate different design scenarios," said Shan. "The use of virtual cities will ultimately benefit long term sustainable economic and environmental development in the coastal areas in northern Indiana."