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U of I Part of Midwest Climate Center

URBANA, Ill. -- Last week, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized an agreement with the University of Minnesota and seven partner organizations — including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — to form a new Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC). The center will advance scientific research and education in response to climate change impacts in the Midwest.

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Crayfish get more interesting at bigger parties, study suggests

URBANA, Ill. – In many North American lakes, a tiny clawed creature has become a big bully. The invasive rusty crayfish roams lakebeds, snapping up snails, bivalves, and water plants, cutting off food supplies for native crayfish and other animals. And when they’re feeling saucy, some mount daring raids on fish eggs, reducing sport-fish populations.

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Advanced model and field data add up to better cover crop management

URBANA, Ill. – Cover crops are widely seen as one of the most promising conservation practices, improving soil health while also removing carbon from the atmosphere. But while the number of Midwestern farmers planting cover crops has increased markedly in recent years, 2017 USDA Census data show only about 5% have adopted the conservation practice. The reluctance of the other 95% may be due, in part, to a perception that cover crops require more effort and may also negatively affect summer cash crop yield.

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Comparing the pathogen numbers in backyard and commercial composts

Compost—organic material that is added to soil to help plants grow—is widely used by gardeners because it improves soil health and reduces the amount of organic waste in landfills. Although several studies have looked at commercial composts, very few have investigated backyard compost samples. In a new study, researchers have measured the number of pathogens in both types of compost.

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Some birds steal hair from living mammals

URBANA, Ill. -- Dozens of online videos document an unusual behavior among tufted titmice and their closest bird kin. A bird will land on an unsuspecting mammal and, cautiously and stealthily, pluck out some of its hair.

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New modeling solution sets bar for quantifying carbon budget and credit

URBANA, Ill. -- Carbon is everywhere. It’s in the atmosphere, in the oceans, in the soil, in our food, in our bodies. As the backbone of all organic molecules that make up life, carbon is a very accurate predictor of crop yields. And soil is the largest carbon pool on earth, playing an important role in keeping our climate stable. 

As such, computational models that track carbon as it cycles through an agroecosystem have massive untapped potential to advance the field of precision agriculture, increasing crop yields and informing sustainable farming practices.

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In pursuit of Indiana bats

An hour before the sun goes down, my colleagues and I arrive at our site: a human-made pond in the middle of the forest. The high-pitched croaking of Cope's gray treefrogs greets us as we get out of our truck. Surrounded by trees and full of salamanders, these ponds are an essential water resource for our forest-dependent bats. We do a brief survey of the site, then set up our mist nets around the pond’s perimeter. We’re hoping to catch our target species – the Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis.

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Genetic markers developed to census endangered rhinoceros

URBANA, Ill. -- Today, the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is critically endangered, with fewer than 100 individuals surviving in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. To ensure survival of the threatened species, accurate censusing is necessary to determine the genetic diversity of remaining populations for conservation and management plans. 

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ACES, Extension researchers add expertise to Illinois climate change report

Illinois is undergoing a rapid change in weather patterns that already has started to transform the state and could affect the future of farming, a major new scientific assessment by The Nature Conservancy in Illinois reveals.

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Love bats? Think twice about that bat box, experts say

URBANA, Ill. – Ever thought about buying or building a bat box to help bats? Think carefully about the design and where you put it, University of Illinois researchers say.

Here’s why: Bats and their pups can overheat and die in poorly designed or placed bat boxes, and in a warming climate, it could happen more often.

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