Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois


Large River Ecosystems


INHS large river research began in 1876 when Steven A Forbes chose the Havana area to begin his study of the Illinois River. In the 1890s a field station was established near Havana and that site is now home to the Steven A. Forbes Biological Station. The implementation of the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program led to the creation of the Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS) and the Great Rivers Field Station, which in 2002 became part of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC), a collaboration between the University of Illinois, the INHS, and Lewis and Clark Community College.

In the late 2000s, INHS large river research grew to include more field stations and personnel.  The Kaskaskia Biological Station expanded their large river research by investigating Asian Carp life histories and their potential impacts on native plankton communities. Further expansion occurred when INHS staff from IRBS, NGRREC, and the INHS-UI Campus joined with Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois to more thoroughly monitor fish populations in Illinois's river large rivers.


Upper Mississippi River Restoration-Environmental Management Program's (UMRR-EMP) Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) element

The LTRM, funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers and administered by the U.S. Geological Survey's Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in partnership with the five Upper Mississippi River states, studies large river ecosystems throughout the Upper Mississippi River System, including the Illinois River. Two of the LTRM's six field stations are located in Illinois at our field stations—Great Rivers Field Station, which monitors fish and water quality on Pool 26 of the Mississippi River, and the Illinois River Biological Station, which monitors fish and water quality on the La Grange Reach of the Illinois River.


Long Term Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers Fish Population Monitoring Program (LTEF)

The LTEF has been monitoring Illinois River fish populations since 1957, and expanded in 2010 to include monitoring the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers along with two in-state rivers—the Kankakee and the Iroquois. This collaborative program brings together researchers from the INHS Illinois River Biological Station and Great Rivers Field Station, Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University.


Great Rivers Ecological Observation Network (GREON℠)

The GREON program seeks to establish a network of realtime water quality monitoring buoys on great rivers around the world.  Capable of collecting continuous water quality and phytoplankton data, the first buoy launched in May 2013 on the Upper Mississippi River System.


The Emiquon Preserve

INHS research and monitoring of a restored backwater of the Illinois River includes  waterfowl and wetland habitat monitoring by the Forbes Biological Station and  fisheries and aquatic vegetation monitoring by the IRBS.  All research is done in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, and both Forbes Biological Station and the IRBS are proud members of the Experience Emiquon partnership.


Asian carp: Ecosystem Responses to Barrier Defense Asian Carp Removal Project

INHS staff are studying biology of Asian carp species (i.e. Silver Carp and Bighead Carp) and potential effects they are having on native ecosystems.  Research is funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is in conjunction with, and in support of, a number of agencies ongoing attempts to limit the spread of Asian carp and prevent establishment in the Great Lakes.  INHS research into Asian carp covers multiple aspects of their life history and invasion of midwestern rivers and is conducted out of the following offices: Kaskaskia Biological StationIllinois River Biological Station, Eastern Illinois University, and Western Illinois University. For more information on the Asian carp invasion, please refer to the INHS Aquatic Nuisance Species Initiative.


Zooplankton research and monitoring in relation to invasive species establishment

Zooplankton are an essential part of any aquatic system and make up the base of the aquatic food chain. Invasive species, including Asian carp, have the potential to disrupt existing food chains by feeding primarily on zooplankton. As such, INHS researchers at our Kaskaskia Biological Station and Illinois River Biological Station are currently studying potential impacts of invasive species on zooplankton throughout the Illinois River. Collaborators include Western Illinois University.


Historical ecology of freshwater mussels

INHS staff at the Illinois River Biological Station are conducting a study to evaluate how long-term, landscape levels changes in the Illinois River have affected aquatic biota.  Through the combined use of museum specimens, modern-day animals, and 1000 year old archeological shell material, freshwater mussel shells can tell us a story that encompasses the past millennium. Collaborative partners include the Illinois State MuseumIllinois State Archeological Survey, and INHS Mollusk Collection.


Past research



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