Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

INTRODUCTION

Lorin I. Nevling, Chief

Each of the Survey's annual reports seems to include, as a major thrust, some manner of significant change or concern. This report follows in that tradition. Immediately prior to the end of the 1994 calendar year, we were informed that there would be a major reorganization of Illinois' environmental agencies. With the turn of the new year, we initiated a major effort intended to make a seamless transition into a new governmental structure.

opguys2.gif An Executive Order issued by Governor Jim Edgar on March 1, 1995, defined the parameters of the reorganization. The Executive Order called for the formation of a newDepartment of Natural Resources (DNR) on July 1, 1995. Our parent department, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, ceased to exist on June 30, 1995. 

The new DNR was formed to strengthen the state's ability to protect, enhance, and responsibly use its natural resources in order to provide the citizens of today and tomorrow with a continuing high quality of life. DNR is led by Director Brent Manning and Deputy Directors John Comerio and Bruce Clay. Director Manning stated, "By combining the various agencies the Governor has created a new dimension to conservation policy in Illinois because the reorganization combines common disciplinary functions; it also will make the Department of Natural Resources more efficient." DNR is comprised of the former Department of Conservation, the former Department of Mines and Minerals, the former Abandoned Mined Lands Reclamation Council, the Division of Water Resources of the Department of Transportation, and portions of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR). Those parts of DENR transferred to DNR include the Illinois Natural History Survey, the State Geological Survey, the State Water Survey, the Illinois State Museum, the Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center (HWRIC), and the Office of Research and Planning. The remaining units of DENR will be transferred to the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.

Monica.gif Internally, DNR is organized into 10 functional offices, one of which, the Office of Scientific Research and Analysis, will contain the three Surveys, the State Museum, and the Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center. This Office is headed by Karen A. Witter, erstwhile Director of DENR from 1988 to 1991. Since 1991, Karen has served as the Executive Director of the Governor's Science Advisory Committee. Some may recall that in the Survey's Annual Report for 1991-1992 I reported on an attempt to dissolve DENR and to find new homes for the divisions in various state agencies or in the University of Illinois. 

A number of different options were explored in this effort, but all ultimately failed because of the concerns of the constituency and clients of the Surveys, Center, Museum, and others. Their concerns, and ours, focused primarily on the need to maintain our ability to produce credible science. Governor Jim Edgar, referring to the Surveys, stated in 1993, "Surveys play a very important role in helping us in government make better decisions because we have the facts from the Surveys." Our research programs generate those facts and, therefore, one of our special concerns was a possible placement in an agency with broad regulatory and enforcement powers that might attempt to influence our research independence. During the process of defining the reorganization, we were given assurances, from all significant levels of state government, that the concerns expressed during the earlier reorganization effort would be satisfactorily met. Undoubtedly, there will be changes in store for the Survey, but the essential bottom-line integrity of our science will be preserved.

The Board of Natural Resources and Conservation, founded by statute in 1917, will remain intact together with its duties including the oversight function of the three Surveys and HWRIC. As provided by statute, the Director of DNR, Brent Manning, also serves as Chairman of the Board. The Board of the Illinois State Museum also will remain intact together with its duties.


Expanding Electronic Access

The Survey entered the electronic age more than a decade ago, but that entry was confined to a local area network (LAN) connecting administrative offices and a few isolated machines. That initial effort expanded more rapidly than anyone could anticipate. As a result of collaborative efforts to develop the Illinois proposal to host the Superconducting Supercollider, it was necessary to enter the realm of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Although the Illinois efforts to host the Supercollider were unsuccessful as, ultimately, the project itself turned out to be, GIS proved to be a remarkable tool to convert data into a more understandable visual format. The next step in this logical progression was the addition of the ability to analyze satellite imagery data. The results of this effort will be evident sometime later this calendar year.

Michell.gif In a series of parallel developments over the past few years, our LAN progressed through several iterations to match state-of-the-art technologies. This would not have been possible without the active participation and assistance of the University of Illinois. Today, virtually all of our Champaign offices are fully connected on the LAN. This also provided the gateway to the electronic world of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW or Web). This extraordinary connectivity is truly changing the way and the speed with which the Survey staff carry on the commerce of science. In August 1994 the Survey initiated our Home Page on WWW.

Since that time, it has continued to grow in content and its use continues to increase. The National Biological Service provided the Survey with a grant to, in part, increase our abilities to serve information to the world and to prepare databases of our collections holdings for public release on the Web. The release of the first data is anticipated next year. Currently, the Survey's Home Page may be accessed by URL: https://www.inhs.illinois.eduIt contains staff listings, research abstracts and a publications list from last year's Annual Report, our publications catalog, connections to other important databases throughout the world, and so on. All Web users are invited to explore our Home Page. Our publication of Survey Reports continues to be provided free of charge to interested readers and may be accessed in electronic format at: INHS Publications

We found it necessary to reprint the Field Guide to Freshwater Mussels of the Midwest because the demand for the publication has not diminished. The field guide has been made available on the Web on the assumption that the electronic version will not decrease the demand for the printed version, but this assumption needs to be verified.

 


Facilities

Last year we reported that in order to solve our long-term space needs and those of the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), funds were made available to purchase the former Burnham Hospital properties in Champaign. The purchase was successfully completed on our behalf and additional funds were made available to engage the architectural/engineering firm to begin planning the reconfiguration of the properties to fit our special needs. During the same period, renovation of the Natural Resources Building (NRB) that we share with ISGS proceeded. When the Natural History Survey occupies its new quarters, the ISGS will fill the space we vacated in NRB and thereby satisfactorily meet its space needs. Stacey.gif

A very practical problem was resolved with the installation of a much needed storm sewer system in the area where our pole barns are located. Prior to installing the storm sewer, every major rainfall resulted in various degrees of flooding of buildings and grounds.

 


Collections

The Natural History Survey Library, a departmental library of the University of Illinois, continued to make progress on several fronts from alleviating the cataloging backlog, to cleaning the library holdings, to organizing the more than 6,000 reprints of articles by Survey authors. The data on the reprint collection is being organized into a database for eventual electronic posting. One important source of library materials is that received through our active exchange program. The first comprehensive review of the exchange program was completed and the exchange agreements were updated during the year. We receive more than 365 publications from 226 national and international institutions through the exchange program. Approximately 1,300 books and bound journals were added to the collection bringing the total holdings to 38,927 volumes. The journals listing as well as new acquisitions will soon be available on the Survey's Home Page.

Like the library, the scientific collections of the Survey are among its most important physical assets. They are the basis for most of the work of identifying organisms for the public, serve as a historical record of our living natural resources, and are the basis for our research programs in systematics. The collections are consulted by scientists either by visiting the Survey or through an active loan program. The capture of data associated with the specimens into a database is either completed or under way.

liz.gif The herbarium is composed of four collections groups: algae, fungi, bryophytes, and vascular plants. The collections total more than 234,617 accessioned specimens. The algae and bryophytes are mostly from the United States and predominately from Illinois. The fungi are from North America north of Mexico and contain a large pathological collection from Illinois, a large aquatic collection from the southwestern U.S., and a small collection from the neotropics. The herbarium ranks in the upper 10% of U.S. herbaria on the basis of size and is widely consulted by scientists from other institutions.

The mollusk collection contains over 87,000 cataloged specimens, most of which were collected in Illinois or in the southeastern U.S. The collection is comprised of 87% freshwater species and 13% terrestrial species. Many of the specimens were collected as the result of faunal studies in Illinois and form an extraordinarily important historical database from which biologists can document changes in Illinois. Freshwater mollusks have declined dramatically in the U.S. with a very large percentage being either endangered or threatened.

The Survey's crustacean collection is one of the largest state collections in North America. Approximately 75% of the collection's 50,000 specimens are from Illinois; the remainder are mostly from the southeastern U.S. The collection has grown almost continuously since the late 1800s. The best represented groups are crayfishes, shrimps, scuds, slaters, and pill bugs.

The insect collection houses over 6 million specimens. It is of particular importance because it has a heavy concentration of specimens from the last third of the nineteenth century and documents the changing landscape and environmental conditions. In addition, it has strength in particular groups because of the interest of past and present staff. It is our fastest- growing collection, is the most heavily consulted by scientists from other institutions, and is of national and international stature.

The herpetological collection contains about 12,000 cataloged specimens, the majority of which were collected in Illinois and the Midwest. It serves as the basis for our current understanding of the amphibians and reptiles of Illinois.

One of our most active collections is the fish collection. It contains approximately 674,000 cataloged specimens and is about the 15th largest in North America. About 50% of the collection is from Illinois, but there are specimens from 47 states and numerous foreign countries. It is the sixth largest collection of neotropical fishes in North America. The value of the collection is greatly enhanced by the large number of older specimens collected before the turn of the century.

The Survey's mammal collection is a synoptic collection of Illinois species containing 984 specimens. It is used primarily for comparative material to identify specimens brought to the Survey by citizens for identification. Most of the specimens were collected between 1930 and 1950. This collection is not growing in size.

 


Mission

The mission of the Illinois Natural History Survey is:
1. To acquire, organize, and utilize collections and associated data pertaining to all aspects of the biotic resources of Illinois;

2. To perform scientific inquiry concerning the diversity, life histories, growth and development, ecology, population dynamics, ecosystem properties, and management of the biotic resources of Illinois, and to present research results to the scientific and educational communities;

3. To formulate and provide recommendations about the status, protection, development, and informed use of biotic resources of Illinois;

4. To provide scientifically-based information to the public and to policymakers, leading to an understanding and appreciation of our natural heritage, and the wise preservation, management, and utilization of our biotic resources.

The heart of the mission statement is to perform scientific inquiry and to disseminate the results to the potential user communities. The current research projects of the four scientific research Centers are summarized in this Annual Report. A brief perusal will convince anyone of the extraordinary breadth of our research program and interests of our scientists. The results of these efforts are conveyed in a variety of ways -- print; electronic format; presentations and workshops at local, national, and regional meetings; exhibits; and recommendations to develop sound governmental policy. This year has been a very productive one as evidenced by the number of publications that have resulted from our ongoing efforts. For a full accounting, please refer to "Publications of the Staff".

 


Educational Efforts

The education outreach efforts at the Survey continue to grow each year. Many different types of activities are included in the overall program, including presentations by staff members as part of the speaker's bureau, development of curricular materials for middle and high school teachers, and teacher training. During the 1994-1995 fiscal year the staff conducted over 100 presentations to a great diversity of audiences that ranged from kindergartners to senior citizens. The education liaison personally was involved in 43 presentations.

New curricular materials focusing on biological control were completed. The target audience is students in grades 5-10. The completed curriculum, entitled Pests Have Enemies Too: Teaching Young Scientists About Biological Control, was funded by the National Biological Control Institute and includes a 70-page booklet and large coloring poster. A new project based on the Critical Trends Assessment Program, called "Plan-It Illinois," will result in the development of a high school curriculum on Illinois' forests, prairies, and wetlands. Included in the materials will be scientific protocols whereby high school students will collect scientific data that can be used by state scientists to assess future trends in these three broad categories of habitats. Nancy.gif

A major focus of the Survey for 1994-1995 was teacher training, which involved Survey personnel in numerous workshops around the state. Forty-eight teachers were trained in various aspects of wetland ecology and biology in conjunction with a grant from Science Literacy awarded to the Sun Foundation, Peoria. Survey scientists spent four days leading field trips, teaching such topics as taxonomy and botany, and helping teachers develop integrated methods for teaching middle school children about wetlands. A second major program, also funded by Science Literacy and administered by the State Museum, involved wetland training at two sites, Dixon Mounds Museum and Volo Bog State Natural Area. Two sets of two-day workshops were presented at each site, involving about 80 teachers. The program included a cross-disciplinary approach to wetland training. Survey scientists contributed expertise in entomology, river ecology, and animal population dynamics. This program will continue at four sites next year.

The Survey places significant emphasis on its education outreach program and believes that the translation of scientific concepts for a myriad of audiences and the ability to teach citizens about the biological resources of Illinois are critical to the future well-being of the states.

 


Leadership
At his request, Dr. David Philipp was relieved of his duties as Director of the Center for Aquatic Ecology for this year in order to pursue his research interests on a full-time basis. We anticipate that he will return to his administrative duties next year. During this period, the Center for Aquatic Ecology turned to Dr. Robert Herendeen to serve as Director. Bob provided outstanding leadership and continuity for the Center and served with distinction as a member of the senior management team.

On January 1, the Center for Wildlife Ecology fulfilled its vision of new leadership with the recruitment of Dr. Patrick Brown as Center Director. Pat comes to us from Lake Superior State University, Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, following a distinguished academic, research, and diverse wildlife management career. We are grateful to Dr. Scott Robinson for the dedicated leadership he provided the Center and the senior management team. Scott served as Center Director from July 1, 1993, and returns to his important research activities on habitat fragmentation on a full-time basis.

Dr. Edward Armbrust, who has served as Interim Director of the Center for Economic Entomology since 1993, was confirmed by the Board as Director of the Center. Ed continues to provide significant leadership for both the Center and the Survey. He also serves as the Head of Agricultural Entomology in the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois. Like the Survey, the College of Agriculture will be completely reorganized this coming year to better address the needs of Illinois citizens.

 


Financial Support
The financial support appropriated by the General Assembly for Fiscal Year 1995 remained the same as the previous year except for a modest increase in the salary line. Operational lines remained unchanged as they have for a number of years. Any increase in the inflation rate, no matter how small, results in a loss of buying power and has the same effect as an actual budgetary reduction. The increase in the salary line is most important not only for morale purposes but also is essential in the ongoing effort required to retain skilled research staff. The financial statement for the year may be found here.

As usual, we trust that you will find items of interest in our Annual Report and that the research vignettes will provide you with a greater understanding of our contributions to the citizens of Illinois. Next year at this time, we look forward to reporting to you as a unit of the Department of Natural Resources.

 

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Illinois Natural History Survey

1816 South Oak Street, MC 652
Champaign, IL 61820
217-333-6880
cms@inhs.illinois.edu

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