Scientists at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) have contributed their expertise and data on multiple water issues to inform the newly released 2022 Illinois State Water Plan, which serves as an advisory to address water-related challenges for the next seven years. PRI will also play an integral part in reaching the plan’s goals, particularly in developing an Illinois Integrated Water Information Center, a portal to water science information and technology in Illinois.
The State Water Plan was developed by the State Water Plan Task Force, involving PRI’s Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) and Illinois Water Resources Center, as well as 10 state agencies. The plan is designed to advise decision-makers at local and state levels on setting priorities for managing water resources. For the first time in its history, this plan focuses on interrelated water issues such as environmental justice and climate change.
Illinois business leaders and researchers are hoping to leverage hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop a thriving “hydrogen economy.”
The vision involves using the state’s plentiful nuclear power and renewable energy to separate hydrogen from water, and then using the resulting fuel to power industrial processes and heavy-duty vehicles.
The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, or MachH2, is among more than 30 contenders seeking funding from a $7 billion U.S. Department of Energy program to jumpstart six to 10 regional hydrogen hubs across the country. Each will be aimed at producing and distributing pure hydrogen that is thus far in short supply.
The coalition behind the Illinois bid includes universities, utilities, economic development agencies, manufacturers, Argonne National Laboratory, and power producers like Constellation Energy and Invenergy, which has launched its own pilot program producing hydrogen in Illinois.
At the end of lunch in every Evanston/Skokie School District 65 school, students sort their waste into landfill, recycling and compost bins, stacking their compostable trays on the side.
Making composting part of students’ daily routines was no small feat. After a decade of work, District 65 Sustainability Coordinator Karen Bireta said all buildings in the district began composting in December.
During the last academic year, students composted 77,955 pounds of food, eliminating more than 34 metric tons of carbon emissions by keeping waste out of landfills.
After working to rapidly expand the program over the past several months, Bireta said she is excited to see the new composting system’s impact on students within and beyond the lunchroom.
A grassroots proposal fueled by opponents of logging and other concerns is gaining traction to transform the 289,000-acre Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois into a national park and the nation’s first climate preserve.
Proponents argue the designation would protect a valuable, incredibly diverse major ecosystem from destruction by logging and mining interests. They contend the current government agency that oversees the Shawnee, the U.S. Forest Service, sees the forest only for its trees as a lumber source.
But the proposal has many skeptics who say the U.S. Forest Service has gotten better at managing the Shawnee. They argue that if the national park and climate preserve plan is approved, unchecked invasive species growth could destroy what is currently a vital recreational and economic resource for the region.
By Tiffany Jolley (Prairie Research Institute) and Kim Gudeman (Grainger College of Engineering)
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and The Grainger College of Engineering are embarking on a new partnership to create a Joint Initiative on Sustainability Engineering beginning in Spring 2023. This collaboration will further the University of Illinois’ reputation as a nexus of engineering and science that fosters novel solutions for societal challenges, and will broadly include aspects of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability research.
“This partnership will open up new opportunities for research development on our campus and allow scientists from PRI and faculty from the GCOE to work together to find innovative solutions for important societal challenges. Students and postdoctoral researchers will greatly benefit from combining basic research with real-world problems,” said Praveen Kumar, Executive Director of PRI.
Together, PRI and Grainger Engineering aim to encompass joint research and development activity, sponsored funding, private sector partnerships, workforce development and training, and service to the State of Illinois and beyond. This partnership is expected to lead to growth in funding opportunities, and to support successful faculty, research staff, and student recruitment.
“To make significant advancements in some of the most important challenges of our time, it will take a collaboration of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers working together to solve systems-level problems,” said Grainger Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir. “We are proud to partner with our colleagues across the university as we together pursue science that transforms our health and our world.”
PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty who are doing research in the areas of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability, will jointly advise and mentor engineering graduate students and postdocs. Collaborating PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty will serve as co-advisors of thesis/dissertation and research.
To achieve these goals, PRI and Grainger Engineering will work to create collaborative opportunities through shared research environments and facilities and jointly secure resources to enhance their national and international research and educational reputation, and share their successful collaborations.
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has had a positive direct economic impact on Illinois’ economy valued at $667 million for years 2018–2022 and has provided more than 5,300 full-time jobs in the state, according to a recent analysis at a U. of I. research center.
The study, conducted by Sandy Dall’erba, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and cofounder of the Center for Climate, Regional, Environmental and Trade Economics, identified the economic impact of PRI in 2022 values at the national, state, and county levels. PRI provides scientific research, expertise, data, and services to help policymakers, communities, companies, and individuals make sound decisions about our natural and cultural resources.
PRI received an initial investment of $131 million from the State of Illinois and the U. of I., enabling the institute to obtain grants and contracts totaling nearly $300 million over the five-year period. The impact of economic activity creates economic production, employment, labor income, and tax revenues.
At the state level, with an economic impact of $667 million and a total tax impact of $90.4 million at the state, federal, and county levels, each additional dollar spent in PRI returns $5.06 in economic value to Illinois.
At the national level, the economic impact was an estimated $1,071 million, 8,000 full-time jobs created, and tax revenues totaling $130 million. Champaign County also benefited significantly from PRI activities, with a $422.2 million impact on the county economy and 3,869 full-time equivalent jobs.
“This analysis shows that as a high-value institute, PRI has major direct and indirect impacts on the economy of the county, state, and nation,” said Praveen Kumar, PRI executive director. “Our excellence in research innovation, long-term data collection, and service programs reaches way beyond Illinois and the U.S.”
The economic analysis does not include the substantial value of PRI’s scientific expertise in geology, ecology and biologic diversity, archaeology, hydrology and water, weather and climate, pollution prevention, and sustainable energy. The five scientific surveys make up PRI, including the Illinois Natural History Survey, the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, the Illinois State Water Survey, the Illinois State Geological Survey, and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.
PRI scientists are addressing some of the most challenging issues of our society. In recent research projects, scientists are exploring ways to store carbon dioxide in geologic features in Illinois, recycle flue gas to feed algae for animal feeds and biofuels, and capture CO2 from the atmosphere. Other projects seek to mitigate risks of natural hazards and disease-borne vectors, combat agricultural pests, address water resource problems and help communities find solutions, and protect ecosystems and cultural resources.
“PRI is a national leader and a statewide gem,” said Susan Martinis, U. of I. vice chancellor for research and innovation. “From science that protects drinking water in Chicago to massive pilot-scale carbon capture projects funded by the Department of Energy in Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign, PRI has a direct impact on the lives—and the livelihoods—of millions of people across the region and around the globe.”
The report, “The Economic and Fiscal Impact of the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) on the Economy of Champaign County, Illinois, and the Nation” and a summary are available at https://hdl.handle.net/2142/117079.
Plans for a carbon dioxide pipeline in Illinois have been temporarily halted. Navigator Heartland Greenway LLC has voluntarily withdrawn its Application for a Certificate of Authority to construct the pipeline that would cross through 13 Illinois counties. Navigator said it plans to refile a new application with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) next month, including plans for an additional route.
New Philadelphia National Historic Site has been established as the newest national park to commemorate the history of early 19th century Black pioneers in Illinois. This milestone and several others were achieved after President Biden signed bills into law in recent days that will help preserve places, communities, and previously untold stories that tell a more complete history of our country through the National Park System.
Located near Barry, Illinois, New Philadelphia is the first town known to be officially registered by an African American. Frank McWorter, once an enslaved man, bought his freedom and the freedom of 15 family members by mining for crude niter in Kentucky caves and processing the mined material into saltpeter, by hiring his time to other settlers, and by selling lots in New Philadelphia, the town he founded. The site became a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009. New Philadelphia National Historic Site is now the 424th park in the National Park System.
The protection of the original town’s location as a national historic site will permanently safeguard it for future generations and help preserve the important stories of Frank McWorter and others from the first African American town in the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) will work to establish a presence at New Philadelphia National Historic Site so that visitors can journey to the park and learn from the legacy of Frank McWorter.
“We welcome New Philadelphia National Historic Site as the 424th national park and invite all to learn about the town and those who lived there. The designation of New Philadelphia National Historic Site ensures that Frank McWorter’s struggle, sacrifices and legacy will never be forgotten,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “It is an honor to steward these parks and programs that preserve the diverse pieces of our nation’s history.”
Other provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 and other end-of-session bills that will add to the tapestry of natural, cultural, and historic resources the NPS protects, preserves, and interprets include:
Redesignating Pullman National Monument as a National Historical Park. Pullman National Monument was established in 2015 to recognize the community’s influence on urban planning and designs as well as its importance in the United States labor movement, including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott. The site’s redesignation as a National Historical Park recognizes the historical resources that reflect the industrial and labor history associated with the Pullman Company, including the rise and role of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the history of urban planning and design, of which the planned company town of Pullman is a nationally significant example. The historical resources within this site are a testament to the evolution of American industry, the rise of unions and the labor movement, the lasting strength of urban design, and the remarkable journey of the Pullman porters toward the civil rights movement of the 20th century.
Establishing the Japanese American World War II History Network in the NPS and making the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education Grants Program part of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Program. The network and program work to preserve sites used to confine Japanese Americans during World War II and fund educative efforts of preserving the important history of Japanese American confinement. The work of the network and grant program helps honor the people who were incarcerated through the sharing of their stories and allows all park visitors to learn from the difficult stories of formerly incarcerated Japanese Americans.
Designating the Ukraine Independence Park in Washington, DC. The park — bound by 22nd Street NW, P Street NW, and Florida Avenue NW — contains the Taras Shevchenko Memorial, which was dedicated in 1964. Shevchenko, a 19th Century Ukrainian poet and artist, spent many years imprisoned for his pro-Ukrainian independence activities in Tsarist Russia. He is revered for his literary works and self-sacrificing contributions to the people of Ukraine. The Ukranian Independence Park represents support for the Ukrainian people’s right to a free and independent state.
Designating the Butterfield Overland National Historic Trail. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company, also known as the Butterfield Stage, held a United States Mail contract to transport mail and passengers over the “ox-bow route” between the eastern termini of St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee, and the western terminus of San Francisco, California. The postal route and stagecoach service operated from 1858 to 1861. With the advent of the Civil War, this southern mail route was discontinued and moved farther north. The route served a critical need at that time, tying disparate parts of the country together and providing an overland route that ran entirely within the continent’s borders.
Establishing the Chilkoot National Historic Trail within Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. During the Klondike Gold Rush from 1897 to 1898, thousands of men, women and children used the trail to travel from Dyea, Alaska, to Lake Bennett, British Columbia. Today, over 10,000 people a year enjoy this 33-mile recreational trail where they can find hundreds of artifacts left behind by gold seekers alongside the trail. Establishing this route as a National Historic Trail allows the NPS to preserve this trail and the surrounding artifacts for visitors to enjoy for generations to come.
Designating seven new National Heritage Areas (NHAs): Alabama Black Belt, Bronzeville-Black Metropolis, Downeast Maine, Northern Neck, St Croix, Southern Campaign of the Revolution and Southern Maryland. The NPS intimately works with local communities in NHAs to preserve local history, support sustainable economic development and protect natural and cultural resources. These newly designated National Heritage Areas will build interest in local heritage and stories while boosting and supporting local economies.
Adding to the protection of important historical and natural resources by expanding the boundaries of several existing parks, including: the addition of 97 acres to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona, the addition of the Nystrom Elementary School to Rosie the Riveter/WWII Homefront National Historical Park in California, the addition of 46 acres within the boundary of Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Louisiana, expansion of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to include Newtonia Battlefield in Missouri, authorization to acquire property for a visitor center at Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park in Missouri, and authorization to acquire 166 acres — including the remains of Fort Brown — as an addition to Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Texas.
Addition of two new rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System: the York River, in Maine, and the Housatonic River, in Connecticut, have been added to this collection of exceptional rivers that are designated to protect their free-flowing condition, water quality, and outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
The NPS works closely with many stakeholders dedicated to the preservation of these important places. Their dedication helps the NPS tell new stories and share a more complete history of the United States.
The Black carp, one of four invasive species of carp in North America, has made it into the Mississippi River basin.
A new multi-year report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found the range of Black carp in the Mississippi River basin now includes the entirety of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and the southeastern edge of Iowa, near Keokuk.
The Black carp is a large species of fish endemic to parts of east Asia, typically growing over three feet long and weighing over 100 pounds. The fish was deliberately brought to the states during the 1970s as a means of pest control for aquatic snails in fish ponds. The population quickly grew out of control.