Got Nature? Blog

Posted on February 8th, 2016 in How To, Ponds, Safety, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

As the weather begins to warm up later this year, the sight of Canada geese returning is pleasant to some as a reminder of spring approaching. It can also be downright irritating to others who experience property damage and other conflicts as the geese concentrate on their property. There are several strategies for dealing with geese listed in further detail at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website, ranging from mild to severe.

The first thing that is important to know regarding geese is that it is simply not a good idea to feed them. While this act is positive in intention, it is a bad thing for both people and geese. Feeding geese gives them an artificially abundant source of food, which can cause them to delay or skip their migration and instead congregate in areas where they will conflict with people. Furthermore, being fed can cause geese to lose their fear of people, giving them the confidence to stroll across roadways and runways. Finally, large amounts of geese competing over bread and other food of limited nutritional value greatly increases their chances of developing and spreading avian diseases. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service‘s free publication “Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful!” further explains the need to stop feeding geese.

INDNR offers a significant amount of other advice on other methods of handling goose problems. Habitat modification such as adding vegetative barriers or suspended grid systems can be a good long term solution by making your land less attractive to geese. If geese have already begun to settle in, nonlethal harassment techniques like air horns and sprayers can be used twice a day to scare geese away from your property. Nests can be legally removed as long as there are no eggs present. If the situation calls for more severe actions, a permit can be acquired to destroy nests with eggs, or another permit can be issued by a District Wildlife Biologist to capture and relocate the animals. In cases of excessive property damage, a District Wildlife Biologist can also issue an agricultural depredation permit to shoot geese outside of the normal hunting season.

There are many methods of handling nuisance Canada geese this spring, and not one solution for every problem. If there is a goose problem in your area, please view INDNR’s Nuisance Canada Goose Management page to learn more about what you can do and how to acquire permits if needed.

Nuisance Canada Goose Management – Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Solutions – INDNR
Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful! – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Working With Wildlife: Urban Canada Goose Management – Purdue Extension
Managing Canada Geese – Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

Aaron Doenges, videographer & assistant web designer
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on September 15th, 2015 in Forestry, Ponds, Safety, Urban Forestry | No Comments »

​This summer, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation earned the 2015 Mid-Continent Regional Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) for their outstanding work in eliminating the abandoned Minnehaha slurry pond in an area of abandoned mine land in Sullivan County. This reward recognizes the elimination of health, safety and environmental problems in abandoned mine lands and is rightfully deserved by this ambitious project.

This project was one of the largest and most extensive projects that the Division of Reclamation has tackled in its over 30 years of work. To begin, the team addressed a weakened levee at the abandoned mine. The levee was holding back a pond of slurry, a hazardous mix of coal and water. By repairing this levee, a disasterous blackwater flood that could harm both property and people in the Sullivan County area was avoided.

The repaired levee allowed the team to then safely work on removing this abandoned slurry pond. A large sulfate-reducing bioreactor was built at the site, which treated and released over six million gallons of water through a newly designed system of sloping hills and a stream. By removing this slurry pond, this project succeeded in eliminating some of the waste caused from coal mining that is often neglected.

For more information, please check out Indiana DNR’s page on the project and award.

DNR Reclamation Earns National Award, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Status of Reforested Mine Sites in S.W. Indiana​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Abandoned Mine Land Safety, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Information for Citizens, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Posted on August 13th, 2015 in Aquaculture/Fish, Ponds | No Comments »

Photo credit: Dan Annarino

​Hopefully no one is reading this after a catastrophic loss of their pond. This very wet summer has tested some ponds’ ability to hold and safely release excess water. I would like to quickly review the overflow structures ponds should have and also some management necessary to ensure the safety of ponds levees/dams.

For recreational ponds, there should be one or perhaps two means of releasing water from the pond. Most of these ponds are built on sloping land in order to capture rainwater to fill the pond. In this case, it is necessary to have an emergency spillway that will divert excess water once the pond is full away from the dam to prevent erosion and save the integrity of the structure. Usually they is just an earthen channel that runs around the end of the dam with an initial elevation 1-2 feet below the top of the dam. Water only runs through the spillway when the pond is full. An emergency spillway should have vegetation to prevent erosion but not to the extent that water is blocked from passing through efficiently.

A distinct advantage can be gained by having a drain structure installed through the dam when ponds are initially constructed. Drains such as this typically have a valve or swivel pipe which can regulate water level to whatever height the owner would like. With a wet summer such as we have had, the pond water level could be proactively lowered to save massive amounts of water passing through the spillway.

Additionally you can remove stagnant low oxygen water from the bottom of the pond. If a drain structure is releasing water from the bottom of the pond, it is a good idea to flush this valve two to three times per year to remove debris from around the structure which may plug it up if used infrequently. With these structures, it is a good idea to use the 6/12 rule. Water levels are kept six inches below maximum in order to catch any rain water event without overflowing. Evaporation and seepage will reduce the level back down over time. The 12 refers to the level the inches below maximum where you would add well water if you have the capacity. Generally this is only used with aquaculture ponds.

Control structures to maintain water levels will ensure the integrity of your ponds dams and levees. By controlling the amount of water flushing through a pond, the owner can also manage the productivity of the pond ecosystem by releasing/maintaining nutrients in the pond.

Commercial Greenhouse and Nursery Production: Controlling Algae in Irrigation Ponds​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Indiana Ponds, The Education Store
Indiana Ponds Q&A, The Education Store
Management of Ponds, Wetlands, and Other Water Reservoirs to Minimize Mosquitoes, The Education Store
Indiana Pond Management​, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Fish & Pond Management
Ponds – Planning, Design, Construction, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Bob Rode, Extension Aquaculture Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Purdue Boat

Photo credit: Tom Campbell

As boats enter and exit public bodies of water, they risk transferring aquatic plants, mussels or invertebrates that attach themselves to the bottom of the boat. While this might seem pretty harmless at first, this spreading of aquatic species runs the risk of introducing invasive species into new environments.

Invasive species cause harm to local ecosystems by reproducing exponentially when they are outside of their usual habitat and the organisms that keep their populations in check. They can then cause great damage by feeding on local species and the food they depend on. Once an invasive species is detected, it is oftentimes very expensive and difficult to control. For example, around 1991, the U.S. and Canada spent an estimated $20 million per year to control invasive sea lampreys and restore the trout populations that were damaged by them. In Indiana alone, we spend around $800,000 a year to attempt to control the growth of Eurasian watermilfoil, another nuisance invasive species.

In an attempt to avoid more cases like this in the future, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR) is looking for help. Volunteers can sign up to record information about boats and their potential aquatic hitchhikers entering and leaving lakes during times of heavy use. The DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife can take this data and use it for public outreach and planning species management.

Those interested are highly encouraged to sign up on INDNR’s Volunteer Program page.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), Indiana Department of Natural Resources
DNR Seeks Help Gathering Info on Spread of Aquatic Species, WSBT22
Indiana Invasive Species Council, Purdue Entomology Extension
Invasive Plants, Purdue Agriculture Weed Science
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (search “invasive”)

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Hellbender WLFI Video​The next big step in the initiative to save the hellbenders of Indiana was completed on May 18, 2015, as three hellbenders were transferred from Purdue University’s Aquaculture Research Lab to the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. This is the last of 50 hellbenders transferred from the lab to Columbian Park Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville.

In 2013, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Rod Williams and his team collected 300 eggs from the Blue River in Southern Indiana. These eggs grew into young hellbenders in the lab and were transferred to the three zoos to continue growing to adulthood. In the wild, hellbender mortality rate is extremely high, as high as 99%. The salamanders are at their most vulnerable state during their juvenile years, and being raised in captivity will greatly improve their chances of survival when they are released back into the wild in a couple years.

Once released, the hellbenders will be tracked via radio transmitters to monitor their movements, habitat preferences and survivorship. The last group of 18 hellbenders released into the wild had a 22.5% survival rate after one year, and Williams hopes to improve on that. A group of 80 more hellbenders will be released in 2016 with 130 in the following year. Williams’ goal of 40-50% survival rate would mark huge progress in saving the hellbenders of Indiana.

Saving a Species, Purdue Agricultures Magazine
Hellbenders Arrive at the Columbian Park Zoo, WLFI article and video
Hellbender Helped by Purdue-Zoo Partnership, WLFI article and video
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
Hellbender Ecology and Genetics, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Enhancing Public Spaces, FNR-497 publicationA 20+ extension team led by ​Kara Salazar, sustainable communities extension specialist, and Michael Wilcox, assistant program leader for extension community development, have produced a new publication and curriculum titled “Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces.” This must-have spiral bound notebook and curriculum zip file download is a great resource for decision makers and local leaders developing community public spaces including park boards, planning commission members, members of organizations, public officials and staff whose missions are related to providing services, programs or management of public spaces. This program serves as a “how-to” guide for creating high-quality action plans to achieve great public spaces.

A one day workshop starts the process with collaborative activities to identify best practices for improving public spaces with emphasis on forming partnerships to achieve desired community goals. Follow-on working group meetings provide the resources and technical support needed to plan and implement projects tailored to individual communities. The completed high quality public spaces action plan can be used as part of comprehensive planning efforts, parks and recreation master plans and fundraising initiatives.

This publication and curriculum is available as a $25 digital download or a $50 digital download with print-on-demand options.

Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces, The Education Store
Sustainable Communities, Purdue Extension

Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Michael Wilcox​
Assistant Program Leader, Extension Community Development Program
Senior Associate, Purdue Center for Regional Development

Posted on November 7th, 2014 in Forestry, Plants, Ponds, Wildlife | No Comments »
Farm photo for Purdue Extension publication, Adoption of Agricultural Conservation Practices: Insights from Research and PracticeAgricultural educators, community organizers and others promoting environmental awareness can learn about the myths and realities of agricultural conservation from the perspective of a researcher, practitioner and student in a new Purdue Extension publication.

Adoption of Agricultural Conservation Practices: Insights from Research and Practice, developed by the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, is available for free download from The Education Store.

The authors (Linda Prokopy, associate professor of Natural Resource Social Science; Dan Towery, Indiana Conservation Cropping System Initiative educator; and Nicholas Babin, postdoctoral research assistant in Forestry and Natural Resources) use academic studies and their own observations to address ways of motivating farmers to adopt environmentally-friendly farming practices.

To read the full article, visit Ag conservation publications available from Purdue Extension, Purdue Agriculture News.

Indiana Soils: Evaluation and Conservation Manual Review, The Education Store
Conservation Tillage and Water Quality, The Education Store
Optimizing Conservation Tillage Systems: Plant-to-Plant Uniformity is Essential for Optimum Yield in No-Till Cont. Corn, The Education Store

Linda Prokopy, Associate Professor of Natural Resource Social Science
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Invasive Animal Species, Ponds | No Comments »

​The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDR) has proposed an idea to the state of Indiana to begin work on a two-mile-long berm in northeast Indiana. The berm will restrict Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. It will prevent voracious invasive species from jumping from the Mississippi River watershed during floods to a Great Lakes tributary in Eagle Marsh southeast of Fort Wayne. INDR hopes that work will begin this fall and be completed by September 15, 2015.

View the full article, Work Near on Indiana Berm to Block Asian Carp, from

Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Asian Carp Movements Project, INDR
Eagle Marsh, Little River Wetlands Project
Invasive Asian Carp May Be Able To Spread Further Than Once Thought, Purdue News
Shocking Asian Carp Out of Midwest Rivers Not a Viable Option, Purdue News
Purdue Agriculture Research: Asian Carp, YouTube video
iTunes-Got Nature?
Got Nature? Podcasts

Posted on September 8th, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Ponds, Wildlife | No Comments »

​One of the most common questions people ask me is what to do with baby, orphaned wildlife that they find. Recently a homeowner from Carmel asked for advice regarding two hatchling box turtles that her family found in their yard. In early June, they saw the mother laying eggs. They watched the nest periodically throughout the summer only to find two hatchlings just before Labor Day. They wanted to help the young turtles survive but didn’t know what exactly they should do.

Much to the surprise of most people, my answer to this question is almost always “nothing,” regardless of the species. I can’t fault people for wanting to help. That shows me they care about wildlife and are concerned for their well-being. After all, that is a big reason why I got into my line of work. And when it comes to baby animals, we tend to really get concerned. Perhaps that is just the nurturing instinct of parents. We can sometimes forget that wildlife behave very differently than us.

Box turtles may mate anytime during the activity season. During field studies of box turtles in southern Indiana, I encountered pairs mating most often in late summer. After mating, females will store the sperm and delay fertilization up to four years. The following summer (usually late-May to early June), she will locate a nest site, dig the nest, deposit the clutch of eggs and subsequently conceal the nest. The selection of nest sites is unknown, but they generally return to the same area year after year. Some hypothesize they are returning to their own natal region since this is the case for other species of turtles. Once the female deposits her clutch of eggs, they are on their own – box turtles offer no parental care of eggs or hatchlings.

Our good-intended homeowner questioned if the hatchlings she found should be moved to a large state forest (some distance away), a local nature center or the park across the street where she thought the mother came from. Because hatchlings and juvenile box turtles are hard to find, there is very little information known about their movements. It really is not known if the hatching turtles would attempt to cross the street because that is the presumed home of their mother. However, since the wooded park clearly offers better habitat than the housing development, saving the young from a potentially perilous journey across the road is probably ok.

Moving them a long distance away is probably not a good idea and simply not necessary. Based on research of adult movements, we know adult box turtles are very familiar with their home range and are capable of finding this area if displaced from it by up to 3.3 km. Turtles moved a long distance away from their home range may establish a new home range but may also wander great distances looking for home. Similarly, taking the hatchling turtles to a nature center or wildlife rehabilitator isn’t really necessary. They are perfectly fine on their own as long as they have good habitat. Also maintaining a population of box turtles in the park depends on the influx of new turtles.

Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store
Turtles In Your Yard, Everything Wildlife
Eastern Box Turtle, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Orphaned and Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on July 28th, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Forestry, How To, Ponds | No Comments »

Professionals studying watershed maps, web based tool Tipping Points and Indicators.For land use planners, balancing community growth and environmental health is always a challenge. But after months of pilot testing, IISG is putting the final touches on a new web-based tool that will help them do just that.

The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses the latest watershed research and cutting-edge technology to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their area are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in how they function. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps, simulators and recommended response strategies to develop watershed-specific plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair.

Full article . . .

Contact: Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Got Nature?