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Illinois state scientific surveys become part of U. of I.


Sharita Forrest, News Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The four state scientific surveys – the Illinois State Geological Survey, the Illinois Natural History Survey, the Illinois Waste Management and Research Center, and the Illinois State Water Survey – have become part of the U. of I.’s Urbana campus, under a measure signed Monday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The surveys will be organized as a new unit, the Institute for Natural Sciences and Sustainability, under the university’s auspices in Fiscal Year 2009, which began Tuesday.

“The historic relationship between the surveys and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has built a foundation which will now allow us to expand our land grant mission in support of the survey activities throughout the state,” U. of I. Chancellor Richard Herman said today. “The synergies made possible by joining the surveys with the university will benefit the people of Illinois by bringing together scientists who will address real-world problems for the people of the state of Illinois.”

Blagojevich, who proposed transferring administration of the surveys to the university under the FY2009 budget he recommended for the university in February, signed Public Act 95-0728, which amended the Water Use Act of 1983 among other legislation, and created the University of Illinois Scientific Surveys Act. The U. of I. will receive an additional $15.8 million in general revenue funds along with personnel and property that will be redirected to the U. of I. from the Department of Natural Resources.

The institute, which may also be called the Illinois Sustainable Technologies Center, will serve as a focal point for applied energy, environmental science and sustainability programs throughout the state.

The institute will take advantage of the surveys’ complementary goals and missions of providing the scientific underpinnings for energy, sustainability, environmental policy and natural resource management, ensuring that the natural environment is developed to enhance the well being of the citizens of Illinois and the state’s economic viability.

The surveys and the campus each have strong programs in natural resources, energy and the environment, and their integration provides opportunities to build on the synergies between the academic and educational programs of the campus with the state-focused research and outreach programs of the surveys. The surveys’ integration with the university will maximize operational efficiencies and expand opportunities for collaborative research and access to funding, technology commercialization, experiential learning for Illinois students and programmatic enhancements.

Additional information on the surveys:

Illinois State Geological Survey: Founded in its modern form in 1905, the ISGS is the largest of the 50 U.S. states’ geological surveys with research focused on environmentally responsible development of Illinois’ energy resources and on
three-dimensional geological mapping. A major research contributor to the national and international drive to control carbon dioxide emissions.

Illinois State Natural History Survey: Founded in 1858. Investigates the diversity, life histories and ecology of the state’s plants and animals and beyond; studies diseases of crops and wildlife, invasive species, habitat restoration and other topics; publishes research results so these resources can be managed wisely, and provides information to the public to foster a better understanding of natural resources.

Illinois State Water Survey: Founded in 1895. Primary agency in Illinois for research and information related to the quantity, quality and use of groundwater, surface water, and atmospheric resources, enabling government agencies, the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and the public to make informed decisions.

Waste Management Research Center: Founded in 1985, with the mission of pollution prevention and natural resource conservation. The center provides expert and technical assistance in areas such as sustainability, waste minimization, energy efficiency, water purification, developing and testing alternative technologies. WMRC develops beneficial uses for river sediment while restoring habitat where sediment is removed. WMRC also has a program for converting waste oils into biodiesel.