Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Preparing for Monday’s solar eclipse

Joey McLaughlin talks with University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Astronomy-Physics John Martin about the eclipse on Monday.

This interview aired live on 1240 WTAX Radio on August 16, 2017.

Listen to the interview online.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Susan Koch: UIS Community Garden is an educational experience

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on August 13, 2017.

Renowned British horticulturalist and writer Gertrude Jekyll, who created more than 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and America during her career, once said, “A garden is a grand teacher.” 

I like to think Megan Styles, an environmental anthropologist at the University of Illinois Springfield, may have been inspired by Jekyll’s words when she led an initiative at UIS to establish a now-thriving addition to the campus — the UIS Community Garden. 

Located near the historic Strawbridge Shepherd House, the garden was dedicated during Earth Week in April 2016 and has since become an important instructional facility as well as an engaging intersection for volunteers from the campus and the community. 

More than 200 volunteers have worked in the garden since its opening, and it has already produced over 300 pounds of fresh produce. 

"The UIS Community Garden has been student-driven,” says Styles. Students in Styles’ “Introduction to Sustainability” class designed the garden as a class project, studying various sustainable garden designs, creating a comprehensive plan and budget and determining the organizational approach that would best support a community garden project over time.

The garden features raised beds which help control weeds and handle drainage. Wooden compost containers and an in-ground vermiculture compost bin provide a steady supply of organic material that promotes soil microbes and plant growth. 

The garden includes many typical vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peas and broccoli, but thanks to heirloom seed donations from Springfield’s own Suttill’s Gardens and the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, more unusual varieties like sweet chocolate peppers, Ping Tung Long eggplant, fuzzy purple cauliflower and Red Russian kale are also thriving. 

City Water, Light and Power donated bee balm, butterfly bushes and milkweed varieties to help attract pollinators to the garden and support Monarch butterflies and other beneficial insect varieties. 

A GoFundMe campaign raised funds for the purchase of tools and other garden supplies. An increasing number of diminutive gnomes (mysterious contributions from an unknown donor) have taken up residence throughout the garden — adding an element of whimsy, charm and, of course, good luck.

Springfield resident Alana Reynolds is one of several regulars at the garden who often brings her daughters to pitch in at the work sessions Wednesday evenings. “The UIS Community Garden is a place to learn and share practical knowledge,” Alana says. “Any Springfield resident who visits the garden is sure to leave with some sense of worth — whether it be an armload of fresh veggies, a new friend or a skill that has been learned.” 

Looking toward the future, Styles would like to work with faculty colleagues to build more connections between the garden and the student experience at UIS, offering additional coursework and research opportunities. 

“The garden is first and foremost an educational space,” she says, “and we’ll make it even more educational and more sustainable as we continue to develop.” 

You can follow activities at the UIS Community Garden via Facebook at, or better yet, grab your garden gloves and join us for a work session any Wednesday evening between 5 and 7 p.m. Volunteers are always welcome, and I can almost guarantee you won’t go home empty-handed.

Read the entire column online.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

UIS Professor John Martin: Southern Illinois will be epicenter for August 21 Solar Eclipse

Plans have been in the works for years at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a vast portion of southern Illinois for the total solar eclipse which will translate across the campus sky on Monday, Aug. 21.

The total eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina during the afternoon hours of the day. A solar eclipse occurs when the orbit of the moon passes in front of the sun, causing darkness for a few moments during the daytime. According to NASA experts, southern Illinois will have the longest duration of darkness during the event, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

This is the first time in 99 years a total eclipse will be seen across the continental United States.

While the path of totality will be about 150 miles to the south of Pana, this area will be exposed to a partial eclipse – between 94 and 96% – according to University of Illinois Springfield astronomer Dr. John Martin. “Of course, in southern Illinois, the eclipse is total,” Martin said. “In the Pana, Decatur, Springfield, Jacksonville area, it will be a little less than totality. It won’t be quite as spectacular because the sun is so bright, even four or five percent of sunshine will be subdued. It will become just a little dark, something like a cloudy day.”

Dr. Martin has been with UIS since 2006 in the Physics and Astronomy Department. He is the host of the university’s “star parties” which are held periodically at night at the observatory at UIS.

In this area, Dr. Martin says the apex of the solar eclipse will occur around 1:18 p.m. on Aug. 21.
According to the NASA website, the event will begin at 11:52 a.m. and conclude at 2:44 p.m. in the Pana area.

He warns people – especially in this area – not to look directly at the eclipse because they could sustain eye damage. “Even with 97% of the sun blocked out, it can still damage the eyes,” he warns. “It would be like looking directly at an arc welding.” He suggests someone use a welder’s helmet glass to view the eclipse in this area. He said there are local retailers who have special eclipse glasses for sale.

However, the “100% safest way” to view the event is to make a “pin hole camera” and view it indirectly.

“Just seven years from now, in 2024, Carbondale will once again be in the path of totality of another eclipse,” Martin said. “But this eclipse will move from the southwest to the northeast. This is a very rare occurrence – something on the order of once every 1,000 or 2,000 years.”

This story was printed in the Pana News-Palladium on July 31, 2017.

Read the entire story online.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UIS will review safety at Sangamon Auditorium

Officials at the University of Illinois in Springfield say an outside consulting firm will review safety issues at the Sangamon Auditorium following the death of a concertgoer this year.

University spokesman Blake Wood says Grey and Associates of Champaign will conduct the study, which is expected to cost about $5,000. Wood says university officials expect the results by September, but he wouldn't say if they'll be made public.

Police say 51-year-old John Kremitzki fell through an opening near the auditorium's main stage in March during a break in a Pink Floyd tribute show. Another patron, Greg Hoffman, was injured trying to help Kremitzki.

Wood says university officials will evaluate the report before deciding how to address any potential recommendations.

This story appeared on Peoria Public Radio WCBU 89.9 on August 8, 2017.

Read the entire story online.