College of ACES
College News

NRES' Bethany Cutts co-leading Workshop in Urban Environmental Equity

Published September 12, 2014
Dr. Bethany Cutts

While there is no such thing as a good place to have a natural disaster, nor has there ever been an appropriate site to release toxic pollutants, scientists have long recognized that some areas can handle such catastrophes better than others. As early as the 1970s, they used socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to develop a tool called the Social Vulnerability Index, known as SoVI, to gauge the likely resilience of different communities.

Bethany Cutts, Assistant Professor with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, is co-leading the Workshop in Urban Environmental Equity.

A team of professors and graduate students at the University of Illinois is testing and tweaking the SoVI model by studying at a more granular level the communities around two polluted Midwest waterways. See the complete story in Inside Illinois.


Agricultural and Biological Engineering ranked best in the nation

Published September 11, 2014
Grift with students at AESB
Professor Tony Grift supervises students as they test air cannon

Urbana, Ill. - The undergraduate program in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at the University of Illinois is once again ranked best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The 2015 U.S. News Best Colleges placed Illinois in a tie with Purdue University for the top spot. Texas A&M, Iowa State, and Florida rounded out the top five.

U.S. News ranks undergraduate programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology based solely on the judgments of deans and senior faculty from participating colleges. U.S. News also asks for nominations of the best programs in specialty areas, such as biological and agricultural engineering; those receiving the most mentions are ranked in the publication.

K.C. Ting, department head of ABE since 2004, said, “Developing and delivering great educational programs are among our core missions. We are very encouraged that our agricultural and biological engineering undergraduate program is recognized as a top program.” ABE at Illinois has been ranked consistently in one of the top three spots for almost a decade, including a previous four-year stint as number one.

The department is part of two of the top colleges on the Urbana-Champaign campus; the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Engineering. Ting said the strength of each college “is a tremendous asset to our department.”

Ting added that outstanding faculty, staff, and students also contribute to the overall quality of the department. “Our teaching is student centered, many of our courses are project based, and students have diverse opportunities for international study abroad. We offer a complete educational package, which makes our department very appealing to incoming students.

“We are in good company,” Ting concluded, “and we feel honored to receive this recognition.”

News Source:

K. C. Ting, 217-333-3570

News Writer:

Leanne Lucas, 217-244-9085

Illinois 4-H Foundation presents 2014 state 4-H awards

Published September 11, 2014

URBANA, Ill. - The Illinois 4-H Foundation recognized the exceptional contributions of four outstanding individuals at the ACES College Connection program held Sept. 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center in Champaign.

Three 4-H alumni received the Illinois 4-H Alumni Award:

  • Craig Bidner was a 10-year member of the Danvers Industrial Youth and the Rugged Rambler 4-H Clubs in McLean County. Today he is the owner and CEO of Nikco Sports in Chesterfield, Mo. In 2009, Craig and his wife Joy began the Gateway Gang 4-H Club in St. Louis as a way for their two children and other youth to benefit from the 4-H experience. They continue to be the club leaders today. Bidner said, “Participating in 4-H was a learning opportunity and a foundation that our family built on to succeed in life.”
  • Daniel Kelley was a 10-year member of the Linden Lead ‘Em 4-H Club in McLean County. Today Kelley is a grain farmer near Normal and recently served as the president of the GROWMARK, Inc., board of directors from 1995 to 2013. Kelley said he clearly remembers the inspiration and insight of his 4-H leader, Clarence Ropp. Upon Ropps’ retirement, Kelley volunteered to serve as an assistant leader to help Ray Ropp with the club. Twenty-three years later, Kelley stepped down. Kelley stated that he is proud to have been a part of the 86-year-old Linden Lead ‘Em 4-H Club’s legacy.
  • Philip Nelson was a 10-year member of the Miller Township 4-H Club in LaSalle County. Nelson is a fourth-generation owner and operator of the grain and livestock farm where he grew up. Nelson’s early 4-H experiences provided him with valuable leadership skills and laid the foundation for his life of service to the agriculture industry. He served as vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) from 1999 to 2003 and as president from 2003 to 2013. Nelson has used his leadership roles within the IFB to serve as a tireless advocate for 4-H.

The 2014 Friend of 4-H Award was presented to Richard Knipe, a retired University of Illinois Extension beef animal systems specialist. Knipe spent eight years as coordinator of the Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging Program and coach of the state 4-H judging team. During that time, Knipe built a volunteer coaching system that drives the development of some 2,000 youth across the state of Illinois annually. When ethical behavior in 4-H livestock shows became an issue in the late 1990s, Knipe joined forces with fellow educators to develop a series of 4-H and FFA quality assurance and ethics clinics. Knipe is the co-founder of Riverside Research’s MarketMaker.

The Illinois 4-H Foundation builds relationships to generate financial resources for the Illinois 4-H program. For more information, visit Illinois 4-H is part of the University of Illinois Extension program that is offered in concert with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, the Federal Extension Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information about 4-H in Illinois, visit


Original northern border of Illinois was south of Chicago and Lake Michigan

Published September 11, 2014
Map showing original Illinois border

URBANA, Ill. – Chicago residents today might have had a Wisconsin zip code if the originally proposed northern boundary of Illinois had been approved. It was a straight line from the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan to just south of the Rock and Mississippi River confluence. University of Illinois soil scientist Ken Olson said that had the proposed northern border not been changed, the state of Illinois would have a much smaller population and footprint with the northern 51 miles of the Illinois Territory ceded to Wisconsin when it became a state in 1848.

Olson says Illinois has Nathaniel Pope to thank for the additional farmland, population, and lakefront property. The northern border was moved north to allow the linkage of the Great Lakes shipping route to the Illinois and Mississippi river navigation channels, giving Illinois a valuable shoreline on Lake Michigan and a location for a shipping port hub which became Chicago.

“Pope was Illinois Territory’s congressional delegate at the time,” explained Olson. “He and his brother, a Kentucky senator, were able to convince Congress to move the proposed border to its present-day location—and that shift in the northern boundary completely altered the fortunes of Wisconsin and Illinois. In addition to the economic benefits of the Chicago port, Illinois acquired 5.5 million acres of very productive soil for farming.” The linkage of the Great Lakes waterway to the Illinois and Mississippi river waterways provided a northern route to move troops and supplies during the Civil War to avoid the contested Ohio River.

Illinois’s western border location was determined by an intervention of nature in the Pleistocene Era. “Numerous glacial advances covered most of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois,” Olson said. “Meltwaters from these glaciers contributed to the realignment of the Mississippi River, which became the western border when Illinois became a state. Before the Pleistocene glacial period, the ancient Mississippi River passed much farther to the east. The land between the Quad Cities Peoria and Alton would not be part of Illinois. So if the Mississippi River had not been realigned by the glaciers, another 7.5 million acres would belong to the states of Missouri and Iowa.” Illinois would have lost some of its best soils for corn and soybean production.

Looking southwest, Olson said that seismic activity in the New Madrid area and glacial melt waters approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago affected the re-routing of the ancient Mississippi and Ohio rivers to their current locations. He pointed to the modern-day Cache River valley of southern Illinois with its swamps, sloughs, and shallow lakes—remnants of the ancient Ohio River whose confluence with the Mississippi River was once northwest of Cairo.

“Following seismic activity in 1000 A.D., the Cache River valley dropped to its current elevation and was no longer connected to the current Ohio River,” Olson said. “The Cache River valley is deeper at a lower elevation, between 320 and 340 feet, than would otherwise be expected in a slow-moving swampy river system, and the presence of thousand-year-old baldcypress trees confirm the natural conversion of river bottomland into swamplands.

“If all of these waterway-related changes had not occurred, the State of Illinois would only have 22 million acres and would be substantially smaller than its current 35 million acres,” Olson said. The agricultural lands in Illinois would have been reduced by 40 percent, affecting its agricultural productive capacity, which is an economic engine of the State of Illinois.

Olson concluded. “Chicago and Rockford would be in Wisconsin, Cairo and Metropolis in Kentucky, Quincy in Missouri, and Rock Island, Moline, and Peoria would be in Iowa.” The commercial activity from all these cities would not have contributed to Illinois’s economic development.

Olson’s research suggests that the size and shape of Illinois may have been dramatically different without these natural waterway border changes to the west and south and Nathaniel Pope’s intercession on Illinois’s northern boundary.

“How Waterways, Glacial Melt Waters, and Earthquakes Re-aligned Ancient Rivers and Changed Illinois Borders,” was published in the Journal of Earth Science and Engineering and was co-authored by Fred Christensen, an instructor at the University of Illinois Osher Lifelong Learning Center. Olson is a researcher in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. The published paper is available at





Dates and locations set for 2015 University of Illinois Corn & Soybean Classics

Published September 11, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – Mark your calendars for the 2015 University of Illinois Corn & Soybean Classics.

The upcoming meetings will mark the 18th year of the Classics. Aaron Hager, U of I Extension weed specialist, said this year’s program will continue the tradition of providing clientele with the most current and timely information related to crop production, marketing, and pest management.

The dates and meeting locations for the 2015 Corn & Soybean Classics are:

  • January 7- Par-A-Dice Hotel, Peoria
  • January 8 - iWireless Center, Moline
  • January 9 - Kishwaukee College, Malta
  • January 12 - Crowne Plaza, Springfield
  • January 13 - I Hotel and Conference Center, Champaign
  • January 14 - Holiday Inn, Mt. Vernon

Additional information related to the program will appear in a future issue of the Bulletin at