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The next step was to analyze what

effect the garbage had on food webs in the river—particularly regarding biofilm, the thin slimy film composed of algae and bacteria that covers rocks, driftwood, and garbage if it’s present. The biofilm carries out photosynthesis and is a food source for insects, which are then food for fish. Hoellein wanted to discover if the biofilm on garbage was comparable to that on naturally occurring river objects. Hoellein and his team cut pieces of

glass, plastic, and aluminum into little squares, which were then attached to larger pieces of plastic. They put samples in the Chicago River, the pond at the Retreat and Ecology Campus, and the artificial stream facility at the Lake Shore Campus. There were some differences. “We

found that the photosynthesis rate was lower on aluminum and glass relative to a natural surface, like a rock.” Hoellein says. “Also, some of the microbes that colonize litter are different than those on natural surfaces. For example, we expected those on leaves and cardboard to be similar, but in fact they showed strong differences.” Hollein says there were fewer distinc-

tions among hard or inorganic surfaces— the microbes on rocks were similar to those on glass, plastic, and aluminum. Understanding these similarities and

differences allows Hoellein to make some predictions about what types of litter affect these organisms, which are an im- portant link at the bottom of the stream food web. He and colleague John Kelly, PhD, also

of the biology department, are also col- lecting data on more watersheds in the greater Chicago region. They are measur- ing microplastics (small pieces of plastic between 0.3–0.5 mm) in rivers in the area and are finding that concentrations are similar to those in the ocean and Great Lakes. Their next step is to carry out the project to examine colonization by algae. And all of this is only the beginning. “In general, we have just begun to

quantify how much of this material is there, and whether we can expect it to have an impact in these urban stream ecosystems,” Hoellein says.

For 27 years, Nancy Nasko (BA ’75) has dedicated her life to serving students at St. Pius V. CATHOLIC EDUCATION

Leading by example A

quote displayed on the office door of St. Pius V principal Nancy Cullinan Nasko (BA ‘75) says a lot about how

she approaches her job. “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” “People will judge you by the way you treat

others,” she explains. Now in her 17th year as leader of St. Pius V, Nasko recently earned two prestigious honors. In October, she received the Distinguished Principal Award from the Nation- al Association of Elementary School Principals. Only 61 principals from throughout the country received the award, and just four were from Catholic schools. She also recently received the Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Education Association. She says she shares the credit with her

dedicated staff members. Nasko, who began teaching at St. Pius V 27 years ago, also says her long history with the school has been an asset. St. Pius V is located in the Pilsen community

of Chicago, where Nasko has lived for 39 years. It serves 236 preschool through eighth-grade students, 85 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. With so many living at the poverty level, fundraising and searching for financial assistance opportunities are big

priorities for Nasko. “I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t want to send their child here, once they find us and have taken our tour. But many of our parents work for minimum wage or have lost their jobs in the past couple of years.” Nasko thinks of herself as an instructional

leader, faith leader, and cheerleader. “Princi- pals in the Archdiocese wear a lot of differ- ent hats. But even on my hardest days, I feel very honored to be here.” She has built many partnerships that have enhanced the learning experience for students. Donor organizations have contributed a new science lab, technology upgrades, and air conditioning, to name a few. Nasko credits her Loyola education for giving

her a compassionate foundation. She also met her husband of 39 years, John, in a class on the first day of school. When asked about the most rewarding part

of her job, Nasko gets emotional, but she’s quick to answer: “The best part is having kids thank us for what we’ve done for them. It can be the tiniest thing, like giving a Band-Aid. They tell me they love me, and I try to tell them I love them every day. I’m very proud of the peace- ful climate at my school. I’m honored to share these children with their parents.”




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