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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

April 2014 Activity Highlights
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Topics covered in the April activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp

Christopher Rees gave a presentation on the latest advances in environmental DNA (eDNA) research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, April 24.


Kevin Kenow was presented with the Meritorious Service Award by Center Director Michael Jawson, at UMESC’s quarterly staff meeting, April 11.  Kenow was recognized for his scientific leadership and exceptional contributions to the USGS in the fields of waterbird ecology and wildlife telemetry.  Kenow has made major advances in our understanding of waterbird distribution, abundance, and migration, particularly in regard to the common loon.  The Meritorious Service Award recognizes employees who have demonstrated longstanding excellence in serving the mission of the Department of Interior.

Patty Ries was awarded the best student platform presentation for, “Patterns in recruitment of freshwater mussels as a function of river discharge,” at the 46th annual meeting of the Mississippi River Research Consortium, April 24-26, 2014 in La Crosse, WI.  Ries recently received her Master of Science (MS) degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for her joint research project with UMESC’s native mussel research team. The presentation’s co-authors were; Teresa Newton, Steve Zigler (UMESC), Roger Haro (UW-La Crosse), and Mike Davis (MN DNR).

Climate Change

Wayne Thogmartin, Patrick McKann (UMESC), Greg Forcey (North Dakota State University), and George Linz (USDA National Wildlife Research Center) recently published their findings on the influences of climate and land use on birds in the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States. Predictions from their models are useful for targeting locations, such as northeastern South Dakota and central North Dakota, where management and conservation efforts would be most beneficial.  The manuscript is available online at   For more information contact Wayne Thogmartin at

Congressional Affairs

Karrie Jackelen, Congressional Aide for Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) visited UMESC April 16 to meet the new Acting Director Kevin Richards and Deputy Jack Waide and discussed the possibility to meet with Rep. Kind during the Congressional spring or summer break. 

Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society

Teresa Newton presented results from a study that looked at the inter-annual variation in recruitment of freshwater mussels and its relationship with river discharge, at the 2014 Workshop of the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society in Portland, ME, April 24-25.  Results from this study can be used to design effective management strategies to enhance conservation of this imperiled fauna.   Background information on this workshop can be found at

Geospatial Sciences and Technology

MidAmerica GIS Symposium

Kevin Hop attended the 14th biennial MidAmerica GIS (MAGIC) Symposium April 27-May 1 in Kansas City, MO. This conference is the premier conference for the MAGIC Consortium to promote the advances in GIS and geospatial technologies, by focusing on today’s key issues and challenges. In addition to conference sessions and networking opportunities, Kevin will be attending two half-day short courses in GIS.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

Project #80, Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure in the Great Lakes 

Chris Custer, Tom Custer, and Paul Dummer conducted field work at several new GLRI study sites, April 7-25.  The new study sites are located at several priority Areas Of Concern (AOCs), including the Rochester Embayment and the Buffalo River in NY, the Cuyahoga River in OH, and three new locations in the Milwaukee Estuary AOC.  The fieldwork is associated with the Custer’s GLRI project which is collecting data on contaminant exposure and effects at AOCs across the Great Lakes.  These data are being directly used by States in their Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) assessments, for remedy effectiveness assessments, and includes information on both legacy contaminants as well as several newly emerging classes of chemicals. 

Project #73, Avian Botulism in Distressed Great Lakes Environments

Kevin Kenow presented, “Migration and Foraging Patterns of Common Loons: Implications for Exposure to Avian Botulism in the Great Lakes,” to the University of Wisconsin-Steven's Point Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, in Stevens Point, WI on April 22.  In addition to highlighting recent research on the migration and foraging patterns of common loons, the presentation addressed the USGS and UMESC missions and core science activities.

Kevin Kenow presented the keynote address, “Unraveling Mysteries of the Common Loon” at the annual meeting of Minnesota Academy of Science and Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium at St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN on April 26.  This event provides opportunities for individuals involved in science in Minnesota to meet their colleagues and present the results of research with a regional emphasis, and allows over 150 undergraduate students to present the results of their research in paper and poster sessions.

National Park Service

Natchez Trace Parkway Vegetation Mapping Project

UMESC staff working on the Natchez Trace Parkway (NATR) Vegetation Mapping Project for the National Park Service (NPS) participated in a project planning meeting at the NATR park headquarters May 6-7, to review the status of the mapping project, present the vegetation classification scheme and key, and provide an opportunity for input on FY 2014 fieldwork.  Individuals participating in the meeting include; Jennifer Dieck, Kevin Hop, Erin Hoy, Joe Jakusz, Andrew Strassman (UMESC), Arnie Peterson (NPS-Gulf Coast Network), Lisa McInnis (NATR), Rickie White, Carl Nordman (NatureServe), and Al Schotz (AL Natural Heritage Program).

Kevin Hop, Erin Hoy, and Andrew Strassman (UMESC) worked with Al Schotz (AL Natural Heritage Program) May 8-15th, 2014 to conduct a field reconnaissance of the vegetation along the Natchez Trace Parkway (NATR) for the Natchez Trace Parkway Vegetation Mapping Project for the National Park Service’s Vegetation Inventory Program.  Field work will occur along the northern-half of the park from approximately Tupelo, MS to Nashville, TN and will involve the comparison of aerial imagery signatures to ground conditions while simultaneously testing the key to vegetation for functionality and consistency. 

Quality Assurance and Good Laboratory Practices

Jane Rivera attended the 30th Annual Society of Quality Assurance (SQA) Meeting and Quality College in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 7-11.  Three days of plenary and concurrent sessions will explore hot topics and the latest regulatory interpretations in the field.  Sessions will focus on regulatory-based topics in manufacturing (GMPs), preclinical (GLPs) and clinical (GCPs) research arenas. Other areas of interest include animal health, bioanalysis, biotechnology, computer validation, medical devices, university issues and more.  Rivera is a member of the SQA and serves as the UMESC Quality Assurance Officer.

Jane Rivera provided Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Experimental Use Permit (EUP) regulation training for Michigan State University staff conducting field research under EUPs approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, April 25-27 in East Lansing, MI.  Michigan State is testing the effectiveness of sea lamprey attractants and repellants as possible alternate methods for controlling parasitic sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes basin.  UMESC staff assist federal and state partners of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Integrated Management of Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) Control Program, in obtaining EUPs and providing quality assurance oversight for project staff.  Rivera is UMESC’s Quality Assurance Officer and a regulatory affairs specialist.

Upper Mississippi River

Forestry Coordination Meeting

Eileen Kirsch participated in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District’s Forestry Coordination meeting, held April 3 at the La Crosse, WI district office of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Hazardous Spills Coordination Group Meeting

The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) held their Hazardous Spills Coordination Group Meeting at UMESC, April 16-17.  The meeting/training exercise brought together representatives from state and federal agencies, industry, and other partners, for a review of recent hazardous spills and to conduct a table top exercise on how to respond to a hazardous spill.  The UMRBA is a regional interstate organization formed by the Governors of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin to coordinate the states’ river-related programs and policies, and work with federal agencies that have river responsibilities.  For more information contact Carol Lowenberg at

Mississippi River Research Consortium

Scientists from the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center gave a series of presentations at the 46th Annual Meeting of the Mississippi River Research Consortium, April 23-25 in La Crosse, WI.

Oral Presentations:


Upper Mississippi River Restoration – Environmental Management Program

Strategic Planning Team

Mike Jawson, Barry Johnson, and Jeff Houser participated in a meeting of the Strategic Planning Team for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (UMRR), April 8-11 in Rock Island, IL.  The UMRR funds the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS), which is implemented through USGS-UMESC.  At this meeting, the Team will finalize a draft strategic plan for review by UMRR partners.  The primary focus of the plan is on enhancing knowledge and ability related to management of the UMRS through closer integration of monitoring, research, and habitat rehabilitation projects.  The plan calls for expanded use of adaptive management and increased collaboration with other agencies and researchers working within the UMRS and basin.

Monitoring Design Handbook Review

Barry Johnson, Jim Rogala, Yao Yin, Brian Ickes, Nate De Jager, and Jeff Houser participated in a meeting of the Analysis Team (A-Team) on April 23 in La Crosse, WI.  The A-Team addresses technical matters related to the implementation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration-Environmental Management Program (UMRR-EMP) Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) element and consists of representatives of the five Upper Mississippi River System states (IA, IL, MN, MO, WI) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  At this meeting, the A-Team discussed a draft strategic plan the UMRR and review the UMRR Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project (HREP) Monitoring Design Handbook on standardized HREP forest monitoring protocol and non-forested monitoring protocol.

Rio Grande Basin Environmental Management Program

Jennifer Sauer participated in the Rio Grande Basin Environmental Management Program Meeting in Brownsville, TX, April 22-23.   Sauer presented an overview of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) program as a model for the Rio Grande partnership to consider for restoration and monitoring efforts.  The Long Term Resource Monitoring Program element of the UMRR is administered by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in cooperation with the five Upper Mississippi River states, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Upper Mississippi River Refuge

Eileen Kirsch participated in the 2014 annual meeting of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (UMRNWFR) biologists Prairie du Chien, WI, April 14.  The UMRNWFR encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the lower 48 states, covering over 240,000 acres along 261 river miles from Wabasha, MN to Rock Island, IL.  Each year refuge biologists from the Refuge’s four conservation districts meet to review their work and plan for the future.  Kirsch provided an update on her breeding bird survey projects titled, “Revisiting breeding bird surveys from the 1990's in UMR floodplain forests: potential as a monitoring framework, and preliminary trends from Pool 8,” and Michael Wellik and Kirsch will present the poster, “Tree species preferences of foraging birds during spring migration in Upper Mississippi River floodplain forests.”

Thermal Imagery Monitoring

Larry Robinson delivered an update on the project to evaluate the usefulness of thermal imagery to support resource monitoring projects, during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Region 3’s annual Remote Sensing Overview WebEx, April 14.  The WebEx provided highlights of on-going remote sensing work within FWS Region 3, for local and regional FWS staff.  Robinson is working on the project to evaluate the potential usefulness of a thermal imaging camera FWS Region 3 would like to purchase.

Guest Lectures

Richard Erickson gave a guest lecture on a Myotis bat population model and corresponding tool created at UMESC for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to a Mathematical Biology class at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, on April 14.

Richard Erickson presented his doctoral research at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Continent Ecology Division office in Duluth, MN on April 16.  Erickson’s research examined the effects of pesticide exposure on intra- and interspecific competition population dynamics. 


AOC – Area of Concern
BUI – Beneficial Use Impairment
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
eDNA – Environmental DNA
EUP – Experimental Use Permit
GCP – Good Clinical Practice
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLP – Good Laboratory Practice
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
GMP – Good Management Practice
HREP – Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project
LTRMP – Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
NATR – Natchez Trace Parkway
NPS – National Park Service
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
UMRBA – Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
UMRNWFR – Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
UMRS – Upper Mississippi River System
UMRR-EMP – Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program
USACE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
USDA – U.S. Department of Agriculture
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UWL – University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

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