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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the August activity report.

American Fisheries Society

Terry Hubert, Chris Rees, and Steve Zigler attended the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, August 17-21, 2014, in Quebec City, Canada.  Hubert and Rees were invited to give oral presentations, and presented materials for UMESC scientists not attending in person.  UMESC’s presentations included:

Oral Presentations:


Symposium Coordination:

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp Integrated Pest Management Demonstration: Illinois River

On August 14-16, an integrated pest management (IPM) demonstration of Asian carp control technology testing in at a backwater lake in Morris, Illinois was conducted by four USGS science centers, Illinois DNR and Southern Illinois University.  Partners showcased a water gun barrier, food attractant, commercial fishing, and data collection on hydraulics, water quality and fish behavior during the field testing.  These trials involved the deployment of an algal attractant to draw Asian carp into the backwater followed by operation of a water gun barrier to hold the Asian carp in the area allowing commercial fisherman to harvest Asian carp from the attracted area in an effort to reduce the population. This trial builds upon the first field applications conducted in 2013 to continue to demonstrate to resource management agencies and partners how control tools under development might be combined in an IPM approach to control Asian carp.  For more information contact Mark Gaikowski at

Sea Lamprey Technical Assistance

Jane Rivera (UMESC) presented, “Sea lamprey pheromone regulatory actions March to August 2014,” at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Trapping Task Force meeting August 26-27 in Marquette, MI.  The purpose of the task force is to coordinate optimization of trapping techniques for assessing adult sea lamprey populations, and to remove adult and transforming sea lampreys from spawning and feeding populations.  Scientists at UMESC provide expertise on United States and Canada regulations as they pertain to biopesticide experimental research and registration.

Jeff Bernardy, Nick Schloesser, Hannah Mello, Sunny McCalla, Bridget Ladell (UMESC), Cheryl Kaye, Mary Hensen, and Mat Symbal (USFWS) conducted a field trial to determine the fate of granular Bayer when applied in a silt laden lentic environment, to understand how the lampricide, granular Bayer, partitions between the water column and sediment over time.  UMESC scientists provide technical support to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Sea Lamprey Control Program in the Great Lakes.  The field trials took place on August 26-28, 2014.

Department of the Interior

Staff at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center hosted visits from Anne Castle (DOI Assistant Secretary for Water and Science), Leon Carl (USGS, Regional Director, Midwest Region), and Alan Thornhill (USGS Director of the Office of Science Quality and Integrity).  Castle and Thornhill visited UMESC to learn more about the Center and its research projects, and to interact with the Center’s scientists.  Castle and Carl visited on August 7, 2014, Thornhill visited July 28, 2014.

Media Interactions

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) was interviewed by Rex Graham, Bird News, for an article highlighting Kenow’s recent DOI meritorious service award for waterbird ecology and wildlife telemetry research.  Graham’s article resulted from an earlier La Crosse Tribune article published on Kenow’s achievement in May. The article is available at

Jessica Stanton (UMESC) was interviewed for an article published in Bay Nature News, following a presentation she gave at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, MT on July 15, 2014.  Stanton was presenting work done in collaboration with Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) on using extinction risk and decline metrics for monitoring and prioritizing conservation needs of North American birds.  The article is available online at

National Park Service

Natchez Trace Parkway

Kevin Hop, Joe Jakusz, Andrew Strassman (UMESC), and Al Schotz (NatureServe) conducted ground vegetation reconnaissance and mapping verification along the Natchez Trace Parkway (NATR) for the NATR Vegetation Mapping Project in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, August 11-20, 2014, a NPS Vegetation Inventory Program project.  This field reconnaissance effort provided the mapping team with the data necessary to map the entire park and determine if the field key to vegetation and mapping metrics align properly with the ground condition.  The mapping verification formally tested the draft mapping classification and field vegetation key while collecting further vegetation information.


Randy Hines and Richard Erickson (UMESC) taught 130+ Cub Scouts to use radio telemetry gear during an Angry Birds themed Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp, August 22, 2014 at Camp Decorah, located near Holmen, WI.  Throughout the day groups of scouts used UMESC’s radio telemetry gear to find stuffed animals equipped with radio transmitters, and learned about USGS research projects and STEM careers.

Upper Mississippi River

Tree Species Preferences for Spring Migrating Birds

Eileen Kirsch and Mike Wellik (UMESC) presented the poster, “Tree species preferences of foraging birds during spring migration in Upper Mississippi River floodplain forests,” at the Midwest Bird Conservation and Monitoring Workshop in Port Washington, WI, August 5, 2014.  The poster explained how transient migrant songbirds prefer different tree species than the locally breeding species, and that leaf development phenology affects tree preference.

Flood Science

Nathan De Jager and Tim Fox (UMESC) gave presentations for the Midwest Region Flood Science Technical Team educational webinars, August 26, 2014.  De Jager reviewed a series of studies conducted along the Upper Mississippi River that quantitatively link; 1) large-scale patterns in forest community composition, soil texture, and fertility with spatial patterns in mean annual flood durations; 2) patterns of tree seedling recruitment, mortality, and invasion by exotic herbaceous species with short-term large magnitude floods; and 3) nutrient availability and turnover rates (i.e. mineralization and nitrification) with seasonal cycles of soil inundation. Fox introduced modelling and mapping approaches aimed at; 1) characterizing large-scale and long-term patterns in flooding and associated plant and soil distributions; and 2) developing more dynamic modeling approaches useful for understanding and simulating effects of large magnitude floods and seasonal cycles of inundation on plant recruitment and nutrient cycling. These models will be useful for evaluating alternative climate and/or management scenarios on flooding, vegetation, and soils along this and other large floodplain rivers.  A recording of the webinar is available at

Upper Mississippi River Restoration – Environmental Management Program

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association

Kevin Richards and Barry Johnson (UMESC) participated in the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association quarterly partner meetings, August 5-6, 2014, in Peoria, IL.  The meeting’s agenda included updates on dam repairs, habitat rehabilitation projects, river monitoring and research, strategic planning, and effects of Asian carp on growth of native fishes.

Estimating Water Temperature Trends

Brian Gray (UMESC), Yulia Gel, and Vyacheslav Lyubchich (University of Texas) presented, “Regression estimation of trends in temperature when time and date of sampling are haphazard” at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston, MA on August 7, 2014.  The presentation proposed a method of estimating temporal trends in water temperature from legacy datasets and from data currently collected under sampling designs that yield irregular time series.  Gray also met with the other executive board members of the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and the Environment.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Conservation Plan for the Bobolink: Extinction Risk and Decline Probability

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) presented a plenary talk on extinction risk estimation for birds, at the Midwest Bird Conservation and Monitoring Workshop August 6, 2014 in Port Washington, WI.  The focus of Thogmartin’s participation at the workshop was to inform the conservation plan for the bobolink.  This work is in collaboration with Jessica Stanton (UMESC).

Environmental DNA (eDNA) Technical Assistance

Chris Merkes (UMESC) developed R statistical code for use in environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring projects, which significantly reduced the amount of time spent analyzing experimental runs and generating reports, and reduces the possibility of transcription errors by eliminating manual data entry.  Merkes created the software for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Whitney Genetics Laboratory (WGL), as a follow-up to the Asian carp eDNA marker validation study completed this spring by USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, WGL, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.  The software greatly improves the efficiency of handling large data sets.  When run, the R code simultaneously collects data directly exported from the lab’s instruments, identify presumptive positive samples for additional testing, assess the quality of the data through positive and negative control checks flagging any results outside of predefined limits, identify confirmed positive samples detected by multiple markers, export the summarized results with sample tracking information available for final reports, and export detailed information about the data which can be used in future meta-analyses.  For more information contact Chris Merkes at

Wildlife Ecology

Freshwater Mussel Influence on Nutrient Cycles

Teresa Newton (UMESC) and colleagues from the University of Iowa have published the findings of a recent study that assessed the usefulness of electronic water-chemistry sensors to determine how freshwater mussels might influence the aquatic nitrogen cycle.  Scientists found that mussels can influence concentrations of nitrate, ammonia, and phytoplankton-nitrogen levels in aquatic systems.  Further, these data suggest mussels may adjust their feeding and digestion rates when increased food is available and can influence natural nutrient rhythms. This work adds to the small body of knowledge on how native mussels might influence nitrogen transformations in river systems.  The publication is available at

USGS GPS, Radio and Wireless Access for the Future

Larry Robinson (UMESC) participated in the USGS Radio Advisory Committee's (RAC) initial WebEx and teleconference, August 11, 2014.  UMESC, which relies on GPS signal access and radio telemetry for much of its field work and waterbird research, may be affected by changes proposed in the initiatives outlined in the President’s Memorandum, “Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution, Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012,” and the President’s Spectrum Plan Report, “Ten Year Plan and Timetable to Make Available 500 Megahertz of Spectrum for Wireless Broadband.”  The RAC meetings cover; radio frequency spectrum sharing and relocation, spectrum transition investment review, short and long range plans, and other activities that prepare USGS for major spectrum transition initiatives underway in this decade and into the future.

Migration Patterns and Wintering Distributions of Juvenile Common Loons

Kevin Kenow and a team of UMESC scientists completed field work associated with the study, “Migration patterns and wintering distribution of juvenile common loons,” August 18, 2014.  The objective of this work is to describe the movements and wintering ground use of juvenile loons produced in Minnesota and Wisconsin during their first two years of life, using satellite transmitter and geolocator tag technologies.  Joining the UMESC team were Darryl Heard (University of Florida, Gainsville, College of Veterinary Medicine) and Pétur Halldórsson (University of Iceland, Reykjavík).  Pétur is planning to conduct a migration study of common loons in Iceland, and gained experience in loon capture, processing, and radiomarking techniques. For more information contact Kevin Kenow at  Location data from radiomarked juvenile common loons are now available online at


DOI – Department of the Interior
eDNA – environmental DNA
GPS – Global Positioning System
IPM – Integrated Pest Management
LTRMP – Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
NATR – Natchez Trace Parkway
NPS – National Park Service
RAC – Radio Advisory Committee
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
WGL – Whitney Genetics Laboratory

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