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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the December activity report.

Invasive Species

Asian Carp Forum

Jon Amberg and Randy Hines participated in the Fall 2014 Minnesota Invasive Carp Forum on December 15 at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Bloomington, MN.  Amberg provided an overview of USGS integrated science activities including habitat assessments, monitoring and detection, barrier technologies, and development of biological and chemical control technologies for integrated pest management.  Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Invasive Carp Working Group wanted input on the revised Minnesota Invasive Carp Action Plan draft that was shared with partners and stakeholders.

La Crosse Area (Mississippi River) Aquatic Invasive Species Partnership Meeting

Randy Hines participated in the La Crosse Area (Mississippi River) Aquatic Invasive Species Partnership meeting held at UMESC in La Crosse, WI December 16.  The Wisconsin Rivers Alliance hosted this quarterly meeting to facilitate updates and communication among all partners interested in AIS monitoring, containment and control.  The partnership also conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to begin to develop a strategic plan for Aquatic Invasive Species along the Mississippi River counties of La Crosse, Buffalo, and Trempealeau.

National Park Service

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Jennifer Dieck, Kevin Hop, Erin Hoy, Joe Jakusz, Andrew Strassman, Janis Ruhser (UMESC), and Jim Drake (NatureServe) completed an evaluation of Accuracy Assessment (AA) results in correlation with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS) NPS-VIP Park Mapping Project, December 19th, 2014. Site specific AA field data results were reviewed for potential changes to vegetation assignments; adjustments to the MISS vegetation classification were also addressed.

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Waterfowl Detection and Counting Technology Assessments

Larry Robinson (UMESC) and Brian Lubinski (USFWS) collected simultaneous sub-inch per pixel true color and thermal aerial imagery of migrating waterfowl on the Grand Pass Conservation Area in central Missouri, as part of a proof-of-concept for waterfowl detection and counting using multiple image formats. The true color imagery will be used to verify and assist in the classification of the thermal signatures of waterfowl on subsequent nighttime flights at the same altitudes.  Additional nighttime thermal imagery was also collected over fenced feral hogs near Fayette, MO, in advance of an early December flight to detect and count hogs on and near the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Missouri. Feral hogs have become a serious problem in this area and the precise numbers of and habitats used by this species are unknown. It is hoped that GIS-ready thermal imagery will provide a more detailed overview of the current hog population and their use of the refuge and surrounding lands, and assist in the control of this aggressive and destructive species.  The photography missions started on November 25, 2014, the last flight is scheduled for December 10, 2014.

Wildlife Ecology

Mathematical Modeling and Conservation Biology

Richard Erickson, Wayne Thogmartin, and Jessica Stanton’s collaborations with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are currently featured on the University’s Math Bio Working Group’s Web page, at  Erickson, Thogmartin, and Stanton are working on a collaborative research project with Eric Eager (UW-L, Department of Mathematics) which is resulting in the development and application of new mathematical modeling approaches to conservation biology.  The three are active members of the Math Bio Working Group, and regularly participate in the Group’s weekly seminar series.

Lessons Learned from Common Loons

Kevin Kenow will present, “Lessons from Loons: Dealing with Minnesota Winters and Fishing Tips,” at the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s (MOU) Paper Session, December 6, 2014, at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.  While populations of common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest are generally stable, there are concerns on the potential impact avian botulism in the Great Lakes may have on migrating loons, as well as the potential impacts of contaminant exposure at their overwintering sites.  Kenow is using satellite telemetry and archival geolocator tags to determine the migration patterns and wintering locations of common loons that breed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  When retrieved, the geolocator tags provide a record of the loons’ location, foraging patterns, and depth of foraging throughout the year.  The satellite transmitters provide near real-time information on the loons’ position.  This work is providing essential information on the migration patterns, staging areas, and wintering sites used by common loons, information resource managers are using to develop and implement common loon conservation strategies.  Additional information on the satellite transmitter tagged loons is available at,

Night Migration by Landbirds and Wind Energy along Lake Erie’s Shoreline

Michael Wellik will present, “Airspace use by night migrating landbirds in relation to the southwestern shore of Lake Erie, OH,” at the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative’s tenth meeting on wind and wildlife research,December 3-4, 2014, in Bloomfield, CO.  Wellik is working with Eileen Kirsch to study how migrating birds use airspace in areas that may be developed for wind energy.  Wellik and Kirsch use marine radars in different configurations to gather data on nocturnal movements of birds in areas where there is pressure to develop wind energy.  Wellik’s presentation describes information gathered during the 2014 spring and fall landbird migration seasons along southern Lake Erie, which includes target flight altitudes and rates of ascent and descent at night.  Additional information on Kirsch and Wellik’s research can be found at

Biology and Software Development

Tim Fox has been accepted by the Equipment Development Grade Evaluation (EDGE) program for position conversion.  Fox is currently the only Biologist in the USGS to be in an EDGE position.  Tim has a background in biology and software development.  His research interests include on habitat modeling and spatially explicit software development.


AA – Accuracy Assessment
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
NPS – National Park Service
MISS – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
MOU – Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
UMRR-EMP – Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program
USACE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
VIP – Vegetation Inventory Program

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