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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the March activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp

Mark Gaikowski, Jon Amberg, and Randy Hines (UMESC) participated in the Minnesota Asian Carp Forum on March 13 at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Bloomington, MN.  Amberg provided an overview of USGS integrated science activities including habitat assessments, egg flow modeling, monitoring and detection, barrier technologies, and development of biological and chemical control technologies for integrated pest management.  The forum provides federal and state agencies, academic institutions, politicians, and nongovernmental organizations a mechanism to share research, management, and political activities and information to improve communication, cooperation and action in the fight against Asian carp.

Jon Amberg and his team (UMESC) were recently selected by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust to submit a full proposal titled “Understanding the degradation of environmental DNA to design markers that correlate to the presence of live fish”. 

Mark Gaikowski and Terry Hubert (UMESC) met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs-Registration Division April 1, to discuss data requirements to obtain registration of carbon dioxide for use as a barrier to bigheaded carps and as a general fish piscicide, and to obtain registration of microparticles containing antimycin as a lethal control of bigheaded carps. USGS is leading efforts to evaluate the effectiveness and non-target impacts of these potential tools to control bigheaded carps. USGS, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is completing work to assess the EPA registration requirements to authorize the use of these tools by management agencies.

Sea Lamprey

Chris Rees (UMESC) presented a Sea Lamprey Research Program pre-proposal titled “Sea lamprey quantitative environmental DNA surveillance” to the Sea Lamprey Research Board meeting March 6 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Congressional Affairs

Center Director Mike Jawson and staff (UMESC) hosted a visit by Minnesota State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-16B), Greg Genz (Friends of Pool 2) and Richard Carlson (MN Asian Carp Coalition) on February 28.  Rep. Torkelson was provided a UMESC science program overview, with emphasis on the Upper Mississippi River (Long Term Resource Monitoring Program) and aquatic invasive species (Asian carp and zebra mussel) activities.

Climate Change and Herptile Extinction Risk

Jessica Stanton (UMESC) published research she conducted while a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study models climate change impacts on 36 amphibian and reptile species endemic to the US and identifies several measurable factors that elevate risk of extinction due to climate change. Pearson, R.G., Stanton, J.C., Shoemaker, K.T., Aiello-Lammens, M.E., Ersts, P.J., Horning, N., Fordham, D.A., Raxworthy, C.J., Ryu, H.Y., McNees, J. & Akçakaya, H.R. (2014). Life history and spatial traits predict extinction risk due to climate change. Nature Climate Change4, 217–221.

Geospatial Sciences and Technology

Jennifer Dieck and Jenny Hanson (UMESC) will attend NatureServe's Biodiversity Without Boundaries (BWB) Conference, April 6-10 in New Orleans, LA.  The BWB is where the NatureServe network, partners, and friends gather to celebrate successes, collaborate on new initiatives, share innovations, and plan future conservation efforts.  The conference will emphasize education, working sessions, and networking.  Dieck plans to meet with NatureServe staff to coordinate science activities related to the National Park Service’s Vegetation Inventory Program.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

Project #80, Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure and Effects 

Christine Custer and Tom Custer (UMESC) presented results from their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project, Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure and Effects, to Wisconsin's Statewide biologist and water scientists annual meeting on March 13.  The meeting was held at Treehaven, Univ. of Wisconsin's biological station near Tomahawk, WI.  The information being presented is applicable to not only the State biologists working at Areas of Concern (AOCs), but the techniques and results have wide applicability across the State.

Christine Custer and Tom Custer (UMESC) participated in the annual Great Lakes Area of Concern meeting being held this year at the EPA Office in Chicago, IL on March 18-19.  This meeting brings State AOC coordinators and biologists, as well as, citizen groups and federal researchers together to share information about individual AOCs.  The Custer's provided information on 24 AOCs where they have been collecting avian data since 2010.  These data are providing the States with invaluable information they need to assess the two wildlife-related BUIs (Beneficial Use Impairments).

Tom Custer and Christine Custer (UMESC) presented results from their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) work at the Midwest Regional SETAC meeting on March 24 - 25 at Loyola University, Chicago, IL.  

News Media Interactions

A USGS news release on “Asian Carp Eggs Found Near Lynxville, Wisc.” was released on March 11 in response to the on-going research in the Upper Mississippi River between UMESC, Columbia Environmental Research Center, and Western Illinois University focused on determining the controls over recruitment success of Asian carp to support the development of control technologies.

News 8000 (WKBT) aired segment in response to March 11 USGS press release on Asian carp eggs in the Upper Mississippi River (

La Crosse Tribune posted an article about the USGS March 11 news release on Asian carp eggs now found 250 miles farther north on the Upper Mississippi River (

Jeff Houser (UMESC) was interviewed by Maureen McCollum (Wisconsin Public Radio) on March 19 about the USGS press release on nutrient levels in the Upper Mississippi River and the effects on backwater lakes and aquatic life.  The interview resulted in an on-line and audio story March 20.

James Luoma (UMESC) was interviewed by Joe Albert (Minnesota Outdoor News) about USGS research examining the potential use of a commercial product called Zequanox to control zebra mussels in aquatic systems. Article was released in print on March 20. 

Upper Mississippi River

Great Rivers Partnership

Yao Yin (UMESC) was highlighted in a video developed by The Nature Conservancy about the Great Rivers Partnership program, and the U.S.-China EcoPartnership established in 2012.  During the summer of 2013, TNC hosted a technical exchange with river scientists and managers from China’s Yangtze River Basin to explore ways to mitigate U.S. problems associated with Asian carp, and conversely increase carp populations in China. Yin served as an interpreter and technical expert for exchanges during his IPA with TNC.

Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee

Managers, researchers and conservation staff met at the 70th Annual Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee (UMRCC) meeting in La Crosse, Wisconsin March 18-20 to promote on-going cooperation and communication between conservation agencies on the Upper Mississippi River.  The UMRCC is comprised of natural resource managers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin to promote wise use of river resources, guide cooperative surveys and studies, and provide recommendations to State governing bodies.  Staff from UMESC attended and presented at the meeting:

Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program

Updated GIS Data and Technology

John (JC) Nelson (UMESC) conducted a Webinar briefing session on updated GIS data and technology used by UMESC for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Upper Mississippi River Restoration-Environmental Management Program (UMRR-EMP), on March 13.  The Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) element of the UMRR-EMP is implemented by the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC), in cooperation with the five Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  The Webinar was attended by USACE/UMRR-EMP program partners in the St Paul, Rock Island, and St Louis Districts.

Native Fish Extinction Risk Estimates


Shawn Crimmins, Pete Boma, and Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) have published findings from a study estimating extinction risk for 54 native species within six commercial navigation reaches of the Upper Mississippi River system to help prioritize the management action. These calculations were based on day electrofishing samples collected by the Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Long-term Resource Monitoring Program. Substantial variability in risk was estimated across pools and species, but a strong relationship between risk and river mile indicated fish in pools downstream were at greater risk than those upstream. Management for species at greater risk should focus on addressing localized threats as well as the additive effects of downstream conditions.

 Crimmins, S. M., P. Boma, and W. E. Thogmartin.  2014. Projected risk of population declines for native fish species in the Upper Mississippi River.  River Research and Applications, In press. 

Wildlife Ecology

Avian Research and Monitoring Technology

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) gave an invited presentation titled 'Use of archival geolocator tags to document movements and foraging patterns of common loons' at the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology-sponsored Symposium “Latest Technology in Avian Research and Monitoring”.  The symposium was held in conjunction with the 2014 Winter Meeting of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society, in Rothschild, WI, on 12 March 2014.  Common loons (Gavia immer) breeding in the Upper Midwest were equipped with archival geolocator tags during summers 2009-2012 to provide information on migration, wintering ground affiliations, and foraging patterns. The project was part of an effort to study the movements and foraging patterns of loons while migrating through the Great Lakes in association with a USGS study on avian botulism.  Recorded dive depths of marked loons, together with fine-resolution satellite telemetry location data, suggest that much of loon foraging activity on the Great Lakes and wintering areas occurred along the bottom at depths of up to 45 m and usually well offshore.  Movement and foraging results contribute to understanding potential routes of exposure to botulism toxin in the Great Lakes and contaminants while on wintering grounds. 

University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point

Richard Erickson (UMESC) delivered a guest lecture on his research with White-Nose Syndrome to a Wildlife Disease class at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP) on March 25, and a lecture on wind energy and wildlife to a Conservation Biology class.  While at the University Erickson also spoke to the UW-SP student chapter of The Wildlife Society, regarding his ongoing research projects and working for the USGS.



AOC – Area of Concern
BWB – Biodiversity Without Boundaries
BUI – beneficial use impariment
DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
IPA – Interagency Personnel Agreement
LTRMP – Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls
SETAC – Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
TNC – The Nature Conservancy
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRCC – Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee
UMRS – Upper Mississippi River System
UMRR-EMP – Upper Mississippi River Restoration - Environmental Management Program
USACE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UW-SP – University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

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