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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the May activity report.

Aquatic Ecosystem Health

Immediate-Release Sedative

In association with the project to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use eugenol as an immediate-release fish sedative in the U.S., Jeffery Meinertz, Theresa Schreier, Scott Porcher, Justin Smerud, and Mark Gaikowski published the results from a study of the metabolism and depletion of eugenol from skin-on fillet tissues of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).  Their study revealed that though eugenol was metabolized by the fish, the primary residue present in the tissue was eugenol. This finding allowed the FDA to conclude that eugenol is the marker residue of eugenol use as a sedative with fish.

New Aquaculture Drug Approved - Halamid® Aqua (Chloramine-T) 

USGS’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) played a pivotal role in generating the data which led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to approve the use of Halamid® Aqua (a commercial product containing the active ingredient chloramine-T) in U.S. aquaculture.  UMESC completed several distinct research studies on chloramine-T from the early 1990's through 2009, as part of a Federal-State Aquaculture Drug Approval Project. UMESC scientists developed the environmental safety assessment and generated nearly all of the target animal safety data, most of the human food safety data, and the initial efficacy data required to support the approval of this product. Chloramine-T can now be used in the U.S. to treat freshwater-reared salmonids, walleye, and warm water finfish infected with bacterial gill disease or external columnaris disease, diseases that have decimated fish production at federal, state, and private aquaculture facilities.  The CVM announced the approval of chloramine-T, available as Halamid® Aqua produced by the French firm Axcentive and distributed in the U.S. by Western Chemical, on May 6, 2014.  For more information contact Mark Gaikowski at

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp

On May 19, 2014, staff from UMESC, ILWSC, and CERC’s Center Director were completing final preparations for water gun testing near the Illinois River’s Brandon Road Lock and Dam, when they were approached by law enforcement officers from the Will County Sherriff’s department and Joliet Police Department.  The officers were searching for a suspect in a high speed pursuit and accident that had occurred a couple of blocks away, and requested to use the M/V Iroquois to aid in their search for the suspect. David Fazio (IL WSC), Mark Gaikowski, and Jeremy Wise (UMESC) took the officers out on the river.  The subject was found in the approach channel to the Brandon Road Lock, approximately 2000 feet downstream from the lock chamber. The subject was struggling to tread water.  USGS staff pulled him to the side of the boat, then the law enforcement officers pulled him into the boat and took him into custody.  USGS staff then transported everyone back to their worksite and the officer’s vehicles.

Christopher Rees (UMESC) delivered the weekly USGS eDNA webinar, “Focusing on the quality and 'freshness' of environmental DNA,” May 22, 2014.  The eDNA webinar series reaches an audience of university, state, and federal scientists.

Climate Change

Wayne Thogmartin participated in the annual collaborators meeting for the NASA-funded research project, “Effects of extreme climate events on avian demographics: the role of habitat refugia in mitigating climate change.”  The project is a collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Pat Heglund), USDA Forest Service (Curt Flather), University of Wisconsin-Madison (Anna Pidgeon, Volker Radeloff, and Stephen Vavrus), University of Nevada, Reno (Tom Albright), Stony Brook University (Resit Akcakaya), and USGS (Wayne Thogmartin).  The meeting was held May 14-15, 2014 in Madison, WI.

Emerging Technologies in Fisheries Science

UMESC scientists participated in the USGS Webinar; Emerging Technologies in Fisheries Science, May 6, 2014.  Presentations included:

Good Laboratory Practices

Terrance Hubert and Jane Rivera provided Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, May 7-8, 2014.  Dr. Christine Remucal and staff are conducting research on the lampricide niclosamide, to determine the rate of photodegradation in natural waters and identify by-products of the photodegradation process.  Results from this project will be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support the registration review of niclosamide.  UMESC staff assist federal and state partners with the registration of the lampricides with the EPA and Health Canada, providing technical assistance, quality assurance, and oversight.  The sea lamprey control program is sponsored by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC).  Terrance Hubert is UMESC’s program lead for the GLFC Technical Assistance Program. Jane Rivera is UMESC’s Quality Assurance Officer.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

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

UMESC and NWHC scientists began egg collections on May 19, 2014, at 16 sites in Areas of Concern (AOCs) along Lakes Erie and Ontario, and southern Lakes Michigan and Huron, for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Project 80, Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure in the Great Lakes.  Egg collections commenced about May 27, 2014 at AOC sites along Lake Superior and northern Lakes Michigan and Huron.  The nesting chronologies at the northern locations generally lag the southern sites by 1-2 weeks.  Egg sampling this year will include 9 new sampling sites located within 6 AOCs.  These data will provide important information needed to assess Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) at numerous AOCs across the Great Lakes.  For more information contact Christine Custer, at

Project #73, Avian Botulism in Distressed Great Lakes Environments

Kevin Kenow presented, “Distribution and Foraging Patterns of Waterbirds on Lake Michigan with Implications for Exposure to Botulinum Toxin,” at the International Association of Great Lakes Research annual conference in Hamilton, Ontario, May 28, 2014.  Waterbird die-offs resulting from type E botulism have occurred regularly on several of the Great Lakes in recent years.  The actual sites of toxin exposure among birds remain unclear and the physical and ecological factors that lead to botulism outbreaks are poorly understood.  Central to this question are feeding patterns and exposure routes of sentinel waterbird species historically at risk to botulism die-offs. We examined the distribution of waterbirds using Lake Michigan through aerial surveys and documented the migration movements and foraging patterns of common loons equipped with archival geo-locator tags and satellite transmitters.  Waterbird distribution data are being used to derive species-specific habitat associations and to inform a hydrodynamic carcass source tracking model.  The results of this work are expected to elucidate where waterbirds are likely to be exposed to forage harboring type E botulinum toxin. 

News Media

Mark Gaikowski was interviewed by Mike Tighe (La Crosse Tribune) about the UMESC research that provided environmental data which led to the recent approved use of Halamid Aqua as a commercial therapeutic product to treat sick fish raised in public hatcheries and private aquaculture.   Story was printed May 10.

Kevin Kenow was interviewed on May 16 by Betsy Bloom (La Crosse Tribune) about his DOI meritorious service award for research in waterbird ecology and wildlife telemetry.  Story printed May 19.

Iowa Natural Heritage magazine (Spring 2014 edition) mentioned new research to develop case studies for the restoration and development of floodplain lands affected by levees.  Stream gages have been deployed and research will begin in 2015 by USGS staff from Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and Iowa Water Science Center.

The StarTribune posted the story about Kevin Kenow’s DOI meritorious service award for research in waterbird ecology and wildlife telemetry on May 27. Story originally printed on May 19 in the La Crosse Tribune.

Upper Mississippi River Restoration – Environmental Management Program

Flood Inundation Mapping and Modeling

Nathan De Jager, Timothy Fox, Jason Rohweder (UMESC), and Steve Buan (NOAA) discussed computer tools under development at UMESC to model and map flood inundation along the Upper Mississippi River, and how these could be linked to river forecast models created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), May 6, 2014.  Buan works for NOAA’s North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, MN, one of 13 NOAA River Forecast Centers which collects, processes, and provides forecasts for major U.S. river basins.  UMESC and Buan are looking into using the combined GIS toolset to examine the effects of alternative precipitation scenarios (e.g., climate change) on the spatial and temporal patterns of flood inundation along the Upper Mississippi River.

Nathan De Jager presented, “Modeling and mapping flood inundation along the Upper Mississippi River floodplain: implications for the study and management of floodplain vegetation and soil dynamics” at the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecologists (USIALE) in Anchorage Alaska, May 21. Timothy Fox, Jason Rohweder, and Yao Yin are co-authors.

White-tailed Deer Foraging Effects on Vegetation  

Nathan De Jager (UMESC) co-authored a paper on the foraging patterns of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgianus), and their potential to influence the invasion of an herbaceous species (Phalaris arundinacea, reed canarygrass) by selectively foraging on tree seedlings and saplings and avoiding the grass. The work was conducted as part of Benjamin Cogger's Master's thesis research and in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Contaminant Effects on Mussels

Teresa Newton (UMESC), Sarah Elliott (MN WSC), and Zachary Jorgenson (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) met to discuss potential collaboration on a study to look at the effects of emerging contaminants on native mussel assemblages in the St. Croix River basin, May 6, 2014 in Rochester, MN.

Radar Surveillance of Migrating Landbirds

Mike Wellik, Luke Fara, Pete Boma, and Steve Houdek (UMESC) conducted field work for, “Radar study of regional flight patterns of migrating landbirds in the western Lake Erie Basin, Ohio,” May 1-16, 2014.  The project uses portable marine radar units to collect data on nightly bird movements during the spring and fall migration seasons, for use in evaluating the potential impacts of wind energy development projects within 1/2 mile of the Lake Erie shoreline.  The project is a collaboration between UMESC, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Black Swamp Bird Observatory. 

Projected Future Landscape Change

Wayne Thogmartin (doctoral committee member) participated in the dissertation defense of Chris Hamilton at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, May 16, 2014. Hamilton's dissertation, “Scenarios of future changes in land use, open space, and habitat connectivity around the National Wildlife Refuge System and other protected lands,” presented results from his USGS Science Support Program-funded research on projected future landscape change surrounding U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuges, as well as projections of habitat connectivity for the Blanding's turtle in Wisconsin.

Wildlife Ecology

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis Working Group

Wayne Thogmartin and Richard Erickson (UMESC) participated in a National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) working group addressing the topic of, “Area-specific contributions to the population dynamics of migratory species,” at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, May 5-8, 2014.  The working group is a collection of migration ecologists, natural resource mathematicians, statistical modelers, and decision analysts, led by Thogmartin, Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC), Ruscena Wiederholt (University of Arizona), and Brady Mattsson (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria). This effort follows on from a USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis working group titled, “Animal migration and spatial subsidies.”

Midwest Mathematical Biology Conference

Richard Erickson, Jessica Stanton, Patrick McKann, and Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) presented results of their research projects at the Midwest Mathematical Biology Conference, May 17-18, 2014, at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.  Presentations include:

International Migratory Bird Day

On May 3, staff from Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center joined partners from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon and Myrick-Hixon EcoPark to host an International Migratory Bird Day event for the community. Partners have successfully developed and held five successive annual birding events to help the City of La Crosse maintain status as a “Bird City Wisconsin” site.  The UMESC staff provided a bird banding station, Jr. Birding activities, and lead bird hikes for the public.

Great Lakes Pelagic Bird Stakeholder Workshop

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) participated in the Great Lakes Pelagic Bird Stakeholder Engagement Workshop sponsored by the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor, MI May 29-30, 2014.  Kenow was invited to participate on a panel to report on preliminary findings and lessons learned with respect to the Great Lakes Regional Pelagic Bird Survey.  UMESC staff have been involved in a two-year pelagic bird survey effort to create a temporally and spatially explicit depiction of pelagic bird distribution and abundance in strategic areas of the Great Lakes where offshore wind development is likely.


AOC – Area of Concern
BUI – Beneficial Use Impairment
CERC – Columbia Environmental Research Center
CVM – Center for Veterinary Medicine
DOI – Department of the Interior
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
EROS – Earth Resources Observation Systems
FDA – Food and Drug Administration
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLFC – Great Lakes Fishery Commission
GLP – Good Laboratory Practices
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
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
WSC – Water Science Center

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