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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the September activity report.

Amphibians and Atrazine Exposure (Publication)

Sadinski, W., Roth, M., Hayes, T., Jones, P., Gallant. A. 2014. Indicators of the Statuses of Amphibian Populations and Their Potential for Exposure to Atrazine in Four Midwestern U.S. Conservation Areas. PLoS ONE. 9(9): e107018. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107018.

Aquatic Ecosystem Health

Florfenicol Medicated Feed Controls Streptococus in Tilapia (Publication)

Gaikowski, M.P., Schleis, S.M., Leis, E., Lasee, B.A., Endris, R.G. 2014. Effectiveness of Aquaflor (50% Florfenicol) Administered in Feed to Control Mortality Associated with Streptococcus iniae in Tilapia at a Commercial Tilapia Production Facility. North American Journal of Aquaculture. Vol. 76(4):3750382. DOI:10.1080/15222055.2013.855283.

Immediate Release Sedative: Edible Fillet Tissue Studies (Publication)

Meinertz, J.R., Porcher, S.T., Smerud, J.R., Gaikowski, M.P.  2014.  Determination of the exposure parameters that maximize the concentrations of the anesthetic/sedative, eugenol, in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) skin-on fillet tissue.  Food Additives and Contaminants. Vol. 31(9):1522-1528. DOI:10.1080/19440049.2014.939720.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp

Jon Amberg and Randy Hines (UMESC) attended an Asian Carp Roundtable meeting with partners and Congressional staff hosted by the Minnesota Friends of Pool 2 and Friends of the Minnesota Valley in St. Paul, MN on September 4.  The roundtable focused on updates and coordination activities related to Asian carp surveillance and control on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers following WRRDA 2014 passage in July.  Agencies and organizations present included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, USGS, Minnesota DNR, and University of Minnesota. Congressional participation included U.S. Representative Betty McCollum(MN-4) and staffers Josh Straka and Ben Peterson; Al Junke, staffer for U.S. Senator Al Franken (MN); and Lynda Boudreau, staffer for U.S. Congressman John Kline (MN-2).  

Zebra Mussel Control Study on Lake Minnetonka, MN

James Luoma (UMESC) was interviewed by KSTP News Channel 5 regarding the field studies September 8-19 on the delivery methods and effectiveness of the commercial zebra mussel pesticide called Zequanox on Lake Minnetonka, Minn.   Nearby Christmas Lake was treated with Zequanox on September 8 by Marrone Bio Innovations and state and local agencies as the first non-research based effort in an attempt to stop or slow down the new infestation of zebra mussels.  A series of media articles resulted from both the Marrone field application ( and the independent research activities by USGS (

UMESC’s project to maximize Zequanox effectiveness and minimize the quantity and cost associated with killing zebra mussels in lake environments was featured September 15, 2014, by the NBC television station KARE in Minneapolis, MN.  Randy Hines and James Luoma (UMESC) were interviewed for the news story, and Luoma’s study site in Lake Minnetonka’s Robinson Bay is prominently featured in the news story.  The video is available at  For more information contact James Luoma

James Luoma and Randy Hines (UMESC) were interviewed by Jessica Walsh, Great Lakes Media, on September 15 about research investigating the effectiveness of Zequanox to control zebra mussels. Walsh is producing a documentary about aquatic invasive species for a future production called “Making Waves: Battle for the Great Lakes” targeted for a BBC series in 2015.     

Sea Lamprey

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s (GLFC) Sea Lamprey Research Board and Board of Technical Experts held their fall meetings at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC), September 22-25, 2014.  The Sea Lamprey Research Board evaluated proposals that request funding for research intended to further the management of invasive sea lampreys, and that develop novel and effective strategies for their control in the Great Lakes.  The Board of Technical Experts evaluated proposals directed toward research that promotes a healthy Great Lakes Ecosystem.  The purpose of the fall meetings were to evaluate and assign priorities to the full research proposals solicited during the spring meetings.  Recommendations for funding will be made to the GLFC Commissioners, at their interim meeting held in early December.  Terry Hubert, a chemist at UMESC, is an at-large member of the Sea Lamprey Research Board, representing UMESC’s GLFC Technical Assistance Program.  Both committees participated in a tour of UMESC to learn about the full breadth of research underway.

Climate Change

Large River Climate Change Resilience

Thomas Hein (Director, WasserCluster Lunz Interuniversity Center for Aquatic Ecosystem Research, Universitat fur Bodenkultur, Vienna, Austria) visited the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) September 29-October 3, 2014.  Dr. Hein is collaborating with William Richardson, James Larson, Jeff Houser (UMESC), Micheal Fienen (WI WSC) and Martin Thoms (University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia) on the proposal, “Resilience of large flood plain rivers to changing climate,” submitted to the USGS Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis.  Hein, Richardson, and Thoms also toured the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and meet with its Director, Fotis Sotiropoulos.  Hein’s previous visit to UMESC was in 2010, when Hein and doctoral student Nina Welti presented research results on nitrogen cycling processes in the Danube River, in Central and Eastern Europe.

Species Extinctions

Stanton, J.C., Shoemaker, K.T., Pearson, R.G., Akçakaya, H.R. 2014. Warning times for species extinctions due to climate change. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12721.

Jessica Stanton (UMESC) published a portion of her dissertation work, testing the performance of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) species risk assessment protocols performance when climate change is the primary risk factor. The authors used computer models to project the future abundance of 36 species of salamanders, turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards under climate change. Next, they performed “virtual” Red List assessments, following the IUCN guidelines to determine the Red List Status (e.g., Critically Endangered) of each species. The study showed that the Red List system would provide several decades of warning time for species that might go extinct because of climate change. The manuscript is available online at

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

USGS GLRI Science Team

Christine Custer and Mark Gaikowski (UMESC) participated in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Science Team meeting September 4-5, 2014, in Ann Arbor, MI.  This meeting is the final step in the evaluation of proposals solicited earlier for USGS GLRI funding starting in FY 2015.

Project #73, Avian Botulism in Distressed Great Lakes Environments

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) was interviewed for an article on an innovative approach to identify likely sites of waterbird exposure to avian botulism.  The article appeared in the fall issue of The Wildlife Professional, a publication of The Wildlife Society.  Monitoring the appearance of waterbird carcasses on beaches provides the primary means of assessing the spatial and temporal patterns, as well as magnitude, of die-offs resulting from type-E botulism on the Great Lakes.  Interpreting the actual site of bird exposure to botulinum toxin from beach surveys is hampered from a lack of information on the drift patterns of the carcasses, along with the confounding influences of surface currents, wind, and waves.  Researchers are developing a probabilistic source tracking model to estimate the origin of the bird carcasses associated with type-E botulism mortality in Lake Michigan.  Radiomarked common loon carcasses were released on Lake Michigan and their drift patterns documented to validate and refine a preliminary carcass drift model.  The research involves collaboration among several USGS research centers and engineers at Florida Atlantic University.  For more information contact Kevin Kenow at  or go to the fall issue of The Wildlife Professional at

Project #74, Characterize Habitat and Foodweb Structures across Great Lakes Rivermouth Estuaries.  (Publication)

Larson, J.H., Frost, P.C., Xenopoulos, M.A., Williams, C.J., Morales-Williams, A.M., Vallazza, J.M., Nelson, J.C., Richardson, W.B., 2014. Relationships Between Land Cover and Dissolved Organic Matter Change Along the River to Lake Transition. Ecosystems. DOI:10.1007/s10021-014-9804-2

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

Christine Custer (UMESC) gave the invited presentation, “Environmental contaminants in nesting swallows along the St. Clair River, MI: A preliminary summary,” at the annual meeting of the St. Clair River Binational Area of Concern (AOC) Advisory Council in Port Huron, MI, September 18, 2014.  The data are associated with the larger Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project, “Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure in the Great Lakes,” initiated in 2010.  The GLRI project is focusing on providing information, data, and interpretations for States to use in their Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) assessments.  The St. Clair River AOC is one of 27 AOCs where swallow data have been collected for the GLRI project.

Media Interactions

Kevin Kenow (UMESC), was interviewed by Javier Serna and photographed by Jason Revermann for Midwest Outdoor News in mid-August for a story on juvenile common loons in Minnesota.  Kenow and crew are working with the Minnesota DNR to use satellite transmitters and geolocator tags to investigate the effects of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico where almost ½ of Minnesota’s loons spend their winters.  Story posted on August 29.

Steve Maanum, Park Rapids Enterprise, interviewed and photographed Kevin Kenow and crew (UMESC) during August field work capturing Common loons in Minnesota.  Kenow is investigating juvenile loon behavior and migration by tagging birds with satellite transmitters that send signals to receivers on-board NOAA weather satellites and geolocator tags that record data on dive pressures used to calculate feeding depths.  Story posted on September 20 at . 

National Park Service

Voyaguers National Park: Fish Mercury and Water Level Fluctuation (Publication)

Larson, J.H., Maki, R.P., Knights, B.C., Gray, B.R. 2014. Can mercury in fish be reduced by water level management? Evaluating the effects of water level fluctuation on mercury accumulation in yellow perch (Perca flavescens). Ecotoxicology. DOI:10.1007/s10646-014-1296-5.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Over the winter of 2014 a draft map was completed for the Northern Appalachian Mountains ecoregion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) and the portion that traverses Shenandoah National Park.  With the completion of these two sections, the UMESC staff have now drafted a seamless map of the vegetation of APPA running from Springer Mountain, GA to Katahdin, ME.

Over the summer of 2014 the Park Mapping Accuracy Assessment (AA) Team (Joe Jakusz and Erin Hoy, UMESC) conducted meetings and field trainings for the southern two ecoregions (the Southern Blue Ridge [SBR] and Central Appalachian Mountains [CAP]) of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) draft vegetation map.  The APPA AA process was coordinated with NatureServe staff with field data collected in SBR by NatureServe contractors and in CAP by Virginia Heritage and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy staff.  Data was collected at approximately 1,600 independent sites over the course of the field season.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Joe Jakusz (UMESC) and Jayme Stone (UW-L) completed Accuracy Assessment (AA) field data collection in collaboration with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS) for the National Park Service Vegetation Inventory Program's (VIP) Vegetation Mapping Project, September 23-25, 2014.  The data collected during AA will be analyzed to determine map accuracy, test the field key to vegetation, fortify the vegetation classification, and provide MISS staff with additional vegetation data for the park all in conjunction with the MISS Vegetation Mapping Project.

Upper Mississippi River

USGS Large River Monitoring Forum

Barry Johnson (UMESC) participated in the USGS Large River Monitoring Forum Work Session, 23-24 September 2014, in Hood River, Oregon.  The work session will focus on cross-system analyses of fish monitoring data from the Columbia, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama, Coosa, and Talapoosa Rivers.  Analyses will describe structure of fish populations and communities among rivers and attempt to compare structure and trends within and among river systems. 

Migrating Birds and Tree Preferences

Eileen Kirsch (UMESC) presented, “Spring weather and tree phenology influences tree preferences of foraging birds during spring migration in Upper Mississippi River floodplain forests,” at the 2014 joint meeting of the American Ornithologists Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists, September 23-27, 2014, in Estes Park, CO.  Spring weather conditions during 2010-2013 contrasted sharply between warmer and colder than normal, with concomitant differences in leaf development phenology of trees.  The authors (Kirsch and Mike Wellik) noted that tree preferences of birds differed between warm and cold years.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state foresters are interested in this information, to help guide their forest management goals.

Upper Mississippi River Restoration

Leadership Summit

Barry Johnson and Jeff Houser (UMESC) participated in the Leadership Summit for the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR), 18 September 2014, in Dubuque, Iowa.  The summit was intended to enhance visibility of the UMRR among the leaders of the Program’s partner agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USGS, USFWS, EPA, and state resource management agencies of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin), to facilitate dialogue on key river issues and opportunities, and to communicate to leaders’ the role of their staffs’ in improving the health of the Upper Mississippi River.

America’s Watershed Initiative

Barry Johnson (UMESC) represented the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program at the America’s Watershed Initiative Summit, 30 September – 2 October 2014.  The summit focused on developing a Watershed Report Card and State of the Basin Report for the Mississippi River and its watershed.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge – Aerial Images for Baseline Vegetation Assessment

Larry Robinson (UMESC) and Brian Lubinski (USFWS) collected 3-inch/pixel aerial imagery of Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge's Horseshoe Bend Division located in eastern Iowa, September 2, 2014. This imagery of the lower Iowa River, along with imagery collected in this spring on May 18, will be classified and assessed for changes in vegetation since a baseline assessment in 2011.  Horseshoe Bend is a former levee district acquired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) after the 1993 floods.  The levee is being allowed to slowly degrade, and over time, will cause significant changes to the hydrology of this 2,600 acre division.  Increased floodplain connection will presumably change the vegetation and habitat dynamics of the area. Managers will use these data to help them understand the long term implications of hydrological changes in relation to habitat objectives.  For more information contact Larry Robinson at

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge – Vegetation Mapping Field Work

Erin Hoy, Jenny Hanson (UMESC), Cathy Henry, and Jessica Bolser (Port Louisa NWR) completed field reconnaissance for the Horseshoe Bend Division of Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Iowa, September 15-17, 2014. Information collected will be used to develop a template of spectral photo-signatures, used to identify patterns and types of vegetation to produce digital vegetation/land cover maps of the Division.  Spring and fall 3 inch-per-pixel imagery has been collected and a detailed species-level 150-Classification system will be used.  Horseshoe Bend, currently a grassland habitat, was a former levee district.  The levee is being allowed to slowly degrade, and over time, will cause significant changes to the hydrology of this division.  These baseline vegetation maps will be used in future hydrological modeling and vegetation monitoring to restore floodplain connectivity and habitat management.

Effects of Cave Gating on Indiana Bats (Publication)

Crimmins, S.M., McKann, P.C., Szymanski, J.A., Thogmartin, W.E. 2014. Effects of Cave Gating On Population Trends at Individual Hibernacula of the Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis). Chiropterologica Acta. 16(1):129-137. DOI:10.3161/150811014X683345.

Estimating Wintering Little Brown Bat Distribution (Publication)

Russell, R. E., K. Tinsley, R. A. Erickson, W. E. Thogmartin, and J. Szymanski. Estimating the spatial distribution of wintering little brown bat populations in the eastern United States. Ecology and Evolution, Early Online, DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1215.

Illinois River Restoration

Larry Robinson (UMESC) and Brian Lubinski (USFWS) collected 6-inch/pixel color infrared aerial imagery of three conservation areas within the La Grange navigation pool reach of the Illinois River, for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), September 8, 2014.  The Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms Preserves were photographed to document TNC's ongoing restoration effort which includes reestablishing wetlands and increasing open water habitat, and planting prairie and hardwood tree species.  The TNC works closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USFWS, Illinois Natural History Survey, and University of Illinois, to restore and preserve wetlands along the Illinois River.  Additional imagery was also collected at Rice Lake, located adjacent to the Emiquon Preserve.  The USFWS wants to document the presence and extents of the threatened decurrent false aster (Boltonia decurrens), thought to grow within the shallow aquatic habitats of the Emiquon/Rice Lake complex. For more information contact Larry Robinson at .

Wildlife Ecology

Common Loon Husbandry (Publication)

Kevin Kenow et. al., published background information how to raise loon chicks in captivity, knowledge gained during Kenow’s studies to evaluate the effects of radiotransmitter implants and assessing the ecological risks of dietary methymercury.  The publication is designed to provide valuable information to wildlife rehabilitators caring for abandoned or injured loons, and biologists contemplating methods for restoring loons to areas within their former breeding range.  For more information contact Kevin Kenow at The publication is available at

Population Modeling

Richard Erickson (UMESC) presented, “Applying branching process models to understand the impacts of wind energy on wildlife,” at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) Biomathematics Seminar, co-hosted by the Department of Biology and Department of Mathematics, September 15, 2014.  The underlying research is a collaboration between Erickson, Eric Eager (UW-L Math), Jessica Stanton, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), Julie Beston, and Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC).

Richard Erickson, Sunnie McCalla, Joel Putnam, and Jon Amberg (UMESC) met with Randy Hunt, and Mike Fienen (WI WSC) in Madison, WI, September 18, 2014, to learn about applying HTCondor (a high throughput computer software program) to UMESC research projects, and potential future research collaborations between the Wisconsin Science Centers.

Richard Erickson (UMESC) gave two seminar presentations at the National Wildlife Health Center, and met with David Blehert (NWHC) to discuss incorporating White Nose Syndrome data into Erickson’s computer models for assessing potential impacts of wind energy development projects on little brown and Indiana bats.  These events took place September 19, 2014.  Erickson’s seminars were:

PCB Exposure Not Impacted by Bird Incubation Stage (Publication)

Custer, C.M., Custer, T.W., Thyen, S., and Becker, P.H.. 2014. Incubation stage and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener patterns in an altricial and precocial bird species. Environmental Pollution. 195:109-114. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2014.08.010.

Migration Patterns and Wintering Distributions of Juvenile Common Loons

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) and partners captured and radiomarked juvenile common loons on lakes scattered across Minnesota and Wisconsin during the last two weeks of August 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.  Little is known about the movements, habitat use, and causes of mortality of common loons during their first few years.  Band recovery data suggests that while some common loons may remain on wintering grounds year-round their first two years, there is the potential for a northward movement up the Atlantic Coast during summers.  Survival rates of loons during their first few years of life is much lower (about 50% over three years) than that of adults (about 93% annually).  Dr. Darryl Heard, College of Veterinary Medicine, Univ. of FL – Gainesville, assisted with the project. Location data from radiomarked juvenile common loons are now available online at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) website at   


AA – Accuracy Assessment
AOC – Area of Concern
APPA – Appalachian National Scenic Trail
BBC – British Broadcasting Network
BUI – Beneficial Use Impairment
CAM – Central Appalachian Mountains
DOI – Department of the Interior
DOM – Dissolved Organic Matter
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
EROS – Earth Resources Observation Systems
GLFC – Great Lakes Fishery Commission
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature
MISS – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
NPS – National Park Service
NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
NWR – National Wildlife Refuge
PCB – polychlorinated biphenyl
SBR – Southern Blue Ridge
TNC – The Nature Conservancy
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UWL – University of Wisconsin at La Crosse
VIP – Vegetation Inventory Program
WRRDA – Water Resources and Redevelopment Act
WSC – Water Science Center

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