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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

May 2015 Activity Highlights
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Topics covered in the May activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Sea Lamprey Environmental DNA Research

Nick Schloesser conducted field sampling weekly to collect water samples during May and June on the Peshtigo River in Wisconsin for detection and quantification of sea lamprey environmental DNA (eDNA). The field work is part of a collaborative multi-agency effort between USGS, USFWS, and DFO Canada to correlate adult sea lamprey density and/or biomass with the amount of eDNA present in water. Funding for this research was provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Response of Bighead Carp and Silver Carp to Seismic Water Gun Technology

Nathan Jensen, Bob Gaugush, Todd Severson, Mark Gaikowski (UMESC), and collaborators from USGS Western Fisheries Research Center and Illinois Water Sciences Center published research evaluating the use of seismic water gun technology as a behavioral deterrent for Silver Carp and Bighead Carp in a pond environment. Bighead Carp and Silver Carp are nonnative species that pose a threat to the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi River ecosystems warranting the use of technologies to slow or prevent their range expansion. The authors found that water guns do influence behavior and impede movement of carp, but as deployed in the pond environment, they were not 100% effective at preventing carp movement past water guns. Authors suggest that applications of water guns in conjunction with other technologies may provide better deterrence. For more information contact Mark Gaikowski at The paper is available at

Exposure-related Effects of the Zebra Mussel Control Tool, Pseudomonas fluorescens, on Native Mussel Glochidia and Freshwater Fish

Biologists from UMESC’s Aquatic Ecosystems Health Branch, the New York State Museum’s Cambridge Field Research Laboratory, and the USFWS Genoa National Fish Hatchery published results describing the exposure-related effects of the zebra mussel control tool, Pseudomonas fluorescens, strain CL145A, on native unionid mussel glochidia and freshwater fish. The authors found variation in tolerance to P. fluorescens, strain CL145A exposure among species, indicating the need to assess the non-target animal community composition before open-water
applications are conducted. The authors have identified the need to further evaluate the exposure-related effects of P. fluorescens on some species of mussels and fish. The reports are available online from the USGS Publications Warehouse. For more information contact James Luoma at

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

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

Chris and Tom Custer and Paul Dummer conducted field work for the season at Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) study sites across the Great Lakes. While effects of contaminants on avian reproduction at Areas of Concern (AOCs) is the principal concern at many of the study locations, additional study sites were being established to specifically study the effects of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), including complex mixtures of these, as well as, legacy contaminants. Transcriptomic and metabolomic methods are being investigated as potential endpoints to use in these investigations.


“Following the Wings” Documentary

Kevin Kenow contributed to a radio documentary on bird migration produced for KFAI radio, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. Kenow's research on common loons in Minnesota is featured as part of the documentary along with Dave Andersen (MN Cooperative Research Unit) and graduate student's work on golden-winged warblers. The 28-minute story 'Following the Wings' has been posted to numerous on-line sites.


11th Annual Northwoods Birding Festival

Kevin Kenow presented, “Unraveling Mysteries of the Common Loon,” to kick off the 11th Annual Northwoods Birding Festival hosted by the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, WI, May 8, 2015.  The presentation highlighted ongoing studies of the migration ecology of adult and juvenile common loons.  Background information on Kenow’s research is available online, at and  An animated map showing the migration routes followed by the radiomarked loons is also available online, at

Partner Meetings

Isle Royale Moose Population

Nathan De Jager presented preliminary results of a landscape simulation model designed to examine effects of alternative wolf management scenarios on the Isle Royale moose population and associated impacts on forest growth and composition, at Isle Royale National Park, May 11-15, 2015.  The Isle Royale wolf population has declined from approximately 20 wolves to just 3 in the last 5 years. A planning team is currently examining different management options, including introducing new wolves to the population.  The project was funded by the USGS/NPS Natural Resources Preservation Program.  Collaborators include; Timothy Fox, Jason Rohweder (UMESC), Brian Sturtevant, Brian Miranda (U.S. Forest Service), and Mark Romanski (National Park Service).

Monarch Conservation Science Partnership

On May 19 Wayne Thogmartin briefed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 leadership on the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership, a USGS-led multi-agency collaborative partnership providing conservation planning for the imperiled Monarch Butterfly. Thogmartin provided a Brown Bag seminar to Region staff following his briefing.

Minnesota Whitefish Chain of Lakes: Ciscos and Common Loons

Kevin Kenow met with the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association Board of Directors on May 28 to discuss a potential pilot study to determine the relative importance of cisco in the diets of common loons on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, in northcentral Minnesota. Whitefish Lake is recognized as a cisco conservation lake by the Minnesota DNR. There is also a sizable population of breeding common loons and non-pair aggregations of common loons have been observed on Whitefish Lake. A pilot effort, in collaboration with the Minnesota DNR, is proposed to determine common loon foraging patterns and the relative importance of cisco in the diets of breeding and non-breeding common loons among cold-water cisco refuge lakes in Minnesota.

Natchez Trace Parkway - Vegetation Mapping Project

Joe Jakusz and Erin Hoy (UMESC) joined Rickie White, Milo Pyne, Carl Nordman (NatureServe), Roger McCoy, Todd Crabtree (Tennessee Natural Heritage Program) and Deanna Boensch (National Park Service (NPS) – Natchez Trace Parkway) for the Natchez Trace Parkway (NATR) Vegetation Mapping Project - Accuracy Assessment Meeting and Field Training May 19-22, 2015. The NATR
project is a mapping effort conducted under the NPS Vegetation Inventory Program. The meeting was held at David Crockett State Park, Lawrenceburg, TN, and the field training took place along the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Tennessee River, Alabama. This meeting and field effort provided the opportunity for UMESC and NatureServe staff to train regional botanists in vegetation data collection for the accuracy assessment of the NATR Vegetation Mapping Project. Accuracy
assessment data collection involves the recording of spatial, temporal, and vegetative data (by strata) at predetermined locations within the Parkway. Accuracy assessment data collection, within NATR, will continue through mid-October 2015.


Assigning Conservation Value to Dispersed Habitat Units for Conservation Planning

Jason Rohweder, Wayne Thogmartin, Shawn Crimmins (UMESC), and Sara Vacek (USFWS) published a landscape-scale approach for evaluating the conservation value of dispersed habitat conservation units with multiple conservation priorities.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) needed a method for prioritizing management activities within the 50,000+ acres (245 parcels) of federally owned land that comprise the Morris Wetland Management District (WMD) in western Minnesota.  The authors evaluated the conservation value of each land parcel based on a suite of variables directly applicable to conservation management practices, to provide a link between conservation actions and potential outcomes.  They found that some Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) provided a high conservation value regardless of the conservation objective, suggesting that these areas could be managed to meet multiple conservation goals.  Conversely, other WPAs provided low conservation value for some objectives (e.g. threatened and endangered species conservation), suggesting those areas would be most effectively managed for a small set of conservation goals.  The publication is available online at

Antibiotic Isoniazid Toxicity to Carp

Theresa Schreier and Terrance Hubert published research results on May 19, 2015 describing the lack of toxicity of isoniazid to grass carp, bighead carp, silver carp, and rainbow trout. While Isoniazid is an antibiotic that fights bacteria in the treatment of human tuberculosis and mycobacteriosis in ornamental fish, unconfirmed reports suggested that it was selectively toxic to grass carp, prompting further investigation. Schreier and Huber determined that Isoniazid was practically non-toxic and was not selectively toxic to grass carp. The project was funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
(GLRI). The report is available online from the USGS Publications Warehouse. For more information contact Theresa Schreier at

Methodology to Assess the National and Regional Impact of U.S. Wind Energy Development on Birds and Bats

Jessica Stanton, Wayne Thogmartin, and Richard Erickson co-authored a USGS Scientific Investigations Report on developing a methodology to assess the regional and national level impacts of wind energy development on wildlife. The report is a result of the Wind Energy Impacts Assessment Methodology project. Other co-authors includes Jay Diffendorfer, Julie Beston (GECSC), Matt Merrill, Margo Corum (Reston), Scott Loss (Oklahoma State University), Doug Johnson, and
Kevin Heist (NPWRC/University of Minnesota).

Importance of Range Edge during Extreme Weather Events on Dickcissel

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stony Brook University, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published research describing the consequences of extreme weather events on the Dickcissel (Spiza americana), an irruptive bird occurring in the central U.S. during the breeding season. They found under periods of drought in the species core that this highly mobile species was pushed to the periphery of its range. The authors
concluded that conservation activities should consider the periodic but critically important role range edges play in accommodating the life history of a species living in an increasingly variable environment.

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Community for Data Integration Workshop

Jayme Stone and John (JC) Nelson participated in the USGS's Community for Data Integration Workshop in Lakewood, CO, May 10-14, 2015, to learn about ways UMESC can improve data dissemination and integration, and what other USGS offices are working on in regards to data integration.  This will also be an opportunity for Stone to network with USGS scientists from across the bureau.

NWS Leadership and Diversity Conference

Jason Rohweder and Eileen Kirsch gave presentations at the 2015 National Weather Service Leadership & Diversity Conference, May 11, 2015, in La Crosse, WI. Presentations included:

National Workshop on Unmanned Aerial Systems

Larry Robinson attended the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program and the Innovation Center for Earth Sciences' National Workshop on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in Reston, VA, May 19-21, 2015. The workshop hosts speakers and leadership from multiple federal agencies exploring UAS technologies and issues surrounding federal use, inform USGS and DOI scientists and leadership about current and future opportunities with UAS technology, and raise federal leadership awareness of UAS technology. Other federal agencies expected to participate in the workshop include; NASA, FAA, NOAA, NSF, and USCG.

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Terry Hubert was the keynote speaker at the Ozark-Prairie Section meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry held in St. Louis, MO, May 18-20, 2015. Hubert's presentation was titled "Protecting Non-Target Organisms: Developing Targeted Delivery Systems for the Control of Aquatic Invasive Species."

Society for Freshwater Science

James Larson presented a talk on “Measuring spatial variation in ecosystem properties using a common consumer approach” at the Society for Freshwater Science annual meeting, May 17-21, 2015, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Larson and collaborators from USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and Great Lakes Science Center, and NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and
Assessment placed hatchery-raised freshwater mussels (Lampsilis siliquoidea) across gradients in habitat and cyanobacterial abundance in Lake Erie. After three months, mussels were retrieved and spatial variation in growth and the fatty acid content were measured as indices of secondary production and food quality, respectively. These indexes of environmental conditions noted differences between tributary rivermouth and open-lake sites exist.

International Association of Great Lakes Research

Terry Hubert, James Luoma, and Diane Waller attended the Invasive Mussels: Symposium entitled “Informing a New Collaborative for Great Lakes Managers and Scientists” during the International Association of Great Lakes Research meeting in Burlington, Vermont, May 25-29, 2015. The symposium goals are to disseminate research results to address knowledge gaps (i.e., life history,
ecosystem effects) associated with dreissenid mussels, results of research to develop control tools for dreissenid mussels, and identification of management outcomes relevant to dreissenid mussels. The symposium will conclude with a panel seeking to determine high priority research needs that match management outcomes for control of dreissenid mussels. Hubert presented an introduction to Integrated Pest Management, Luoma presented results and logistical challenges from UMESC
Zequanox field trials, and Waller presented current research results and future research needs regarding the effects of Zequanox on non-target species.


Leadership 101

Chris Merkes and S. Grace McCalla participated in USGS Leadership Intensive training at the Kentucky Water Sciences Center in Louisville, KY, May 6-7, 2015.

Hydroacoustic Mapping 

Jayme Stone completed a Hydroacoustic Mapping course at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, May 15, 2015.  Students spent three days collecting depth and velocity data using a Teledyne RiverRay Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) and a SyQwest Hydrobox Hydrographic Echo Sounder, then used the data to create bathymetry and velocity maps for the Mississippi River within navigation Pool 8.


ADCP – Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
AOC – Area of Concern
CEC – Contaminants of Concern
DFO – Department of Fisheries and Oceans
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
DOI – Department of the Interior
eDNA – environmental DNA
FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
LiDAR – Light Detection and Ranging
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NATR – Natchez Trace Parkway
NEXRAD – Next Generation Weather Radar
NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NPWRC – Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
NPS – National Park Service
NSF – National Science Foundation
UAS – Unmanned Aerial Systems
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USCG – U.S. Coast Guard
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
WMD – Wetland Management Districts
WPA – Waterfowl Production Areas


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