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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the August activity report.


UMR Mussel Recovery Team – USFWS Recovery Champion Award

Teresa Newton, USGS’s representation on the Mussel Coordination Team (MCT), received notification the MCT won a 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Region 3 Recovery Champion Award.  The MCT is an interagency partnership of federal and state governments, academia, and private citizens, created in 2000 to reestablish five viable Higgins eye populations within the species' historic range.  The USFWS noted in their award the MCT has generated invaluable data for the mussel conservation community, and their continued work with academia and interagency scientists to facilitate studies of freshwater mussel ecology will benefit imperiled mussels for years to come.  Background information is available at

Regional River Science Award

Ken Lubinski, USGS retired, was recognized by the International Society for River Science (ISRS) with a Regional River Science award for his contributions to river science, specifically beginning to understand and incorporate the social dimension into river research efforts and river management plans and actions.  Lubinski, a 21-year veteran of USGS, received the award August 23, 2015, during the 4th Biennial Symposium of the ISRS in La Crosse, WI.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Barriers on the Illinois Waterway to Control the Movements of Asian carps

Jon Amberg, Kim Fredricks, Terry Hubert, Mark Gaikowski, Brent Knights, and Enrika Hlavacek attended a multi-agency meeting convened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss the establishment of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) barriers on the Illinois Waterway to control the movements of Asian carps (bighead and silver carps), September 10-11, 2015, in Springfield, IL.  State and Federal resource and regulatory agency partners with a role in the site selection, implementation/operation, and evaluation/regulation of CO2 barriers have been invited to attend.  The meeting will seek to identify the information needs and required processes to be addressed before the deployment of a CO2 barrier, and appropriate methods for ensuring the collection of accurate scientific data needed to inform and support potential long term use and registration processes.  An emergency exemption permit from the EPA under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act will be used to establish the barrier.  UMESC will provide regulatory and scientific support for the project, as Regulatory Agent for the USFWS.


Michigan Live - Article on Zequanox

James Luoma was interviewed for a Michigan live article about Zequanox, a biopesticide used to control invasive dreissenid mussels. Zequanox is produced by Marrone Bio Innovations in a manufacturing facility located in Bangor, MI. The article is available online, at

DOI Secretary Sally Jewell Visit

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center was honored by a visit from the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, August 14, 2015.  Secretary Jewel was invited to visit the Midwest by U.S. Congressman Ron Kind (WI 3rd District), which included stops at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (UMRNWFR) and UMESC. While at UMESC the Secretary met with regional Department of Interior employees and toured the facility.  Regional employees included representatives from; USGS Midwest Region, Wisconsin Water Science Center, National Wildlife Health Center, UMRNWFR, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Trempealeau NWR, La Crosse Fish Health and Technology Center, and Genoa National Fish Hatchery. 

New Scientist - Article on Sandhill Crane Flight Behavior

Eileen Kirsch was interviewed by Rachel David (New Scientist, UK), regarding Kirsch’s recent publication in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, concerning flight behavior of sandhill cranes in fog near Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.  David was especially interested in bird behavior when flying in low visibility conditions.  Kirsch’s publication is available at,

Partner Meetings

Great Lakes Fishery Commission - Lamprey Trapping Task Force Meeting

Jane Rivera provided an update of regulatory actions that occurred from March 2015 through August 2015 at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Trapping Task Force meeting, August 25, 2015, in Marquette, MI. The purpose of the task force is to coordinate trapping techniques for assessing adult sea lamprey populations and the removal of adult and transforming sea lampreys from spawning and feeding populations.  Sea lamprey pheromone attractants and repellents, classified as biopesticides, have shown promise as new tools to enhance trapping.  Scientists at the UMESC provide expertise on United States and Canada regulations as they pertain to biopesticide experimental research permits and registration.

Ecological Society of America

Jessica Stanton presented, “Assessing the population-level impacts of wind energy development,” at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Ecolorical Society of America, August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, MD.  The presentation is associated with a Wind Energy Impacts Assessment Methodology project with Wayne Thogmartin, funded by the USGS Energy Resources Program.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area - Vegetation Mapping Project Close-out Meeting

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center conducted a close-out meeting for the National Park Service (NPS) Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS) vegetation mapping project, September 15-16, 2015 at the MISS headquarters in St. Paul, MN. The MISS vegetation mapping project is in support of the NPS Vegetation Inventory Program (VIP), which produces data sets of vegetation occurring within national park units. The meeting's agenda includes: presentations on the NPS VIP (Tammy Cook, NPS VIP), MISS project overview (Kevin Hop, UMESC), vegetation classification (Jim Drake, NatureServe), vegetation mapping (Andrew Strassman, UMESC), accuracy assessment (Joe Jakusz, UMESC), and final products (Kevin Hop, Jim Drake, and Joe Jakusz). A field tour will showcase first hand some of the data products. Close-out meetings provide a venue of questions and answers to occur between the recipients and developers; this ultimately enhances the understanding and use of products by the recipients.


In-ovo Mercury Exposure, Lake Acidity, and Other Factors Influence on Common Loons in Wisconsin.

Kevin Kenow published a paper characterizing in ovo mercury exposure in common loons and assesses other factors that may have persistent consequences on development of loon chicks in relation to pH of natal lakes.  The study provides a detailed account of mass fractions of mercury, methylmercury, selenium, and calcium in common loon egg and relates levels to maternal exposure, lake pH, and lake size.  This is also the first study that we are aware of that reports fatty acid composition of common loon eggs and examines differences with respect to lake pH. Another important finding is the observed differences in adult male body size holding territories on neutral- versus low-pH lakes, which may have genetic implications for differences in lake-source-quality in chicks and complicates the interpretation of mercury exposure effects on loon chick quality.  Results of this study should be of considerable interest to wildlife toxicologists and environmental risk assessors.  The manuscript is available at

Reproductive Performance in Captively Reared Whooping Cranes

Brian Gray coauthored a paper on poor reproductive performance in captively reared whooping cranes (Grus americana) in central Wisconsin.  It was noted that periods of poor reproductive performance sometimes coincided with black fly (Diptera: Simuliidae) emergences.
Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) reproductive performance in the same area was approximately double that of whooping cranes. The authors used behavioral measures to infer differences in responses to blackflies among whooping and sandhill cranes, among successful and unsuccessful whooping crane pairs, and differences in behaviors between incubating birds and their off-nest mates.  Behavioral differences between sandhill cranes and whooping cranes as well as differences in reproductive performance, could potentially be explained by exposure to local breeding conditions. Whereas sandhill cranes have nested in the area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, whooping cranes were only recently introduced to the area. Behavioral differences between the species as well as those between successful and unsuccessful whooping crane pairs could also be explained by the effect of captive exposure, which could affect all whooping crane introductions.  The paper is available at

Effects of Flooding on Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Forest Nutrients

Rebecca Kreiling and Nathan De Jager published the results from a study of the effects of flooding on ion exchange rates in the Upper Mississippi river floodplain forest.  Effects of flooding on supply rates of 14 nutrients were examined in floodplain areas invaded by reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) areas restored to young successional forests and remnant mature forests.  Seasonal dynamics in floodplain nutrient availability are similarly driven by flood pulses in different community types.  However, reed canarygrass has the potential to increase the availability of some nutrients, while restoration of forest cover may promote the recovery of nutrient availability to that observed in remnant mature forests.  The paper is available at

Little Brown Bats in the Face of White-nose Syndrome

Robin Russell (NWHC), Wayne Thogmartin, Richard Erickson (UMESC), Jennifer Szymanski, and Karl Tinsley (USFWS) published a report on the recovery potential of little brown bats affected by the fast-spreading fungal disease White-nose Syndrome, which causes up to 100% mortality in affected overwintering populations and is implicated in the deaths of over 6 million bats in eastern North America since 2006. The authors used spatially explicit models of species population dynamics to investigate various scenarios of potential population recovery. They investigated how starting population sizes, potential changes in the number of bats overwintering successfully in hibernacula, and potential changes in demographic rates of the population post-White-nose Syndrome may influence the ability of the bats to recover to former levels of abundance. The authors concluded that populations of the little brown bat (as well as other species that are highly susceptible to WNS) are unlikely to return to pre-disease levels in the near future under any of the scenarios they examined.  The report is available online, at

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – Final Mapping Products

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center has completed final mapping and classification products, cooperatively with NatureServe, for the National Park Service (NPS) Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MISS). These products support the NPS Vegetation Inventory Program (VIP), which produces data sets of vegetation occurring within national park units. This information fills and complements a wide variety of resource assessment, national park management, and conservation needs. Products include aerial imagery, vegetation classification and site data, and a geodatabase for use in GIS providing locations and information of vegetation communities, vegetation sites, aerial imagery, and project boundary. A NPS Natural Resource Report describes the project in detail and can be accessed on the NPS Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA) portal at: The series of products will soon be posted by the NPS VIP at the same location on the IRMA portal.

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

International Society for River Science Symposium

UMESC scientists participated in the 4th Biennial Symposium for the International Society for River Science (ISRS), August 23-28, 2015, in La Crosse, WI.  UMESC is working with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (Wisconsin), Winona State University (Minnesota), and the University of New England (Australia) to put on this year’s symposium.  USGS Ecosystems is a stakeholder level sponsor of ISRS.  UMESC’s participation includes:
Symposium Steering Committee:

Session Moderators:

Platform Presentations:

Poster Presentation:


Poster/Exhibit Socials:

NPS Great Lakes Network – Linking Vegetation and Map Classifications to Geospatial Data Workshop

Kevin Hop lead a workshop to test and further develop a database designed to synchronize and link updated vegetation and map classifications to geospatial data for all nine national park units in the Great Lakes Network (GLKN), August 20-21, 2015, in Ashland, WI.  The geospatial data were originally produced for the National Park Service’s Vegetation Inventory Program, a project which took several years to complete.  Each park unit received a version of U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) at the time of project completion, resulting in classification variations between park units as the USNVC continued to develop. The new database under development provides synchronized vegetation and map classifications, updated to current USNVC, for all GLKN park units. This database project is supported by the Natural Resources Preservation Program.

American Fisheries Society

Brain Ickes and Jennifer Sauer participated in the special session, “Long-Term Fish Monitoring and Assessment: Landscape Level Comparisons within and between River Basins Provides Context to Natural Resource Management Strategies,” at the 145th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, August 17-18, 2015, in Portland, OR.  Ickes presented, “Environmental Assessment Approaches in Large Complex Ecosystems: The Upper Mississippi River Experience.”  Sauer presented, “Overview of Long-Term Fish Monitoring on the Upper Mississippi River System: The First 20-Years.”

As President of the Equal Opportunities Section of the American Fisheries Society (AFS), Marybeth Brey participated in the AFS governing board meeting, organized the Equal Opportunities Section business meeting and luncheon, and co-organized a symposium to increase participation of underrepresented groups in fisheries; at the 145th Annual American Fisheries Society (AFS) Meeting in Portland, OR, August 14-21, 2015. Brey also presented, “A Multi-Agency Partnership to Develop a Fish Telemetry and Visualization Database for Asian Carp.”

Monarch Conservation Science Partnership

Wayne Thogmartin briefed the Interagency High Level Working Group on Monarch Conservation on Wednesday, 24 August 2015, on results of the USGS Monarch Conservation Science Partnership.


Bayesian Modeling for Ecological & Social Scientists

Jessica Stanton completed, “Bayesian Modeling for Ecological & Social Scientists,” at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, MD, August 19-28, 2015.  The course is aimed at postdocs, researchers, and faculty interested in using Bayesian hierarchical models to address and understand problems at the intersection of human and natural systems.

HTCondor Network

Michael Fienen (WI WSC) traveled to UMESC on August 14, 2015, to meet with Richard Erickson, Jon Knudson, S. Grace McCalla, and Joel Putnam to discuss the implementation of HTCondor and how it may be applied to a wide range of computing needs at UMESC, including eDNA, metabolomic data analysis, and population-level modeling. UMESC currently uses HTCondor for limited projects, but will be expanding its use as part of eDNA analysis. The group also discussed flocking networks across USGS, and Fienen helped UMESC troubleshoot their current HTCondor Network.


eDNA – environmental DNA
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLKN – Great lakes Network
GLP – Good Laboratory Practices
IRMA – Integrated Resource Management Applications
ISRS – International Society of River Scientists
MCT – Mussel Coordination Team
MISS – Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
NPS – National Park Service
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
NWR – National Wildlife Refuge
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRNWFR – Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
USNVC – U.S. National Vegetation Classification
VIP – Vegetation Inventory Program
WSC – Water Science Center

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