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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the February activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp – Ohio River Meeting

Mark Gaikowski, Jon Amberg, Brent Knights (UMESC), Rip Shively, Duane Chapman (CERC), Elizabeth Murphy (IL WSC), and Mike Griffin (IN/KY WSC) participated in the Ohio River Asian Carp meeting February 3-4, 2015, at the Indiana Wildlife Federation Office in Indianapolis, IN. The meeting was held to foster coordinated intere-agency executive level administration planning, funding, and operations for Asian carp prevention and control in the Ohio River Basin; consider a potential inter-agency consider a potential inter-agency management structure for coordinated planning and reporting; and develop a common vision for coordinated Asian carp management in the Ohio River Basin. 

Sea Lamprey – Technical Assistance

Terry Hubert and Mike Boogaard presented updates on UMESC’s 2015 technical assistance projects, at the spring meeting of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Lampricide Control Task Force, February 10-11, 2015, in Traverse City, MI. 

Jane Rivera provided an update of regulatory actions that occurred from September 2014 through February 2015, at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Trapping Task Force meeting, February 25-26, 2015, in Ann Arbor, MI. The purpose of the task force is to coordinate optimal trapping techniques for assessing adult sea lamprey populations and remove adult and transforming sea lampreys from spawning and feeding populations.  Sea lamprey pheromone attractants and repellants, 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 future registration.


Urbanization and Agricultural Effects on Refuges

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), Pat Heglund (USFWS), Chris Hamilton, Volker Radeloff, Sebastian Martinuzzi, Anna Pidgeon (Univ. of WI-Madison), and Andrew Plantinga (Oregon State Univ.) recently published research examining the current and future consequences of agricultural land surrounding 461 national wildlife refuges.  Projected increases, as determined by spatially explicit econometric models, in urbanization and agriculture around refuges has the potential to alter ecological processes such as natural hydrologic and disturbance regimes, facilitate species invasions, and interfere with the dispersal of organisms.  The paper is available at  For more information, contact Wayne Thogmartin at

Upper Mississippi River Food webs – Main Channel vs. Off-Channel

James Larson, Michelle Bartsch, Steve Gutreuter, Brent Knights, Lynn Bartsch, Bill Richardson, Jon Vallazza (UMESC), and Michael Arts (Ryerson University) recently published research examining differences between main-channel and off-channel food webs in the Upper Mississippi River.  Based on their data, it appears that main-channel food webs provide higher quality food resources for some riverine consumers as compared to food webs in off-channel habitats. In particular, fatty acids associated with algal species were higher in the main-channel habitats, whereas off-channel habitats appear to have fewer of these algal fats and perhaps more terrestrial fatty acids.  The publication is available at, For more information contact James Larson

Scientific Meetings and Workshops

Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center sent several scientists to the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference and Asian Carp Symposium, February 8-11, 2015, in Indianapolis, IN.  UMESC scientists gave several presentations, and Jon Amberg was co-chair of the Asian Carp Symposium.

UMESC presentations included:

UMESC co-authored presentations included:

Minnesota DNR Assistance – Ciscos and Common Loons

Kevin Kenow met with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) staff to discuss potential collaborative research investigating the link between ciscos and common loons, February 18, 2015, in St. Paul, MN. The MN DNR has a significant conservation effort directed at some of the state’s important cisco lakes.  Lakes with abundant cisco populations appear to have high densities of non-breeding loons (non-pair aggregations) in the summer and fall.  These aggregations generally occur over deep water, where the primary fish species is cisco (a deepwater, pelagic fish).  The MN DNR is interested in looking at potential benefits to loons from their cisco lakes conservation effort. 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

Brian Gray gave the invited presentation, “Multilevel inferences and multilevel models, with application to ecological and environmental studies,’ at the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, February 24, 2015.  Multilevel models may be used to address concerns commonly faced by ecologists and environmental scientists, including pseudoreplication, differences in covariate effects among groups of observations, and differences in covariate effects by scale. The latter could be spatial (e.g., a covariate effect depends on whether it is estimated at the observation or lake scale), temporal (e.g., observation or day of sampling) or organizational (e.g., observation or sampling site, or observation or lab beaker).

Contaminants of Emerging Concern Workshop

Chris and Tom Custer participated in a Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) workshop in Minneapolis, MN, February 25-26, 2015.  This multi-agency workshop brought together scientists from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USGS, and various University personnel to continue planning a field and laboratory program to investigate the cumulative biological effects, at multiple levels in the ecosystem, of these little-studied newer contaminants such as personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and newer industrial contaminants. A combination of cutting edge technologies, including transcriptomic and metabolomic metrics, will form the basis for this CEC effects effort.   

Wisconsin Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Chris Merkes presented, “The Development and Validation of Environmental DNA as a Surveillance Tool for New Zealand Mudsnails in Trout Streams of Wisconsin,” at the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Fisheries Society meeting, February 26, 2014, in Eau Claire, WI and a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) public stakeholder meeting February 23, 2015, in Cross Plains, WI.  The work presented is a collaborative effort between the USGS, WI DNR, and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to develop environmental DNA (eDNA) surveillance technology for the detection of New Zealand mudsnails. The talk outlined newly validated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) markers, strategies and protocols for eDNA sampling, and results from the 2014 New Zealand mudsnail surveillance project in Wisconsin trout streams.

Unmanned Aerial Systems

Larry Robinson presented a status update on the Department of Interior's (DOI) small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) regulations for the Midwest Area Leadership Team (MALT) monthly conference call, February 6, 2015. The DOI is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to implement training and certification procedures necessary to use sUAS technology for scientific research in selected areas. sUAS weigh less than 55 pounds and currently have a flying height restriction of 400 feet above ground level or less and must be operated with visual line of sight and no closer than five miles from the nearest airport.

Upper Mississippi River Restoration – Environmental Management Program

Quarterly Upper Mississippi River Management and Coordinating Meetings

Mark Gaikowski, Jennifer Sauer, Jeff Houser, and Nate De Jager will participate in the February quarterly meetings of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) and the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR)-Coordinating Committee (UMRR-CC), February 10-11, in Rock Island, IL.  Gaikowski presented an update on detection and control methods for aquatic invasive species, as well as represented USGS in the UMRBA meeting.  De Jager presented, “Upper Mississippi River Landscape Ecology–Moving Toward Synthesis and Significance,” at the UMRR-CC meeting.  Houser highlighted recent monitoring and research done by the Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) element of the UMRR.  The UMRR is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ research and restoration program for the Upper Mississippi River System. The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) implements the LTRM element of the UMRR, combing environmental monitoring, research, systemic data acquisition, and modeling in an effort to provide a solid scientific foundation upon which resource managers and policy makers base management actions and develop environmental policy on the Upper Mississippi River System.

Wildlife Ecology

Great Lakes Long-tailed Duck Pilot Study

Luke Fara presented a poster, “Pilot Study: Migration patterns, habitat use, food habits, and harvest characteristics of Long-tailed ducks wintering on Lake Michigan,” at the 2015 Joint Winter Meeting of the Minnesota & Wisconsin Chapters of The Wildlife Society in Duluth, MN, February 17, 2015. Recent aerial surveys indicate that Lake Michigan supports a sizable wintering population of long-tailed ducks, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service species of management concern. The presentation outlines a pilot study aimed at determining temporal and spatial patterns of migration, breeding ground affiliations, and site fidelity of long-tailed ducks wintering on Lake Michigan. 


AFWA – Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
AOC – Area of Concern
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
eDNA – environmental DNA
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
EROS – Earth Resources Observation Systems
ESRI – Environmental Systems Research Institute
FDA – Food and Drug Administration
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
LiDAR – Light Detection and Ranging
LTRMP – Long Term Resource Monitoring Program
NCRAC – North Central Regional Aquaculture Center
NPS – National Park Service
NRDA – Natural Resources Damage Assessment
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
PAHs – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
UMRS – Upper Mississippi River System
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
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
UWL – University of Wisconsin at La Crosse
WICCI – Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts
WSC – Water Science Center

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