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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the November activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Carbon Dioxide Control of Round Gobies

Aaron Cupp (UMESC) will be conducting a study to determine if carbon dioxide gas could be used to alter the movements and behavior of round goby. UMESC is currently studying the use of carbon dioxide gas to alter the movements and behavior of Asian carps.  Carp appear to be able to detect and avoid the presence of low levels of dissolved carbon dioxide gas. Studies conducted with round goby will be used to evaluate the utility of carbon dioxide to deter other aquatic invasive species.


Common Loon Research and Conservation

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) presented, “Research in Support of Common Loon Conservation in the Upper Midwest,” as part of the University of Minnesota’s Conservation Biology Seminar Series, November 9, 2015, in St. Paul, MN, and “Unraveling Mysteries of the Common Loon,” for the Wild River Audubon Chapter later the same day, in Chisago City, MN.  While common loon breeding populations in the Upper Midwest are generally stable, there is recent concern over the impacts that avian botulism on the Great Lakes and contaminant exposure on wintering areas may have on these populations.  Satellite telemetry and archival geolocator tags were used to determine the migration patterns and wintering locations of common loons that breed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Usually, the radiomarked or geotagged adult birds traveled from breeding lakes, often via larger staging lakes, to the Great Lakes (primarily Lake Michigan), and then on to wintering areas in impoundments in the southern U.S., the southern Atlantic Coast, or the Gulf of Mexico.  Movement data from the radiomarked loons is served on a web site established to provide project information to partners and the public (  The geolocator tags also provide a record of foraging patterns and depth of foraging throughout the year.  This work provides essential information on the migration patterns, staging areas, and wintering sites of common loons that is required by resource managers for development and implementation of regional common loon conservation strategies. 

Careers in Geography

Enrika Hlavacek (UMESC) met with senior geography students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, November 20, 2015. Hlavacek and the students participated in a discussion regarding careers with the USGS, working in the field of GIS, and other geography and career-related topics.

Partner Meetings

Long Term Monitoring

Richard Erickson (UMESC) met with Math Schuler (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), October 30, 2015, to learn more about The Jefferson Project at Lake George. The Jefferson project is a collaboration among IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and The FUND for Lake George that seeks develop and apply cutting edge science to Lake George. Erickson and Schuler discussed the overlap between long term lake monitoring and long term river monitoring, as well as possible future collaborations.


Native Blackbirds and European Starling Habitat Associations

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and colleagues from North Dakota State University and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published research describing winter habitat associations of blackbirds and starlings in the southeastern U.S. Blackbirds and European starlings collectively cause nearly $1 billion in crop damage and control efforts each year in the U.S. The authors used the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count data from the south-central United States and mixed-effects models to identify habitat factors associated with population trend and abundance for red-winged blackbird, common grackle, rusty blackbird, Brewer’s blackbird, and European starling. They found positive associations between bird abundance and agricultural land-cover for all species. Relationships between abundance and other land-cover types were species-specific, often with contrasting relationships among species. Thus study provides managers who are interested in limiting crop damage in the south-central United States with novel information on habitat associations in the region that could be used to improve management and control actions. The manuscript is available at,

Flexible Framework for Conservation Priority Species Decision-Making

Jessica Stanton and Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) published a paper outlining a framework for developing region-specific metrics for species prioritization and conservation program evaluation. Regional programs with different goals, timelines, spatial coverage, and management agendas may find that one-size-fits-all species assessment schemes don't always provide the information needed for effective planning and communication. In this new paper the authors present a quantitative framework for generating objective metrics for prioritizing species that are customizable to different spatial resolutions, action thresholds, and forecasting timelines. The framework is well-suited to handling missing-data and observer error and is adaptable to many taxa where time-series abundance data are available.  The paper is available at

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

Richard Erickson (UMESC) gave two presentations and participated in the Professional Training and Education Committee meeting, at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), November 1-6, 2015, in Salt Lake City, UT.  Erickson’s presentations were,

Synergy in Science Conference

On behalf of the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) presented, “Monarch conservation science, storylines for recovery,” the results of research describing different paths to the recovery of monarch butterflies to former levels of abundance.  The presentation was made at Synergy in Science, a joint conference of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the Entomological Society of America.  The meeting was held November 18, 2015, in Minneapolis, MN.  Afterwards, Thogmartin represented the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership at the Monarch Joint Venture annual meeting, where he presented a synopses of research conducted by the Partnership as well as participate in discussions relating to development of national monitoring programs for monarchs and milkweed, the plant species they rely on for reproduction.


Recirculating Aquaculture Systems Course

Kim Fredricks, Jim Luoma, and Steve Redman (UMESC) attended a training class on recirculating aquaculture systems, water reuse for fish culture, presented by the Freshwater Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, November 2-5, 2015.  The course provided fundamental concepts in the design and operation of recirculating aquaculture systems. UMESC utilizes a recirculating aquaculture system to minimize the amount of treated effluent water discharged from their aquatic invasives species containment facility.  UMESC is redesigning the recirculating aquaculture holding systems and the information from this course will be used to optimize the systems.

Scientific Project Management Training

UMESC staff participated in USGS Scientific Project Management Training, November 2-3, 2015.  The training class was held at UMESC and led by Victoria Christensen (MN WSC).

Wind Energy

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Eileen Kirsch and Mike Wellik (UMESC) began a multi-year study to look at waterfowl and bald eagle airspace usage, pre- and post-construction of a wind energy project in northeastern Missouri, near the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Kirsch and Wellik have been working with the Refuge to design a study which will use a portable marine radar unit equipped with a high gain parabolic antenna to gather data on bird usage near the wind energy project.  Kirsch and Wellik held a training class for refuge personnel on the operation of the radar equipment and helped establish the project’s sampling locations, during a site visit to the refuge November 3-6, 2015.  Refuge staff will collect most of the project’s field data, while UMESC scientists focus their efforts on data maintenance and analysis.

Wind Energy Workshop

A joint USGS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wind energy workshop was held at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, November 17-19, 2015.  Topics discussed during the workshop included; what are the ecological questions the group is interested in answering; and how do we work towards a holistic picture of wind/bat interactions and risk as it applies to our offices, Region 3, and the company’s responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  A final report product will be prepared from the workshop, summarizing the main points discussed and conclusions reached by the group.  USGS presentations included,


ESA – Endangered Species Act
FRESC – Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
GIS – Geographic Information System
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
SETAC – Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USDA – U.S. Department of Agriculture
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
WEIAM – Wind Energy Impacts Assessment Methodology Project
WFRC – Western Fisheries Research Center
WSC – Water Science Center

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