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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the September activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Zebra Mussel Enzyme Detection Kit

UMESC researchers used an enzyme detection kit (api ZYM, bioMeriux, Durham, NC) to screen native and zebra mussel enzymes to determine if the kit could be used quantify enzyme activity rather than qualitatively detect enzyme presence. They found that the api ZYM kit should only be used to make general comparisons of enzyme presence and assessments of trends in enzyme activities. Enzymatic trends were seen in the native mussel species and not in zebra mussels sampled 32 days apart from the same location.

Effectiveness of Sound to Control Asian Carp

A publication assessing the effectiveness of sound waves to control the movement of Asian carps was recently published in the journal Biological Invasions.  Pure tones (500–2000 Hz) and complex sound patterns (0-10 kHz, i.e., underwater field recordings of outboard motors) were tested to determine how silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys Molitrix) responded to the sounds.  Silver carp are one of several species collectively known as Asian carps.  They are also the species known for jumping out of the water when startled.  The study showed the fish quickly habituated to the pure tones, though may be more controllable when complex sound stimuli are used.  The paper is available online, at

Sea Lamprey eDNA Collection Techniques

S. Grace McCalla and Bridget Ladell trained U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) personnel in Marquette, MI, on eDNA collection techniques, September 15-17, 2015.  The training will be used to collect eDNA samples to assess the feasibility of using eDNA sampling to detect and monitor sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes region, a project funded by the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.

Ecosystem Restoration

Aerial imagery Captured for TNC Illinois River Preserves

Larry Robinson (UMESC) and Brian Lubinski (USFWS) collected 6-inch/pixel color infrared aerial imagery of the Emiquon and Spunky Bottoms Preserves on Illinois River for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), September 10, 2015. TNC works closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Natural History Survey, and University of Illinois to restore and preserve lands along the Illinois River. This imagery documents TNC's ongoing restoration efforts within the two Preserves, which includes reestablishing wetlands, increasing open water habitat, and planting prairie and hardwood tree species.


New Scientist – Bird Flight Behavior in Low-visibility Conditions

An article, based on a recent interview with Eileen Kirsch has been released, in the magazine, “New Scientist.” Rachel David (New Scientist, UK) contacted Kirsch as a follow-up to Kirsch’s recent publication in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, concerning flight behavior of sandhill cranes in fog near the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.  David was especially interested in bird behavior when flying in low visibility conditions.  David’s article, “Birds circle and stick together to help them fly in dense fog,” is available online, at  Kirsch’s publication is also available online, at


University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Math-Biology Seminar

Richard Erickson gave a presentation on his Asian carp research projects at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Math Bio Seminar, September 22, 2015.  The presentation provided an overview of Erickson’s ongoing work to develop computer models to support the Asian carp monitoring and control efforts. 

Marybeth Brey gave a presentation on her research projects at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse's Math Bio Seminar on September 29, 2015.  The presentation provided an overview of Brey's ongoing work on the movement and control of Bigheaded Carps and potential food web modifications due to invasive fishes.

Hanson Material Services Corporation

Marybeth Brey presented an overview of USGS Asian carp deterrent projects conducted at the Hanson Material Services Corporation’s (HMSC) West Pit project site, during HMSC’s Safety Week activities, September 23, 2015, in Morris, IL.  USGS has been evaluating sonic pressure wave generators (e.g., hydro/water guns), carbon dioxide screens, and complex sound recordings, to determine if these technologies could be used control the movements of bigheaded carps.

Partner Meetings

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Asian Carp Barrier Technologies

Marybeth Brey and Jon Amberg met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss Asian carp barrier technologies undergoing evaluation at UMESC, September 1, 2015, in Chicago, IL.  UMESC has been evaluating sonic pressure wave generators (e.g., hydro guns) and carbon dioxide bubble screens as potential barriers to control the movements of silver and bigheaded carps.  If successful, these technologies could be deployed at navigation structures on the Illinois River to keep the carps from moving upstream towards the Great Lakes, or to herd the fish towards fishing nets for capture.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Bird Radar Project

Mike Wellik met with Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) personnel in Oregon, OH, to discuss continuing research on landbird migration along the southwestern Lake Erie shoreline and set-up a mobile marine radar system near the BSBO bird banding station, September 1-3, 2015.  The shoreline along this part of Lake Eire is a migration hotspot for birds.  Data collected will be used to better understand migration movement in this area in relation to the potential for wind energy development.  The radar unit will be operated by BSBO personnel. 

Great Lakes Law Enforcement Committee

Chris Merkes presented, “A New Tool to Rapidly Detect Invasive Species in Transport as Bait,” for the Great Lakes Law Enforcement Committee in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, September 16, 2015.  The new tool is a field-deployable genetic test that novice users can perform with minimal training and obtain results in under 1 hour.  Individuals involved in, or regulating, the bait trade can use this test to rapidly screen thousands of minnows to prevent the spread of invasive bigheaded carp through bait transport.

Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee - Mussel Technical Session

Teresa Newton gave an update on the national strategy for the conservation and management of native mollusks, and an assessment of how the ongoing research and management for native mollusks in the Upper Mississippi River basin meets the national goals, at the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee fall meeting of the Mussel Technical session, September 22-24, 2015, in Decorah, IA. 

NatureServe’s Spatial Methodology Technical Team

John (JC) Nelson (UMESC) has been invited to participate on NatureServe’s Spatial Methodology Technical Team.  The team is being assembled to help NatureServe partner agencies work within the same spatial framework, to improve data transfer and availability.  UMESC has a long standing relationship with NatureServe, through UMESC’s work with the National Park Service’s Vegetation Inventory Mapping program.


Estimation of River and Stream Temperature Trends

Brian Gray, Jim Rogala (UMESC), and Dale Robertson (WI WSC) published a paper on the estimation of temporal trends in river water temperature when temperature is measured at haphazard times and on haphazard dates. A problem with using such data to estimate trends in water temperature is that water temperature can vary with time and date. Hence, the appearance of a trend in water temperature may arise solely from consistent changes in time or date of sampling. Interest in the effects of climate change on water temperatures necessitates the use of historic data-which data often comprise measurements from haphazard times and dates. This paper demonstrates a method of correcting for haphazard time and date. The paper also addresses that correction for variation in time of sampling needs to be done with raw data rather than with averages, and that the importance of consistent changes in time of sampling can be ignored given many years of sampling. The paper is available at, and from the authors.

Dissolved Organic Carbon Variation in Great Lakes Ecosystems

James Larson and William Richardson (UMESC) co-authored a publication which described dissolved organic matter composition variation across the Laurentian Great Lakes region related to watershed area, land use and cover, water quality measures (e.g., conductivity, dissolved organic carbon, nutrient concentration, phytoplankton biomass), and human population density.  A copy of the publication is available at

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

International Symposium on Aquatic Plants

Yao Yin presented, “Identifiable patterns of submersed aquatic plants in the Upper Mississippi River based on 17 years of annual monitoring data,” at the 14th International Symposium on Aquatic Plants, September 14-18, 2015, in Edinburgh, Scotland.  In the presentation, Yin and James Rogala provided a hypothesis on the mechanism of the crash-recovery process of submersed aquatic vegetation in the upper Mississippi River, based on spatial and temporal patterns observed over the last 3 decades in the long term dataset collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (UMRR).  The USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) administers, and is the scientific lead for, the Long Term Resource Monitoring element of the UMRR.

Upper Mississippi Floodplain Forest Workshop

UMESC scientists gave several presentations at The Upper Mississippi Floodplain Forest Workshop in Dubuque, IA, September 15-17, 2015.  The workshop is sponsored by the Minnesota Audubon Society and Eastern Tallgrass Prairie Big Rivers LCC, with a focus on research, management, and restoration of large floodplain forests in the Midwestern USA.  UMESC presentations included,

USGS Ecological Flows Workshop

Nathan De Jager attended the USGS Ecological Flows workshop in Fort Collins, CO, September 22-24, 2015. Discussions will include research and management topics that a USGS ecological flows initiative should address. A component of the discussion will be a series of river science questions identified in a 2007 National Research Council report “River Science at the US Geological Survey.”   


High Throughput Computing and Collaborations

Richard Erickson, Jon Knudson, Grace McCalla, Joel Putnam, and Mark Gaikowski (UMESC) met with scientists at the other Wisconsin based Science Centers on September 23, 2015, to discuss high throughput computing and collaborations between Science Centers.  The group’s first stop will be the WI WSC, where they will meet with Luke Winslow, Randy Hunt, and Mike Fienen to discuss HTCondor operational details.  Afterwards, they will travel to NWHC, to meet with Robin Russell, Katie Richgels, and hold a couple of informal science seminars.  Erickson will discuss using HTCondor and R to run computer simulations, from a researcher/computer programmer’s perspective.  Knudson will discuss what it takes to setup HTCondor, from an IT employee’s perspective.

Practical Primer on Pesticides

Kim Fredricks (UMESC) attended the Practical Primer on Pesticides Seminar in Indianapolis, IN, September 17-18, 2015.  Attendees learned about pesticide regulation at the federal and state levels, and from the legal and scientific perspectives. Topics included the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules and procedures governing pesticide registration, labeling, production, import/export, and other new developments in the ever-changing landscape of pesticide regulation.

LiDAR Processing Software

Stephanie Sattler and Jayme Stone (UMESC) attended the 2015 QCohernet's LP360 Annual Training Event in Madison, AL, September 14-18, 2015. LP360 is a LiDAR processing software extension for use with ArcGIS software. The training event is a four day in-depth look at using LP360 for Quality Assessment and Quality Control (QA/QC) of LiDAR data, breakline and feature elevation identification, automatic and manual classification of features, extraction of outlines, and an optional session on using Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS or drones) for stockpile volumetrics.  UMESC uses LP360 software to process LiDAR data.


BSBO – Black Swamp Bird Observatory
eDNA – environmental DNA
FIFRA – Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
GIS – Geographic Information System
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
HMSC – Hanson Material Services Corporation
LCC – Landscape Conservation Cooperative
LiDAR – Light Detection and Ranging
NPS – National Park Service
QA/QC – Quality Assessment and Quality Control
sUAS – Small Unmanned Aerial Systems
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UWL – University of Wisconsin at La Crosse
WSC – Water Science Center


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