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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

February 2016 Activity Highlights
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Topics covered in the February activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Sea Lamprey Annual Workshop

Kim Fredricks, Terry Hubert, Jeff Bernardy, Mike Boogaard and Nick Schloesser (UMESC) attended the Sea Lamprey Annual Workshop at the Park Place Hotel in Traverse City, MI, February 3-4, 2016.  Day 1 of the meeting consisted of oral presentations.  Jeff Bernardy and Nick Schloesser gave presentations on Technical Assistance projects being conducted at UMESC.  Day 2 consisted of breakout sessions that focused discussion on specific topics related to chemical control, larval assessment, adult assessment, barriers, and program administration.

Altering the Sex Ratios of Invasive Fishes – Asian Carp Meeting

Dan Schill (Idaho Fish and Game) provided an overview of his work altering the sex ratios of invasive fishes, February 16, 2016, at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, WI.  The presentation was an agenda item during a 2-day meeting to discuss USGS Asian carp research projects with UMESC and GLSC personnel.  Schill’s presentation was available to members of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee via. WebEx.

Asian Carp Telemetry Database and Visualization Tool

Marybeth Brey (UMESC), Jim Duncker (IL WSC), Alta Harris (Klamath), Kevin Laurent (Patuxent), and Curtis Price (SD WSC) gathered in La Crosse, WI for a three-day workshop February 22-24, 2016, to finalize an Asian Carp Telemetry Database and Visualization Tool. Researchers have been working for over two years to incorporate all fish telemetry data from the entire Mississippi River Basin into one database. Additional data visualizations have been developed within the database to help managers and researchers better interpret telemetry data and manage invasive species. Their goal is to make the database and visualization tool publically available in March.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

St. Louis River Summit

Chris and Tom Custer (UMESC) presented a summary of their ongoing work in the St. Louis River drainage at the 6th Annual St. Louis River Summit in Superior, WI, February 3-4, 2016.   The presentation summarized their Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project as it relates specifically to that drainage. 

Project 49: “Characterizing Zones of High Potential Nutrient Cycling in Agricultural Catchments and their Relation to Agricultural Best Management Practices

Rebecca Kreiling (UMESC) received an international postgraduate research scholarship to matriculate at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, Australia, as a PhD candidate starting in February 2016. Kreiling’s research will focus on determining the dynamics of nitrogen and phosphorus retention and biogeochemical cycling in streams of the Fox River Basin (Wisconsin) as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project 49, “Characterizing zones of high potential nutrient cycling in agricultural catchments and their relation to agricultural best management practices.” UMESC’s participation in GLRI 49 allowed Kreiling to be competitive to receive a tuition-based scholarship which covers her tuition for the duration of the candidature.  Recent collaborations with Dr. Martin Thoms, Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, UNE, have set the stage for this collaboration and international science opportunity.


Scientists Participate in NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates in Mathematical Ecology

Richard Erickson and Kevin Aagard (UMESC) mentored undergraduate students on the topics of modelling the ecological impacts of wind turbines, applying statistical models to eDNA data, and using fractals to study spatial patterns of animals, as collaborators on a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant in Mathematical Ecology.  The grant’s Principle Investigators (PI) are Barbara Bennie and Eric Eager from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL) Department of Mathematics and Statistics.  Erickson and Aagard are collaborators along with UWL faculty in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Science, and Biology. The program is open to undergraduates nationwide. Background information on how to apply is available at,

Partner Meetings

Upper Mississippi River Restoration Bi-annual Meeting

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program held their bi-annual science meeting at the USGS’s Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center, February 16-18, 2016, in La Crosse, WI.  The science meeting was an important opportunity to maintain and improve broad awareness of ongoing and recently completed research efforts, and the implications of the findings of that work, for restoration of habitat and river management projects performed under the UMRR.  Conversely, it is also an opportunity for those collecting additional biological or ecological data to assess UMRR rehabilitation projects to inform the partnership of their findings and lessons learned. UMESC is the science lead for the UMRR Program.  Approximately 80 Federal, State, and NGO partners from the 5-state area attended. 

Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and Upper Mississippi River Restoration-Coordinating Committee Partner Meetings

Mark Gaikowski, Jennifer Sauer, Jeff Houser, and Brian Ickes (UMESC) participated 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 23-24, in Rock Island, IL. Presentations included:

The UMRR is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ research and restoration program for the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). 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 UMRS.

Monarch Conservation Science Partnership Meeting

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) attended a Monarch Conservation Science Partnership meeting at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Ft. Collins, CO, February 8-11, 2016. Thogmartin is a co-lead for this collaboration among USGS, USFWS, NGO, and academic scientists seeking to understand and devise plans for reversing the decline of the eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Accuracy Assessment Meeting

Jennifer Dieck, Kevin Hop, Erin Hoy, Joe Jakusz, Stephanie Sattler, Andrew Strassman (UMESC), and Jim Drake (NatureServe) met to review Accuracy Assessment (AA) analysis results for potential changes to both vegetation assignments and the vegetation classification systems for the Central Appalachian, Lower New England, and Northern Appalachian Ecoregions of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA).  The meeting was held February 22-26, 2016, at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, WI.  The meeting to reconcile AA results was associated with the National Park Service’s Vegetation Mapping Inventory Program mapping project for the APPA.

Contaminants of Emerging Concern Meeting

Chris and Tom Custer (UMESC) attended the Federal partners Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) meeting in Athens, GA, February 8-11, 2016.  This Federal Partnership is collaborating on developing and integrating cutting edge metabolomic and transcriptomic techniques that can simultaneously assess contaminant effects across multiple levels of biological organization. 

TNC’s Regional Floodplain and Watershed Analyses Workshop

Molly Van Appledorn (UMESC) participated in a multi-disciplinary workshop to outline the state of the science on regional floodplain and watershed analyses, and identify potential linkages to decision-making and science strategies employed by non-profits, municipalities, and insurance providers, February 25-26, 2016, in Boston, MA.  The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is organizing the workshop with support from Science for Nature and People (SNAP).  Approximately 15 other state, federal, and academic experts on flood risk reduction, flood policy, floodplain science, and floodplain management attended.


Effects of Contaminant Exposure on Chesapeake Bay Food Chain

Richard Erickson co-authored an article with Rebecca Lazarus, Barnett Ratter, Natalie Karouna-Renier (PWRC), Peter C. McGowan (USFWS), Robert Hale (College of William and Mary), and Mary Ann Ottinger (University of Maryland).  A large-scale ecotoxicological study was conducted in several Chesapeake Bay tributaries from 2011-2013 to evaluate the transfer of contaminants from fish to osprey eggs (Pandion haliaetus), and their potential relationship to DNA damage in nestlings.  An early release version of the publication is available online at,

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Midcontinent Warmwater Fish Culture Workshop

Steve Redman (UMESC) participated in fish trading sessions at the Midcontinent Warmwater Fish Culture Workshop, February 1-3, 2016, in Ashland, NE.  Redman attends these sessions to secure sources of fish or other aquatic species not reared at UMESC, to ensure UMESC’s scientists have access to scarce or unusual test organisms when needed.

Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society

Teresa Newton (UMESC) participated in a 2-day workshop on population genetics and freshwater mollusk conservation, sponsored by the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society, February 16-19, 2016, in Shepherdstown, WV.  The use of genetic information in the conservation and management of organisms is becoming more widespread.  This workshop provided a basic understanding of population genetic tools and their application in the conservation of freshwater mollusks.

Upper Mississippi River Research Consortium

Eileen Kirsch (UMESC) presented, “Forest or the trees: songbird habitat associations and the Upper Mississippi River floodplain forest,” at the Upper Mississippi River Research (UMRR) Science Meeting, February 16, 2016, in La Crosse, WI.


New Remote Sensing Technology

Larry Robinson (UMESC), Mary Mitchell, and Brian Lubinski (USFWS) attended training in the integration and use of specialized flight management software and a USGS-owned, high-definition thermal infrared (TIR) sensor, February 22-26, 2016, at the Reno-Stead Airport in Reno, NV.  On extended loan from the Geomorphology and Sediment Transport Laboratory in Golden, CO, the addition of the TIR sensor will complement the Fish and Wildlife Refuge Midwest Region's true color (TC) and color infrared (CIR) digital aerial cameras. This enhanced remote sensing platform gives the DOI the capability to simultaneously collect TC/CIR/TIR imagery that can be georeferenced, mosaicked into a single images, and analyzed in a geographic information system. Planned projects include detecting and counting of feral hogs and horses, deer, and waterfowl on public lands in western and central U.S., locating thermal vents indicative of habitat for the endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail in northeastern Iowa, and identifying cold water refugia for fish species such as trout and salmon that have temperature-sensitive spawning requirements.


AA – Accuracy Assessment
APPA – Appalachian National Scenic Trail
CEC – Contaminants of Emerging Concern
CIR – Color Infrared
eDNA – environmental DNA
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
GLSC – Great Lakes Science Center
LTRM – Long Term Resource Monitoring
NGO – Non-governmental Organization
NSF – National Science Foundation
PWRC – Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
REU – Research Experience for Undergraduates
SNAP – Science for Nature and People
TIR – Thermal Infrared
TNC – The Nature Conservancy
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRBA – Upper Mississippi River Basin Association
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
UMRR-CC – Upper Mississippi River Restoration Coordinating Committee
UMRS – Upper Mississippi River System
UNE – University of New England
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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