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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the January activity report.


Effects of Formaldehyde on Biofilters of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

Sue Schleis and Justin Smerud (UMESC) collaborated with staff at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP) to study the effects of formaldehyde on nitrification processes in the biofilters of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS).  Data generated from the study will be sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to potentially expand the label for using formaldehyde in RAS.  The study was conducted at UW-SP’s Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, WI, January 4-24, 2016.

Aquatic Invasive Species

Asian Carp Monitoring and Response Working Group

Aaron Cupp and Marybeth Brey (UMESC) provided an update of current Asian carp control research to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the annual Asian Carp Monitoring and Response Working Group on January 19-21, 2016, in Springfield, IL. Presentations described results from research conducted in FY2015 on the efficacy of carbon dioxide and acoustic stimuli to function as deterrents to invasive carps, and outline research planned for FY2016.

Portable Instrument to Rapidly Detect Invasive Species

Chris Merkes (UMESC) presented, “The Development and Validation of a LAMP Assay and Portable Instrument to Rapidly Detect Invasive Species in Transported Fish,” at the 2016 Coolwater Fish Culture Workshop in La Crosse, WI, January 12, 2016. The use of this tool by fish culturists to screen incoming or outgoing shipments of live fish for bigheaded carp can reduce the risk of accidental spread of these harmful invasive species.


Bat Recovery in the Face of White-nose Syndrome

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) was interviewed by Amanda Proscia of Great Lakes Echo for the news article, “Bat recovery slow from white-nose syndrome,” published January 8, 2016. The article describes findings published last year by Robin Russell (NWHC), Wayne Thogmartin, Richard Erickson (UMESC), Jennifer Szymanski, and Karl Tinsley (USFWS).  The article is available online, at  The manuscript is available at,


Hierarchical Models to Understand Asian Carp

Richard Erickson (UMESC) presented the brown bag seminar, “Applying hierarchical models to understand Asian carp movement and spawning activity in the Wabash River,” at the GLSC in Ann Arbor, MI, January 6, 2016. 

Viterbo University Internship Video

Justine Nelson (UMESC), a USGS Pathways intern and undergraduate student at Viterbo University, participated in a University recruitment video at UMESC to be used to promote internships and experiences available to Viterbo students. Nelson is using her work experience in invasive species at UMESC to complete an internship at Viterbo. This outreach opportunity demonstrates UMESC connection with undergraduates and provides an avenue for USGS attraction to the next generation of scientists.

Middle School Science Fair

Jayme Stone and Kevin Hop (UMESC) helped judge presentations at this year’s La Crescent Middle School Science Fair, January 29, 2016, in La Crescent, MN. The judges evaluated the 7th grade science projects to determine if the students can advance to the Southern Minnesota Regional Science & Engineering Fair, February 20, 2016, in Winona, MN.

Partner Meetings

Natchez Trace Parkway Vegetation Mapping Project

Jennifer Dieck, Kevin Hop, Joe Jakusz, Erin Hoy, Stephanie Slatter, Andrew Strassman (UMESC), Rickie White, and Milo Pyne (NatureServe) met to reconcile the Accuracy Assessment field data from the Natchez Trace Parkway Vegetation Mapping Project, January 12-14, 2016, at UMESC.  This meeting is meant to align understanding on complicated sites and ensure a consistent and accurate analysis of vegetation data for this project.

Monarch Butterfly - Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) presented, “The Role of Rights-of-Way in Helping to Recover the Monarch Butterfly,” at the Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group meeting at the University of Illinois, Chicago, January 19, 2016.


Novel Investigation into Local-level Population Patterns using Data from Broad-scale Monitoring Programs: Dabbling Duck Example

Kevin Aagaard, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), Shawn Crimmins (Wisconsin DNR), Jim Lyons (USFWS), and Brian Tavernia (TNC) published, “Evaluating predictors of local dabbling duck abundance during migration: managing the spectrum of conditions faced by migrants” in the journal Wildfowl. The manuscript focuses on the development of robust modelling techniques to derive inferences from large-scale migratory bird monitoring data at appropriate scales has direct relevance to their management. The models are informed by data from the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (IWMM), one of the few efforts to monitor migrating waterbirds across entire flyways using targeted local surveys. Mixed-effects, log-linear models of local abundance were built for the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways during spring and autumn migration to identify factors relating to habitat structure, forage availability, and migration timing. Results indicated that migrating dabbling ducks responded differently to environmental factors. While the factors identified demonstrated a high degree of importance, they were inconsistent across species, flyways and seasons. Given our results, actionable policy recommendations are likely to be most effective if they consider species-level variation within targeted taxonomic units and across management areas. The methods implemented here can easily be applied to other contexts, and serve as a novel investigation into local-level population patterns using data from broad-scale monitoring programs.  The manuscript is available at,

Macrobenthic Community in Tai Lake, China

Richard Erickson (UMESC); Di Li, Yong Zhang, Zhichun Niu, Hongling Liu, and Hongxia Yu (Nanjing University and Jiangsu Environmental Monitoring Center); and Song Tang (University of Saskatchewan) examined the macrobenthic community in Tai Lake, China. Tai Lake is the 3rd largest lake in China and supplies drinking water for several major cities including Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuxi, and Huzhou. The lake currently faces threats from pollution including harmful algal outbreaks that threaten the drinking water. The paper is one of the first to describe the lake's aquatic community and effects of pollution on the community. It is available at

Flexible Risk Metrics for Identifying and Monitoring Conservation-priority Species

Jessica Stanton, Wayne Thogmartin, Patrick McKann (UMESC), Brice Semmens (Univ. of CA), and Tom Will (USFWS) developed an approach to aid in identifying region-specific conservation priority species. The approach generates quantitative metrics to communicate conservation urgency that are customizable to different spatial resolutions and planning timelines. The method relies on time-series abundance data and is demonstrated using data from over 300 species of landbirds across 33 bird conservation regions (BCRs).  The paper is available to download at

Accuracy Assessment and Validation Methodology Results for Vegetation Mapping on the Upper Mississippi River System

Joe Jakusz, Jennifer Dieck, Heidi Langrehr, Janis Ruhser, and Sara Lubinski (UMESC) published a report comparing the methodologies and presenting the results derived from both a traditional accuracy assessment and a validation analysis as performed on select 2010-2011 land cover/use (LCU) datasets created for the Upper Mississippi River System. Since 1989 the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) has been creating and distributing LCU datasets for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (UMRR).  While each systemic dataset (1989, 2000, 2010-11) has undergone extensive field reconnaissance before photointerpretation is initiated, and the final datasets undergo extensive quality assurance/quality control reviews to ensure the imagery is mapped correctly, this is the first time a UMRR LCU dataset has undergone a traditional thematic accuracy assessment or a validation analysis. A copy of the report is available at,

Mercury Concentrations in Eggs of Songbirds Breeding in Voyageurs National Park

Thomas Custer, Paul Dummer (UMESC), Robin Tyser, Kristofer Rolfus, James Wiener (UW-LaCrosse), and Steve Windels (Voyageurs NP) published, “Mercury concentrations in eggs of red-winged blackbirds and tree swallows breeding in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota.”  The manuscript focuses on the risk of exposure to mercury (Hg) in eggs of two species of songbirds, red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), nesting in Voyageurs National Park, MN.  Concentrations of Hg in red-winged blackbird eggs were found to vary among study sites and between years, and in both species Hg concentrations generally increased with clutch initiation date.  Hg concentrations in eggs of both species were well below critical thresholds commonly applied to avian species.  This study adds to expanding literature about effects of Hg on songbirds, including the potential importance of Hg exposure that can vary between years and during the nesting season.  An early release version of the paper is available online, at

Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program – Spatial Data Query Tool On-line

The upgraded UMRR LTRM Spatial Data Query Tool is now available on-line, at  The Spatial Data Query Tool allows for the visualization and querying of the Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) component data collected on the Upper Mississippi River System.  This easy-to-use Web-based application allows logical and spatial querying of LTRM water quality, fisheries, and aquatic vegetation data.   Query results are shown as locations on maps and also can be downloaded as data files.  Due to the vast amount of data available, separate spatial data query tool applications were developed for each LTRM study reach within the Upper Mississippi River System.  The LTRM is a component of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program, implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environment Sciences Center (UMESC), in cooperation with the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Upper Mississippi River Ecological Resilience Workshop

Jeff Houser and Kristen Bouska (UMESC) lead the workshop, “Ecological Resilience of the Upper Mississippi River System,” January 5-7, 2016, in La Crosse, WI.  The primary objectives for the workshop were to establish the overall scope of the resilience assessment and develop an initial draft conceptual model of the ecological resilience of the Upper Mississippi River System.  The work is being done through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program.  Participants include staff from state and federal agencies involved in the UMRR Program. 

Data Analyses Workshops

Richard Erickson (UMESC) delivered the workshops, “Exploratory Data Analysis using the ggplot2 package in R,” January 5-6, 2016, and “Multivariate Statistics with R,” January 6-7, 2016.  Both workshops were held at the GLSC in Ann Arbor, MI.  For more information on workshop content contact Richard Erickson at, and Jean Adams at for workshop logistics.

2016 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference

Scientists from the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center participated in the 2016 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, January 24-27, 2016, in Grand Rapids, MI.  Presentations include,


BCR – Bird Conservation Region
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
GLSC – Great Lakes Science Center
Hg – Mercury
IWMM – Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program
LAMP – Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification
LCU – Land Cover/Use
LTRM – Long Term Resource Monitoring
NPS – National Park Service
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
RAS – Recirculating Aquaculture Systems
TNC – The Nature Conservancy
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UW-SP – University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point

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