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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the July activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

eDNA Sampling for Asian Carps
Craig Jackson (UMESC) performed eDNA sampling on Mississippi River navigation Pools 13, 17, and 19, in a coordinated effort with members of Brent Knights' research team stationed near Burlington and Muscatine, IA.  Sampling was completed August 10-11, 2016 (Craig Jackson,, Ecosystems).

Collaborative Research Activities

HTCondor Computing Collaborations

Miron Livny and Lauren Michael from the Computer Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison visited UMESC on July 8 to discuss possible HTCondor Collaborations with Richard Erickson, Grace McCalla, Randy Mulholland, and Mel Bower (UMESC), who are using HTCondor technology in an eDNA bioinformatic project.  Presentations included an update from Miron Livny (UW-Madison) who created the HTCondor program as a method for distributed or high-throughput computing; Jessica Stanton (UMESC) who uses HTCondor to analyze breeding bird survey data; John (JC) Nelson and Larry Robinson (UMESC) who are developing high-throughput geospatial workflows; and Marybeth Bray (UMESC) who is investigating high throughput computing to analyze telemetry data (Richard Erickson,, Ecosystems).


Pilot Study to Determine the Importance of Cisco in the Diets of Common Loons in Minnesota
KARE 11 (St. Paul, MN) reporter Greg Vandegrift and cameraman Kevin Sullivan accompanied Kevin Kenow, Luke Fara, and Steve Houdek during common loon night capture work July 12, 2016, on the Whitewater Chain of Lakes near Crosslake, MN.  The news crew collected footage of a loon capture and interviewed Kevin Kenow about their pilot study to determine common loon foraging patterns and the relative importance of cisco in the diets of breeding and non-breeding common loons among cold-water cisco refuge lakes in Minnesota.  The Minnesota DNR has a significant conservation effort directed at some of the state’s important cisco lakes.  MN DNR fisheries survey crews have noticed that lakes with abundant cisco populations seem to have higher densities of non-breeding loons (non-pair aggregations) from mid-summer through fall.  These aggregations generally occur over deep water, where the primary fish species is cisco (a deep-water, pelagic fish).  The airing of the story will also feature a related interview with Minnesota DNR Non-game Supervisor Carrol Henderson about loon conservation prospects in Minnesota in anticipation of receiving mitigation funds associated with injuries to common loons that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Kevin Kenow,, Ecosystems).


Suzette Kimball to address the Mississippi River Restoration Program’s 30th Anniversary Celebration
Suzette Kimball represented the USGS and speak at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program, August 8, 2016, in La Crosse, WI.  Suzette is planning to discuss the UMRR’s continued relevance and USGS’ role in assisting the Partnership with understanding ecosystem conditions, trends, and resilience.  The USACE is the UMRR’s administrative and construction lead, USGS is the science lead.  Agencies participating in the UMRR Partnership include; USACE, USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Natural History Survey, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Missouri Department of Conservation, Minnesota DNR, Wisconsin DNR, and several Non-Government Organizations (Jennifer Sauer,, Ecosystems).

Partner Meetings

Presentations Describe Ongoing Research on Common Loon Ecology

Kevin Kenow gave two presentations on his research activities with common loons, incorporating recent research findings related to their migration ecology and foraging strategies.  The first presentation, “Unraveling Mysteries of the Common Loon,” occurred on July 10, 2016, at the Itasca State Park Visitor's Center in Itasca, MN.  The second talk focused on research activities at the Whitefish Chain of Lakes (MN), for the Clamshell and Bertha Lakes Association, July 16, 2016, in Ideal, MN (Kevin Kenow,, Ecosystems).

Mississippi River Habitat Needs Assessment-II

Nate De Jager, Mark Gaikowski, and additional UMESC Long Term Resource Monitoring Branch staff participated in a Habitat Needs Assessment-II (HNA-II) Steering Committee meeting in Rock Island, IL, July 19-20, 2016.  The HNA-II is being conducted under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) Program which was authorized by the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986, Sec 1103 (P.L. 99-662).  The HNA is a re-occurring effort of the UMRR which provides a re-assessment of the rivers’ ecosystems in relation to historic, existing, projected future, and desired future conditions.  The information developed during the Habitat Needs Assessment will be utilized in the sequencing and planning of UMRR restoration efforts. (Nate De Jager;; Ecosystems)


Species-habitat associations are a key determinant of whether species experience climate effects

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and colleagues from the University of Missouri and USDA Forest Service developed species-habitat models substituting space for time to examine potential impacts of a changing climate over a broad latitudinal gradient. Models for birds primarily occupying early successional habitats performed better with a combination of habitat and climate variables whereas models of species found in contiguous forest performed best with land cover alone, indicating the important role habitat, particularly complex vertical structure, has on providing shelter and protection from extreme weather. Species-specific responses to the effects of climate present unique challenges to land managers trying to balance species management over a diverse landscape. The paper is available online, at (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).

Interpolation method influences accuracy of downscaled climate information
Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and colleagues from the Universities of Montana, Wisconsin-Madison, and Nevada-Reno evaluated 8 widely used downscaled climate data providing gridded daily weather data for the U.S. The authors found considerable differences among data and between downscaled and weather station data. Temperature was more accurately represented than precipitation, and climate averages were more accurate than weather extremes. Accuracy of data also varied among regions, but not on spatial resolution. Users of downscaled climate data should recognize these differences among data when employing them for their own uses. The paper is available online, at (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).

Long term water quality trends in Mississippi River tributaries
Rebecca Kreiling and Jeff Houser (UMESC) analyzed long-term trends in total suspended solids, phosphorus, and nitrogen in six tributaries of the upper Mississippi River, and found that general declines in phosphorus and total suspended solids have occurred.  This suggests that improvements in agricultural land management may have reduced surface runoff.  Similar reductions in nitrogen were not observed.  The paper is available online at, (Rebecca Kreiling,, Ecosystems).

Dreissenid Biofouling Varies Spatially in the Western Basin of Lake Erie
The invasion of North American waters by Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostriformis bugensis has resulted in declines in native North American Unionoida mussels.  Adult and juvenile native unionids have been found alive in several apparent refugia around the productive western basin of Lake Erie.  Larson et. al., examined biofouling by deploying caged unionid mussels (Lampsilis siliquoidea) at 36 sites across the western basin of Lake Erie, to assess whether identified refugia have low biofouling rates and whether other areas might also have conditions that would allow for the persistence of native unionid mussels (James Larson,, Ecosystem).

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

First Annual Environmental DNA Training and Technical Exchange Workshop

Chris Merkes, Grace McCalla, and John (JC) Nelson (UMESC) presented their work at the first annual Environmental DNA (eDNA) Training and Technical Exchange Workshop, August 2-3, 2016, in Denver, CO. The workshop is being hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USGS, for government and partner scientists working with eDNA, to discuss the latest techniques being used to collect and analyze samples, how to handle large data from high-throughput sequencing, and how to make the data more accessible across geographic regions to apply eDNA data in answering broader questions. This workshop will help to establish greater consistency in eDNA methods and data accessibility between different research groups and foster greater collaboration between agencies and partners. UMESC presentations are listed below (Chris Merkes,, Ecosystems).

USGS Lidar Science Workshop

Jayme Stone and Jenny Hanson represented UMESC at the USGS Lidar Science Workshop, August 2-4, 2016, in Fort Collins, CO. Stone and Hanson will present the poster, “Upper Mississippi River System Elevation,” which highlights lidar techniques, processes, and applications used at UMESC.  Stone will also represent Larry Robinson as the Midwest Region 3DEP Imagery Point of Contact, and facilitate discussions for the Midwest Region.  The Workshop will be attended by USGS representatives from across the bureau and will provide an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate on the following areas; Explore use of current and new lidar technologies for addressing science research; sharing applications and techniques; identifying lidar data needs for cross-cutting science priorities; educating USGS scientists on the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP); discuss and refine acquisition strategies and processes; and identifying opportunities and processes for all types of lidar data collection and sharing. This workshop builds on the recommendation for better collaboration and communication across all USGS Mission Areas, given in the recent publication, “USGS lidar science strategy-Mapping the technology to the science” (, Jayme Stone,, Ecosystems).


Active Shooter Awareness Training
In association with National Safety Month, arrangements were made with local authorities to hold an Active Shooter Awareness presentation at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center on July 14, 2016.  The presentation was a service provided by local law enforcement officials to provide input on how the departments would respond to an active shooter situation, as well as provide guidance on how UMESC staff should respond.  Individuals unable to attend the on-site training were advised to take the DOI Learn course, “IS-907 - Active Shooter: What You Can Do.”  On-site training was provided by representatives from the City of La Crosse Police Department, Town of Campbell Police Department, and La Crosse County Sheriff's Department (Randy Hines,, Ecosystems & Environmental Health).


DOI – Department of the Interior
eDNA – environmental DNA
HNA – Habitat Needs Assessment
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMRR – Upper Mississippi River Restoration
USACE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
USDA – U.S. Department of Agriculture
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
WRDA – Water Resources Development Act

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