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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

August 2017 Activity Highlights
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Topics covered in the August activity report.


Wisconsin Youth Water Stories Summit

Mike Caucutt (UMESC) participated in the Wisconsin Youth Water Stories Summit, a 3-day citizen science event for youth working on local water quality monitoring projects throughout the state.  The youth shared how they have been collecting data and impacting their local waterways, collect water samples from the Wisconsin River and a nearby tributary, use Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS) kits to examine cave and forest communities on Blackhawk Island, and learn about the natural history of the Wisconsin Dells river corridor. The summit was held August 2-4, 2017, at the University of Wisconsin’s Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center in the Wisconsin Dells, funded through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Mike Caucutt,, Ecosystems). 

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Waterbird Society 41st Annual Meeting

Kevin Kenow (UMESC) gave two presentations at the Waterbird Society Annual Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, August 8-12, 2017.  Common loons (Gavia immer) staging on the Great Lakes during fall migration appear to be particularly at risk to periodic outbreaks of type-E botulism.  Information on distribution, foraging patterns, and exposure routes of loons is central to developing a better understanding of the physical and ecological factors that contribute to avian botulism outbreaks.  Common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest were equipped with archival geolocator tags during summers 2009-2012 to determine the distribution and foraging patterns of individual common loons while using Lake Michigan during fall migration.  Results of the research support speculation that energy transfer from dreissenid mussels to higher trophic levels via gobies may occur in deep-water habitats, along with transfer of botulism neurotoxin (Kevin Kenow,, Ecosystems).

Christine Custer also gave a presentation on the culmination of 5 years of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) research titled, “Assessing the effects of legacy contaminants on egg and nestling survival of Tree Swallows in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.”  Associations between chemical exposures and reproductive success were assessed at 78 sites across all 5 Great Lakes.  Only dioxins and furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, were associated with adverse reproductive effects; these were important at only a handful of sites, however.  Total polychlorinated biphenyls and most other legacy contaminants were at or below background exposure levels (Christine Custer,, Ecosystems).

Free and Open Source for Geospatial Conference

Tim Fox and Enrika Hlavacek (UMESC) participated in the Free and Open Source for Geospatial (FOSS4G) International Conference in Boston, MA, August 16-18, 2017. The conference focused on the latest geospatial technologies, products, standards, and protocols, including topics such as mobile data collection, data management, web technologies, big data, and drone/UAS technology that utilize open source software solutions.

Annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America

Jessica Stanton (UMESC) presented on a decision support tool she developed for the management of least Bell's vireo, at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, August 6-11, 2017, in Portland, OR.  The tool can aid in conservation planning despite uncertainty, as it allows users to explore population model results under different management scenarios (Jessica Stanton,, Ecosystems).

Keystone Monarch Collaborative Steering Committee

Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) presented results of research titled, “Estimates of current and future milkweed stems needed in the Midwest to support an overwintering population of 6 ha in Mexico,” for the Keystone Monarch Collaborative Steering Committee, August 8, 2017. The Keystone Monarch Collaborative consists of national organizations representing agricultural producers (e.g., American Corn Growers Association), businesses working in the agricultural supply chain (e.g., Monsanto, Syngenta), federal government (USFWS, EPA, USGS), and conservation organizations (e.g., Pheasants Forever). Thogmartin's presentation described scenario analyses indicating the need for some level of commitment within the agricultural sector to forsake marginally productive farmland for conservation in order to achieve monarch butterfly population targets.


DNR – Department of Natural Resources
DOTS – Digital Observation Technology Skills
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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