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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the January activity report.

Collaborative Science

Project Update: Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Vegetation Mapping Project

Jennifer Dieck, Kevin Hop, Erin Hoy, Stephanie Sattler, and Andrew Strassman (UMESC) met with Rickie White and Milo Pyne (NatureServe) to reconcile Accuracy Assessment field data from the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (JELA) Vegetation Mapping Project, January 31-February 1, 2017, at UMESC.  This meeting was held to align understanding on complicated accuracy assessment sites and ensure a consistent and accurate analysis of vegetation data for this project.  This project focused on the Barataria Preserve in JELA, one of six units scattered across southern Louisiana, protecting significant examples of the rich natural and cultural resources of Louisiana's Mississippi River Delta region. 

GLRI Landscape Connectivity Working Group Meeting

John (JC) Nelson (UMESC) and Noel Pavlovic (GLSC) represented the USGS at the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Focus Area Landscape Connectivity working group meeting in Chicago, IL, February 8, 2017.  This group was tasked to develop a geographic boundary in the northern Great Lakes basin where the different agencies will work to ecologically connect large federally protected areas within their authorities and capabilities (including with appropriate partners such as tribes, state agencies, private organizations, etc.). The focus will be on conservation and restoration/enhancement to create contiguous healthy ecosystems across a “landscape.”

Monthly White-Nose Syndrome Conference Call

Richard Erickson (UMESC) shared results from a recent publication that examined the impacts of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) and wind energy development on the Indiana bat, during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s monthly white-nose syndrome conference call, January 19, 2017. The monthly call is attended by federal, state, and academic researchers. Erickson’s presentation focused on the contents of his recent publication, “Effects of wind energy generation and white-nose syndrome on the viability of the Indiana bat,” available at (Richard Erickson,, Ecosystems).

Studying the Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide in a Recirculating Aquaculture System

Sue Schleis (UMESC) collaborated with staff at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP) to study the effects of hydrogen peroxide 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 hydrogen peroxide in RAS.  The study will be conducted at UW-SP’s Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, WI, February 6-March 10, 2017 (Sue Schleis,, Ecosystems).

Portable eDNA detector technology for rapid on-site detection of bigheaded carps transferred to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On January 24, 2017, Chris Merkes (UMESC) conducted training for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) employees on the use of portable environmental DNA (eDNA) detection kits developed by USGS in collaboration with private industry in 2015-2016. The portable kits allow minimally trained staff to collect water samples from tanks of fish and test for the presence of Bighead Carp or Silver Carp eDNA, obtaining results within 1 hour. The USFWS purchased 6 test kits for their use at Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices, to reduce the risk of spreading bigheaded carps by testing shipments of fish (Chris Merkes,, Ecosystems)


La Crosse Area Middle School Career Day Presentation

Molly Van Appledorn (UMESC) participated as a panelist at the La Crosse Area Middle School Career Day, January 25, 2017. Van Appledorn will give a presentation to 8th graders on her educational background, past work experiences as a teacher and environmental scientist, and her current career path as an Ecologist with the USGS. The Career Day is organized annually by local middle school staff in an effort to expose students to a wide range of career paths and opportunities.

Partner Meetings

Strategic Discussion of National Asian Carp Management and Control

Scientists from the USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and State natural resource agencies coordinated a 2-day workshop to discuss a long-term vision and fundamental strategy for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) control of invasive Asian carps, as a common basis for developing sub-basin multi-year work plans.  The workshop promoted the integration of science and management with IPM for controlling all four species of Asian carps in the Mississippi River and Laurentian Great Lakes drainage basins; silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), bighead (H. nobilis), grass (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and black carps (Mylopharyngodon piceus).  Invitees include state and federal managers and researchers working on Asian carp control projects and select university/NGO partners.  The workshop will be held January 18-19, 2017, in Springfield, IL.  For more information contact either Brent Knights or Sandra Morrison at or (Ecosystems).

Interagency Waterfowl Data Collection Coordination, Upper Mississippi River

Kevin Kenow, Brian Gray, and Steve Houdek (UMESC) participated in a multi-agency meeting sponsored by the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, January 17-18, 2017, to discuss Upper Mississippi River (UMR) waterfowl research and data needs.  Discussion centered around historic perspectives on federal/state waterfowl survey data collection on the UMR, and on how best to meet future data needs and means of data collection/sharing among partner agencies (Kevin Kenow,, Ecosystems).

Michigan Areas of Concern (AOC) Meeting

Christine Custer (UMESC) participated in the state-wide Michigan Area of Concern (AOC) meeting in Lansing, MI, January 25-27, 2017.  This meeting brings together state AOC coordinators, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal partners to discuss ongoing research and assessments of Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) at Michigan's AOCs.  Christine and Thomas Custer recently published two articles with data directly applicable to assessing BUIs, and have two other data sets containing similarly useful data that can be used to assess bird or animal deformities, or reproductive problems, at Michigan’s AOCs (Christine Custer,, Environmental Health).

Publications and Tools

A New Approach for Developing Aquatic Biocides

Joel Putnam, Justine Nelson (UMESC), Eric Leis (USFWS), Richard Erickson, Terrance Hubert, and Jon Amberg (UMESC) published a paper on a development process used to identify potential biocides for controlling the spread of invasive silver and bighead carps.  Traditionally, the development of a new biocide would require the use of test organisms for in vivo assays to assess millions of compounds.  In this case, the authors use fish cell lines and mass spectrometry to identify a toxicant specific, rather than species-specific, metabolomic fingerprint.  This shift to the metabolomic fingerprint process will decrease test organism requirements through the use of in vitro toxicity assays and increase compound screening speed and efficiency.  Furthermore, metabolomic fingerprinting might also be used to improve our understanding of ecologically significant events, such as mass fish kills.  The paper is available online at,

Putnam, J.G., Nelson, J.E., Leis, E.M., Erickson, R.A., Hubert, T.D., Amberg, J.J. 2017. Using silver and bighead carp cell lines for the identification of a unique metabolite fingerprint from thiram-specific chemical exposure. Chemosphere. Vol. 168:1477-1485. ISSN 0045-6535. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.11.046.

Novel electrofishing technique increases capture efficiency of Silver Carp

Kristen Bouska (UMESC) and individuals from Southern Illinois University and Ohio State University published an article for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on an experimental electrofishing technique designed to minimize Silver Carp evasion.  They were able to achieve catch rates of Silver Carp at more than double that of a standardized electrofishing technique. Increased capture efficiency using the experimental technique at low relative abundance suggests this method to be useful in detecting Silver Carp in newly established areas. No detectable difference in catch rates were observed in thirty-nine of forty other fish species. The paper is available online at,

Bouska, W.W., Glover, D.C., Bouska, K.L., Garvey, J.E. 2017. A refined electrofishing technique for collecting Silver Carp: Implications for Management. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. Vol: 37(1):101-107. DOI: 10.1080/02755947.2016.1240122.

Potential effects of granular Bayluscide, a sea lamprey larvicide, on native freshwater mussels

The invasive sea lamprey poses a substantial threat to fish communities in the Great Lakes. The presence of a substantial population of larval sea lampreys in the aquatic corridor between Lakes Huron and Erie prompted managers to propose a treatment using the granular formulation of Bayluscide to target larval lampreys that reside in sediments. However, these treatments could cause adverse effects on native freshwater mussels which also reside in sediments. UMESC scientists estimated the risk of mortality and sub-lethal effects in eight species of adult and sub-adult mussels exposed to Bayluscide in laboratory trials that mimic field applications. Mortality was appreciable in some species, especially in sub-adults (range, 23-51%). Lethal and sub-lethal effects were positively associated with the length of exposure in most species. Given that the various species and life stages were differentially affected, it will be difficult to predict the effects of Bayluscide treatments on mussels. The paper is available online, at (Teresa Newton,, Ecosystems).

Newton, T.J., Boogaard, M.A., Gray, B.R., Hubert, T.D., Schloesser, N.A. 2016. Lethal and sub-lethal responses of native freshwater mussels exposed to granular Bayluscide®, a sea lamprey larvicide. Journal of Great Lakes Research. Vol. 43(2):370-378. DOI: 10.1016/j.jglr.2016.12.010.

The Combined Effects of White-Nose Syndrome and Wind Energy Turbines on the Endangered Indiana Bat

Richard Erickson, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC), Robin Russell (NWHC), and Jennifer Szymanski (USFWS) modeled the impact of wind energy generation and White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) on the viability of the federally endangered Indiana bat. The authors found that wind turbine mortality interacted with WNS and together these stressors had a larger impact than would be expected from either alone, principally because these stressors together act to reduce species abundance across the spectrum of population sizes. The paper is available online at (Richard Erickson,, Ecosystems).

Erickson, R.A., Thogmartin, W.E., Diffendorfer, J.E, Russell R.E., Szymanski J.A. 2016. Effects of wind energy generation and white-nose syndrome on the viability of the Indiana bat. PeerJ. 4:e2830. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2830.

Quantifying the Relative Contribution of an Ecological Reserve to Conservation Objectives

Kevin Aagaard, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), and James Lyons (PWRC) published research describing the relative contribution of an ecological reserve to conservation objectives. Evaluating the role public lands play in meeting conservation goals is an essential step in good governance. The authors present a tool for comparing the regional contribution of each of a suite of wildlife management units to conservation goals. The authors use weighted summation (simple additive weighting) to compute a Unit Contribution Index (UCI) based on species richness, population abundance, and a conservation score based on IUCN Red List classified threat levels. The authors evaluate UCI for a subset of the 729 participating wetlands of the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) Program across U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regions 3 (Midwest USA), 4 (Southeast USA), and 5 (Northeast USA). The authors found that the median across-Region UCI for Region 5 was greater than Regions 3 and 4, while Region 4 had the greatest within-Region UCI median. This index is a powerful tool for wildlife managers to evaluate the performance of units within the conservation estate.  Copies of the publication are available online, at

Aagaard, K., Lyons, J.E., Thogmartin, W.E. 2017. Quantifying the relative contribution of an ecological reserve to conservation objectives. Global Ecology and Conservation. Vol 9:142-147. DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2017.01.002.

Determining how Parasite-S (Formalin) Affects Nitrification Processes in Biofilters

Kim Fredricks, Aaron Cupp, Sue Schleis, Richard Erickson, and Mark Gaikowski (UMESC) delivered an administrative report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration describing the results of laboratory studies conducted to determine how Parasite-S (formalin) affects nitrification processes in biofilters.  The results of these laboratory studies were used to inform the method development for field trials.  Results from the field trials will be published in a peer reviewed journal (Kim Fredricks,, Ecosystems).

Fredricks, K.T.; Cupp, A.R.; Schleis, S.M.; Erickson, R.A.; and Gaikowski, M.P. 2017.  Determine the effect of Parasite-S (formalin), administered to control mortality from saprolegniasis, on the nitrogen oxidation efficiency of the biofilters of recirculating aquaculture systems for freshwater finfish-laboratory studies. Final study report submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  January 18, 2017. 826 pages, including appendices 1-7.  U.S. Geological Survey Administrative Report. Not for redistribution or citation.

Effects of Parasite-S (Formalin) on the Nitrogen Oxidation Efficiency of the Biofilters of Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

Kim Fredricks, Sue Schleis, Justin Smerud, G. Fischer, K. Holmes, C. Hartleb, Richard Erickson, and Mark Gaikowski (UMESC) delivered an administrative report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration describing the results of a study conducted to determine the effects of formaldehyde on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) at two unique sites.  The effect on a warmwater small-scale RAS was evaluated at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse WI, USA. Effects on a coldwater commercial-scale RAS were evaluated at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (NADF), Bayfield WI, USA. This research helps support expansion of the approved label of Parasite-S, a MUMS-designated drug, to control pathogens of freshwater finfish in RAS.

Fredricks, K.T.; Schleis, S.M.; Smerud, J.R.; Fischer, G.J.; Holmes, K.; Hartleb, C.; Erickson, R.A.; and Gaikowski, M.P. 2017.  Determine the effect of Parasite-S (formalin), administered to control mortality from saprolegniasis, on the nitrogen oxidation efficiency of the biofilters of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) for freshwater finfish-Field Studies. Final study report submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  January 18, 2017. 165 pages, including appendices A-E.  U.S. Geological Survey Administrative Report. Not for redistribution or citation.

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Fate of Freshwater Mussels 20+ Years after the Dreissenid Invasion Science Symposium

Michelle Bartsch, Diane Waller, and Eric Lord (UMESC) chaired the special symposium, “Fate of Freshwater Mussels 20+ Years after the Dreissenid Invasion,” at the 77th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference in Lincoln, NE, February 7, 2017 (,, Ecosystems). UMESC presentations included:

Long-tailed Ducks - State of Knowledge and Information Needs

Kevin Kenow and Luke Fara (UMESC) participated in the 6th International Sea Duck Conference February 2-6, 2017, in San Francisco, CA.  Kenow has served on the Conference Science Committee and is co-organizer of a workshop, “Long-tailed Ducks - State of Knowledge and Information Needs.”  This workshop is expected to provide a platform for interactive discussion concerning the state of knowledge and gaps in our understanding of the cross-seasonal ecology of long-tailed ducks with a goal of identifying research, monitoring, and management that will improve our understanding and support conservation of this important species.  The workshop will also include a panel discussion on the topic of improving post-release survival of radio-marked long-tailed ducks (Kevin Kenow,, Ecosystems).  UMESC participation will also include the following posters.


Software Training: Imagery Software used with Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Larry Robinson (UMESC) participated in the Agisoft PhotoScan Pro software training at the Federal Center in Denver, CO, January 30-February 3, 2017. PhotoScan Pro is image-processing software used primarily for color-balancing and georeferencing of imagery collected using unmanned aerial systems. The software is also used to process and georeference imagery collected with manned aerial systems, and scanned archival imagery. The training class is being offered by Tom Noble, Neffra Matthews, and Brian Hadley from the Bureau of Land Management, with assistance from the National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office (Larry Robinson,, Ecosystems).


AOC – Area of Concern
BUI – Beneficial Use Impairment
eDNA – environmental DNA
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
IPM – Integrated Pest Management
IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature
IWMM – Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring
JELA – Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
NADF – Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility
NGO – Non-Governmental Organization
NWHC – National Wildlife Health Center
RAS – Recirculating Aquaculture Systems
UCI – Unit Contribution Index
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
UMR – Upper Mississippi River
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
UW-SP -University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point
WNS – White-Nose Syndrome

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