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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the June activity report.

Aquatic Invasive Species

USGS Illinois River Benthic Habitat Mapping to Support Asian Carp Research

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) collected high resolution hydroacoustic sonar data within the Marseilles and Starved Rock reaches of the Illinois River June 25-30, 2017. This was the first trip of three needed to collect multibeam and side scan sonar data within both river reaches. Jayme Stone and Jenny Hanson (UMESC) collected the data and used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and object-based image analysis to characterize benthic habitats. The maps will provide baseline habitat information to help scientists understand Asian carp habitat use and behavior, helping to support research, monitoring, and control efforts (Jayme Stone,, Ecosystems).


USGS/WI DNR eDNA Partnership to be Featured in Wisconsin Lakes Blog

Chris Merkes was interviewed regarding past and ongoing environmental DNA (eDNA) research being conducted in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) to detect invasive New Zealand mudsnails and Round Goby. The article, “Aquatic invasive species detection goes CSI with eDNA” appeared in the Wisconsin Lakes Blog on August 8, 2017. Merkes and colleagues published results of a tri-state environmental DNA monitoring study for New Zealand mudsnails in trout streams of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa in 2015. A new study has been initiated to develop a portable eDNA test for detecting Round Goby (Chris Merkes,, Ecosystems).

Publications and Tools

USGS Publications Featured in FWS News Bulletin

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) highlighted two USGS publications in the seasonal news bulletin for the USFWS’s Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) Program.  The first was a publication by Kevin Aagaard, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), and James Lyons (PWRC) describing the relative contribution of an ecological reserve to conservation objectives.  The second was a report prepared for the IWMM by Kevin Aagaard, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), James Lyons (PWRC) and Brian Loges (USFWS) which summarized data collected during the IWMM's pilot phase, 2010-2014.  The news bulletin is not available online, however individuals can sign up to receive copies at (Kevin Aagaard,, Ecosystems).

Seasonal trends in eDNA detection and occupancy of bigheaded carps

Richard Erickson, Christopher Merkes, Craig Jackson, Jon Amberg (UMESC), and Reuben Goforth (Purdue), found that eDNA-based sampling can detect seasonal trends in bigheaded carps. These trends matched trends observed using traditional sampling methods at the site. For the project, a new bigheaded carp DNA marker was developed that could both detect and differentiate bighead and silver carp. Additionally, they developed an occupancy model for the eDNA data. An early release version of the paper is available online, at (Richard Erickson,, Ecosystems).

Estimating the Per-Capita Contribution of Habitats and Pathways in a Migratory Network

An upcoming publication from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis working group, “Habitat for Migratory Species,” has created a framework for estimating the demographic contributions of discrete habitats and pathways used by migratory species during a species' annual cycle. Metrics for assessing habitat contributions have been well-developed for metapopulations, but an equivalent metric was not available until now for migratory populations.  The working group was spearheaded by Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC), and co-leads from the Everglades Institute and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. USGS authors who contributed to this publication are, Wayne Thogmartin, Richard Erickson (UMESC), Mike Runge (PWRC), and Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC).   An early release version is available online, at (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).

Restoring Monarch Butterfly Habitat in the Midwestern U.S.

In a new study by the USGS, University of Arizona and partners, scientists developed scenarios for incorporating approximately 1.6 billion new milkweed stems into the Midwestern U.S. landscape. To determine where these additional milkweed plants would be most effective, researchers evaluated five land-cover sectors for their current and potential future ability to support milkweed: protected lands, Conservation Reserve Program lands, utility and transportation rights-of-way land, agricultural lands and urban/suburban areas. They found converting marginal cropland to monarch-friendly habitat provides the best opportunity for adding milkweed to help restore the eastern migratory monarch population. However, in addition to agricultural lands, the authors emphasized that planting milkweeds into other kinds of lands, including protected areas and urban and suburban locations, is likely necessary to reach project goals. Monarch butterflies have declined by as much as 80% over the last twenty years, in large part because of declines in milkweed, the plant monarchs rely upon for breeding.  USGS authors who contributed to this publication are, Wayne Thogmartin, Jason Rohweder (UMESC), Jay Diffendorfer, Darius Semmens (GECSC), Steve Hilburger (Wildlife Program), and Jake Weltzin (Status and Trends Program and NPN).  An early release version of the publication is available online at, (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).

Defining and Classifying Migratory Habitats as Sources and Sinks

Richard Erickson, Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC), and Jay Diffendorfer (GECSC) and co-leads from the Everglades Institute and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, recently published a pathway-based metric allowing breeding habitats, non-breeding habitats, and migratory pathways connecting these habitats to be classified as sources or sinks. Existing migratory network models can evaluate the relative contribution of non-breeding nodes, but these models make an equilibrium assumption that is difficult to meet when examining real migratory populations. This paper resolves that difficulty. An early release version is available online, at (Richard Erickson,, Ecosystems).

Associating Monarch Abundance to Glyphosate Application

The planting of corn and soybeans genetically modified to be resistant to the application of glyphosate has led to the removal of considerable amounts of Midwestern habitat for the monarch butterfly. Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and colleagues from Michigan State University, Georgetown University, and the University of Minnesota, modeled weekly, site-specific summer abundance (1994–2013) of monarch butterflies at sites across Illinois to assess relative associations of monarch abundance with climate and land use variables during the winter, spring, and summer stages of their annual cycle. The authors provide the finest resolution evidence yet of a negative association between glyphosate application and the local abundance of adult monarchs, particularly in areas of concentrated agriculture. However, this association was only evident during the initial years of the adoption of herbicide-resistant crops (1994–2003). After 2003, Illinois cropland was largely bereft of milkweed. An early release version of the publication is available online, at (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Society of Freshwater Science 2017

Andrea Fritts and Teresa Newton (UMESC) represented UMESC at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS), June 4-8, 2017, in Raleigh, NC (Andrea Fritts,, Teresa Newton,, Ecosystems).  Presentations include,

2017 Applied Statistics Symposium

Brian Gray (UMESC) and Karl Oskar Ekvall (University of MN) presented a new method of modeling environmental variables when those variables are correlated within blocks of time and space, at the International Chinese Statistical Association’s 2017 Applied Statistics Symposium in Chicago, IL, June 26, 2017 (Brian Gray,, Ecosystems).


USGS Unmanned Aerial System Training

Larry Robinson (UMESC) participated in USGS-sponsored unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training at the Denver Federal Center, CO, June 5-9, 2017. The training focused on flight planning and remotely-sensed data acquisition using the 3D Robotics Solo UAS. This training ensures efficient data collection and safe UAS operation according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations (Larry Robinson,, Ecosystems).


CSI – Crime Scene Investigation
DNR – Department of Natural Resources
eDNA – environmental DNA
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
IWMM – Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring
NPN – National Phenology Network
NPS – National Park Service
PWRC – Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
SFS – Society for Freshwater Science
UAS – Unmanned Aerial Systems
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USFWS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey

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