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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

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

Topics covered in the September activity report.

Collaborative Science

Detecting Round Goby eDNA in the Field

Chris Merkes and Matt Hoogland (UMESC) field tested a new portable environmental DNA (eDNA) detection kit assay for invasive Round Goby along with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, September 25-26, 2017, near Appleton, WI. The field test evaluated the performance of the portable eDNA detection kit at sites in the Fox River Valley with varying densities of Round Goby, and compare the results with concurrently collected conventional eDNA samples. The portable eDNA detection kits were initially developed to detect Asian Carp within transports of bait fish. The new kit expands the technology to detect additional species, and improves the sampling method for use in open water applications (Chris Merkes,, Ecosystems).

Detecting Brain-Eating Amoeba in the Field

Chris Merkes, Stacie Kageyama (UMESC) and staff from the USGS Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) l conduct field trials to compare three methods for detecting the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri in hot-spring fed rivers in Yellowstone National Park, September 11-15, 2017. Results from portable environmental DNA detection kits previously developed to detect Asian Carp will be compared with those of MBARI's environmental sample processor robot and the traditional qPCR and culturing methods currently in use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new methods may be used in the future by National Park Service staff to monitor for the pathogen in soaking areas to provide timely warning to park visitors and inform management of visitor access to different soaking areas (Chris Merkes,, Ecosystems).

Evaluating Broadband Sound as a Deterrent for Bigheaded Carps

James Wamboldt, Kelsie Murchy, Justin Smerud, Tariq Tajjioui (UMESC), and Doug Blodgett (The Nature Conservancy) conducted sound deterrence trials September 10-15, 2017, at the Emiquon Preserve in Lewistown, IL, to determine the efficacy of broadband sound deterrent at reducing the passage of bighead, silver, and grass carps into a newly connected backwater of the Illinois River, without impacting the passage of native fish species. A broadband sound stimulus was projected from speakers installed into two culverts connecting the Emiquon Preserve and Illinois River, while the movements of native and invasive fish were monitored (James Wamboldt,, Ecosystems).


New Water Control Structure and Asian Carp Deterrent Project at the Emiquon Preserve

Doug Blodgett (The Nature Conservancy) was interviewed, September 13, 2017, by Leslile Renken (Peoria Journal Star) on operation and construction of a new water control structure at the Emiquon Preserve in Lewistown, IL. The article highlighted the role of the water control structure’s unique design to facilitate scientific research, such as Asian carps deterrence strategies. As part of the article, James Wamboldt and Kelsie Murchy (UMESC), were interviewed on in-progress trials assessing the response of bighead, grass and silver carp to a broadband sound stimulus (James Wamboldt,, Ecosystems).


Supporting Invertebrate Biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Andrea Fritts (UMESC) was invited to assist with an invertebrate biology course at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, September 21 and 26, 2017.  On September 21, Fritts gave a lecture on the importance of invertebrate organisms in the functioning of healthy ecosystems, and some of the more notable evolutionary adaptations in this diverse group of organisms.  On September 26 the class visited UMESC where Fritts discussed UMESC’s ongoing research projects and provided a tour of the facility (Andrea Fritts,, Ecosystems).

Partner Meetings

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Mapping Project Close-out Meeting

The Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) conducted a close-out meeting for the National Park Service (NPS) Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) vegetation mapping project, September 26-27, 2017, at the Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, WV. The APPA vegetation mapping project is part of the NPS Vegetation Mapping Inventory (VMI) Program, which produces data sets of vegetation occurring within national park units. The meeting's agenda included presentations on the NPS VMI Program (Karl Brown, NPS VMI Program), APPA project overview (Kevin Hop, UMESC), vegetation classification (Milo Pyne, NatureServe), vegetation mapping and accuracy assessment (Andrew Strassman, UMESC), and final products (Kevin Hop). A field tour showcased first hand some of the data products. Close-out meetings provide a venue of questions and answers to occur between the recipients and developers; this ultimately enhances the understanding and use of products by the recipients (Kevin Hop,, Ecosystems).

Publications and Tools

Monarch Butterfly Population Decline in North America: Identifying the Threatening Processes

Wayne Thogmartin, Richard Erickson (UMESC), Jay Diffendorfer, Darius Semmens (GECSC), and colleagues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, University of Kansas, University of Georgia, University of Arizona, University of California, San Diego, and Everglades Foundation are publishing an analysis of threats facing the eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies. The eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies, occupying areas east of the Rocky Mountains, has declined by >80% in the last 20 years. The principal correlate to this decline is glyphosate application to genetically modified corn and soy crops in the north-central U.S. Given that >90% of all corn and soy is now genetically modified to tolerate herbicide application, further losses of milkweed from the principal breeding region are likely to abate if conversion of grassland can be mitigated. Thus, moving forward, the eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies is likely to vary stochastically as a function of climatic variation.  This publication is forthcoming and was not available to download at the time this highlight was written (Wayne Thogmartin,, Ecosystems).
Thogmartin, W. E., R. Wiederholt, K. Oberhauser, R. G. Drum, J. E. Diffendorfer, S. Altizer, O. R. Taylor, J. Pleasants, D. Semmens, B. X. Semmens, R. Erickson, K. Libby, and L. López-Hoffman. 2017. Monarch butterfly population decline in North America: identifying the threatening processes. Royal Society Open Science. Vol. 4:170760. DOI:10.1098/rsos.170760.

Scientific Meetings, Conferences, and Workshops

Rapid Response Eradication Actions for New, Localized, Zebra Mussel Infestations

Jim Luoma (UMESC) presented interim research results on a project designed to evaluate four different molluscicides in waters between 7-22°C, for use in rapid response eradication actions to eliminate new, localized, zebra mussel infestations. The information from this project will provide critical information to natural resource management agencies on proper molluscicide selection and the treatment parameters required to achieve complete zebra mussel mortality at specific water temperatures.  The presentation will be given at the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC), during their 2017 Research and Management Showcase, September 13, 2017, University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus (James Luoma,, Ecosystems).

Annual Meeting: Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative

John (JC) Nelson (UMESC) represented the UMESC and helped highlight work the USGS, UMESC, and partners are doing in and along the Mississippi River that directly impacts cities and towns, at the annual meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, September 12-14, 2017 in St Louis, MO (JC Nelson,, Ecosystems). 

Joint Meeting of the USGS Contaminant Biology Program and Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Chris Custer (UMESC) presented updates on her work with Tom Custer at the joint meeting of USGS’s Contaminant Biology and Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs in Leesburg, VA, September 25-28, 2017. The meeting’s objectives were to enhance communication and build collaborations amongst scientists from the two programs as they begin to merge into a single program. The Custer’s work includes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) projects, Birds as Indicators of Contaminant Exposure in the Great Lakes, Areas of Concern (AOC)/Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) Priority Projects, and Contaminates of Emerging Concern (CEC) Surveillance Program-Swallows. (Christine Custer,, Contaminant Biology Program).


APPA – Appalachian National Scenic Trail
AOC – Area of Concern
BUI – Beneficial Use Impairment
CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CEC – Contaminants of Concern
eDNA – environmental DNA
GECSC – Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
GLRI – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
MAISRC – Minnesota’s Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center
MBARI – Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
NPS – National Park Service
qPCR – quantitative polymerase chain reaction
UMESC – Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USGS – U.S. Geological Survey
VMI – Vegetation Mapping Inventory

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