This bobber sports an important AIS message

Following up on yesterday's message that prevention is key to stopping aquatic invasive species (AIS), we share this image of a Be a Hero, Transport Zero bobber (no, it's not a Christmas tree ornament).

AIS can be introduced and spread through a variety of activities including those associated with recreational water users. For example, when an angler releases bait fish at the end of a day’s fishing or a water gardener disposes of excess plants in a local waterway, they could also be accidentally introducing AIS.

If you plan on enjoying the fall colors while out on the water, keep in mind the three simple steps to do your part to prevent aquatic invasive species from moving from one waterbody to another: 

·        Remove plants, animals, and mud from all equipment.
·        Drain water from live wells and bait buckets.
·        Dry items thoroughly with a towel. 

If you would like more information about AIS and the Be a Hero, Transport Zero campaign, visit our website.


AIS detective work involves species profiling

Last week's Science Friday on NPR, broadcasting from the University of Notre Dame, included an interview with David Lodge, a biologist who has been a key investigator in assessing the pathways and risks of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. In fact, the interview focused on Lodge as an "environmental detective" due to his work with environmental DNA. This technique allows invasive species trackers to detect the trace presence of a fish through water sampling. Most recently, Asian carp DNA has been found in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

But, in the struggle to cope with these invaders, prevention is crucial. The interview also
touched on extensive work at Notre Dame to develop species profiles and risk assessment tools. This research helped inform efforts in Indiana to be proactive, and led to a ban on 28 plant species in the state.

From a 2012 HELM article:
To determine which plants imported for the aquarium and water garden trades posed the greatest threat to the state’s waterways, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR) relied on a risk assessment tool developed by the Aquatic Plant Working Group. The group was formed, organized, and facilitated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant at the request of IN DNR and included representatives from the aquatic plant industry, aquarium and water garden hobbyists, state agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. They used information provided by University of Notre Dame researchers to develop a tool that evaluates a plant based on factors such as its history of invasion, its ability to survive in Indiana habitats, and how difficult it is to control.
Many of the plants that made the list have been used in aquariums or water gardens in Indiana for years. Others have already been discovered in waterways throughout the state, sparking large-scale eradication projects. For example, efforts to remove the fast-growing weed Hydrilla verticillata from Lake Manitou have been ongoing for more than six years and cost the state millions of dollars. Hydrilla is believed to have entered Lake Manitou through trade.
This work has not been limited to Indiana plants. For starters, in 2013, Illinois added the designated Indiana plants into its Injurious Species List. And there's more:
The success of the risk assessment tool in Indiana has sparked interest from officials in the Great Lakes region and at a national level. In fact, researchers at the University of Notre Dame (and Loyola University Chicago) were awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to develop risk assessment tools for commercially sold fish, mollusks, crustaceans, reptiles, and amphibians. IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach specialists are working with researchers to coordinate and facilitate regular working meetings with state and province resource managers to develop a single set of tools that can be used in each of the eight states and two provinces that make up the Great Lakes region.


Friday Foto: Bye bye buoy for 2014

A sure sign that fall is here, the IISG buoy was relieved of its duty to collect data in the nearshore waters of Michigan City, Indiana. This season, the buoy webpage had more than 3,000 visitors, with an average of 23 a day. In 2014, the buoy added a new featurereading temperatures every three feet from the surface to the bottom of the lake. This data is useful for researchers and anglers alike. Buoy data has also aided the National Weather Service, improving the accuracy of wave height predictions and small craft advisories.


In the news: Native mussels are surviving the zebra mussel invasion

Even before zebra and quagga mussels arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s, the future looked a little bleak for native mussels. The invaders came close to wiping them out entirely. But small populations in Lake Erie appear to not only be surviving the invasion, but thriving. 

From The Voice
Average density of native mussels before the arrival of zebra mussels was two per square meter in Lake St. Clair. By 1990, zebra mussel density was at 1,600 per square meter. 
“By 1992, native mussel populations are almost gone from the southeastern portion of the lake and declining rapidly in the northwestern portion of the lake,” said [Dave] Zanatta, [a biologist at Central Michigan University]. 
By 1994, there were almost no native mussels left in the lake, with zebra now at 3,000+ per square meter. 
“But there was reason for hope,” said Zanatta. “Remnant populations of native mussels were beginning to be found in coastal wetlands in western Lake Erie in the late 1990s.” 
More recent research funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative also reveals that native mussels have maintained genetic diversity, a key to any species' long-term survival. 
Again from The Voice: 
Zanatta’s research adds further evidence that progress continues to be made on one of the impairments of the St. Clair River – the degradation of fish and wildlife habitat – that led to its classification as an environmental Area of Concern in 1985. 
His work also sheds light on the complex ecological impacts of invasive species generally. 
With some environmental observers predicting a doomsday scenario for native game fish if Asian carp are able to establish themselves in the Great Lakes, for example, Zanatta’s mussel research suggests that the outlook for native fish might be significantly more positive than forecasts suggest.
To read the full article, click on the link above. 

**Photo of zebra mussels courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant. 


Video series takes behind-the-scenes look at marine careers

Ever wonder what it’s like to live and work on the Great Lakes? Curious what a marine technician aboard a research vessel does exactly? Or an able-bodied seaman for that matter?

You’re in luck. Our marine career videos give you a unique look at the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian and the crew, scientists, and students behind its yearly research cruises. Whether you’re an educator looking to inspire students or are interested in a career in aquatic sciences yourself, these are a must-see.

Each of the nine videos features a different person talking about everything from their role on the ship to the best part of their job to the career steps that brought them there. Videos and photos shot on-location by then-intern Allison Neubauer in 2013 bring Great Lakes monitoring alive and provide a rare look at life on the water.

Listen to the complete five-minute interviews or jump to the questions that appeal most to you using the links in the description. Full transcripts are also available.

The videos are part of a new Lake Guardian website slated to launch later this fall. The site will feature facts, videos, and photos showcasing research conducted on board and the sometimes-unusual equipment used to collect samples. Educators will also find information on upcoming workshops and resources for incorporating Great Lakes science into the classroom. Visitors will even be able to get answers to all their Great Lakes questions directly from Lake Guardian scientists.

The project is led by IISG’s KristinTePas with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  


IISG specialists among the presenters at Illinois Water 2014

IISG staffers are joining scientists, environmentalists, and government representatives today and tomorrow at the   University of Illinois Illini Union for the 2014 Illinois Water Conference. Their presentations will highlight Sea Grant research and programs that are helping to protect aquatic ecosystems in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.

Laura Kammin will kick things off Wednesday morning with a discussion of IISG's 2013 sampling trip on southern Lake Michigan to determine where microplastics are present in the lake and in what quantities. The 16 samples are still being analyzed, but early results reveal that Lake Michigan is polluted with microbeads like the kind used as exfoliants in face and body washes. 

Later that morning, Carolyn Foley and Paris Collingsworth will take part in a session dedicated to understanding the biological state of Lake Michigan. Carolyn will present the results of a collaborative study investigating how inland nutrient sources, such as rivers that flow into the lake, effect round goby populations. The study is part of an ongoing effort to map Lake Michigan’s nearshore food web. For his part, Paris will discuss a cutting-edgemodeling program that uses a variety of statistical tools to find data patterns that previously took months to identify. In its inaugural year analyzing data collected by the Triaxus sensors on the R/V Lake Guardian, the program has helped researchers uncover key differences in water characteristics where river water mixes with Lake Michigan.

During the same time, Adrienne Gulley will introduce attendees to IISG’s pollution prevention program and show how research, outreach, communication, and partnerships are empowering communities throughout the Great Lakes region to make more sustainable decisions. Here presentation is one of several looking at emerging contaminants and advances in wastewater treatment techniques.

The Illinois Water 2014 is a biennial conference hosted by the Illinois Water Resources Center with support from numerous state and federal organizations, including IISG. The event begins today with a plenary session that takes a comprehensive look at the upcoming Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategies. 

On-site registration is available. Visit the conference website, for a full agenda, and follow conference highlights on Twitter


Understanding community perceptions will aid in Trenton Channel cleanup

The Trenton Channel, part of the 32-mile Detroit River, could see a cleanup in 2016 through the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which combines federal funding with local support. Before that can happen though, voluntary partners must agree to help fund this final cleanup stage. The Detroit River is one of 29 remaining Areas of Concern in the U.S., a result of decades of poor environmental practices. The fast-moving Trenton Channel is one of the top sources of pollution in the river system due to its history of industrial and municipal practices.

Scientists and engineers are currently designing a cleanup plan to address approximately 240,000 cubic yards of sediment in the upper portion of the Trenton Channel. A majority of the community surrounding this remediation project is looking with optimism and enthusiasm to the clean-up efforts. Yet these feelings are by no means unanimous. 

Caitie McCoy, IISG social scientist, and her two summer interns—Mark Krupa and Erika Lower—conducted a needs assessment with local stakeholders of Trenton Channel, including environmentalists, recreation enthusiasts, property owners, and city officials. They found that the channel is viewed as important to the region, but that the clean-up plan is viewed with some skepticism.

Caitie explains:
I assumed that everyone would be overjoyed that a sediment remediation project was happening in their community. Yet there were quite a few concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the project. About a third of the stakeholders we interviewed said that cleaning up pollution would provide no significant community benefits. 
This needs assessment has given our outreach team a better sense of what is important to our stakeholders. We have a better sense of what information they want about this project.
Increasingly, social science provides the go-to method for Sea Grant programs to develop informed outreach efforts. In the 2014-2015 research cycle, 29 programs funded 59 social science research projects. Additionally, state Sea Grant programs are hiring social scientists.

More from Caitie:
Large-scale needs assessments are a wise investment for big outreach projects. Needs assessments give us detailed information about our audience concerning a topic of interest--in this case, it was sediment remediation. This information would otherwise be difficult to obtain. Even working with an outreach team composed of local leaders, we make a lot of assumptions about our stakeholders. Needs assessments help us cut through those assumptions so that we can understand what our stakeholders are really interested in or concerned about. This helps us design better messaging and better outreach events for our stakeholders.
To learn more about what the researchers learned from Trenton Channel stakeholders, you can download A Needs Assessment for Outreach in the Detroit River Area of Concern’s Trenton Channel.