Alligator Gar vs. Asian Carp, and Conservation of Ancient Fishes

ASF - NatGeo - Gar vs Carp

Alligator Gars have been in the media quite a bit recently, primarily regarding their potential as a “weapon against Asian Carp.” But is carp control really the purpose of their reintroduction in several states, most recently in Illinois? Even if that were the case, would these ancient giants make a difference versus the gargantuan numbers of Bighead and Silver Carps?

I had the opportunity to provide some background and further insight through our National Geographic blog channel at Shedd Aquarium. Please read, share, and there will certainly be more to come!

The Latest on Asian Carp and Threat to the Great Lakes

Here’s the latest press release on the recent Asian Carp eDNA results near Lake Michigan via Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN). Comments to follow soon, but need to emphasize these are eDNA results, and positive samples have been found above the electric barrier before. Media headlines are likely to sensationalize these results as in the past.

Asian Carp Shedd 2005a

New Data Show Multiple Asian Carp eDNA Hits Just Yards from Lake Michigan

(Wednesday, January 14, 2015) Chicago, IL – Asian carp continue to knock on the door of the Great Lakes, based on eDNA sampling results released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The sampling data, collected in October, show the presence of bighead or silver carp DNA throughout the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). Most alarming is detection of carp DNA very near the lock in downtown Chicago – less than one city block from Lake Michigan.

In the face of this threat, last winter the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Great Lakes-Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) with no clear recommendation for next steps to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. The GLMRIS report does, however, identify restoring the natural divide between the two waterways as the one long-term solution effective in preventing the movement of aquatic invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. The report identified 13 invasive species at significant risk of moving between the waterways. Despite this finding, agencies and elected officials have yet  to commit to this solution.

A committee of key, diverse regional stakeholders known as the “Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee” has been formed with a goal to reach consensus on a set of recommendations to elected and appointed local, state and federal officials and the public on short-and long-term measures to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from moving between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins through the CAWS. The Advisory Committee is working toward a deadline of Dec. 15, 2015, with interim work products as appropriate.

In the shorter term, the people of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins need quick action to reduce the risk of invasive species moving between these two great waters. While no substitute for a permanent solution to the problem, immediate risk-reduction steps can be taken, including:

  • Design of a new engineered channel to be constructed in the approach to the Brandon Road lock, a potentially effective location for reducing one-way movement of species towards the Great Lakes;
  • Evaluation, engineering, and design of control technologies to deploy in the approach channel and the Brandon Road lock structure; and
  • Research to further evaluate reconfiguring locks as a means to control aquatic invasive species while maintaining the health of native aquatic life and habitat.

DNA evidence is an early detection tool to understand the potential movement of carp, and testing results have consistently found DNA hits on a path closer and closer to the Great Lakes over the past several years of testing.  We cannot afford to wait until a  breeding population shows up in the Chicago River. Prevention needs to happen now, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other key decisionmakers should take swift action.

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Background: The recently released U.S. Fish and Wildlife eDNA results can be found here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/fisheries/eDNA/results/caws/2015-01-05/2015-01-05.html

Media Contacts:

Jennifer J. Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes: (312) 445-9760,  jcaddick@greatlakes.org

Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council: (312) 651-7909, jmogerman@NRDC.org

Katrina Phillips, Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter: (312) 251.1680 x 116, katrina.phillips@sierraclub.org

Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation: (734) 887-7116, msmith@nwf.org

Robert Hirschfeld, Prairie Rivers Network: (217) 344-2371 x205, rhirschfeld@prairierivers.org

Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper: (414) 287-0207 x2, cheryl_nenn@milwaukeeriverkeeper.org

Lee Willbanks, Save The River – Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper: (315) 686-2010, lee@savetheriver.org

Todd Ambs, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition: (608) 692-9974, AmbsT@nwf.org

Kristy Meyer, Ohio Environmental Council: (614) 487-7506, Kristy@theOEC.org

reBlog Primitive Fishes: First Gar-Spotting in the Second City

 

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)

After recent conversations with colleagues* at the Field Museum, Case Western, and Twitter, I was inspired to expand upon the background and potential implications of the recent first finding of a Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) in the Chicago Area Waterways System (CAWS). I will be doing so across Primitive Fishes, Lepisosteidae.net, and here, and will link across the sites too. My first post, to bring interested parties up to speed, can be found here:

First Gar-Spotting in the Second City

Next entry coming soon!–

–solomon

*THANKS Drs. R.Oldfield & C.McMahan (@mugilidsrock), E.Graslie (@Ehmee), and D.Jakubiak (@DavidELPC)!

 

Great Lakes Fishes on TV!

Logperch DPTV Promo 1

This past Wednesday* I had the great opportunity to join colleagues/researchers from The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and United States Geological Survey (USGS) to discuss Great Lakes native fisheries on an episode of “Great Lakes Now Connect,” a series by Detroit Public Television.

The episode summary from the Great Lakes Now website follows, and the full episode is available in segments at the links below. This was in front of a live studio audience (also live streamed), and was also a lot of fun! When my background on studying the spotted gar came up, I even managed to get in a “Go BLUE!” at about 6:50 in my interview.

GLNC - Go Blue

Received an entertaining response from host Christy McDonald (an MSU graduate) when I said “Go BLUE!” after mentioning my alma mater (where I studied the Spotted Gar).

Program Summary from Great Lakes Now:

The Nature Conservancy and Detroit Public Television are excited to bring you another episode of Great Lakes Now: Connect digging deep into the science behind Great Lakes issues.

The Great Lakes once boasted as many as 150 species of fish in their vast waters that comprise the largest freshwater system on Earth. Today, some of those species are gone forever while the populations of others are greatly reduced. Native Great Lakes fish populations face serious threats from aquatic invasive species, degraded habitat, pollution and obstructions that block fish passage. What is being done to restore Great Lakes native fisheries to their former glory? Find out as we discuss the challenges and solutions facing Great Lakes fish on this next episode of Great Lakes Now Connect: Fisheries.
For more information on Fisheries please visit: The Nature Conservancy

Hosted by award-winning journalist Christy McDonald, and moderated by The Nature Conservancy’s Dr. Patrick Doran, Director of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy. Special guests included Dr. Solomon David of Shedd Aquarium and University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Maureen Walsh of United States Geological Survey, and Randy Claramunt of The Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Episode Sections:

Video 1- Jim Johnson has devoted his life’s work to protecting fisheries in Alpena, Michigan.

Discussion Panel 1- Patrick Doran (TNC), Maureen Walsh (USGS), Randy Claramunt (DNR)

Guest Interview – Christy McDonald (host) interviews Solomon David (Shedd Aquarium/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Video 2- Restoring Reef Habitats

Discussion Panel 2 – Patrick Doran, Maureen Walsh, Randy Claramunt, Solomon David

Audience Question & Answer

*In conjunction with TNC and Shedd Aquarium, we also put together a “tweet up” (twitter chat) on Great Lakes native fishes on 10/22 to kick off the discussion. The opening image is one of our promos, I’ll post others soon. You can check out the tweet up conversations as well as live tweets from the Great Lakes Now Connect episode by tracking #GLfish!

Sturgeons in (actually from) Space!

We are currently en route with a research team to Southern Illinois University to test our new satellite “pop-off” tags for our upcoming Lake Sturgeon project. These “sat-tags” are attached to fish and eventually “pop off” at a set time (weeks, months, year) and upload their data to a satellite.) We will meet with fellow researchers to test attachment methods and ultrasound techniques on aquacultured Shovelnose (and possibly Pallid) Sturgeon (serving as proxy for Lake Sturgeon).

We will then apply these techniques to our upcoming fieldwork with US Fish & Wildlife partners this spring/early summer, when we will be tracking Lake Sturgeon in the Niagara River between Lakes Erie & Ontario to investigate what these fish do during the non-spawning season. Stay tuned, and thanks in advance to SIU colleagues for hosting us!–

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Your Inner Fish – New PBS Series

Primitive fishes, the development of life on Earth, the city of Chicago, and MUCH more…very excited to share the promo video for the upcoming PBS series “Your Inner Fish”, which is based on the best-selling book by fish paleontologist Dr. Neil Shubin (University of Chicago).

Feel free to check out the website below for more info on the series, and the promo video is well worth the watch!

Website:
http://www.pbs.org/your-inner-fish/about/overview/

Freshwater Biodiversity & New IUCN Atlas

I had the opportunity to write a guest blog for the Huffington Post on the importance of freshwater biodiversity in connection with the new IUCN online freshwater biodiversity atlas. See link below; extended post coming soon!

Guest Blog for Huffington Post

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-UPDATES (brief, but long overdue)!!!–

-Hi All,

Many apologies for the lack of updates over the past many months, the transition from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) to my postdoc at Shedd Aquarium (Chicago)/University of Wisconsin (Madison) kept me quite busy to say the least!  I will try to update more consistently, but for now, please see the following image/link to an overview of some of our Great Lakes migratory fishes work at Shedd Aquarium/U-Wisconsin Madison which will be featured in blog updates for National Geographic!  More field pics to come from my current field work here in Green Bay, WI (tracking migratory northern pike Esox lucius)!–

–solomon

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-SNRE Biostation Orientation featured on the U-M homepage!–

-The School of Natural Resources & Environment new student orientation at the U-M Biological Station (Pellston, MI) is currently featured on the U-M homepage!  Main photo shows me with several new students during the electrofishing activities on the Sturgeon River near UMBS.  I’ve helped out/led the electrofishing activities for 5 years (this year was my final year), and we have always caught some big fishes!  Photos by SNRE’s fantastic Media/Web Administrator Dave Brenner.–

-Migrating to the Windy City!–

-It’s official!  I have accepted a postdoctoral research position at the D.P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago!  This is also a joint position with University of Wisconsin – Madison (I’ll be primarily based out of Chicago).  My research supervisors will be Dr. Chuck Knapp (Shedd Aquarium) and Dr. Pete McIntyre (University of Wisconsin).  The research will focus primarily on Great Lakes migratory fishes, although we will be developing other aquatic conservation ecology projects as well.  I’ll be going through a transitional period between Ann Arbor and Chicago this fall, which will allow me to wrap up my current research/work at the University of Michigan while also learning the ropes at Shedd/U-Wisconsin.  I have several other updates to post, and will try to keep up as the current research concludes and the new projects start up!–