July 2014 Newsletter
Letter from the Director
Two years ago, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) was launched at the "U."
Minnesotans treasure the state's lakes and other freshwater systems and recognize the increased threat posed by some aquatic species arriving from far parts of the world. Several aquatic invaders including common carp, water milfoil, curly leaf pondweed and purple loosestrife have already transformed many Minnesota lakes and wetlands. Native species have been displaced, fisheries declined, water quality diminished. ;
Aquatic invasive species seem unstoppable – the vast numbers defy control by conventional methods. But there is still hope. Our best shot is to develop specific control approaches that target some aspect of a particular invader's biology—a key vulnerability. This worked for purple loosestrife—over a decade ago, U scientists developed an effective bio-control approach using host-specific insect pests. We think there are more of these kinds of solutions yet to be discovered.
MAISRC was established to expand the state's capacity to search for solutions to invaders that are already well-established, those that are currently spreading, and others that are "at our door step". Recent invaders, like zebra mussels, and the growing list of species poised to enter Minnesota's waters creates an urgency to accelerate research on AIS. During the past two years, MAISRC received funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (the "lottery funds"), Clean Water Fund, the legislature, businesses, lake shore associations, and individual citizens to get things rolling. A major expansion of research has required hiring new scientists, renovating and retooling labs, and developing specific research plans of actions. We're in the thick of this "building" phase of the Center but also moving ahead with key research projects. We'll be sharing news of MAISRC research and other Center activities in this newsletter, which will come to you bimonthly.
Ramping up research while simultaneously developing the Center has been exciting, although very challenging. In order to move forward on both fronts, MAISRC's founding director, Dr. Peter Sorensen, is now focused on leading carp research projects, which are the most extensive efforts within the Center. Since May, I've been serving as the Center Director. This leadership transition has been very smooth, thanks in large part to Associate Director Becca Nash, who has guided many aspects of MAISRC since its inception.
Your continued interest and support in solving Minnesota's aquatic invasive species challenges is essential for the success of MAISRC and related statewide initiatives. If, in thirty years, our lakes and rivers have not been over-run with invasive species, it will be because of concerted action by citizens, university researchers, and natural resource organizations.
I look forward to working with many of you in the coming years.
Dr. Susan Galatowitsch
Director, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center
Zebra mussel research launched
While the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has greatly expanded its inspection and decontamination program, it's difficult to target prevention efforts because little is known about how zebra mussels spread and there still isn't a reliable way to know if a lake has been infested--until adult mussels have been discovered, and this can be hit-or-miss.
With new funds being provided to Minnesota counties starting this year, the demand for this type of information is increasing. People need to know how and where to target prevention efforts for the best chance of stopping these invaders.
Dr. Michael McCartney, research assistant professor with the MAISRC, is looking for ways to help managers make these kinds of decisions. Using the most modern molecular genetics tools available, he aims to determine the sources of invasion of Minnesota's inland waters so prevention efforts can target lakes at highest risk of future invasions. He also hopes to develop early detection methods for zebra mussels and their microscopic larvae, called veligers. Current methods are time-consuming and subject to error. Dr. McCartney believes that if he can develop a highly sensitive and rapid water test to detect the presence of zebra mussel veligers, containment and control actions can be triggered before an infestation becomes a problem. This will become increasingly important as molluscicides (e.g., Zequanox) become available for limited application. The initial phase of Dr. McCartney's work is expected to conclude in 2016.
Researchers start assembling an experimental Bigheaded ('Asian') carp deterrent system
An amplifier housing unit, MP3 player, over 1,100 feet of underwater speaker wire, and a portable shed serve as components of the control system for a carp deterrent system that Dr. Dan Zielinski and Dr. Peter Sorensen plan to have installed at Lock & Dam #8 near the Iowa border this summer. Once flood waters recede and final approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been granted, scuba divers will attach underwater transducers (speakers) to the outside doors of the lock chamber. When the chamber doors open, the transducers will play sounds that the researchers have shown in the laboratory to deflect Bighead and Silver carp away from the sound source, hopefully preventing these invasive species from locking through with boats and swimming upstream.
Installation of this sound deflection shield is the first step of a multi- year effort by researchers to identify relatively inexpensive and safe ways to enhance the deterrent properties of the existing Lock and Dam system without interfering with navigation. Next, researchers will study the swimming capabilities of adult Bighead and Silver carp as well as the velocities of flowing through the Dam gates. These data will be used by Dr. Zielinski to model ways the Army Corps of Engineers can modify its gate operations so that the velocities exceed the ability for Asian carp to swim through it without increasing scour. Additional studies are also being conducted to ensure there will be minimal effects on native fishes. Watch the Center's Facebook page for updates on the installation later this summer!
No VHS virus found in Minnesota waters to date; concern remains high
Dr. Nicholas Phelps, Assistant Professor in the UMN College of Veterinary Medicine and MAISRC researcher, has found no presence of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) in Minnesota lakes and rivers near the end of his two year screening project with the Center. VHSV is a highly contagious virus that causes hemorrhaging, anemia, and eventual organ failure in susceptible fish such as walleye, northern pike, perch and bass.
As part of the screening effort, Dr. Phelps tested 4,522 fish collected from 36 popular lakes and rivers around the state, including Lake Vermillion, Leech Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Mille Lacs, and Pool 2 of the Mississippi River.
The deadly virus has been found in Wisconsin inland lakes and western waters of Lake Superior and has been associated with large scale fish kills in several Great Lakes states. The virus is spread by moving infected fish, water, and equipment from one body of water to another and from the natural migration and movement of infected fish.
State law requires bodies of water to be certified free of the virus before VHSV-susceptible fish can be moved to other lakes within the state, therefore tested lakes included those frequented by aquaculture and wild baitfish harvesters.
While no VHSV has been detected in Minnesota to date, the threat of introduction remains a concern for the state's fish health managers who worry that an introduction could have potentially devastating impacts on the state's aquaculture and commercial and sport fishing industries. Managing the spread of VHSV can be achieved with similar methods used to control other aquatic invasive species: Drain the water, dry the equipment, and dispose of bait.
Bonding dollars secured for critical lab updates
New funding has been made available as of July 1 to modernize the Research Center's Central Holding and Research Facility. MAISRC will finalize design plans and anticipates construction to begin this winter. Renovations will create a new water supply and treatment system, new experimental spaces, and controlled environments so that we can hold and study, among other things, zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian carp, and pathogens that could be used to control AIS. A critical first step of replacing an old failing well has been successfully completed with support from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Clean Water Fund.
The Research Center is Hiring!
The MAISRC is looking for a 75% time communications specialist, a full-time Post- Doctoral Associate to help with zebra mussel research, and a 50% time post Post-Doctoral Associate to model novel/emerging diseases in invasive fish. Please click here for more information and to apply.
Upcoming MAISRC talk
Several MAISRC researchers will be giving presentations at the upcoming Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference, taking place in Duluth October 20- 22, 2014. Topics include integrated pest management tools and strategies for common carp, Asian carp, VHSV, invasive plants (such as phragmites and watermilfoil) and more. Please see the UMISC conference website and program schedule for more information.
Dr. Nicholas Phelps and Dr. Sunil Mor will be discussing invasive diseases affecting fish in their presentations at the Associate Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health the first week of September.
Paper linking carp control, water quality and nutrient cycling in lakes published
MAISRC researchers Dr. Przemyslaw Bajer and Dr. Peter Sorensen have published a paper on the effects of common carp on water quality, vegetation density and nutrient cycling in Lake Susan, which is part of the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Chain of Lakes in Hennepin County, Minnesota. It is one of few studies worldwide where carp have been selectively removed from an entire lake to more directly determine their effects on lake ecology over a several-year period. It shows that while the effects on vegetation and water clarity are pronounced, the role of carp in phosphorus cycling of stratified lakes may be subtler than previously suggested. The paper, published in the international journal Hydrobiologia, can be found here.
Dr. Daniel Zielinski and Dr. Sorensen have published a paper documenting a 75–85% success rate of bubble curtains in inhibiting movement of common carp. A link to the paper, which was published in the journal Environmental Engineering can be found here.
A paper by MAISRC researcher Dr. Nicholas Phelps entitled "Risk-Based Management of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus in Minnesota" has been published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management and can be found here.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center's establishment and initial research has been possible with significant funding through the Legislature from the State's Clean Water Fund and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources ("LCCMR"). MAISRC needs to leverage these funds in order to find solutions to Minnesota's AIS problems: support from private donors is essential! Here are two recent examples:
When researchers needed to buy underwater transducers (see Researchers start assembling an experimental Bigheaded ('Asian') carp deterrent system, above) ahead of the time that new ENRTF funds would be available, private citizens stepped forward to provide financial support. Together with reprogramed existing funds approved by LCCMR, we were able to meet our goal and get the transducers purchased.
Dr. McCartney was able to both purchase specialized equipment for his research and get a head start on his sampling season (see Zebra mussel research launched, above), thanks in large part to the support of private individuals and a generous lake association.
Private donations can make a difference! If you or your organization has an interest in helping to advance the Center's efforts to find solutions to AIS problems, please contact Becca Nash, Associate Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.624.7785.
Thank you to all our supporters and partners for helping to make the Center's work possible!