Minnesota DNR funds Sorensen Lab $880,000 to advance carp deterrent research at Lock & Dams
The Sorensen Lab received a major boost from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in February when it received $880,000 to advance its research efforts to hold back Asian carp by utilizing the already-present Mississippi River locks and dams.
The project seeks to answer two primary questions: whether ongoing lab and computer simulations are correctly predicting how to modify gate operations to stop Asian carp, and how well the underwater acoustic deterrent system installed in 2014 at Lock & Dam 8 is working . . . all while having minimal effects on native fishes.
“While our one-of-a-kind computer modeling is showing that small changes in gate operating procedures will hold back almost all Asian carp without affecting navigation, it will be very helpful to confirm these predictions and determine what improvements could be made,” said lead researcher Dr. Peter Sorensen.
This work will also provide new insight into native fish behavior in the Mississippi River. At Lock & Dam 2 near Hastings, the research team will track approximately 250 native fish (lake sturgeon, walleye, channel catfish, and bighead buffalo) as well as invasive common carp (as a surrogate to Asian carp) to monitor their behavior under varying velocity flows in the dam. The tendencies and abilities of fish to challenge and move through these fields have never been studied on a fine scale and will inform the velocity flow model.
Additionally, this project will examine how well the Asian carp acoustic deterrent system installed in 2014 at Lock and Dam 8 (near the Minnesota border with Iowa) is functioning. The underwater speaker system, designed and installed by MAISRC researchers with funding from private donors and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, was intended as an emergency experimental measure while other lock deterrent options were being evaluated.
For the first time, researchers will use a type of high-resolution imaging sonar to capture the location of all fish in the lock area when sound is both on and off, which will help us understand more about how their behavior is affected by sound. Previous MAISRC research has shown that carp are more sensitive to sound than many native fishes.
“Together, these systems offer a promising tool for keeping invasive carp back,” said Nick Frohnauer, invasive carp coordinator with the Minnesota DNR. “We are hopeful that this fish passage research will get us the information we need to make sound management and prevention decisions.”
“We are very excited to implement this work as soon as possible,” added Sorensen. The project is anticipated to take 18 months to complete. Watch our website for further developments.