Preventing

Ascertaining whether an enhanced bubble curtain could deter Asian carp movement into small tributaries in a practical manner; immediate installation of sound deterrents in the Mississippi River

Project Manager:

Peter Sorensen

Description:

Project manager: Peter Sorensen

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Description: In 2009, the University of Minnesota developed an enhanced new bubble curtain design that reduces up- and down-stream movement of the invasive common carp by 70-80% (results under peer review). The primary advantage of this new technology is that it is very practical and inexpensive: a simple industrial blower connected to PVC pipes with holes drilled in a specific manner (that costs less than $2,000) can stop about 75% of all common carp. This technology also has the potential to be taxon-specific because it is based on sound and hydrodynamic fields generated by the bubbles and additionally will work safely and efficiently in shallow waters.

Because the silver and bighead carp are just as (and possibly more) sensitive to sound as the common carp, this technology could have great potential for stopping these new, highly invasive species in the hundreds of small tributaries to Minnesota's large rivers that are too expensive and difficult to protect with other methods, such as electrical or mechanical barriers.

In continuation of MAISRC efforts to use sound deterrents to control movement of bighead and silver carp in Minnesota's rivers, and response to the recent report of late-stage bighead carp embryos being found in Mississippi River Pool 9, MAISRC proposes to immediately purchase and install underwater transducers at Lock & Dam #8.

Project start date: 2012

Project end date: 2014

Findings:

This activity installed the first sonic deterrent system in a lock system and clearly demonstrated that enhanced bubble curtains and sound alone can function as behavioral deterrents with potential to selectively control the movement of fish with high sensitivity to sound including the invasive carps. Due to their low cost, ease of installation, safety, and taxon-specific effects, we believe bubble curtains hold great promise for protecting the many low head tributaries connecting with the Mississippi River. In this particular study we investigated the effectiveness of a bubble curtain as a deflection screen which directed carp away from one channel into another and found this approach (vs. blocking) to be especially promising. Using a split passage experimental channel we determined that common carp, silver carp, and bighead carp passage could all be diverted away from a specific channel in the laboratory with a success rate of 82-90%. This rate was approximately 10-15% higher than we noted earlier with a design that simply blocked. It also used 1/10th of the air flow rate.

In addition to demonstrating the diversion functions more efficiently than blocking, we also demonstrated in a different experimental design for the first time in either a freshwater or invasive fish that carps detect and respond to sound in directional manners and thus sound could be used in directional and predictable manner to divert. It is very possible that sound alone produced by speakers could be highly effective in the natural world, especially if sound is engineered correctly. This is important because air curtain use is limited to shallower waters because of possible deflection by water currents, need to produce highly pressurized air, and limited sound pressures generated. Part of a separate grant continues this line of research by evaluating the response, or lack thereof, of native, non-hearing specialist species, lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) and brown trout (Salmo trutta), to an acoustic deterrent to quantify the species specific differences.

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Blocking bighead, silver, and other invasive carp by optimizing lock and dams

Project Manager:

Peter Sorensen

Description:

Project manager: Peter Sorensen

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Project description: Untold numbers of invasive Silver and Bighead carp presently inhabit the Mississippi River below the Iowa border from where they threaten to invade Minnesota. This project proposes to solve this problem by developing a scheme to modify lock and dam structures in Minnesota by enhancing their deterrent properties through four key, linked steps.

Activity 1: Install a safe carp deterrent in front of the lock at Lock and Dam #8 located at the Iowa border while guiding efforts to enhance and optimize velocity fields to stop carp movement through its gates while having minimal effects on native fishes. The goal of this activity is to immediately and safely maximize water velocity through the gates of lock and dam #8 near the Iowa border while deploying a simple and safe acoustical deterrent system in its lock chamber as a stop-gap measure.

Activity 2: Quantify the swimming capabilities of both species of adult Bighead carps, thereby producing the data needed to optimize dam function. Swimming performance data for adult carps are essential to accurately forecast passage and optimize gate function so that velocities are not higher than needed.

Activity 3: Test and develop new acoustical deterrent systems that best deter carp from entering lock chambers which have minimal effects on native fishes. Lock chambers present a potential way for Bigheaded carps to pass upstream, irrespective of gate function. Sound deterrents have special promise because carps are hearing specialists.

Activity 4: Develop numeric solutions to eventually optimize dam operation at all Minnesota lock and dams (#2 through #8) to prevent Bighead carp invasion statewide while having minimal effects on native fishes. The purpose of this activity is to identify potential weaknesses (scenarios by which carp might swim thorough the lock and dams) in Lock and Dam #2 in Hastings and then optimize gate operation to block Bighead carp throughout the entire lock and dam system in Minnesota. Lock and Dam #2 is of special interest because it maintains higher velocities than other dams, is ideally situated far from the invasion front, and is located downstream of the Minnesota River.

Activity 5: In order to test and validate the models previously developed, researchers have radio-tagged invasive common carp (as a surrogate to Asian carp) as well as 250 native fish specimens. They will monitor the tendency and ability of these fish to challenge the increased flow from the dams as well as how they move through or around the dam. This work will occur at Lock and Dam #2.

Activity 6: Researchers will also use high-resolution imaging sonar to capture the location of all fish in the lock area when the acoustical deterrent system is turned on and off, which will show whether and how their behavior is affected by the sound. This work will occur at Lock and Dam #8 and will improve and facilitate implementation of deterrent apparatuses at lock and dam structures on the Mississippi River.

Activity 7: In order to test upstream-migrating silver and bighead carp (instead of common carp), researchers will design and help install an underwater speaker system on the lock gates at Lock and Dam #19 in Iowa.

Activity 8: Develop solutions to address weaknesses in Lock and Dam #4 and optimize its gate operation to prevent passage of invasive carp. This lock and dam system maintains a high velocity than other dams, is situated far from the invasion front, and is located just upstream of Lock & Dam #5, so the two systems can be used in conjunction. The project will include developing a 3D statistical model to calculate water velocities in and around the dam under a variety of conditions; measuring velocities near the dam to validate the model; developing and implementing a computation tool to search through the 3D velocity fields to identify specific swimming pathways that carp could take; and pairing this information with already-known swimming performance data to determine how best to block carp passage while having minimal effect on native fishes.

The final objective of this work is to make explicit recommendations with (and to) the USACE for optimization of all Minnesota lock and dams (#2 through #8) to block the invasion of Bigheaded carps while still serving USACE needs and having minimal effects in native fishes.

Project start date: 2014

Estimated project end date: 2018

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Evaluating zebra mussel spread pathways and mechanisms in order to prevent further spread

Project Manager:

Mike McCartney

Description:

Phase 1 (2013 - 2016):

Project manager: Mike McCartney

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Activity 1: Identification of the sources of inland invasions throughout Minnesota, and the pathways through which zebra mussels have spread throughout the state 

Description: We have completed genotyping and analyzing our first data set, which includes 43 geographic sites, 16 lakes and 3 river systems, and 1,281 mussels at 9 microsatellite marker loci (samples gathered in the fall of 2016). Using genetic methods to study invasion sources and pathways at the scale of a U.S. state is novel. We then expanded our genotyping further to investigate regional spread and the lack of contribution from perceived “super-spreader” lakes. In total, we have now genotyped 2,050 mussels from 40 lakes and 4 rivers at 9 microsatellite markers with a total of 69 geographic sites included. We found that:

  • Genetic diversity in lakes is high. That means that lakes are colonized by large numbers of mussels or larvae.
  • Several lakes are genetically distinct which allows for the study of invasion sources.
  • Genetic clusters identify regional patterns of spread. Minnesota contains three large regions of many lakes – Detroit, Alexandria, and Brainerd Lakes regions – in which infested lakes are clustered. Genetically, lakes within each reach fall into one or more localized genetic clusters found nowhere else in the state. Since mussels in lakes in each region are closely related and genetically unique, we conclude that vectors active within the region have spread genetically similar “colonizing” mussels, from the first lake(s) infested, then from lake to lake. This calls for more efforts to identify and block regional spread vectors.
  • “Super-spreaders” Mille Lacs and Prior Lake have, surprisingly, not infested other lakes in Minnesota. Their super-spreader status is inferred due to high boater traffic. Mille Lacs watercraft inspection data shows that departing boaters next visit a large number of both recently infested and uninfested lakes. We evaluated 35 lakes that were infested after 2005, testing an invasion model in which Mille Lacs served as the source for the new lake, and have not yet detected a single case in which Mille Lacs was selected by the model to be the source.
    This extreme discord between boater movements and genetics must mean that watercraft inspection and decontamination has been effective on Mille Lacs and should be continued — on this and other high traffic lakes.

In light of Sequence-Based Genotyping (SBG) becoming available in 2016, our lab worked with the University of Minnesota Genomics Center to develop a strategy to use SBG for zebra mussel genotyping. This new strategy uses a different enzyme to generate a higher-quality genetic sequence. We are now in the process of analyzing SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data from 13 lakes and four rivers.

Data analysis for sources and pathways of spread is ongoing, particularly with the clustered lakes invasion model for more complex regions. For example, in the Brainerd Lakes region, we are interested in determining whether “stepping stone” spread occurred from Ossawinamakee (the first infested natural inland lake in Minnesota) to other Crow Wing County lakes that were infested later. These complex analyses are being conducted at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. Finally, adequate analysis of SNP data and subsequent model testing is just beginning and will extend into Phase II.

Progress and updates:

Activity 2: Clarifying downstream drift as a mechanism of spread of zebra mussels between lakes

In order to address the risk of spread through downstream drift (the phenomenon of veligers naturally moving in lakes and streams, settling, and founding new populations), samples have been gathered, counted, and photographed using our CPLM-image analysis system. MAISRC team member Maxwell Kleinhans wrote a program that interfaces with Image J software for rapid capture of these images and various analyses of size and shape of larvae, which is now semi-automated. Samples were gathered from the Pelican River, Pine River, Gull River, and Minnehaha Creek. We found that:

  • Settlement occurs immediately downstream of the headwater lake and declines to zero, typically within the first kilometer downstream.
  • Small streams (< 10 m wide) are not good habitat for zebra mussels, so the management issue is not colonization of the stream bottom for most of its length, rather the concern is dispersal of larvae. 
  • The number of larvae leaving infested lakes can range from 10 million to more than a billion per day.
  • Downstream larval dispersal sharply declined with distance, and this decline becomes steeper as summer progresses.
  • Early in the season, it may be possible for veligers to disperse downstream as far as 40 miles in the Pelican system. This could explain the infestation of Dayton Hollow and Orwell Reservoirs below Fergus Falls. 

Progress and updates:

Phase 2 (2017 – 2018):

Population genomics of zebra mussel spread pathways

Phase II of this effort focuses on preventing zebra mussel invasions by developing genetic evidence of spread sources and pathways so that they may be interrupted. It also lays the groundwork for potential biocontrol through genetic modification technologies.

The prevention research will result in direct evidence of sources and pathways for zebra mussel invasions in Minnesota and will provide accompanying prevention management recommendations based on these findings. We will use highly variable population genetic markers called microsatellite DNAs, and variable DNA positions in the zebra mussel genome—Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs—to genetically type zebra mussel populations, and assign these populations to the source waters from which they were carried to infest new waters. We will complete this work for approximately 75 waterbodies, while also creating a database that will enable a more powerful analysis of additional waterbodies that may be studied in the future (e.g. new infestations).

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Estimating overland transport frequencies of invasive zebra mussels

Project Manager:

Mike McCartney

Description:

Project manager: Mike McCartney

Funded by: Brunswick Freshwater Boat Group, Brunswick Public Foundation, Tonka Bay Marina

Description: Zebra mussel invasions of inland lakes in Minnesota are on the rise. In order to develop prevention and control methods, it’s crucial to understand the pathways and mechanisms that are enabling this spread. One suspected source of human-assisted zebra mussel transport is through residual water in recreational boats. The lack of data around this concern (to support it or to rule it out) has led to challenges related to statewide inspection practices and even recreational boat design.

Therefore, the goals of this study are to:

  1. Estimate the relative contributions of different surfaces and compartments on and in recreational boats and trailers to the transport of zebra mussels and their larvae (veligers), focused on measurements of the concentrations of veligers in residual water across a full range of vessel types in Minnesota.

  2. Identify “high-risk” vessel types and “high-risk” areas of watercraft that are likely to transport large volumes of residual water, and evaluate where boat redesign can be targeted to most effectively reduce residual water volumes.

  3. Develop a refined model to assess the risk for residual waters to transport – and thereby spread – live veligers within the state.

This study will partner with the DNR’s watercraft inspection program to collect data on presence and location of adult zebra mussels on seven different watercraft types leaving two popular zebra mussel infested lakes in Minnesota. In addition, a subset of the boats inspected will have residual water – that which is left in a boat after a user has attempted to fully drain it – sampled from various compartments of the watercraft, including live wells and bait wells, bilge areas, ballast tanks (if present), motors and any other location that may potentially transport a zebra mussel. The water will be analyzed for the presence of veligers. Additionally, lab tests and field experiments will determine the ability of veligers to survive in some of these high-risk compartments.

Project start date: 2015

Estimated project end date: 2018

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Eco-epidemiological model to assess aquatic invasive species management

Project Manager:

Nick Phelps

Description:

Project manager: Nick Phelps (Read the Managing Director Conflict of Interest in MAISRC Proposal Funding policy here)

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Description: MAISRC researchers are working to develop a first-of-its-kind eco-epidemiological model that will forecast the potential risk of spread of zebra mussels and starry stonewort across Minnesota. The model will take into account introduction probability, establishment probability, and levels of management interventions. This model will be used as a decision-making tool to generate effective intervention strategies and design cost-effective surveillance programs to mitigate and prevent the spread of AIS.

To establish introduction probability, pathways among lakes will be evaluated based on water connectivity, boater movement, and geographic proximity. To understand the establishment probability, researchers will use next-generation ecological niche modeling techniques with remote sensing data. Cumulatively, this will identify lakes or areas of the state that are at higher risk for AIS, including lakes that are highly vulnerable and lakes that may be “super-spreaders,” both of which will help prioritize management efforts.   

Project start date: 2016

Estimated project end date: 2018

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Determining highest-risk vectors of spiny waterflea spread

Project Manager:

Valerie Brady

Description:

Project manager: Valerie Brady

Funded by: St. Louis County; Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Description: Spiny waterflea are an invasive zooplankton that pose a serious threat to the ecology and recreational value of Minnesota’s waters. Previous studies have shown that over 40% of northern Minnesota lakes provide suitable habitat for spiny waterflea, and human recreational activity is believed to be the primary vector of spread. However, little is known about the specific pathways by which dispersal occurs. This can lead to unclear messaging and directions for recreationalists to prevent further spread.

To learn more about spread and prioritize prevention efforts, researchers will measure the relative risk of spiny waterflea attachment on commonly used recreational equipment including anchor ropes, angling lines, bait buckets, downrigger cables, and live wells. Researchers will sample in the morning and the evening to account for spiny waterfleas’ tendency to migrate closer to the water’s surface at dusk.

Researchers will rank the threat of each type of gear measured, based on both times of day. This specific information will help recreationalists prioritize their cleaning efforts in order to prevent further spread of spiny waterfleas. Results will be disseminated through a marketing campaign in coordination with Minnesota Sea Grant.

Project start date: 2017

Estimated project end date: 2019

Related news:

Inside look

What does sampling lakes for spiny waterflea look like? Find out in this video!

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Decision-making tool for optimal management of AIS

Project Manager:

Nick Phelps

Description:

Project manager: Nick Phelps (Read the Managing Director Conflict of Interest in MAISRC Proposal Funding policy here)

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Description:

This project will develop a decision-making tool to help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, specifically zebra mussels and starry stonewort. The tool will answer two major questions:

  1. Can it get here? To assess this risk, researchers will take into account the geographic proximity to an infested lake, boater movement in Minnesota, and water connectivity.
  2. Can it survive here? This will be answered using species-specific ecological niche models. These suitability models take into account lake and landscape variables such as temperature, precipitation, pH, conductivity, and chlorophyll.

A static version of this model has already been created by a previous MAISRC project. This new model will take that, integrate new data, and build it so it can incorporate up-to-the-minute changes. Once input from counties and other stakeholders is taken into account and the model is finalized, it will be put online in a user-friendly format for AIS managers and agencies to use.

Once the decision optimization model is created, reports will be created and distributed to counties to help them prioritize their resource allocations in order to have the biggest impact on reducing the risk of spread of AIS.

Preventing the spread of AIS through human-associated pathways is a priority for many state and local agencies. A science-based tool to inform planning and decision-making is urgently needed.

Project start date: 2017

Estimated project end date: 2019

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Recognizing high-risk areas for zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil invasions in Minnesota

Project Manager:
Description:

Project manager: Nick Phelps (Read the Managing Director Conflict of Interest in MAISRC Proposal Funding policy here)

Collaborators: Andres Perez and Kaushi Kanankege

Funded by: Minnesota Discovery, Research, and Innovation Economy (MnDRIVE) program and the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) of the University of Minnesota

Description:

The early detection of invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil is crucial to the success of control efforts. However, detecting these species early can be very challenging due to several factors, such as the absence of a surveillance program, relying on public reporting, and limited resource availability, which can result in reporting bias and underreporting.

The goal of this project is to improve the decision-making process and prevent the spread of AIS by implementing risk-based prevention and mitigation management strategies. This project combines clustering detection, network analysis, and probability co-kriging to recognize dispersal patterns and estimate the risk of zebra mussel and Eurasian watermilfoil invasions while attempting to account for the reporting bias and for underreporting. 

To evaluate the areas of highest risk for zebra mussel infestations, researchers looked at distance to the nearest zebra mussel infested water body, boater traffic, and road access. The Eurasian watermilfoil model was similar, looking at connectivity to infested water bodies instead of road access. Results are confirming that zebra mussel and Eurasian watermilfoil invasions are potentially confounded by human densities, which is explained by varying human impact on either or both dispersal and reporting of invasions. Considering this impact of human density, this research suggests that a combination of passive and targeted surveillance, where the magnitude of efforts are stratified by human densities, may provide insight into the true invasion status and its progression in the Great Lakes region.

Project start date: 2014

Estimated project end date: 2017

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