On Thursday, March 12th, we had Tim Strakosh in from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to talk with us about their multi-state Lake Michigan Aquatic Invasive Species Early Detection Monitoring Program. Aquatic invasive species have huge ecological and economical impacts wherever they are prevalent. Loss of biodiversity, negative alterations to ecosystem functions, and increased climate change impacts are just a few, not to mention nearly $5.6 billion/year loss in commercial fisheries and $4.5 billion/year loss in sport fisheries in the Great Lakes area. The best resolution is to stop the invasives at the source of entry by first eliminating the inlet channels, then practicing early detection methods, and finally monitoring the ecosystem as a whole.
2014 was the first year this program was fully implemented. The success of the program largely depends on rapid communication with all partners involved, research, and constant outreach and education to the public. Tim is currently working on a risk assessment model to narrow the program and hopefully become more efficient.
Another large part of the AIS program is the e DNA surveillance, currently focused on bighead and silver carp populations. In 2013, there were 1,600 e DNA sample collected in the Great Lakes. By the following year, 2,150 samples were taken just from Lake Michigan, with 4,262 overall. Environmental DNA can be transferred through different vectors, like bird poop or barge ballast water, so that can give false positives. In these cases, extensive sampling would be done over multiple days to ensure the reading.
The AIS program also focuses on macro invertebrate sampling to screen for new mussels and/or amphipods, ichthyoplankton sampling, and nearshore sampling using traditional gear.