The Laurentian Great Lakes is not just the largest freshwater system in the world, it is also an important natural laboratory for scientists who study the potentially negative consequences of aquatic invasive species (AIS). This research, and studies like it all over the world, demonstrate that fish and macroinvertebrates are damaging freshwater and marine communities on a global scale (Mills et al. 1993 & Molnar et al. 2008). As the region becomes ever more connected by industrial activity, trade agreements, and tourism, aquatic invasive species have been given ample opportunity to dominate the Great Lakes and its native species. Indeed, in this vast freshwater system, scientists have discovered one new AIS every eight months since 1959 (Ricciardi 2006). Meanwhile, this overabundance has impacted our economy, biodiversity, and human health (Butchart et al. 2010 and Holeck et al. 2004). Against this dramatic increase of aquatic invasive species, scientists must act quickly to detect new species and preserve the natural resources of the Great Lake Region for future generations.
While researching aquatic invasive species introduction into the Great Lakes, Grigorovich et al. (2003) discovered that the hotspots for AIS are linked to ballast water discharge from ships at busy ports or lake corridors. Following from this discovery the United States Fish and Wildlife Service conducted their AIS Early Detection and Monitoring Program at Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chicago and Calumet, Illinois, and Burns Harbor, Indiana (Hayer & Petasek 2017). In 2017, this program used a combination of bongo nets, light traps, and LED lights to capture larval fish and benthic macroinvertebrates to observe if their abundance is either relatively low or abnormally spreading to new geographical ranges (Hayer et al. 2017 & Hayer 2017). This study showed that in 2017 no new AIS had been discovered in Lake Michigan. While these results are encouraging there is more work to be done with the AIS Early Detection and Monitoring Program.
Following these results, my project (this website/blog) will closely examine the 14,000 larvae that were collected during this study. The goal is for this website to help educate the public about AIS within Wisconsin and provide a tool to help people identify larval and adult fish like sea lamprey, tubenose and round gobies, ruffe, zebra mussels, alewives, white perch, Asian clams, and Asian carp, all of which threaten the Great Lakes. As human activities like water sports and resource transportation continue to increase, these actions will most likely lead even more dramatic changes in AIS abundance (Sala et al. 2000). Furthermore, we recognize that high rates of pollution has Lower Green Bay and the Fox River suffering from eutrophication. This leads to seasonal hypoxic conditions which cause the degradation of water quality while also promoting evermore AIS abundance and diversity (Valenta 2013). These results from the Early Detection and Monitoring Program for aquatic invasive species will help scientists collect samples more efficiently and also convey the importance of this issue to the public.
To have the best chances to catch these specific species (Asian Carp, Ruffe, etc), the USFWS used a combination of bongo nets and quatrefoil light traps (Hayer 2017) at five hotspots. After collecting and preserving the larval fish samples, we used a dissecting microscope (Nikon SMZ-1270) equipped with a camera (Nikon NIS-Elements software) to identify and measure the larvae Shaffer 2016).
The research from Hayer et al. (2017) identified Chicago, Calumet, Burns, Milwaukee, and Green Bay Harbors as the five highest risk locations for aquatic invasive species introduction. These sites are all associated with highly populated areas with ports leading into Lake Michigan.
From the 2017 AIS EDM Program, 14,000 larvae were collected in 26 bongo net tows and 187 light traps. These fish larvae were properly identified, measured, and photographed in order to illustrate what species were caught in each hotspot. The fish can be separated into 16 families or 29 individual species.
Today, aquatic invasive species are continuing to alter the Great Lakes ecosystem. These changes have greatly affected recreation, human health, economy, and ecology. This aquatic invasive species library allows for the community to become better educated while learning the proper way to identify and report them.
Review common terms and illustrations that are associated with aquatic invasive species research.
Review resources and references that were used in order to construct this website, research adult/larval fish species and promote aquatic invasive species education.
I would like to show my gratitude and appreciation to the people, agencies, and UWGB who supported and guided me through this graduate journey.