Another Busy Summer in Northern Wisconsin Pt. 1

As temperatures gently fall alongside the colored leaves in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, the summer field season at the Center for Limnology’s Trout Lake Station draws to a close. For three months, students and researchers tirelessly sampled, surveyed and studied northern temperate lakes in Northern Wisconsin. We wanted to highlight some of the novel and interesting research underway at Trout Lake.
Bioeconomics of Aquatic Invasive Species
To study the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS), Center for Limnoloy researchers are turning to not only ecology, but also economics to build a working model. This approach examines the intersection between biological and human factors in determining a lake’s vulnerability to invasion. By looking at the abundance and distributions of invasive species and while also mapping out boater movements among Wisconsin lakes, researchers can better predict the movement of invasive organisms.
The 4-year NSF funded project involves two research teams—one surveys lakes and the other surveys boaters.
Graduate student Alex Latzka and his crew of five undergraduate students sampled just under 50 lakes this summer to predict the abundance of AIS across the region and determine the probability that an invasive will become abundant in the future. At each lake, the team looked for seven focal species: Eurasian Watermilfoil, Curlyleaf Pondweed, Rusty Crayfish, Chinese Mystery Snails, Banded Mystery Snails, Spiny Water Flea and Zebra Mussels. By snorkeling, trapping and sampling at each lake, the crew measures the density of AIS and records the habitat (vegetation/rock cover, temperature, calcium, conductivity, etc.) of each population.
The twin component of the project, human transport of AIS, seeks to track and predict boater movements. Researchers can explore the spread of AIS by looking at where boaters are likely to go and the probability of choosing other lakes in the future. Specifically, they are looking at the extent to which certain characteristics of lakes attract boaters and the tradeoffs involved with AIS. By combining this information with the biological insights, researchers can build an integrated model to predict AIS invasion.
Ben Beardmore, PhD dissertator, and his boater survey crew have been recruiting participants for an ongoing trip diary program. The crew travels to boat landings around the Northwoods and distributes surveys to boaters. If participants wish to continue their involvement in the project, they can record details of every boat trip in 2-page journal entries. In return, participants receive $5 for completing the initial survey and a chance to win $50 for every diary they send in.
This summer, the crew distributed over 1700 surveys at various boat landings throughout the Northwoods. The group will begin data analysis in the fall and will also distribute a follow-up survey, which asks more complex questions about attitudes toward lake management and action against invasive species.

2 thoughts on “Another Busy Summer in Northern Wisconsin Pt. 1”

  1. Hi,
    Seems to be a worthwhile study. Do the AIS have a direct effect on the fish or is it more of an indirect link? ie do the AIS reduce the amount of available natural food source to the fish or the AIS bring waterbourne disease that can pass on to the wildlife of the lake?

    1. Hi Andy,
      The answer is “all of the above.” In some instances an aquatic invasive species directly affects native fish. For example, in the 1940’s and 50’s, sea lamprey (which attach to larger fish and parasitically feed off their blood) nearly wiped out lake trout. In other cases, an AIS (like the quagga mussel or round goby) will simply consume a ton of food at one level of the food web, affecting fish higher up by greatly reducing availability of their food source. And, yes, even disease is a problem, for example, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) is a big problem in many fisheries and was probably brought in in ballast water or by infected fish.

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