Fish Fry Day: “FishWerks,” New App to Optimize Fish Barrier Removal

Pretend for a moment that you’re a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scientist tasked with connecting migratory Great Lakes fish to upstream habitats. Let’s say the stream you’re working on has two dams and five impassable road crossings – all blocking fishes like walleye, sturgeon and suckers from getting upstream.

Even the lowly road culvert, can have big impacts on fish passage. Photo: S. Januchowski-Hartley
Even the lowly road culvert can have big impacts on fish passage. Photo: Karen Kalvelage, Wisconsin DNR

Now imagine that you’ve only got enough money to take three of those barriers down. How do you get the biggest “bang for the buck?” Which three removal projects would most positively impact fish populations?
Well, we can finally say that, thanks to research from Center for Limnology faculty, post docs, and students, as well as  tons of work from the WDNR, Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery’s “Optimization” project – there’s now an app for that.
FIshWerks in action. Courtesy: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
FIshWerks will let scientists and resource managers prioritize removal efforts. Courtesy: Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Called “FishWerks,” the new web-based decision support tool can now help folks at places like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service better target barrier removal in Great Lakes tributaries. It’s truly a win-win situation – humans spend less money to achieve greater impact, and fish are reconnected with more prime real estate crucial to carrying out their life cycles.
For more on how optimization works and all of the data and effort that went into making the FishWerks app, check out this excellent piece from the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.
To see FishWerks in action, sit tight and stay tuned – we’ll have more from researchers in Pete McIntyre’s group soon. Happy Fish Fry Day!