Unveiling of the Great River Road Interpretive Center

Dignitaries Congressman Ron Kind, Wisconsin 3rd District (left), Tom Melius (center) USFWS Midwest Region Director and Sherry Quamme, Chair of Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission dedicate the interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley , USFWS

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are pleased to announce the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center in Genoa, Wisconsin. Regional Director Tom Melius joined Congressman Ron Kind and other dignitaries to mark the grand opening at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery on June 1, 2018. A large, eye-catching, yellow and white tent stood on the grounds of the hatchery as a crowd of staff, supporters, friends and local-area families gathered in anticipation of the celebration.

Nearly five years in the making, construction of the center began on August 21, 2013 with a commemorative groundbreaking ceremony on hatchery grounds. The project was partially funded by a National Scenic Byways grant, making Genoa the first national fish hatchery to be awarded Department of Transportation, Federal Highway – National Scenic Byways funds.

“This center represents an exciting achievement as it was made possible due to a first-of-its-kind grant to a national fish hatchery,” said Melius.

Those in attendance enjoyed a beautiful day as they gathered for the formal dedication ceremony near the new interpretive center. Credit: Megan Bradley, USFWS

As part of the celebration Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s 3rd District presented the hatchery with a framed statement for the Congressional Record in honor of the opening. “I am honored to be here in Genoa celebrating the opening of the Great River Road Interpretive Center, which honors a precious natural resource and economic engine in western Wisconsin – the Mississippi River,” said Kind.

The new facility offers visitors opportunities to learn about the natural resources of the Upper Mississippi River. Educational exhibits go beyond the story of the hatchery and feature significant histories of the area, including how native mussels were a part of the pearl button industry and the Battle of Bad Axe, the final battle of the Black Hawk War.

“We’re hoping that people get an appreciation of the region, not only the intrinsic value of the natural resources, but also the history,” said Genoa National Fish Hatchery Manager Doug Aloisi.

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekends. There is no fee for entry.

Learn more about the Genoa National Fish Hatchery and plan your visit!

 

Mudpuppies Ready for Service

Mudpuppy eggs laid on the under side of a piece of plywood. Credit: USFWS

A mudpuppy ready for use as a salamander mussel host. Credit: USFWS

    BY NATHAN ECKERT, GENOA NFH

The salamander mussel is the only North American freshwater mussel that uses something other than a fish as its larval host. The mudpuppy, a large salamander, is the known host of the salamander mussel, and they can be difficult to collect for use in mussel propagation. Through partnerships with the USGS we were able to acquire a population of adult mudpuppy to use as captive broodstock for propagation. In June 2016 we collected eggs from a successful spawn of our captive broodstock in one of the hatchery ponds. We then rolled the eggs in an egg jar as we do for walleye or trout until they hatched. From there the young continued to develop and were given a diet of brine shrimp until they were large enough to eat frozen bloodworms. Their diet has consisted solely of frozen bloodworms ever since, with the exception of a small batch of crayfish after pond harvest last fall.For the last year they have been held in a recirculating system in the mussel building at a constant temperature of 70° Fahrenheit. Over that time the animals have constantly gained about two grams of weight each per month. In fish culture we generally think of weight as the number of fish per pound, and using that metric our mudpuppies are currently at 10 per pound. The reason that we’ve raised this batch of mudpuppy is for them to serve as hosts for propagation of the salamander mussel at Genoa NFH. Salamander mussel glochidia attach to the gills and skin of the mudpuppy and transform from larvae to juveniles over the course of a few weeks in the spring. Last year we felt that the young mudpuppies were too small to serve as effective hosts, but this year they will be the focal point of our restoration efforts. It took a year to gather the broodstock and ultimately two additional years to grow the animals, but now we are ready to take our salamander mussel restoration efforts to the next level. Not all mussel restoration projects take this much planning and effort, but in unique cases it is good to know that we have the ability to solve an issue like access to the suitable host.

KIDS FISHING DAY LARGEST EVER

All,

Thanks so much for all of your hard work in the preparation and execution of the Kids Ice Fishing Day at Genoa NFH on Saturday February 3 this year.


We had 648 attendees, volunteers, Friends and staff from the 3 La Crosse area Fisheries Offices at the event, the largest attendance so far. To top this off most of the promotion for the event was contained to social media or just word of mouth. Included in this number were 330 children, our targeted audience. Many smiles were witnessed and everyone that attended caught at least one fish.

 

Thanks again for all that you do for our Mississippi Basin fish and wildlife resources and for helping us put the love of the outdoors into the next generation through events like these!

Sincerely, doug

Doug Aloisi,Genoa National Fish Hatchery

Genoa’s Commitment to the Recovery of Endangered Aquatic Species

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery’s mission at its inception in 1932 was to provide sport fish for area waters, but with the advent of the Endangered Species Act in 1975, our mission has shifted to include the recovery of endangered aquatic species. Genoa also collaborates with several state and federal hatcheries along with a commitment to providing support to federally recognized tribes to assist in their conservation and resource management programs. Genoa helps tribes to restore native species and to manage fish and mussel species. Currently Genoa is also working to recover 5 Federally listed mussel species including the Higgins eye, Winged Maple Leaf, Sheepnose, Snuffbox and Spectaclecase.   Our mussel biologists propagate these species, in addition to other species, to be released back to their native habitat. We also occasionally work on NRDA (Natural Resources Damage Assessment) projects in assessing and mitigating damages done to mussel populations. With the help of our mussel biologists Genoa has produced 14.7 million mussels spanning 17 species.

In addition to endangered mussels Genoa also aims to help in the recovery of the Lake Sturgeon, which is a listed species in several states, coaster brook trout, and lake trout. Genoa’s Lake Sturgeon program peaks in the summer months.

Eggs are brought to the hatchery where they will hatch and grow to approximately 6 inches where they are then tagged with a coded wire and distributed to various locations.Our longest trip for Lake Sturgeon distribution is the St. Lawrence River in New York.

The coaster brook trout are raised for restoration purposes in the Grand Portage Tribal Reservation in Minnesota in Lake Superior tributaries. Last but not least the lake trout are raised in our quarantine facility where they live for 18 months until they are determined free of any fish pathogens, and then distributed to captive brood stock hatcheries to produce eggs for restoration programs in the Great Lakes. All our fish on station go through a rigorous series of health certifications. Genoa has also recently added a new endangered species to culture, the Hines Emerald Dragonfly.

In conjunction with researchers from University of South Dakota we are working to improve the survival of the Dragonfly in its larval state. Larvae are transferred to their natural habitat, specifically in the Des Plaines Illinois area, where they emerge and hopefully are able to live out their lives naturally. In addition to our commitment to the recovery of several species, Genoa also aims to educate the next generation by hosting various educational programs allowing area youth to enjoy the outdoors and get an up close and personal view of our target species.

By Erin Johnson

You Can’t Release Just One: Higgins’ eye mussel release and new site surveys

August of 2017 saw the start of a long term project releasing Higgins’ eye mussels into the Chippewa River. Isn’t this just more of the same in mussel releases you ask? Hardly, because Higgins’ eye have been extirpated from this river for decades. The Chippewa is a great place to start a new population of Higgins’ eye mussels because it’s at a relatively low risk of invasion by zebra mussels and is occupied by other rare mussel species including the sheepnose and recently reintroduced winged mapleleaf. What does a mussel release look like? A bit like the crowd gathered around an invisible finish line. A grid 10 meters long and one meter tall was laid on the river bottom and used to keep the mussels at a steady abundance. Ten people, biologists, managers and volunteers wearing masks and snorkels, each placed four mussels in their square before flipping the grid over and over and over until all of the mussels were released. Every mussel was tagged with a small piece of plastic with a specific color and number in the weeks before so when they are found again they can be identified; 100 had passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags attached to their shells. Each of these tags will help us look at the success of starting the mussel population here. Looking forward from 2017, many more Higgins’ eye mussels will need to be released into the Chippewa River system in order to create a population there that can survive without regular addition of more mussels. To this end a team of biologists from Genoa Fish Hatchery, Region 3 Ecological Services Office, the Wisconsin Depart-ment of Natural Resources and the Midwest Fish-eries Center spent a day in the Chippewa looking for more sites with many different mussel species, young mussels and good numbers of species that use the same hosts as Higgins’ eye and were very successful. Four additional places were found and plans are already in the works for a 2018 release at the site closest to this year’s release. By Megan Bradley

Clockwise from top: Volunteers, U.S.FWS staff and WI DNR staff turning over the 1 meter grid for releasing Higgins’eye into the Chippewa River; Genoa National Fish Hatchery Staff and WI DNR staff scouting for new release locations for Higgins’eye in the Chippewa River; Hallprint and PIT tagged Higgins’eye mussels before release into the Chippewa, (notice the natural differences in color of their shells).

Moving the Needle Toward Recovery: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Honors Midwest Recovery Champs

Innovation, expertise and decades of effort on behalf of imperiled species highlight the accomplishments of two Midwest biologists named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as 2016 Endangered Species Recovery Champions. The Midwest champions are among 31 individuals and teams across the United States named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work with endangered and threatened species.

Recovery Champion Robert Dana, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is a renowned expert on butterflies. Credit: USFWS

Dr. Robert Dana, a biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, was honored for his more than 40 years of work and vast knowledge of butterflies, especially the threatened Dakota skipper and the endangered Poweshiek skipperling, two prairie butterflies.

“Dr. Dana has played a critical role in the effort to conserve these two butterfly species,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “His expertise with prairie habitat and uncommon ability to identify species in the field, together with his insight on their life history and willingness to share his hard-earned knowledge, have been critical in finding a path to recovery for the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling.”

Dana is currently working with the Service, the Minnesota Zoo and The Nature Conservancy to reintroduce Dakota skippers in southwestern Minnesota. He is also working to prevent extinction of the Poweshiek skipperling, a highly imperiled species which may already be gone from Minnesota.Dana has played an integral role in establishing captive rearing programs for both species.

Angela Dagendesh, Assistant Project Leader at Genoa National Fish Hatchery, was recognized for her work with endangered Hine’s emerald dragonflies. Credit: USFWS

 

The Service also recognized Angela Dagendesh, assistant project leader at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, for her work to recover the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. These dragonflies overwinter in crayfish burrows during their life cycle; Dagendesh designed a system to rear Hine’s emerald dragonflies at the hatchery that mimics the living conditions found in the wild.  “Angela’s  work is moving the needle toward recovery for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly,” Melius said.  “Thanks in great part to her efforts, we have been able to improve our program and shorten the time it takes to produce adult dragonflies. This is very exciting for recovery of this species.” Dagendesh was noted for working closely with partners, including the Chicago Field Museum and the University of South Dakota, to share resources and technology and to reach out to the public about the Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007, the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

Kalamazoo Trailer on site

Trying to operate and maintain a full blown culture system from an eight hour drive is a daunting task, but every year at about this time Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) begins packing the 8 foot by 24 foot work trailer that will be home to upwards of 1,500 young lake sturgeon for the summer. If all  goes well, and the egg collection efforts are successful, around 3,000 eggs from Michigan’s Allegan Dam spawning site on the Kalamazoo River will be disinfected and enter the trailer unit. In preparation for this, every year we have a training program. Originally the training was for our streamside trailer staff, but it has recently become training for other conservation partners that are beginning their own streamside rearing trailer efforts.  This year staff from the Toledo Zoo and our Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) in Michigan came out to learn more on lake sturgeon egg and larval fry care. The next day staff joined us from the Ashland FWCO in Wisconsin to learn about trailer systems operation, which involves heating and cooling culture water, filtering river water of impurities and ultraviolet disinfection of the incoming water supply. This ensures a healthy trailer sturgeon population that imprints on their natal or birth river water supply. When the fish are old enough to reproduce, they will come back to their birth river to increase their river specific population. This should ensure that they are the most suitable fish for the Kalamazoo River, and able to adapt and thrive to their home waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside one of the streamside rearing units that Genoa NFH ?maintenance staff designed and constructed. Credit: USFWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Due to wet conditions on the site, the trailer is waiting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s maintenance site near the river, and will just have to wait for the day when it will be full of baby sturgeon later this spring. Many thanks to our tribal partners, the Gun Lake Tribe, for helping us set up the trailer and leading egg collection efforts.  In  April, we hope for the trailer’s full deployment at the trailer site, thereby fulfilling its role in Lake Michigan’s lake sturgeon restoration efforts.

 

 

 

A Bit of Local History is Unearthed at Genoa

One of the great things about being located in a small community (where everyone knows your name), is that good people are always interested in the programs and activities of the local community, including our station. One of the big interests currently is the Great River Road Interpretive Center that is being constructed this winter at the Genoa hatchery. Even though the project seems to be taking a long time to complete, many people still mention that they are very anxious to see the completed project. Others, hearing that there will be a local history exhibit in the building, have also volunteered sources and other historical items of local interest to be included in the project. Historians and local authors have also reached out to share their wealth of knowledge in order to interpret the breadth of history that we are blessed with in the local area. One such historian, William Burke, stopped in to check on how the building was coming along. He also passed along a very interesting piece of history that we were unaware of. In 1910, a paddle wheel steamboat that was used as a touring/excursion boat caught fire and sank just out-side the hatchery exterior dikes.

    J.S steamboat before engulfed in flames

The steamboat J.S. was returning from La Crosse to its destination of Lansing Iowa on June 25th,1910 with over 1000 passengers. The ship departed at 6 p.m. from La Crosse, and was almost directly adjacent to Bad Axe Island when fire broke out. This location is just south of the hatchery exterior dikes. After some quick thinking by the captain and crew, the boat made shore on Bad Axe Island to offload its passengers. Most made it off by the gangplank; however about 2-300 passengers had to jump in the river from the upper deck as the first deck was totally engulfed in flames. The evacuation resulted in at least one tragic death, a young married woman that was pregnant with the couple’s first child. The only other casualty was a male passenger that purportedly was under arrest for drunkenness in the hold, and may have allegedly been responsible for starting the blaze by careless smoking. Once the passengers disembarked, the captain and a skeleton crew directed the burning ship back into the channel to get it away from the passengers on the island and it floated directly downstream and sunk burning to the waterline.

                                                         Aftermath of the devastating fire

Passengers spent the better part of the night marooned on Bad Axe Island, being rescued by local boats that wrapped up the rescue mission by 3:30 a.m. that morning. We are looking forward to telling this story as part of local history very soon when the Interpretive Center makes its grand opening. By Doug Aloisi

 

 

 

 

                        Salvage crew working on the sunken J.S steamboat

 

Update on Great Lakes Programs at Genoa NFH

Staff from the Jordan River and Iron River National Fish Hatcheries (NFH) and Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) were out on Lake Huron, near the Les Cheneaux Islands collecting cisco (Coregonusartedi) eggs for current restoration initiatives taking place within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After trawling, eggs are collected from ripe females

The eggs arrived on station in mid November and were incubated until hatching began in early January. The hatching of this species at Genoa NFH marks a historical event at the station as it is the first time these fish are being raised here, and the first time that they have been raised at a federal facility since the early 1900’s.

                                            Eyed up’ cisco eggs almost ready to hatch

As the eggs began to hatch an equal number of eggs from each pair of spawned adults were separated into distinct lots of fish that will makeup future broodstock to be used in helping to restore this species. The importance of this fish species lies primarily in its role as a native prey species for the Great Lakes systems. Restoring the numbers of native ciscos helps to balance the native food web structure and function.

Newly hatched cisco fry at Genoa   

 

 

 

 

 

Native prey species such as ciscos were hindered by the introduction of invasive species, habitat degradation, and commercial harvest. Once passing a series of three fish health certifications they will be transferred to Jordan River NFH in Michigan, once there they will serve as a captive broodstock for recovery efforts. In a continuing effort to reestablish native prey species in the Great Lakes system Genoa NFH will be partnering again with Jordan River NFH, Iron River NFH, Alpena FWCO,and the Green Bay FWCO to collect bloater chubs. Bloater chubs (Coregonus hoyi) are a member of the whitefish family and are also an important part of the prey fish community in the Great Lakes and serve an important role in many predator prey relationships.  Bloater chubs have experienced a decline in the Great Lakes due to commercial fishing, habitat degradation and an invasion of non native species such as invasive plankton, alewife, and zebra and quagga mussels. Because of these invasive species many of the native aquatic species in the Great Lakes are negatively affected.  These species like all invasive species tend to quickly establish themselves andsoon become a fierce competitor for food and niche space for native species. A top priority with Great Lakes managers has been to recover native species to provide a better balance in food web structure and function. The new quarantine systems at Genoa NFH will serve an extremely important role in developing future captive broodstocks for both of these native species. The station needs a safely contained area to develop these key species as well as provide opportunities to research and learn about these fish. The knowledge gained from the captive care of these fish will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service better manage and reach its goals of developing and maintaining Great Lakes fisheries from the bottom up. Keep watch for more updates on how the programs are progressing. By Aaron Von Eschen

 

 

 

2016 Regional Director’s Awards Ceremony Fisheries Staff Recognized for Excellence

BY KARLA BARTELT, REGIONAL OFFICE-FISHERIES

Showing appreciation for an employee’s hard work and dedication is one of the easiest ways to improve the morale of any work group, and the Fisheries program received a big boost during the 2016 Regional Director’s Excellence Awards ceremony. Of the ten awards presented across eight categories, six were presented to Fisheries employees, engendering a great deal of comradery and program pride.


Outreach Excellence Award winner, Heidi Keuler, working in the field. Credit: USFWS
The Outreach Excellence Award was presented to Heidi Keuler from the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. Heidi’s nomination commends her passion and dedication for outdoor youth education, as well as her interpersonal and partnership skills. She has developed and led numerous outreach activities, the impacts of which would be impossible to capture within this paragraph. Thousands of children have had an opportunity to learn about various outdoor activities due to Heidi’s exemplary vision and hard work, and we commend her outreach efforts.

 

Emy Monroe, Ph.D., of the Whitney Genetics Laboratory received the Science Excellence Award. Credit: USFWS

The Science Excellence Award was presented to Emy Monroe, Ph.D. of the Whitney Genetics Laboratory. Emy Monroe personifies science excellence through her scientific rigor and work ethic, her original genetics research, and for leading validation efforts for the genetic technology now used to routinely monitor for Bighead and Silver Carp. Her exemplary research will continue to keep the Whitney Genetics Lab on the cutting edge of genetic technology for many years..

There were over 70 nominations for this year’s Regional Excellence Awards, and the managers and coworkers that took the time to recognize those who went above and beyond should also be applauded. These individuals recognized significant achievements and took the time to write and submit detailed and heartfelt nominations.

Appreciation is a powerful motivator that increases employee happiness and strengthens the bond between employees and the mission. We commend all of those that received awards and those that were nominated. Employee recognition is not a “One Day Event,” rather it is a catalyst to be utilized every day to inspire and engage employees to continue to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats throughout the year.