Megan Bradley at Endangered Higgins Eye Release. Photo by USFWS.
Megan Bradley of the Genoa (WI) National Fish Hatchery recently received high honors for her achievements in furthering Aquatic Species Recovery through her work in freshwater mussel and fisheries science. She recently received Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Region 3 2020 Award for Science Excellence. FWS Region 3 administers FWS activities and mission in the 8 Midwestern States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Megan’s contributions to the conservation of native freshwater mussels include working with partners to reintroduce a new population of Higgins Eye Pearlymussel according to the Higgins Eye Recovery Plan. Megan was instrumental in these efforts by constructing a preplacement habitat sampling program, and contributing to the writing of the Higgins Eye Reintroduction plan that paved the way for acceptance to place this new population of Endangered species in historic habitat in waters with low zebra mussel populations. This new population joined a newly transferred federally Endangered Winged Mapleleaf mussel population. Both species were propagated through efforts directed through a multi-agency mussel conservation team, and executed through the Genoa National Fish Hatchery mussel propagation program.
Megan is also considered an expert in determining economic value to mussel resources which is proving invaluable in determining damages in Natural Resource Damage Assessments. Her leadership and input in the Freshwater Mussel Conservation Society’s role in the formulation and publishing of the American Fisheries Society publication “Investigation and Monetary Values of Fish and Freshwater Mollusk Kills was invaluable. This reference is considered the standard in repairing the aftermath of fish and mussel kills and is used in many Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) settlements as a resource to determine damages.
Megan also developed methodology to determine ploidy in wild and cultured lake sturgeon using technology and equipment available on station. She is able to determine ploidy in wild populations, and pre-release sampling plans have been implemented to ensure cultured lake sturgeon will not negatively affect current restoration efforts ongoing across the country. Congratulations Megan! We are proud of you and your efforts!
Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly larvae are reared in PVC pipe cages submerged in tanks. Photo by Angela Baran Dagendesh/USFWS.
Genoa National Fish Hatchery began working with the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly in 2015 after receiving a grant to help get the program underway. Each year brings new challenges and learning opportunities for working with this species! Last fall, the hatchery received 800 eggs to hold over the winter for spring hatch and summer grow-out. The learning curve has been quite steep for the eggs and newly hatched larvae, with hatching beginning in February this year, about 3 months early! The hatchery adapted quickly, setting up small cups with a little sand and supplementing with pond water out of the mussel building, warmed up to room temperature. Once it warmed up and pond water temperatures increased, the newly hatched larvae were placed loose in rearing tanks, to give them more space and hopefully avoid cannibalism. We are now transitioning to smaller cages to place in the tanks to further reduce cannibalism and also to protect the larvae from any other invertebrates that might come in with the pond water. Now that the temperatures have warmed up, zooplankton production in the ponds has taken off, providing an all you can eat buffet for the larvae! Once the larvae get a little larger, they will transition to the larger mesh cages and be placed out in the hatchery ponds. The larger mesh will still protect the larvae, but allow larger sized food to crawl in for the dragonfly larvae. Stay tuned this summer for updates and pictures of the growing dragonflies!
Three tiny logperch can be seen in the red circle (above, left). Photos by Megan Bradley/USFWS.
Hopefully you caught our article last month about spawning Logperch on station. Well, good news, the eggs we spawned are hatching and we have hundreds of Logperch fry going into a pond on station. Now, if you’ve seen other fish fry around the hatchery you might be surprised by these. The only sign that they’re in a tank is the tiny black eyes moving around in the water column. It looks a lot like you’ve sprinkled course ground black pepper, except that those tiny black specks are actively moving in the water column as the Logperch fry search for zooplankton to eat.
We were also able to use some of the Logperch adults that didn’t spawn as hosts for the federally endangered Snuffbox. In collaboration with the WI DNR we’re planning to restore Snuffbox populations in the Wolf River basin. About 20 days after the Logperch were infested we got our first Snuffbox juveniles dropping off. These first tiny babies (~150 ?m long) are growing at the hatchery as we wait for the rest of their cohorts to drop of the host fish. Hopefully these will soon go out into the Mobile Aquatic Rearing System to eat the natural food in Mississippi river water (bacteria and algae) and grow large enough to overwinter well at the hatchery for release in 2021.
In 2019 GNFH biologists experimented with two ponds to see whether there was a difference in freshwater mussel survival from drop-off to about 6 months old in ponds that were fertilized with organic vs inorganic materials. Various water quality measures were made daily or weekly throughout the growing season, including algae (mussel food) levels in each pond, to track the effectiveness of each fertilization type. Both methods were successful, and the two ponds combined produced over 35,000 Fat Mucket (Lampsilis siliquoidea) mussels. This experiment is continuing in the 2020 season, and expanding to include two different mussel species, Black Sandshell (Ligumia recta), which use Walleye as a host, and Plain Pocketbook (Lampsilis cardium), which use Largemouth bass as a host.
In late May, hatchery biologists collected mussel larvae, called glochidia, from gravid mussels (Photo 1, gill filled with glochidia), allowed the glochidia to attach to the gills of their Walleye fish hosts in a bath exposure (Photo 2). When the mussels fully metamorphose from larvae into juveniles, they’ll drop off the fish’s gills and (hopefully!) fall into the sand in the bottom of the cage. These little mussels will start filter feeding and growing, and – later in the fall—we’ll carefully take the cage out of the pond, sift through the sand, and count and measure the juvenile mussels that were produced, comparing the outcomes between the two ponds.
Improving our ability to manage ponds for both fish and mussel production concurrently– and culture sand grain sized juvenile mussels past this first, sensitive life stage in hatchery ponds instead of in often unpredictable Mississippi River conditions—will help to make future mussel production more effective and reliable.
A smallmouth bass nest. Photo by Nick Bloomfield/USFWS.
Spring time means love is in the air at Genoa NFH. All of the brood fish we have on station, which includes Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Yellow Perch, Fathead Minnow, and Golden Shiner, were moved into their own ponds in March. These species are all suited for spawning in lentic environments, where there is no flow. This is in contrast to the spawning habits of fish like Walleye and Lake Sturgeon, where we need to spawn the fish manually and puts the eggs in a jar that mimics the flowing lotic environment until hatch occurs. This is much more labor intensive than the natural spawning that occurs in the ponds. All that we need to do for these brood fish is maintain water quality until it comes time to do some harvesting. Hopefully, these brood fish haven’t heard all the talk about social distancing and the hatchery will be crawling with little fish destined for areas throughout the Midwest and as future hosts for our mussel program!
Attendees listen to Frog Monitoring Volunteer, Ben Johnston, as he describes the mnemonics of frog calls. Photo by USFWS
36 people made their way to the interpretive center on Saturday, March 7 to learn about Wisconsin frog calls. Ben Johnston, volunteer frog monitor for Wisconsin DNR, taught audience members 11 frog calls and 1 toad call. Participants had an opportunity prior to and after the event to view living frogs, make a frog life cycle, or make a jumping frog. A huge thank you to Ben Johnston for providing such an interesting presentation! By Raena Parsons
Walleye nets are hung on a fence in spring. Photo by USFWS.
The weather has not able to make up it’s mind this year at Genoa, we have warmed up several times and then received snowstorms right after! In between the snow and rain, hatchery staff have been busy getting the station ready for the spring field season. The buildings have been sprayed down, cleaned up, tanks are getting set up, spawning ponds were set up with air stones and screens and nets are getting prepped for the river. As soon as tanks were set up in the Sturgeon Building, we began draining our host fish pond after it finally warmed up enough to melt most of the ice on the pond, allowing us to harvest the fish. Every fall, Genoa National Fish Hatchery will harvest the production ponds, collecting enough fish first for the mussel program and then any fish beyond that will be used for fish requests or to help out our state partners. The host fish then will either be used immediately for mussels that brood in the fall or will hang out over the winter to be used in the spring or summer the following year. Because of space constraints at the hatchery, the fish will over winter either in the mussel building, sturgeon building or in one of the hatchery ponds. The most of the fish kept in the mussel building will be the ones inoculated in the fall with either Winged Mapleleaf or Washboard Mussels. Access to the colder pond water helps to keep the channel catfish closer to their normal temperatures, reducing stress on the fish and the growing mussels over the winter. The sturgeon building only has access to well water over the winter, so the golden shiners and largemouth bass will spend their time in in there. They are much better suited to the more constant water temperatures. The remaining channel catfish not used, smallmouth bass and walleyes will spend the winter in the pond. These species survive much better following the normal cooling down and warming up of the water outside, and the extra space reduces stress on the fish as well. By Angela Baran-Dagendesh
Every year the mussel program at Genoa places mussel cages in the waters of the Upper Mississippi River from the St. Croix River down to Dubuque, IA. Some of these cages will spend multiple summers in the river before they require repair, but the undeniable truth is that eventually the environment wins and the wire cages rust to the point they must be repaired. On February 26th,, March 4th and March 11th a total of 18 volunteers from the Friends of Pool 9 and Friends of the Upper Mississippi gathered in the shop at the hatchery to repair damaged mussel cages. A large pile of cages needed repair this year. Our first day was dedicated to preparing cage tops and bases for new wire and plywood. This meant that on days two and three the group quickly got to work riveting new wire onto empty cage top frames and plywood to bases. These volunteers have been repairing cages at Genoa NFH for over 10 years. When the dust had settled, over the 3 days, volunteers had stripped and repaired 34 tops and bases. For their efforts the volunteers were treated to a lunch of burgers and all the sides. A good time was had by all and the hatchery staff is very appreciative of all the many hours that were saved by this dedicated group of volunteers. Thank you! By Megan Bradley
The Great River Road Interpretive Center has a new exhibit to call its own. We are proud to be able to display the history of the construction of Lock and Dam 8 on the Mississippi River built just up the road from the hatchery at the Genoa Wisconsin site. This pictorial history is being displayed in the local history room of the Center, and was compiled by local historian Anne Muirhead. Included is the method of diverting the mighty Mississippi to allow for construction, the construction of the retaining dike and spillway, the construction of the locks using historic steam shovels, and pictures of the local crews of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was a depression era work program initiated by the Roosevelt Administration to put people back to work on public works projects across the country. Also included in the pictures is an image of a steam powered paddleboat moving down the River, the historic mode of transportation at the time. Paddleboats were used due to their low draft, or profile in the River, that allowed them to move through shallow areas safely without running aground in the pre-lock and Dams reaches of the River. Once the navigation system was constructed and in use, a navigation channel of 9 foot depth is now maintained, allowing the current barges to transport their goods on the River. The dike at Genoa is over 3.3 miles long and the dam structure is 934 feet long. The lock can accommodate barges with lengths of over 500 feet long, and typically moves over 16 million tons of cargo down the River annually. The Great River Road Interpretive Center was built as a collaborative effort with the National Scenic Byways Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and its mission is to educate and inform Great River Road travelers on the unique geography, natural history and local history of the region, while instilling a conservation message to the public. For more information about the center, please see our Facebook site, or feel free to call the station at 608-689-2605. By Doug Aloisi
By Megan Bradley, Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Freshwater mussels are host
specific, not just any fish will do. Snuffbox, a federally endangered species
of mussel, depend on Logperch, a large darter that can grow up to approximately
six inches and is found across the Midwest to transform their larvae into
juvenile mussels. This fall a biologist with the Columbia Environmental
Research Center in Missouri let us know that he’d had a great year raising
Logperch in his ponds and we were able to pick them up in November. Five
hundred Logperch arrived on station and were moved into quarantine. Logperch
are a favored fish species because they learn very quickly to associate food
with people and are charming when they beg for their breakfast with their
rostrums (noses) out of the water. The Logperch are here to act as hosts for
Snuffbox collected from the Wolf river system in the late fall. The hatchery is
hosting three female Snuffbox collected from the Wolf River for the winter.
Biologists from Genoa National Fish Hatchery and Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources plan to infest the Logperch in the spring and then drop off and grow
the juveniles for a couple of years before reintroducing the species back into
Wolf River streams where the species has been extirpated