A Biologist Goes West!

Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Angela Baran-Dagendesh/USFWS.

This summer a call for help went out from Region 6 for the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery in Vernal, Utah. The station had experienced a couple of retirements and their biological technician stepped up as a biologist at a new station, leaving Jones Hole with only a fish biologist, a term biological technician and seasonal fish technician for an extended period of time while they were waiting for positions to fill. During the summer months, they received help from a project leader out in Region 1 and I was able to fill in for 4 weeks. The detail provided experience at a new station, learning new species, new systems and tested troubleshooting skills! The remote station is located 40 miles, over 1 hour of driving time, from Vernal, Utah, 1 mile north of Dinosaur National Monument and less than a half mile from the Colorado border. The station is complicated not only by the remote location, but also by the maintenance workload they have, and the federal partners surrounding the hatchery, (National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management). Because of the location, the hatchery is responsible for all of the electrical service once it reaches the outskirts of the station, the transformers, the powerlines and poles. If there are any issues, they first have to figure out if it is with the station services or the electric company, sometimes requiring the repair crews of both the electric company and then a private high voltage company to determine the issue and how to resolve it. In addition to the power responsibilities, they maintain 13 miles of the road leading to the hatchery, guardrails, pavement and snow removal… which in the mountains in the winter can be a full time job for a crew just to open the road back up to get out. The time on station shifted from my comfortable fish and mussel rearing skill set to managing larger issues for contracting and station maintenance, where small issues like a door repair are further complicated by trying to find a company willing to drive an hour to complete a smaller job. The initial thought of being on station for 4 weeks seemed like a long time to be able to accomplish things so a list was developed working with the staff. By the end of the second week, that focus had to shift from adding to the list to prioritizing items that could be completed or set in motion before the end of the detail. It seemed as if I just blinked and the time was done! The whole experience was invaluable and I thoroughly enjoyed the time out west, but it was still good to return home to the staff, fish, mussels and dragonflies at Genoa. By Angela Baran Dagendesh

Pond Research Yields Bountiful Harvest

Mussel biologists with the bountiful harvest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crews diligently harvesting mussels from cages (above right).

 

 

 

As fall is upon us, the growing season for fish and mussels are quickly coming to a close. This is when ponds at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) are drained and fish and mussel are either placed in their winter homes for continued grow out at the hatchery, or released into their wild habitats. This season the staff at Genoa were trying to determine the best water quality and fertilization schemes to rear both fish and freshwater mussels in 2 hatchery ponds. 24 hour monitoring equipment was acquired and 2 seasonal employees were tasked with taking daily and weekly water quality measurements. Our mussel biologists, Megan and Beth also pitched in and took measurements of food particles throughout the growing season. In early June largemouth bass with Fat Mucket (Lampsilis siliquoidia) mussel larvae attached to their gills were placed in propagation cages in two similar sized ponds. Ponds were fertilized weekly dependent on healthy water quality parameters. This week the ponds were harvested and cages were carefully checked for mussels. The three + month old mussels could be hard to find but with the help of the Prairie du Chien Advanced Placement High School Biology class, partners from the Iowa DNR and some of our trusted volunteers the harvest was bountiful. Over 35,400 juvenile Fat Muckets were removed from the cages and began to be distributed for further grow out this winter. This is exciting news for us as rearing mussels co-located in fish ponds would save us many hours of transportation. It would also save us the uncertainty of uncontrollable variables such as high water and cage siltation in the natural environment. We still have yet to try these methods on other species that may have more challenging culture and water quality requirements but are optimistic that results are repeatable with careful pond monitoring and course corrections throughout the growing season with other species and host fish requirements. By: Doug Aloisi

Pond Harvest in Full Swing

 

Walleye being unloaded at the Victory Boat Ramp on the Mississippi River by USFWS.

Pond Harvest is in full swing at Genoa NFH. We had 18 ponds involved in production this season to fulfill our distribution and mussel host goals. Species raised in the pond program include Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Walleye, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Channel Catfish, Golden Shiner, and Fathead Minnow. These fish head out all over the Midwest to federal and tribal waters. We have even had enough surplus to provide fish to our state partners and stock the Mississippi River right here at home with some Bluegills, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye. We hope to have harvesting completed by the end of October! By: Nicholas Bloomfield

 

Beka is a fish biologist with the La Crosse Fish Health Center. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from UW-Madison and her Master’s degree in Aquatic Science from the UW-La Crosse while working as a SCEP student at the lab. Her previous work experience includes behavioral research with non-human primates at the UW-Madison, work as a veterinary technician at several animal clinics, a job as a laboratory technician at a biopharmaceutical company, and working in the microbiology department of a human clinical lab. Upon graduating from UW- La Crosse in 2012, she was converted to a permanent position and now enjoys her work as a biologist because it allows for a nice balance of both lab and field work. Her main duties include working in several different labs to screen hatchery-reared and wild-caught fish for viral and bacterial pathogens and parasites, participating in wild fish surveys, and traveling to national and tribal fish hatcheries within Region 3. In her free time, Beka enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking, camping, cooking, and road tripping to seek out the country’s best craft breweries with her husband, Ed, and golden retriever, Finn.

 

 

Corey is a fish biologist with the La Crosse Fish Health Center. He graduated from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a degree in Water Resources/Fisheries and Limnology. He performs a wide range of lab work including virology, bacteriology and parasitiology. He also coordinates with our many federal, state and tribal partners to schedule fish health samples, fish health inspections, wild fish samples and fish diagnostic cases /USFWS.

 

When she was a child, Ellen wanted to grow up to be an explorer and naturalist – and sometimes she also wanted to be a veterinarian! In veterinary school at Mississippi State University, she pursued an interest in charismatic mini-fauna such as fish and amphibians (while her classmates were pursuing charismatic mega-fauna). While getting her Ph.D. at the University of Montana, her interests focused on charismatic micro-faunal communities (bacterial microbiomes). So it should be no surprise that she joined the La Crosse Fish Health Center in 2017 as their Veterinary Medical Officer. In addition to looking at and treating health issues in fish, Ellen investigates health issues affecting the fish microbiome. She greatly enjoys the opportunity to explore these two very different aspects of fish health and ecological health at her job. In her spare time, she enjoys x-country skiing, hiking, gardening, cooking and reading science fiction. Photo: Ellen Lark/USFWS.

 

Eric is a fish biologist at the La Crosse Fish Health Center where he examines the diseases and parasites of aquatic animals as well as develops cell lines with research applications in the fields of virology and toxicology. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening and watching the Green Bay Packers (and the Cincinnati Bengals) with his family/USFWS.

 

 

Graduating from the same high school as Derek Jeter, Kalamazoo Central High School, Isaac Standish then pursued a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University. He continued his education at Michigan State, studying fish viruses and immunity, eventually earning a PhD in Pathobiology. Following graduation he was offered a directorate fellowship with the USFWS at the Midwest Fisheries Center working with pathogens affecting amphibians. Since then, Isaac has continued working with both fish and amphibian pathogens throughout the region. He is an avid fisherman, mushroom hunter, homebrewer, and Isaac is always trying to get outside to enjoy the Driftless Area /USFWS

New Concerns After Round goby Found in Mississippi River

edited image of round goby specimen on ruler

Round goby on measuring board after capture by bottom trawl in the Illinois River. Credit: USFWS

By Jenna Merry, La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Small, aggressive, maybe even a little bit cute, round goby are not a new face in the world of invasive fish, but recent captures have sparked concerns about a potential new wave of invasion. While not as apparently detrimental to riverine ecosystems as other invasive fish, like silver carp, round goby are feisty fiends that may outcompete native fish for food and spawning habitats. Their populations have the potential to grow rapidly where they establish which has had deleterious effects on native fauna in some areas, especially on those fauna that occupy a similar niche.

Native to Eurasia, round goby have been found in the United States for nearly three decades. First observed in the St. Claire River in 1990, they quickly expanded to more distant reaches of the Great Lakes region, showing up in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) by 1992. From this time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has lead an annual effort to monitor this particular invasion front as they have moved from the CAWS downstream along the Illinois River towards the Mississippi River and the country’s interior. Recently, in 2018, a round goby was documented for the first time in the main stem of the Mississippi River near its confluence with the Illinois River, a short boat ride upstream of St. Louis, MO. Round goby were found there again in 2019.

With their, perhaps inevitable, advancement into the Mississippi River comes an onslaught of questions and concerns for river managers. Could a population of round goby take hold in this big river? Will the diversity and habitat complexity, or even the system of locks and dams, help stifle further advancement? What about the hundreds of tributaries with connections to headwater streams? Although not without obstacles, the Mississippi River provides an avenue of new real-estate for this accomplished invader to explore. What are we going to do about it?

To learn more about round goby and their advancement in the United States, visit fact sheet


Be on the Look Out for Mussel Die Offs this Fall

 

By Gretchen Newberry, Midwest Fisheries Center

Biologists in the lab collect samples from dead and dying mussels to be tested for viruses. Credit: Gretchen Newberry, USFWS

Eric Leis and Sara Erickson from the Midwest Fisheries Center, along with Diane Waller of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), are investigating a mussel die-off in Michigan. Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources collected a sample of dead and dying mussels. Die-offs tend to happen in the fall. Please contact (Eric_Leis@fws.gov) if you find mussels that are gaping (like the picture below), floating at the surface, or laying on their side. The biologists are collecting hemolymph (the mussel’s circulatory fluid), and samples from the mantle (lining the shell) and the foot (the structure that pushes out from the shell used for digging and locomotion). The samples will be tested for viruses. The Mussel Mortality Network, a cooperative effort between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, and many other partners, has identified 20 new viruses, and the number climbs with each new die-off event.

Close up of a bivalve mollusk gaping. Credit: Gretchen Newberry, USFWS

Pond Research Yields Bountiful Harvest

By Doug Aloisi, Genoa NFH

As fall is upon us, the growing season for fish and mussels is quickly coming to a close. This is when ponds at Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) are drained and fish and mussels are either placed in their winter homes for continued grow out at the hatchery, or released into their wild habitats.

This season the staff at Genoa NFH were trying to determine the best water quality and fertilization schemes to rear both fish and freshwater mussels in two hatchery ponds. 24 hour monitoring equipment was acquired and two seasonal employees were tasked with taking daily and weekly water quality measurements. Our mussel biologists, Megan and Beth took measurements of food particles throughout the growing season.

In early June largemouth bass with Fat Mucket mussel larvae attached to their gills were placed in propagation cages in two similar sized ponds. Ponds were fertilized weekly dependent on healthy water quality parameters. This week the ponds were harvested and cages were carefully checked for mussels. At just over three months old the mussels could be hard to find but with the help of the Prairie du Chien Advanced Placement High School Biology class, partners from the Iowa DNR, and some of our trusted volunteers the harvest was bountiful. Over 35,400 juvenile Fat Muckets were removed from the cages and we began their distribution for further grow out this winter.

This is exciting news for us as rearing mussels co-located in fish ponds would save us many hours of transportation. It would also save us the uncertainty of uncontrollable variables such as high water and cage siltation in the natural environment. We still have yet to try these methods on other species that may have more challenging culture and water quality requirements. However we are optimistic that the results are repeatable with careful pond monitoring and course corrections throughout the growing season.


11th Annual Youth Outdoor Fest: More than 1400 Attend

 

By Gretchen Newberry, Midwest Fisheries Center

On July 13 at Veterans Freedom Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, more than 1,400 adults and kids attended the 11th Annual Youth Outdoor Fest. This free event featured 45 outdoor activities including a reptile show, a zipline, archery, arts and crafts, and geocaching. The festival is a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Fisheries Center, La Crosse Parks and Recreation, and the Friends of the Upper Mississippi.

Each year in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Upper Mississippi Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as many businesses and nonprofits come together and offer outdoor activities to families. This year, attendees enjoyed archery, storytelling, pontoon rides, canoeing, kayaking, furs and skulls identification, forestry, fish identification, fish and mussel touch tank, dog training, BB gun safety, bird feeders, invasive plant identification, knot tying, water safety and Leave No Trace education.

We invited new booths this year including Hillview Urban Agriculture Center’s ‘composting with worms’ activity and Kane Street Garden to emphasize sustainable wild foods. Badgerland Girl Scouts, Norsekedalen Nature and Heritage Center, REI’s ‘camping gear demo’, David Stokes’ ‘reptile show’ and Viterbo University’s insects were also new additions to the festival this year. Thank you to all of our volunteers, booths and partners, for making this event so successful for 11 years and counting.

If you have an outdoor activity you would like to feature in a future festival, typically held the second Saturday in July, contact the Midwest Fisheries Center Visitor Services Specialist Gretchen Newberry at Gretchen_Newberry@fws.gov.


Genoa NFH Incorporates Archery into Outdoor Classroom

Students from the local YMCA receive personal instruction in archery techniques at the Genoa NFH Outdoor Classroom. Credit: USFWS

By Orey Eckes, Genoa NFH

Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) welcomed students from the local YMCA for a tour of the hatchery and a day of archery. Hatchery staff members have partnered with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to offer students a chance to experience archery as part of the hatchery outdoor classroom. Archery is a great tool to get children outdoors. Recently biologist (Jeena Credico, Brandon Keesler and Orey Eckes) were certified as a basic archery instructor trainers. This training will allow other people at Genoa NFH, friends group members and anyone interested in becoming an archery instructor to become certified to hold archery events. We are proud to announce four newly certified archery instructors to the NASP team!

Volunteer Sunday
Every Sunday, we feature photos and other great work by a volunteer. If you would like to submit a photo or other materials, please contact Midwest Fisheries Center volunteer coordinator Gretchen Newberry at Gretchen_Newberry@fws.gov. Below are photos by Tom Siefkes, MFC volunteer and recent UW-Lacrosse grad we have recently featured.

Here is a bluegill volunteer Tom Siefkes caught in early May using a 1.5-inch lure on the Black River near La Crosse. Photo: A round sunfish with dark gill covers and a rusty belly held in a hand on a beach, with a lure dangling beside it.

This is an 11-inch yellow perch caught using a jig and a minnow on the Black River by volunteer Tom. Photo: A yellow and black-striped fish held in a hand near water, courtesy of Tome Siefkes.