Biologists Playing with Toy Barges?...The Things
We’ll Do to Stop Asian Carp!
BY SAM FINNEY, CARTERVILLE FWCO
barge in Vicksburg Mississippi. Credit: Aaron Parker USFWS
Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) fish biologists Sam Finney and Aaron Parker recently traveled to Vicksburg, Mississippi to play with toys. Just kidding of course, but at times childhood memories returned, particularly for Sam who got the opportunity to operate a remote-controlled model barge.
This January, Aaron and Sam traveled to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Environmental Research and Development Center (ERDC) to share results, information, and ideas about barge and electric barrier related research that is ongoing at the Carterville FWCO and at ERDC. Our visit included watching ERDC personnel perform example experiments with the model barges, in aquaria, and in mock electric fields.
Researchers at ERDC have several ongoing studies. One involves a 1:17 scale model of barges and the Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal Barrier near Chicago, Illinois. The electric dispersal barrier that is currently in place in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is unique when compared to other electric fish barriers, in that barge vessels regularly traverse it. Because of this, hydrologists, engineers, and biologists are working together to answer questions about the likelihood that fish may be entrained (trapped) past the barrier by barges traveling through the area. Other ongoing ERDC studies include Asian carp swimming performance, and Asian carp interactions and reactions to simulated electric fields. All of these studies are designed to optimally operate the current barrier system near Chicago, and to better design future barrier systems.
model barge through a model barrier at the ERDC
research facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Credit:
USFWS Sam Finney
The laboratory work that is currently taking place at the Vicksburg ERDC facility was very complementary to field work that we have performed at the electric dispersal barrier. We are studying fish behavior around barges as they traverse the barrier as well as studying wild fish behavior, interactions with the barrier system, locations, and abundances around the barrier. After seeing the laboratories and the experiments in action, we sat down with 17 other scientists and some of us took turns giving presentations on Asian carp physiology and swimming abilities, hydrology effects by model barges, electricity effects on Asian carp in a laboratory setting, and finally, results from our DIDSON monitoring and caged-fish work at the barrier system using both conventional boats and barge vessels. Afterwards, the group engaged in a very productive discussion about what all of our combined research has answered now and what work should be done in the future.
The Carterville FWCO, Vicksburg ERDC, and Chicago USACE all have exciting and important work planned for 2013 and plans are already in place to have a similar meeting, next year. Working together with ERDC staff and staff from the Chicago District of the USACE will serve to strengthen all of the studies related to the barrier and help to continue to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes!