LA CROSSE FISH HEALTH CENTER:
BY BECKY A. LASEE AND SARAH E. LEIS, LA CROSSE FHC
Nick Berndt, Nick Grueneis. Front row, Kyle Von Ruden, Jenny Bailey, Sarah Leis, Becky Lasee, Beka McCann, Maren Tuttle-Lau,
Ashley Kast, and Terry Ott. Not pictured Nancy Christopherson and Kayla Briggs. Credit: USFWS
The La Crosse Fish Health Center (FHC) was established in 1962 by the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 and is one of nine national fish health centers managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In the last five years, the La Crosse FHC has experienced considerable growth in its
programs, staff, facilities and funding. Our primary responsibilities are to perform inspection and diagnostic services to Midwest region national fish hatcheries, conduct surveillance for target pathogens in support of the National Wild Fish Health Survey, monitor for invasive species (especially carp) using eDNA and other techniques, assess ploidy of carp using flow cytometry, provide training in fish health management, monitor use of drugs and chemicals, perform research and participate in public outreach. Center staff consists of a project leader, assistant project leader, two administrative specialists, microbiologist, molecular geneticist, seven fish biologists, two biological science laboratory technicians (fish), and one Pathways Student Intern.
National Fish Hatchery inspections. Credit: USFWS
La Crosse FHC has 3,000 square feet. of diagnostic laboratories for identification of fish bacteria, viruses and parasites. In Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12), over 5,400 fish were tested for routine inspection and diagnostic services in support of Midwest region national fish hatcheries. Over 6,000 fish were sampled (39 different species) for the National Wild Fish Health Survey. We detected many pathogens of concern including, Largemouth Bass Virus Disease, Bluegill Virus Disease, Epizootic Epitheliotropic Disease (EED), Enteric Redmouth (ERM), and Motile Aeromonad Septicemia. Parasitology is a unique specialty for La Crosse FHC staff and we received samples for identification from hatchery and field biologists across the nation. FY12 was the final year of testing imported bait fish for pathogens and we are collaborating with university and state researchers to describe at least four new fish viruses. La Crosse FHC also contributed to a national bacterial kidney disease ring test, developed Asian Carp cell lines, participated in numerous national meetings and co-hosted the annual American Fisheries Society Fish Health Section meeting. Last year, La Crosse FHC staff instructed two introductory fish health courses and provided assistance for local university courses. We participated in various outreach events with partners, by providing “hands-on” displays on parasite identification, cleaning fish and fish anatomy.
Congressman Ron Kind is in center of photo. Credit: USFWS
In November, La Crosse FHC took occupancy of a 6,000 square foot genetics addition (Whitney Genetics Laboratory (WGL). The primary goal of the lab is to use environmental DNA (eDNA) water samples for early detection of Asian Carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System. The WGL is also working towards providing early detection in the Great Lakes and supporting National Asian Carp Plan goals in the Mississippi River and other river systems. Current WGL staff is undergoing proficiency testing and lab validation of PCR assays. The laboratory will be dedicated on April 5, 2013 and there will be a building-wide open house following the ceremony.
Please see our website for more information and if you have any questions regarding fish health or genetics, contact us at 608-783-8444.