Alpena FWCO eDNA Program Completes
Another Successful Season
BY CHRIS OLDS, ALPENA FWCO
After collecting 1,575 samples from tributaries of Lakes Erie and Huron, and assisting other Midwest Region and Northeast Region Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCO) to collect an additional 2,300 samples, Alpena FWCO’s eDNA team completed its spring early detection program for Asian carp! The eDNA program began collecting its first samples the week of April 21, 2014 from Lake Erie and completed sampling the week of July 14, assisting the Carterville FWCO on the Ohio River. The Alpena FWCO eDNA team traveled with the Mobile eDNA Lab throughout the Midwest and Northeast Regions, assisting other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Offices with their eDNA sampling, while also completing its own work on tributaries of Lakes Erie and Huron.
This year’s early detection efforts were spread across more tributaries of lakes Erie and Huron to determine the presence or absence of Silver and Bighead Carp DNA in the environment. Early detection efforts were expanded this year to include more tributaries that could be suitable for spawning activities by silver and bighead carps. Tributaries were ranked as either high priority (to be sampled twice) or medium priority (to be sampled once). The high priority tributaries received this classification based on previous sampling results, connections to known Asian carp waters, such as the CAWS and Ohio River, and literature reviews. A medium priority tributary was classified based on literature reviews identifying rivers with suitable spawning characteristics, and proximity to previously sampled tributaries that had positive eDNA results for silver or bighead carp. This year’s sampling was targeted during two distinct water temperature thresholds of 10 and 20°Celcius, thought to correspond with silver and bighead carp spawning activities. Alpena FWCO had four tributaries ranked as high priority, however only two of them were sampled twice at the desired temperature thresholds. In 2013 only seven tributaries were sampled, all of which were in Lake Erie. In 2014 sampling was expanded to include 12 tributaries from Lake Erie and five from Lake Huron.
With the assistance of 11 biologists from four Service offices spread over four weeks, Alpena FWCO was able to complete its work in a timely manner. The crew collected and filtered an average of 100 samples per day and drove over 7,000 miles to complete the work. This effort covered seven states spanning the Midwest and Northeast regions. Each tributary sampled required a location for setting up the lab and a water source in close proximity. This lead to several new partnerships being developed with local municipalities, state parks, and campgrounds that could be affected if Silver or Bighead Carp were to become established. Overall it was a very successful season with all of the ranked tributaries being sampled at least once.
Despite the challenges, the partnerships developed with the local municipalities. State agencies and other Service Offices throughout the region will strengthen the program for the future. Plus, while sampling in the Saginaw, Michigan area, the Alpena FWCO eDNA team had the opportunity to meet Service Director Dan Ashe while he was there for a separate meeting. Alpena staff were able to provide a tour of the mobile eDNA Lab and describe the eDNA program in detail, which truly made the season end on a high note for everyone.