Green Bay FWCO’s Hunt for the Proverbial Needle:
Early Detection Surveillance Program for Aquatic Invasive Species
BY TIMOTHY STRAKOSH, GREEN BAY FWCO
Office sampling locations around Lake
Michigan for the AIS program in 2014.
Credit: USFWS, Green Bay FWCO
The Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) completed another field season of the multifaceted aquatic invasive species (AIS) early detection program. Activities involved close collaboration with a variety of local, state, federal, and non-profit partners. Efforts in 2014 included ichthyoplankton sampling, environmental DNA collection (eDNA) for Asian carp, participating in state lead mock rapid assessments, and traditional sampling for fishes and macroinvertebrates.
eDNA sample from the Kalamazoo River. Credit: USFWS
The start of the ichthyoplankton field season in Green Bay was delayed by icebergs that conjured images of the Arctic Circle. Larval fish sampling finally began in May and continued to August collecting every two weeks. The ichthyoplankton program is part of a collaboration comparing traditional taxonomic methods with next generation genetic sequencing for detecting new AIS. The Green Bay FWCO is funding a Master’s project at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and working with Ashland and Alpena FWCOs, US Environmental Protection Agency, and US Geological Survey (USGS). A total of 118 bongo net tows and 118 light trap samples were collected around Green Bay in 2014.
The eDNA program started the year off with Green Bay FWCO participating in a comparison study of eDNA collection methods. The study compared the current method of two liter bottles versus five 50 milliliter tubes. The two techniques were taken together in areas of different Asian carp densities in the Illinois River and processed on site using the Green Bay and Alpena eDNA mobile labs. The samples were sent to the Service’s Whitney Genetics Lab, the USGS, and the US Army Corp of Engineers for testing.
The Lake Michigan eDNA surveillance program searched for silver and bighead carp DNA in eight tributaries collecting a total of 1,750 samples. The Green Bay FWCO, led by the Regional Office, worked closely with state partners to identify high priority locations for sampling. Positive detections for silver carp eDNA were found in the Kalamazoo (1 out of 400 samples) and the Fox (1 out of 200) rivers. The detections prompted an additional 200 samples to be collected from each of the tributaries for a total of 2,150 eDNA samples collected for 2014.
Traditional gear sampling for the early detection and monitoring of invasive fishes in 2014 deployed seven different gear types in four locations for a total of 223 units of effort. Areas that were targeted for sampling included Green Bay, Milwaukee, Burns, and Calumet harbors. Additionally, 38 Ekman dredges were collected from Green Bay for macroinvertebrates. A grass carp was collected in Burns Harbor this year and is of interest to multiple agencies. The eyes were sent to the Whitney Genetics Lab to test if the carp was sterile, which it was, indicating the fish escaped from a stocking. The USGS was provided the rest of the fish for additional testing.
Another facet of AIS programs is the support of state partners and their efforts to respond to potential new invasions. In 2014, the Green Bay FWCO was invited to participate in two mock response events in the Great Lakes. The first was a Eurasian ruffe response in Calumet Harbor lead by the states of Illinois and Indiana, and the second was an Asian carp response in the western basin of Lake Erie lead by the states of Michigan and Ohio. The main purpose of the events was to practice coordinating multiple agencies just in case a new AIS is found.