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Uzarski shares wetland expertise in Sustain Our Great Lakes webinar

February 5, 2014 - Sustain Our Great Lakes recently hosted a webinar on January 29 that CMU Institute for Great Lakes director Don Uzarski participated in, along with Matthew Cooper from the University of Notre Dame and Valerie Brady from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The webinar discussion centered around the Implementing a Basin-Wide Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program, an ongoing collaborative research effort of monitoring the conditions and trends at over 1,000 coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes Basin.

Available for viewing online here, Uzarski and other experts provided an overview of the monitoring program and examples of how the collected data is being used for wetland protection and monitoring across the region. The accompanying PowerPoint presentation - without the webinar recording - is also available to view online here.

Sustain Our Great Lakes serves to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the Great Lakes basin by leveraging funding, building conservation capacity, and focusing partners and resources toward key ecological issues. The organization is a public-private partnership among ArcelorMittal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Using fish ear bones to help protect coastal wetlands

September 30, 2013 - Don Uzarski, CMU professor of biology and director of CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research and the CMU Biological Station, and his research team are reading information stored in the ear bones (otoliths) of fish to track fish movements. 

The otoliths in fish grow daily in layers, similar to rings in a tree trunk. Biology graduate student Lee Schoen and Jim Student, director of the Center for Elemental and Isotopic Analysis in the CMU College of Science and Technology, are taking thin slices of the otoliths and running them through a laser-equipped mass spectrometer, which picks up trace elements that the ear bones integrate from surrounding water, enabling the researchers to track the fish's pattern of visits to particular coastal wetlands.

Uzarski says, "We're basically trying to find out exactly how important these coastal wetlands are to the overall energy base or food web of the entire Great Lakes ecosystem." 

Their research aims to provide the hard data necessary for better choices to be made about managing, restoring and protecting the Great Lakes basin's coastal wetlands. 

Learn more:

Research team investigating role of trace elements in Lake Ontario

July 26, 2013 - Dr. Anthony Chappaz, RV Lake Guardianassistant professor of geochemistry within Central Michigan University's Institute for Great Lakes Research and the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, is spending part of his summer participating in collaborative research with colleagues from Michigan State University (East Lansing, Mich.) and Clarkson University (Potsdam, New York). 

The goal of their project is to investigate the nitrogen biogeochemistry in Lake Ontario and the role of specific trace metals - iron (Fe), molybdenum (Mo) and vanadium (V) - in modifying the 'traditional' pathway of nitrogen assimilation by phytoplankton. 

One of the most important organisms on Earth and found in almost all oceans and bodies of fresh water, phytoplankton inhabit the upper sunlit layer of the water where they utilize the sun's rays for photosynthesis. They are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the atmosphere - nearly half of the total amount produced by all plant life.These small plants are also important and frequently studied because they are the beginning of the food chain for most of the planet; their creation of organic compounds from carbon dioxide dissolved in the water sustains the aquatic food web.

Chappaz joined a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research cruise aboard the Research Vessel Lake Guardian to collect samples in June. He will go back on Lake Ontario in September to continue his work with a visiting Ph.D. student from the Institute F.-A. Forel in Geneva, Switzerland - the oldest limnology institute in the world.

This project is funded by New York Sea Grant. To learn more details about Dr. Chappaz's research, please visit his GEM Lab website.

CMU unveils new Great Lakes research vessel

June 21, 2013 - Central Michigan University RV Chippewastudents and faculty are able to increase their scientific research on the Great Lakes thanks to the purchase of a 38-foot vessel by the CMU College of Science and Technology.

Don Uzarski, director of CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research, said students studying areas of science from ecology to botany will benefit from the utilization of the RV Chippewa.

"With respect to Great Lakes research, this was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to get us out into that open water of the lakes that we couldn't do before with smaller vessels," Uzarski said. "We're very strong in research in wetlands and in the nearshore region; now we're hoping to take it out to the offshore."

The vessel will help further the work of the Institute for Great Lakes Research, which recently received a $10 million federal grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct Great Lakes wetlands preservation research alongside a team from nine other universities and three government agencies.

"I have about 20 faculty who study various aspects of the Great Lakes with a goal of understanding the ecology of these vital ecosystems," said Ian Davison, dean of the CMU College of Science and Technology. "This vessel will enhance their capacity to provide the information that is needed to protect and preserve them."

Chappaz publishes article in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

April 11, 2013 - Assistant professor of geochemistryand Institute for Great Lakes Research scientist Anthony Chappaz, along with co-principal investigator Dr. Jennifer Glass from the California Institute of Technology, recently published in the recognized geochemistry journal, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Their article is entitled "Molybdenum geochemistry in a seasonally dysoxic Mo-limited lacustrine ecosystem." 

Molybenum (Mo) and nitrogen biogeochemistry are intrinsically associated, with Mo being required for the nitrogenase process to occur. The research site, Castle Lake in northern California, had previously been widely studied regarding nitrogen biogeochemistry, however Chappaz's research is the first of its kind to focus specifically on Mo, and sheds new light on the Mo sources influencing this lake. It also is the first to provide Mo isotopes' measurement for a dysoxic environment.

More details about this article and Dr. Chappaz's research can be found by visiting his GEM Lab website.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin stops by to discuss Great Lakes research

April 8, 2013 - U.S. Senator for Michigan, Carl Levin visits IGLR to discuss Great Lakes research
Carl Levin, recently sat down with Institute for Great Lakes Research director Donald Uzarski, CMU President George Ross, CST dean Ian Davison and assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon to discuss current issues being investigated here in Michigan throughout the Great Lakes basin and new global, collaborative efforts with Jiangxi Normal University in China to address watershed health issues in Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake. Research being done by IGLR scientists continues to be groundbreaking, with Mahon’s most recent research showing that at least some Asian carp have found their way into the Great Lakes – but they are not as widespread as previously thought – disputing previous studies. 

Senator Levin was thanked for his support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Stop Invasive Species Act. With a $10M federal grant and support from Levin and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the IGLR team is taking the lead to protect and preserve surrounding coastal wetlands – critical to enhancing water quality in the Great Lakes, which represent 21% of the world’s surface freshwater supply.

Mahon and research team find that Asian carp DNA is not widespread in the Great Lakes as previously thought

April 5, 2013 - Assistant professor of biology and Institute for Great Lakes Research scientist Andrew Mahon, along with scientists from the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy, recently published their research on Asian carp DNA throughout the Great Lakes in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 

Silver and bighead carp - which gorge on plankton that all fish consume - are of particular concern to the Great Lakes ecosystem, since they are large fish that can quickly reproduce and unravel the food chain that supports a $7 billion fishing industry. In their latest study, the research team found that at least some Asian carp have found their way into the Great Lakes, but there is no evidence that they are as widespread in the Great Lakes basin as previously thought. 

Between September 2009 and October 2011, Mahon and his colleagues collected more than 2,800 water samples from parts of the Great Lakes and tributary rivers. Laboratory analysis yielded 58 positive hits for bighead or silver carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System, a network of rivers and canals linked directly to Lake Michigan, and 6 in western Lake Erie. Some of the Chicago eDNA was found in Lake Calumet, where a live bighead carp was caught in 2010 and three others were snagged in 1995 and 2000.

The results of their research contradict earlier government studies that have said many of the positive water samples detecting Asian carp DNA in or near the lakes in recent years could have come from other sources, such as excrement from birds that fed on the carp in distant rivers, or via boats and other pathways. While these previous studies acknowledged the presence of eDNA, government researchers disagreed that the findings signaled the presence of live fish.

Dr. Christopher Jerde, lead investigator on the latest study and a scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said, "Looking at the overall patterns of detections, we remain convinced that the most likely source of Asian carp DNA is live fish." 

Conducted by experts who pioneered the use of genetic data to search for the aggressive fish, Mahon and his colleagues' investigation builds upon a growing area of research to find invasive species when they are at low abundance and when they can be potentially managed.

The paper's co-author, Mahon, said, "When we first discovered DNA from Asian carp at the Calumet Harbor and Port of Chicago, we were concerned that Asian carp may already be widespread in the Great Lakes, but because of our collaborations with state and federal partners, we now have a better picture of the Asian carp distribution. We are optimistic that with continued vigilance, it will be possible to prevent Asian carp becoming established in the Great Lakes."

Click here to read the full research article, "Detection of Asian carp DNA as part of a Great Lakes basin-wide surveillance program."

CMU biology faculty and research team introduce new screening method to detect abundance of invasive species in water


March 6, 2013 - Central Michigan University IGLR researcher and assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon and a group of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy have identified a genetic method of surveillance to detect the abundance of invasive species in water.

The study is the first to utilize the common genetic technique known as PCR screening to detect the relative abundance of a particular Asian carp species by testing for residual environmental DNA in water samples.

The findings of their recent study have been published in PLOS ONE, the electronic journal of the Public Library of Science, an open-access publisher of research from all areas of science. Access the article here.

"Our study shows the percentage of DNA positive samplings we find is directly related to the number of that particular species of fish in the water," said Mahon, lead scientist on the study. "This validates the use of eDNA surveillance sensitivity for the detection of multiple species of Asian carps in water systems."

Researchers compared genetic material found in water samples to the number of fish found in a 2.6-mile stretch of river in the Chicago canal system after it was treated with retenone and the fish carcasses were collected.

"Our results showed a positive correlation between the number of genetic samples and the abundance of fish after the canal was treated," said Mahon.

This testing provides for another tool for environmental management agencies to use in determining whether invasive species are present in the water.

"This genetic testing method, along with other traditional options currently being used such as netting, electro fishing, and hook and line sampling, offers an additional tool for detecting invasive species and one more option in the battle against these species getting into our waterways," said Mahon.

USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center scientists Margaret Hunter and Leo Nico are co-authors on the study, providing expertise, genetic samples and information on black carp.