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New Research Grants Awarded

The University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program recently chose ten research projects involving Lake Superior and Minnesota’s inland lakes for funding. The award money, which is provided by the National Sea Grant College Program and matched by the University of Minnesota, collectively totals $738,000. (For a description of how the projects were chosen, see the Bow Watch section.) The following projects that focus on biotechnology, aquaculture, coastal communities, exotic aquatic species, and the Lake Superior ecosystem, will be funded through University of Minnesota departments for 2001-2003:

Discovering the fate of Nemadji River sediments

Erik Brown and Nigel Wattrus, Large Lakes Observatory (LLO), Gary Parker, St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, and John Swenson, UMD Dept. of Geological Sciences.

Researchers will integrate field data with computer models to examine how the Nemadji River delivers sediments to Lake Superior and the relative roles of currents, waves, and other physical forces in dispersing these sediments. This study will help scientists, engineers, and port authorities understand how land use, harbor dredging, variations in lake levels, and climate-driven changes in lake circulation influence sediment deposition.

Exploring the distribution and productivity of zooplankton in western Lake Superior

Meng Zhou and Nigel Wattrus, LLO, Donn Branstrator, UMD Dept. of Biology, and Donald Schreiner, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.

Researchers will explore physical and biological conditions in Lake Superior during critical periods of lake trout’s life history by examining how zooplankton are distributed in space and time. The collapse of the lake trout population in Lake Superior and subsequent efforts to rehabilitate the stocks prompted this project, which questions the flow of energy through part of Lake Superior’s food chain.

The role of bacteria in moving PCBs into the Lake Superior foodweb

James Cotner and Bopaiah Biddanda, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, and Deborah Swackhamer, Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health.

Researchers will examine how bacteria, which account for a relatively high (80-90%) amount of the metabolic activity in Lake Superior, might also contribute to the bioaccumulation of contaminants. They will identify the factors that permit microbes to dominate relatively unproductive lakes and assess their relevance in transferring PCBs to lake trout and other higher-order predators.

Examining the bioaccumulation of contaminants in Great Lakes fish

Deborah Swackhamer, Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health.

This study will examine which contaminants, beyond proven and currently-monitored compounds, are accumulating in the tissues of Great Lakes fish. By alerting health experts to the presence of toxic and persistent chemicals and the degree to which they bioaccumulate, this study will assist federal and state agencies that monitor contaminants.

Identifying the sources of coliform bacteria in coastal ecosystems and their relationship to land use

Randall Hicks, UMD Dept. of Biology, Michael Sadowsky, Dept. of Soil, Water and Climate, and Lucinda Johnson, Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI).

Researchers plan to determine the source and distribution of fecal bacteria in the Lake Superior Basin by refining molecular and metabolic fingerprinting techniques. They will analyze strains of bacteria living in the intestines of animals including terns, gulls, deer, beaver, and humans, and compare them to bacteria in water samples from watersheds and the Duluth-Superior Harbor. Their goal is to help wastewater treatment plants and governing agencies quantify how land use relates to sources of fecal pollution.

Comparing the genetic diversity of coaster brook trout hatchery programs

Anne Kapuscinski, Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Researchers will compare genetic profiles of “coaster” brook trout hatchery broodstock to natural populations and will monitor genetic change within hatchery broodstocks. These comparisons will guide hatchery managers in their efforts to retain wild genetic diversity in captive stocks and to maximize the genetic diversity in restoration attempts.

Identifying critical elements of brook trout habitat in Lake Superior

Jeff Schuldt and Lucinda Johnson, NRRI.

Researchers will identify the fundamental characteristics of brook trout habitats along coastal areas of Lake Superior. This study will contribute to efforts to restore the “coaster” brook trout, once abundant throughout the lake.

Monitoring fish physiology and behavior with acoustics and implants

Allen Mensinger, UMD Dept. of Biology.

Scientists will develop acoustical telemetry tags that can be implanted in walleye and northern pike to monitor their activity, physiology, and behavior. This research will allow scientists to relate physiology with behavior and use the fish as environmental “sensors” to continually monitor environmental conditions.

Evaluating the benefits of consuming wild rice and waterfowl to Fond du Lac Band members and communicating the risks

Mary Renwick, Water Resources Center, Nancy Costa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Pat McCann, Minnesota Dept. of Health.

Researchers plan to screen waterfowl and wild rice for contaminants and compare the cultural, nutritional, and economic benefits of these traditional Ojibwe foods against market substitutes. Because these preferred foods may contain mercury and other toxic pollutants, the researchers will make the information accessible to Fond du Lac Band members and other Minnesota Ojibwe.

Weevil attractants released by Eurasian watermilfoil

Florence Gleason, Dept. of Plant Biology, and Ray Newman, Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Scientists will extend their research on the ability of a water-soluble compound released by Eurasian watermilfoil to attract a weevil that helps to control this invasive plant. This attractant, possibly coupled with the synergistic action of other natural products, could help ecologists, natural resource managers, and agencies throughout North America manage invading populations of this plant.

By Sea Grant Staff
January 2001

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