River Projects Receive Great Lakes Research Consortium Funding
Projects focused on St. Lawrence River habitat and water quality have received 2017 Great Lakes Research Consortium grants. The Great Lakes Research Consortium, representing 18 colleges and universities in New York State, plus nine affiliate campuses in Ontario, Canada, recently announced the awards in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Great Lakes Program.
The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY, and its Thousand Islands Biological Station, Clayton, NY, have received $22,500 in Great Lakes Research Consortium funding, to study the influence of spawning and nursery habitat in shaping the Northern Pike gut microbiome.
Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, has been awarded a $20,388.00 Great Lakes Research Consortium (GLRC) grant, to study mercury mobilization from wetlands along the Upper St. Lawrence River.
“The 2017 Great Lakes Research Consortium grant awards represent critical projects that will advance the science-based understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the Great Lakes System, as a dynamic and essential resource supporting human, fishery, and wildlife populations,” said Great Lakes Research Consortium Executive Director Gregory L. Boyer, Ph.D., a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Larval stage Northern Pike. With a 2017 Great Lakes Research Consortium grant, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, will work with its Thousand Islands Biological Station, Clayton, to examine the fish gut microbiome of Northern Pike, a key sport fish in New York State.
Photo courtesy John Farrell, TIBS
Dr. Brian Leyde,t with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Dr. John Farrell of the Thousand Islands Biological Field Station, will examine the fish gut microbiome as an indicator of spawning habitat and its impact on the health of Northern Pike.
Research with mice, rats, termites, chickens, and humans has provided insight into how intestinal microbes influence the health of the host. Northern Pike is a fish native to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and a top sport fish in New York State.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation studies have shown significant decline of adult and juvenile Northern Pike populations, in the Upper St. Lawrence River. Some Northern Pike in the 1000 Islands region have modified their spawning behavior to occur later and in deeper off-shore bay habitats. Spawning in non-traditional habitats can decrease young fish survival.
As suitable spawning and nursery habitat declines so do fish numbers, causing the need to supplement natural populations with hatchery-bred fish. With this Great Lakes Research Consortium grant, the researchers will create microhabitats in fish-rearing facilities to investigate how that influences the gut microbiome and health of hatchery-raised pike.
Clarkson University has received a 2017 GLRC grant, to determine how high water regulation will influence the reduction of wetland marshes that have acted as water purification systems, including sequestering mercury. Above, GLRC summer intern Evie Brahmstedt of St. Lawrence University, samples St. Lawrence River wetlands for mercury content.
Photo courtesy M. Twiss, Clarkson
Dr. Michael Twiss of Clarkson University will lead the research team that will begin determining how much mercury will be released, how rapidly, and in what form, in the Upper St. Lawrence. The research is prompted by Plan 2014 water regulation which will influence the reduction of wetland marshes that have acted as water purification systems, including sequestering mercury, since Moses-Saunders power dam construction in 1958.
Project leaders estimate the proposed loss of 29 percent of current wetlands along the New York and Ontario shores of the Upper St. Lawrence River would release 71 kilograms of mercury.
The research by Twiss is designed as a pre-emptive approach to addressing the risk of mercury release before St. Lawrence River fish become mercury-contaminated.
Collaborators on the mercury mobilization project, include St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY; the New York Power Authority, Massena, NY; and the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.
“Our Great Lakes ecosystems are very complex, highly treasured and ever-changing,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “It is imperative we continue to expand our scientific knowledge of these waters and evaluate what management actions are needed to sustain the unique quality of the Great Lakes, its watershed and its communities.”
Because the piping plover can lose nests to flooding events, but is also attracted to early-successional coastal habitat maintained by coastal over wash, the species may serve as a sensitive indicator of beach ecosystem response to high water regulation. Dr. Jonathan Cohen with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY, will lead the research team that will focus its efforts on the plover’s habitat selection process along eastern Lake Ontario.
Photo courtesy Elizabeth Truskowski, NYSDEC
The Great Lakes Research Consortium has awarded a total of $136,591 in grant funds for six research projects in 2017 to address priority areas in the Great Lakes Action Agenda for New York State. More information is posted at www.esf.edu/glrc. Other projects address the role of nitrogen in harmful algal bloom, the impact of aquatic invasive species on property value, restoration of the endangered piping plover species to eastern Lake Ontario, and contaminants of emerging concern in Central NY waters.
Funding for the grants is provided by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to the Great Lakes Research Consortium via an agreement with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.
The goal of this small grants research program is to provide seed funding for new, cooperative projects that improve understanding and management of New York’s Great Lakes resources. EPF funding is allocated for the New York Ocean-Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act and New York Great Lakes Action Agenda.
The Great Lakes Research Consortium administers the Great Lakes Small Grants Research Program in cooperation with the DEC, New York Great Lakes Basin Council, and New York Sea Grant.
By Kara Lynn Dunn
Kara Lynn Dunn is the publicist for the New York Sea Grant Great Lakes Program. She lives in Mannsville, NY, with her husband and photographer, Brian Whattam, who grew up in Three Mile Bay, NY. Kara earned a journalism degree at the University of Pittsburgh; is a freelance writer, publicist, and designer; and has authored two books on North Country natural and historic sites. Kara vividly recalls childhood camping adventures, along the St. Lawrence River, with the Village of Mannsville Summer Recreation Program. See Kara’s other articles here.