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GLIN==> News Release - MN Sea Grant Funds New Research Projects

                                MN SEA GRANT
                                NEWS RELEASE
DATE: 03/18/03
CONTACT: Marie Zhuikov, mzhuikov@umn.edu
         (218) 726-7677

         Minnesota Sea Grant Awards $678,500 for Aquatic Research

The University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program recently chose nine
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 $678,500. The following projects that focus on
coastal ecosystems and economies, Minnesota's fisheries problems, new
technologies, and communities and urban coasts, will be funded through
University of Minnesota departments for 2003-2005:

- How Physical and Chemical Stresses Affect Survival of Spiny Waterflea
Eggs:  Donn Branstrator and Lyle Shannon, University of Minnesota
Duluth (UMD) Department of Biology.

The spiny waterflea (Bythotrephes longimanus) is a voracious predatory
zooplankton that is an aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes,
including Lake Superior.  Current control efforts for this pest focus
mainly on the adult life stage, even though the resting egg stage is
more likely to be accidentally  dispersed by recreational boaters on
their equipment.  Resting eggs might be viewed as "super eggs."  They
have a hardened outer shell and are designed to withstand harsh
environmental conditions.  They can hatch months to years after
incubating in lake sediments.  Researchers plan to conduct lab
experiments that will simulate different methods (extreme temperatures,
drying, chlorine, and salt) boaters could use to kill any resting eggs
on their equipment.  Lake managers and policy specialists will find the
results useful in containing the spread of this invasive species.

- Fortified with Iron ­ Enhancing the Break-down of PCBs in Great Lakes
Sediment:  Paige Novak, University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UM),
Department of Civil Engineering.

To explore ways to speed the breakdown of PCBs in Great Lakes,
researchers will team elemental iron with microscopic organisms that
dechlorinate PCBs in contaminated sediment.  Previous studies found
that particular microorganisms in Baltimore Harbor's sediment degrade
PCBs more quickly when corroding iron releases hydrogen gas, which is
food for these microorganisms, into the water.  The researchers
anticipate that similar microorganisms live in Lake Superior's
PCB-contaminated sediments and will also respond to iron. They hope to
stimulate PCB dechlorination in less-contaminated sediments by seeding
them with iron and the Baltimore Harbor microorganisms.  Speeding the
ability of natural microorganisms to dechlorinate PCBs might complement
or replace expensive and controversial dredging procedures and increase
the ability of remediation personnel to manage contaminated sediment.

- What the Nose Knows ­ Determining What Lures Steelhead Trout Home:
Allen Mensinger, UMD Department of Biology, and Peter Sorensen, UM
Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology.

Steelhead trout, a variety of rainbow trout, are prized recreational
fish.  Exactly what draws them to their native streams to spawn remains
a mystery, but knowing these factors could help fishery biologists
better manage this migrating species.  Researchers plan to build upon a
previous Sea Grant study to develop a remote telemetry system that will
allow them to continuously record impulses from nerves in the nose
(olfactory nerves) of free-swimming steelhead trout in a lab setting.
An electrode will be implanted into the olfactory nerve of several
steelhead trout.  Impulses from the regenerated nerve will be matched
to different scents that the fish are exposed to and their associated
behaviors.  Eventually, researchers hope to use this technology in
natural aquatic habitats to determine which cues are important to
steelhead during stream migration.

- Taking Stock of Steelhead Stocking:  Loren Miller and Anne
Kapuscinski, UM Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation

Working with the MN Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Lake
Superior Area and French River Fish Hatchery, researchers will use
mating records, captures at fish weirs, and genetic data to compare the
reproductive success of hatchery-stocked steelhead trout to that of
Lake Superior's naturalized steelhead.  Simultaneously, they will
examine the survival rate of juvenile steelhead produced by naturalized
parents, hatchery parents and mixed crosses in isolated reaches of
North Shore rivers.   Building on a previous Sea Grant study, the
researchers hope to guide the MN DNR's rehabilitation program for Lake
Superior steelhead and examine the genetic and ecological effects of
supplemental stocking on naturalized populations.

- Lake Trout Lairs and Nurseries ­ Discovering What Determines
Reproductive Success:  Thomas Hrabik and Donn Branstrator, UMD
Department of Biology;  Nigel Wattrus, Brian May, Elise Ralph, Large
Lakes Observatory; and Stacy Stark, UMD Department of Geography.

A team of researchers will identify habitat characteristics favored by
spawning and juvenile lake trout over two shoals of the Apostle Islands
in Lake Superior through remote sensing technology. This study will
generate new information about how interactions among substrate size
and stability, water movement, and sedimentation influence the
reproductive success of lake trout.  An understanding of water
conditions coupled with high-resolution GIS information about habitat
selection and use will help natural resource managers direct efforts to
manage populations of these commercially-important native fish.  The
researchers will also analyze the diets of fish in the areas where
juvenile lake trout gather to examine how young trout fare both in
competition and as prey.

- Watching the Wake of Storms in Lake Superior and Beyond with
Remotely-Activated Water Quality Samplers:  George Host and Richard
Axler, UMD Natural Resources Research Institute.

Researchers plan to develop a device that automatically collects water
quality samples in response to signals from sensors that could be miles
away.   A prototype sensor-sampler system will activate water sampling
in Lake Superior's St. Louis River Estuary when the sensor detects
storm-induced changes in the water's conductivity and turbidity.  After
the researchers couple the system with equipment allowing them to
collect samples from a variety of depths, they will move the
sensor-sampling system to an inland lake to measure the extent to which
storms stir bottom sediments and mix deeper high-phosphorus water to
the surface where it can cause algae blooms.  These characteristics,
which can affect natural resource personnel's success at managing water
quality and restoring aquatic systems, will be the criteria for
comparing the new sampling system to more traditional and
labor-intensive monitoring techniques.

- Using Fathead Minnows to Screen for Estrogens and Androgens in
Rivers:    Ira Adelman and Vivek Kapur, UM Department of Fisheries,
Wildlife and Conservation Biology.

Through this project, researchers hope to identify which genes in the
fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) respond to estrogens and
androgens.  These compounds may occur in runoff from agricultural lands
and sewage treatment plants.  Researchers will develop a sensitive and
specific genetic test and determine its effectiveness in evaluating the
presence of estrogens and androgens in rivers. This test will provide a
means of early detection  of environmental stressors, allowing natural
resource managers a timely way to reduce the impact of these
contaminants and preserve the health of the ecosystem.

- The Impacts of E. coli From Soil on the Lake Superior Watershed:
Michael Sadowsky, UM Department of Soil, Water, and Climate; and
Randall Hicks, UMD Department of Biology.

This project seeks to determine whether E. coli bacteria (Escherichia
coli), an indicator of fecal pollution, comes from humans or from
sediments that erode into the Duluth-Superior harbor and Lake Superior.
Although sewage or treated effluents are often blamed as sources of E.
coli, many of these bacteria filter into aquatic environments from
livestock in agricultural areas, warm-blooded animals in natural
ecosystems, as well as from soils and sediments.  As a result, the
extent of human influences on coastal ecosystems and health risks may
be over-estimated.   Researchers will look at whether E. coli released
into natural environments from soils and sediments survive and persist,
and will identify what factors might influence their survival and
reproduction.  Using DNA fingerprinting, they hope to build on a
previous Sea Grant project by identifying the original sources of E.
coli found in the sediment, soil and nearshore environments of Lake
Superior and to estimate the impact this has on fecal coliform
measurements in the lake and harbor.  Results will be useful to
regional wastewater plant operators and government agencies both
locally and in other coastal regions.

- Male Minnows and Estrogen Exposure ­ Does it Pose a Threat to Their
Reproductive Health?:  Peter Sorensen, UM Department of Fisheries,
Wildlife and Conservation Biology and Heiko Schoenfuss, St. Cloud State

Male fathead minnows will be raised in water with concentrations of
estrogen-mimicking compounds similar to those that researchers find to
be released by sewage treatment plants and pulp mills along the Great
Lakes.  The researchers will examine whether these relatively low
levels of estrogen-mimicking  chemicals change any aspect of the
minnows' development‹particularly by monitoring the presence of a
female yolk precursor protein, vitellogenin.   Based on a combination
of field and laboratory studies, the researchers plan to determine if
typical effluent from treatment facilities will impair the ability of
small populations of male fish to reproduce.

Minnesota Sea Grant is part of a network of 30 Sea Grant College
Programs spanning coastal states throughout the United States and
Puerto Rico.

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