Gaining perspective on Great Lakes research

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Author:

Jared Myers (Fisheries and Wildlife) blogs about his recent experience at the 2011 International Association for Great Lakes Research conference where he presented a paper from his research on the cisco fish species. Myers’ trip was supported by the ESPP travel fund. Any MSU graduate student can apply for ESPP travel funding, not just those in the ESPP doctoral specialization. The funding is for any interdisciplinary conference or meeting where a student is displaying a poster or presenting work orally. Funding will continue to be offered quarterly. For more information, see ESPP’s conference funding.


A Great Lakes fishing boat (Image from Myers)

When doing scientific research, it can be easy to lose yourself in your topic and forget to consider your findings within the context of other researchers’ work. Attending conferences is a great way to gain back perspective and hear the opinions and insight of those both within and outside your field. This summer I had such an opportunity when I shared my research at the 2011 International Association for Great Lakes  Research (IAGLR) conference in Duluth, Minn. As a young fisheries scientist, I believe this was an excellent conference to attend. IAGLR is an interdisciplinary scientific organization and exposed me to a breadth of research I would not normally consider.

The results I presented were from research on cisco, a native Great Lakes fish formerly known as lake herring. Prior to the collapse of populations in early to mid-1900’s, cisco were one of the most ecologically significant species in the Great Lakes. These fish played a critical role in the native food web by consuming zooplankton and then serving as forage for native predators. Cisco have recovered in Lake Superior and are believed to be increasing in abundance in northern Lake Huron, but populations are severely restricted in the lower Great Lakes. However, opportunities for cisco restoration in the lower lakes are increasing. Our research focused on current Lake Superior populations in hopes of guiding future restoration efforts.

Our research team developed a simulation model to explore how water temperature may influence survival of cisco during the larval stage. More specifically, we used the model to explore how variation in temperature might cause changes in overlap between larval cisco and their predominant prey (i.e. immature zooplankton). Our results suggest subtle differences in temperature between years can cause large differences in the growth and survival of larval cisco. This modeling exercise has helped us to develop a framework for investigating these questions further with field collections.

I presented my research in the session: “Restoration and Management of Native Deep-water Fish Communities in the Great Lakes.” It was beneficial to talk with scientists that are also interested in native species restoration within the Great Lakes basin. I was able to learn about the research programs others are involved with and received valuable feedback pertaining to my research.

Another valuable session was one that examined global trends in lake temperature and the associated impacts on ecosystems. This session provided a global perspective and helped me see how my work might fit into

other research of temperature influence on aquatic communities.

Duluth was a fantastic city to visit and I truly appreciate ESPP’s support. I look forward to incorporating ideas from the conference into our model and believe our research will be much improved by my experience at the 2011 IAGLR annual meeting.

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