Western Fisheries Science News, March 2017 | Issue 5.3

Release Date:

Early Detection Monitoring May Not Be Sufficient for Invasive Mussels in the Columbia River Basin

Zebra mussel

Image of stick encrusted with zebra mussel in Oologah Lake, Oklahoma. Photo credit: David Britton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Zebra mussels, brought to the U.S. from Europe in ship’s ballast water, were first discovered in the Great Lakes in the mid-80’s. Since then, these invasive mussels have caused extensive damage to ecosystems and in-water infrastructure. Millions of dollars have been spent to eradicate these mussels, as well as to control and limit their spread to other bodies of water. The Columbia River Basin now stands as one of the few areas in the U.S. not invaded by these small and highly prolific mollusks. Recent discovery of invasive mussels in Montana last year has people across the Northwest States wondering how close these invaders are to making their way into Columbia River Basin waters.

In a recent article in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, scientists from USGS and Washington State University found that current efforts to detect invasive mussels in the Columbia and Snake Rivers may not be sufficient, which could allow mussels to establish and spread. The study was conducted in cooperation with private, state, and tribal entities, to assess early detection monitoring for quagga and zebra mussels and provide a regional context for the development of early detection monitoring programs. The report found that the effort to monitor for invasive mussels increased substantially from 2012 to 2014, that efforts were distributed across risk categories ranging from very low to high, and that substantial gaps in our knowledge of both introduction and establishment risk exist. The estimated volume of filtered water required to fully census planktonic taxa or to provide probability detection of rare taxa was high for the four reservoirs examined. Scientists conclude that the current level of effort expended does not provide for high-probability detection of larval mussels when they are rare in these reservoirs. Without early detection and subsequent mitigation, these mussels are likely to spread throughout the region and negatively impact both the economy and ecology.

“Recent studies suggest that the ecological and economic costs of an invasive mussel infestation in the Pacific Northwest would be significant,” said Steve Bollens of Washington State University. “The invasive species' are known to multiply rapidly and damage beaches, clog boat motors, irrigation systems and dams, harm fish and wildlife and foul in-water infrastructure. Early detection of invasive quagga and zebra mussels will be important for quick response efforts.”

The study suggests several ways to improve monitoring including a re-evaluation of the actual geographical effort and increasing monitoring locations and employing a combination of existing and new emerging techniques. The study also calls out the need for better assessments of both risk of introduction and risk of establishment that would help direct monitoring to areas that are at highest risk of invasion.

 “This study suggests ways that ongoing monitoring efforts can be improved to help control the spread of these invasive species,” said Tim Counihan of the U.S. Geological Survey Western Fisheries Research Center.

Newsletter Author - Rachel Reagan



Integrated USGS Klamath Dam Removal Planning Workshop: On March 28-30, 2017, WFRC scientists Dave Hewitt, Eric Janney, and Dave Beauchamp attended an integrated USGS Klamath Dam removal planning workshop at USGS headquarters in Reston, VA. The workshop was an internal coordination effort by USGS to help provide science support to federal, state, and tribal partners addressing dam removal and ecosystem recovery. Participants included local scientists and managers already involved in Klamath activities and those from across all Mission Areas with complementary backgrounds in sediment dynamics, mapping, water and sediment quality, geomorphology, contaminants, adaptive management, fish biology/ecology, dam removal, statistical and numerical modeling, among others.

USGS Scientists Participating in Expanding Your Horizons STEM Conference: On March 24, 2017, WFRC scientists Maureen Purcell and Carla Conway participated in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) conference “Expanding Your Horizons”, intended for girls grade 9-12 at Bellevue College, WA. Purcell and Conway presented a hands-on workshop with NOAA Fisheries colleague Krista Nichols titled “Fish Get Sick Too!” that focused on the use of microbiology and molecular biology to diagnose a mysterious salmon disease. The conference had over 600 girls registered and scientists offered three 60-minute workshops throughout the day.

USGS Scientists Participate in Fish Reintroduction Symposium at Fisheries Meeting: The Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society held their annual meeting during February 29-March 3, 2017, in Bend, Oregon. Three scientists from the WFRC took part in a symposium on fish reintroduction in the Pacific Northwest. Toby Kock was a co-chair for the session, which included 20 speakers who presented results from reintroduction projects that ranged from the Sacramento River system to the upper Columbia River. Ian Jezorek presented a summary of his research on anadromous salmonid responses to the removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River. Jim Hatten talked about geospatial tools that he is using in collaboration with a diverse research team to assess risks associated with reintroduction upstream of Grand Coulee Dam.

USGS Scientist Participates in Event for Women in Science and Engineering: On March 2, 2017, USGS scientist Lisa Wetzel participated in a networking dinner for Highline College’s Women in Science and Engineering Club in Des Moines, WA. The goal of the event was to recognize, support and encourage women pursuing studies in the engineering, physical and life sciences, math and technology fields. Wetzel was invited to attend as a research scientist representing USGS.

In The News

Researcher Quoted in the Columbia Basin Bulletin: On March 24, 2017, USGS research fishery biologist Tim Counihan was quoted in the Columbia Basin Bulletin about a recent report in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment that evaluates early detection monitoring for invasive mussels in the Columbia River Basin.

Scientist Interviewed by Bellevue College NPR Affiliate Station KBCS: Jim Winton, WFRC senior scientist, was interviewed on March 13th by Yuko Kodama, reporter for the Bellevue College NPR affiliate station KBCS on the impact of climate change on diseases of fish.


New Publication Compares Long-term Monitoring Programs in Large Rivers: In business, benchmarking is a widely used practice of comparing your own business processes to those of other comparable companies and incorporating identified best practices to improve performance. However, biologists and resource managers designing and conducting monitoring programs for fish in large river systems tend to focus on single river basins or segments of large rivers, missing opportunities to learn from those conducting fish monitoring in other rivers. In a recent article in Fisheries, scientists from USGS (Southwest Biological Science Center, WFRC, Northwest Region, Oregon Water Science Center, Core Science Analytics, Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center), Illinois Natural History Survey, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife examine five long-term fish monitoring programs in large rivers in the United States (Colorado, Columbia, Mississippi, Illinois, and Tallapoosa rivers) and identify opportunities for learning across programs by detailing best monitoring practices and why these practices were chosen. Although monitoring objectives, methods, and program maturity differ between each river system, examples from these five case studies illustrate the important role that long-term monitoring programs play in interpreting temporal and spatial shifts in fish populations for both established objectives and newly emerging questions.

Ward, David L., A.F. Casper, T.D. Counihan, J. M. Bayer, I.R. Waite, J.J. Kosovich, C.G. Chapman, E.R. Irwin, J.S. Sauer, B.S. Ickes, and A. J. McKerrow. 2017. Long-Term Fish Monitoring in Large River: Utility of “Benchmarking” across Basins. Fisheries 42(2): 100-114

New Publication on Pacific Lamprey: A new manuscript titled "Response of Pacific Lamprey to Alarm Odors" is currently available in an early on-line format in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. In the publication, USGS biologists and colleagues report on experiments conducted to better understand how migrating, adult Pacific lamprey (Enstosphenus tridentatus) respond to potential alarm cues. Lamprey were tested in a two-choice maze and exposed to alarm odors derived from river otter, white sturgeon, human saliva, and decayed lamprey. The results suggested that Pacific lamprey were consistently active at night and responded to the river otter odor. The study provides baseline information on the effect of alarm odors and will help guide future experiments designed to improve the migration success of adult lamprey.

Porter, L.L., M.C. Hayes, A.D. Jackson, B.J. Burke, M.L. Moser, and R.S. Wagner. 2017. Behavioral responses of Pacific lamprey to alarm cues. J. Fish. Wildl. Manage. 8(1): 101-113.