Hammond Bay Biological Station

Science Center Objects

In Partnership with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission

The Station

Hammond Bay Biological Station (HBBS), located near Millersburg, Michigan, is a field station of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center (GLSC). HBBS was established by congressional action in 1950 under initial supervision by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. HBBS was subsequently supervised by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (1970) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (1971), finally joining the GLSC in 1993, which transferred to the USGS in 1996.

A Sea Lamprey

A sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), one of the most destructive invasive species in the Great Lakes. Hammond Bay Biological Station was established to develop control measures for sea lampreys and conduct research to aid native fish restoration.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Courtesy of Stephen Domeracki)

The facility was opened in 1876 and served as a US Life-Saving Service station, and later a US Coast Guard station, until being decommissioned in 1947. With the growing threat to Great Lakes fisheries caused by sea lamprey invasion, the facility was converted into a biological station. Since then, the primary missions of HBBS—to develop control measures for sea lampreys and conduct research to aid native fish restoration—have been pursued with great success.

Releasing a Tagged Lake Trout

Hammond Bay Biological Station researchers release a tagged lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) into Lake Huron as part of a research project to aid restoration efforts. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Used with permission)

Research

The station is managed in cooperation with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and is one of the leading research facilities in the Great Lakes in support of invasive species control and native fish restoration. Research at the station focuses primarily on the biology and behavior of sea lampreys and native fish, such as lake trout and coregonine species, while the broader research portfolio includes other economically valuable fish such as walleye. Researchers at HBBS are on the forefront of Great Lakes fishery science with decades of success conducting cutting-edge research to improve management of the Great Lakes fishery.

Juvenile Cisco in a Holding Tank

Juvenile cisco (Coregonus artedi) swim in a tank at Hammond Bay Biological Station. The station hosts multiple researchers conducting projects to aid restoration of Great Lakes cisco populations.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Public domain.)

Sea lampreys are parasitic fish native to the Atlantic Ocean that invaded the Great Lakes in the 1800s-1900s, subsequently devastating many native fish populations. Sea lampreys quickly became, and remain, one of the worst Great Lakes invasive species. HBBS scientists study all stages of the sea lamprey life cycle, including the larval stage that burrows into stream bottoms, the newly metamorphosed stage that migrates downstream to lakes, the juvenile stage that feeds on fish, and the adult stage that migrates upstream to spawn. HBBS scientists have provided the primary scientific studies underpinning the GLFC’s sea lamprey control program, such as designing barriers to migration, discovering selective chemical toxicants (lampricides), and developing supplemental (non-lampricide) control technologies. Collectively, these achievements—and others—have resulted in one of the most successful invasive species control programs in the world.

Pipetting Sea Lamprey Pheremone

Hammond Bay Biological Station researcher Nick Johnson pipettes a sea lamprey pheromone into a vial. Research on pheromones aims to develop tools to disrupt sea lamprey migration and reproduction as well as improve trapping efforts. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Public domain.)

HBBS researchers are currently testing advanced technologies to improve sea lamprey control, fishery management, and native fish restoration. Researchers are testing sea lamprey pheromones and pheromone antagonists for disrupting natural migration and reproduction. Researchers are also testing sea lamprey alarm cues (repellents) for diverting sea lampreys away from favorable spawning habitats toward poor habitats or better trapping locations. Sea lamprey behavior is being studied in other research to improve accuracy of population size estimation and to develop new trapping and barrier technologies, including electrical systems to guide newly metamorphosed sea lampreys into traps and prevent the spread of adult sea lampreys.

Diver Adjusting Acoustic Telemetry Receiver

Diver Chris Holbrook, USGS, Adjusting Acoustic Telemetry Receiver Underwater, Lake Huron.  This device will receive signals from acoustic tags implanted into fish, allowing us to monitor their movements.

(Credit: Nick Johnson, USGS - GLSC. Public domain.)

HBBS is a research hub for the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS), with staff members that coordinate, manage data for, and participate in the GLATOS network. Station researchers use acoustic telemetry to track fish movements in projects focused on: testing assumptions required to estimate parasitic sea lamprey abundance in Lake Erie; cisco spawning and habitat use in the Les Cheneaux Islands, Lake Huron; walleye and whitefish population dynamics in Green Bay, Lake Michigan; whitefish and lake trout spawning behavior and habitat use on Buffalo Reef, Lake Superior; and siscowet lake trout spawning behavior near Isle Royale, Lake Superior. Additionally, acoustic telemetry researchers are studying the efficacy of the Northern Refuge in Lake Michigan for lake trout rehabilitation as well as lake trout colonization dynamics on artificial reefs in Thunder Bay, Lake Huron.

Inserting Acoustic Telemetry Tag into Lake Trout

Biologist Mike Lowe, USGS, is surgically inserting an acoustic telemetry tag into a lake trout in Lake Superior. These tags emit a 'ping' which can be heard with a sensistive hydrophone that tells the scientist the location of the fish so their movements can be tracked, in this case, to help us understand spawning behaviour. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Credit: Tom Binder, Michigan State University. Used with permission.)

HBBS researchers are also testing methods to selectively pass fish up- and down-stream of barriers, such as dams, thereby allowing passage of desirable fish while simultaneously blocking undesirable fish. Additionally, HBBS scientists are conducting research to support the conservation and restoration of cisco and whitefish across the Great Lakes, including analyses of lake whitefish recruitment drivers and dynamics. Finally, multiple station personnel conduct education and outreach programs in local communities and coordinate state-wide programs to educate youth and adults about Great Lakes science and management. The expertise and diverse programs at HBBS are continuing a tradition of delivering important advancements in Great Lakes science and management.

Imaging Longnose Sucker

Researcher Scott Miehls places a fish into an imaging system being tested as part of efforts to identify and selectively pass fish up- and down-stream of barriers. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Public domain.)

Facilities & Vessels

HBBS is located on a 60-acre property along Lake Huron. Facilities include recently renovated offices, a newly constructed laboratory, water tank, and pump house, and several buildings for storage and housing boats. The station pumps Lake Huron water into a one-million-gallon water tank for use in holding fish for extended periods in the new lab. Artificial channels and tanks of a wide range of sizes provide controlled experimental settings for fish behavioral studies and nearby streams provide natural experimental environments. The station is also equipped to conduct tests of various environmental parameters on toxicity of lampricides to sea lampreys and other fish.

HBBS operates four small vessels that allow research to be conducted over a wide range of environments. The vessels are well-suited for Great Lakes and large river research.

New HBBS Laboratory Building

The new Hammond Bay Biological Station laboratory building completed in 2019.

(Credit: Andrea Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Public domain.)

The USGS and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission partner together, through a Memorandum of Agreement with the GLSC, to jointly manage and operate HBBS. The station is staffed with a bi-national group of scientists and is among the most productive research facilities in the Great Lakes basin. While there are only about 20 permanent employees, the station hosts an additional 25-50 visiting scientists, contractors, technicians, and students at various times throughout the year. Cooperative studies are conducted with GLFC-funded researchers from US and Canadian universities, and with biologists from federal, state, provincial, and tribal agencies across the Great Lakes basin. Through an agreement with the GLFC, HBBS is formally partnered with Michigan State University and the University of Guelph in Ontario. Station facilities are routinely provided to other researchers worldwide who are engaged in research on lampreys and other Great Lakes fish.

HBBS Staff and kids at an Earth Week Event

Andrea Miehls (USGS) and Lauren Holbrook (USGS) introduce children to sea lampreys during an Earth Week outreach event. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Credit: Scott Miehls, USGS - GLSC. Used with permission)