MSU grad’s work in Northeast Michigan will support place-based stewardship education

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps, and Ranger Rick magazines helped Hannah Hazewinkel choose her career path early on.

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

MSU graduate Hannah Hazewinkel is one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving this year with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan. Courtesy photo

The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI), a place-based stewardship education network and partnership, has gained a new set of helping hands through the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program. Hannah Hazewinkel, a Michigan State University graduate, joins as one of 26 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving with conservation stewardship agencies and organizations across Michigan this year. Hannah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology and Zoology in May 2017.

As part of the NEMIGLSI network, Hannah will be supporting place-based stewardship education activities that facilitate school-community partnerships and support educators through sustained professional development. Most of all, her service will help engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship issues and projects that make a difference in communities across northern Michigan.

In collaboration with MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, Huron Pines is a leadership partner to the NEMIGLSI network and since 2009 they have placed AmeriCorps members annually in service of this education initiative. These members have been crucial in establishing and expanding this educational network of school and community partners in northeast Michigan communities.

So what do we have to look forward to in Hannah’s expertise and service in the coming year? Let’s meet and learn more about Hannah in her own words.

Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in environmental or conservation stewardship?

A childhood filled with beach trips, nature camps and Ranger Rick magazines had me convinced at the age of 9 or 10 that working in environmental conservation was the life path for me. For years I plastered my room in nature photos and articles and I dedicated myself to the study of natural science. In July of 2015, I realized the incredible power of environmental stewardship when I helped facilitate a tree planting event as an intern with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. That day changed my life. I spent the following two years volunteering/interning/working at Fenner Nature Center, engaging with the educational programs and volunteer coordination, as well as becoming a Staff Naturalist. The support team and the experiences I had there taught me so much about nature and community relationships and inspired me to pursue stewardship and education as a career path.

What do you most look forward to in your upcoming service with the NEMIGLSI network and partnership?

I’m really looking forward to working with the youth and providing them with opportunities to engage with the land and the lakes and be touched by these encounters as I was. I love being able to witness these interactions firsthand and watch students and community members learn and grow in their connection to nature. I’m also excited to get out to these natural places in Northern Michigan and have as much of an engagement and learning experience as the students.

Looking forward and after nearly a year of service – what would you like to have accomplished?

I hope to gain a breadth of experience with place-based education and a better understanding of how we can integrate it into our educational systems to foster good student-community interactions and raise good environmental stewards. I want to build a good skills portfolio but also have my service mean something to the communities and the natural areas that I interact with. If I can change the life and perspective of at least one student and create a more sustainable future for at least one natural region, then at the end of the day I can be assured that I have made at least a small contribution to the Earth and reciprocated a fraction of the gifts that I have been given. For me, service is not about getting myself ahead, but rather showing humility and gratitude for the human and natural communities that have blessed and supported me throughout my life. 

How has your experience at MSU prepared you for this role and opportunity?

MSU and Lyman Briggs College provided me with a great natural science education, and diverse opportunities to explore different career paths, countries, cultures and activities. Their partnership with Massey University in New Zealand allowed me to have a life-changing study abroad and internship experience. Through the science and humanities-based curriculum in LBC, I was able to gain a better comprehension of how science is integrated in society, and how we need a well-rounded and open perspective to understand and solve the world’s problems.

What are some of your favorite Great Lakes and natural resources hobbies or memories? What Great Lakes and natural resources experience are you most looking forward to experiencing?

I’ve always been an avid beach-goer and paddler. One of my favorite stories from my parents is the time they took me down the Lower Platte River in a raft when I was less than two years old. I enjoy kayaking adventures and trips to Lake Michigan every summer and fall, and last year I completed my first Great Lakes tour, swimming in every Lake over the course of the summer. Fond memories from that trip include swimming in Lake Huron when the solar eclipse peaked and almost being denied entry into Canada because the immigration officers didn’t believe that anyone would be traveling just for the sake of seeing the Lakes. I’m looking forward to spending more time in Lake Huron, hiking, and paddling northeast Michigan rivers, particularly the Au Sable of which I am very fond.

Project-Based Learning Meets Place-Based Stewardship Education

Event Date: 2/15/2018

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Your school, your community organization, and YOU are invited to join and participate in the annual, youth education-focused Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) Regional Network Meeting on Thursday, February 15, 2018 hosted in Alpena, Michigan. 

Program Expectations/Objectives

  • Learn about the NEMIGLSI network and gain educational updates, information and resources in support of your stewardship education programs and efforts.
  • Network, share, and trade lessons learned with participating NEMIGLSI partners and projects; a chance to connect with educators and community partners from around our region.
  • Contribute in planning the future direction for your regional NEMIGLSI, a focus this year on linking project-based and place-based stewardship education! Your opportunity to provide input and guidance about how GLSI can better support place-based efforts in northeast Michigan!

Registration

Please share with those who may be interested in participating and benefit from the day, and we hope you will plan to join yourself!

  • Register online no later than Friday, February 9th.
  • No cost to participate and lunch is provided. We only request you please pre-register, as this helps us plan for meals and educational materials provided (if you have any food allergies, please contact Meaghan Gass, meaghan.nemiglsi@gmail.com)
  • NEMIGLSI School participation stipends. $100/teacher 

Questions or need additional information? Please feel free to contact us by e-mail at northeastmichiganGLSI@gmail.com or phone: (989) 884-6216. 

In good tradition, we anticipate a wonderful day of networking and sharing information, resources, and new ideas among schools, educators and community partners engaged in youth development and environmental stewardship across northeast Michigan.

Aplex (Alpena Events Complex)
Huron Conference Room
701 Woodward Avenue
Alpena, MI 49707
www.aplex.org

What happens to my lake water quality monitoring data in a world of big data?

Citizen scientists collect valuable information to be used by researchers, policy-makers and natural resources managers.

Iowa State University student field technicians sample a lake in Iowa for the state's water quality monitoring program. Photo: Daniel Kendall, Iowa State University, Agriculture Communications

Iowa State University student field technicians sample a lake in Iowa for the state’s water quality monitoring program. Photo: Daniel Kendall, Iowa State University, Agriculture Communications

Michigan has a lot of inland lakes: 6,531 lakes 10 acres or larger, 2,649 are isolated with no streams flowing into or out of them, and the rest have some kind of stream flowing out or in, with all of them draining to the Great Lakes basin (Soranno et al. 2017). Residents of Michigan, especially those who live on lakes, are curious about the quality of water and food webs of their inland lakes. Because of their interest, residents often participate in opportunities such as Michigan State University Extension’s Introduction to Lakes Online educational program, volunteer water quality monitoring programs such as MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, or aquatic habitat improvement projects using Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ inland lake habitat viewer.

With all this lake monitoring data, one might ask…what happens to it? The data are used in a variety of ways. A team of researchers led by MSU professors Patricia Soranno and Kendra Spence Cheruvelil recently published findings from a big data project funded by the National Science Foundation that combined lake water quality monitoring data from 17 Midwestern and Northeastern states. This effort produced the lake multi-scaled geospatial and temporal database called LAGOS-NE, and is the first effort so far to combine water quality data from thousands of lakes and their surrounding landscapes. Large-scale data on a variety of lake water quality and landscape parameters helps advance freshwater conservation in an era of rapidly changing conditions. A large percentage of the data in this database was collected by citizen volunteers who play a critical role in ensuring our important freshwater resources are monitored.

LAGOS-NE is a publically accessible database that is available for informing research, policy, and management. Researchers might use the database to explore shifting patterns in species distribution or drivers of lake change. Policy-makers might use results from the database to inform lake specific nutrient standards or a dashboard of ecosystem services. Natural resource managers might use the database to prioritize areas for habitat conservation initiatives. 

The next time you enjoy fishing, swimming, or boating on any of the 50,000 mid-western or northeastern inland lakes, think about how big data and citizens have joined forces with computer sciences and aquatic ecology. If you do not already participate in a volunteer monitoring programs, consider making 2018 your year to contribute local water quality data. In addition to providing information about the local waterways important to Michigan, these data are also important for global freshwater sciences.

Registration is open for MSU Extension’s next Introduction to Lakes Online session. The class will be held Jan. 23–March 9, 2018. Registration deadline is Jan. 16, 2018. 

MSU prof seeks crowdfunding support for Great Lakes fish diet research

You can be a part of this important study by donating to support student researchers analyzing stomach samples from Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

As we all know, the Great Lakes have changed a lot in the last decade or so. Alewife have declined, round goby are increasing, and lake trout and walleye continue to recover. Chinook salmon, the heart of Lake Michigan’s fishery, have fluctuated in numbers in the past few years, and have collapsed in Lake Huron. Our fisheries agencies must make informed decisions regarding stocking and levels to support both fisheries and conservation goals. These decisions are based in part on what those predators are eating. What predators eat is an excellent indicator of ecosystem health, and can help tell us how sustainable the fishery is.

With the tremendous help of recreational anglers, MSU together with state, federal, and tribal agencies have collected nearly 2,000 predator stomachs from around Lake Michigan and Huron. We need help to be able to analyze all of them, particularly those from Lake Michigan. MSU has a wealth of potential help in terms of undergraduate students eager to gain valuable research experience. However, funding is needed to pay these students for their work.

Would you help by contributing to this research effort?

With the help of MSU CrowdPower, any donations made at the website will go directly to the predator diet study. Any donation will help, and all donations are tax deductible.

Want to stay up-to-date on the project? 

We have several other ways to connect including:

Alpena students’ project yields more than 1,000 pounds of invasive frogbit

First- and fifth-grade students remove invasive species from Great Lakes watershed, clean up along the Thunder Bay River — and captured it all on film.

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

Alpena elementary students work alongside NEMIGLSI network coordinator, Meaghan Gass, to identify and remove invasive European frogbit. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

More than 100 first- and fifth-graders from Alpena Public Schools got their feet wet this fall contributing to an invasive species removal effort in their local watershed. Visiting the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and the Maritime Heritage Trail along the shores of Thunder Bay River these students removed more than 1,000 pounds of invasive European frogbit, conducted litter cleanups, and did a little filmmaking to raise public awareness about their project.

Removal of European frogbit, newly found in the Thunder Bay watershed, took center stage as the primary stewardship project for participating students. This invasive plant grows in large, thick mats that block sunlight to the aquatic plants beneath it; therein threatening the health of surrounding plants and aquatic wildlife. Community and conservation leaders – with helping hands from these students – have prioritized removal efforts to help reduce and prevent the spread of this new invader to the local watershed. Student efforts contributed in accomplishing the Huron Pines frogbit challenge, where the collective community (with students) worked together to remove close to 3,500 pounds in 2017.

To get the ball rolling, fifth-graders from Hinks Elementary visited Duck Park where they donned waders and life jackets, grabbed rakes and buckets, and after learning to identify frogbit, started pulling the plant. Two hours later, they had pulled close to 500 pounds of frogbit from the river. Arriving later in the afternoon that same day, fifth-graders from Besser Elementary removed more frogbit, and also conducted an Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-A-Beach litter clean up along the Thunder Bay River. Over the course of three hours they picked up more than 12 pounds of trash and removed more than 700 pounds of frogbit. Meanwhile, on the Maritime Heritage trail, first-graders from Lincoln Elementary removed nearly 20 pounds of frogbit and eight pounds of trash along the river.

a picture of European frogbit that grows in thick mats in water

Throughout the day students shared their experience with local media – but also collected their own photos, video footage and interviews using iPads provided through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) in order to share their stories. Students provided a public service by removing invasive species and they also learned the importance of raising community awareness on these issues. They hope to produce a short film highlighting the dedication of their class, teachers and community partners to keeping our Great Lakes clean and free of invasive species.

A great example of place-based stewardship education in action, this experience offered opportunity to expand students’ learning beyond the four walls of the classroom while partnering with their community to accomplish this river habitat improvement goal. These enthusiastic students from three different schools collectively engaged in a fun-filled, hands-on learning experience while enhancing the Thunder Bay watershed and Lake Huron habitats within their own local Alpena community.

Teachers from Besser, Hinks and Lincoln Elementary schools facilitated this effort through the NEMIGLSI network and partnership.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension help provide leadership for the network, which is part of the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI), a larger, statewide partnership. Other NEMIGLSI network partners collaborating with the schools and providing leadership for this project included: Huron PinesHuron Pines AmeriCorpsAlpena Wildlife Sanctuary, and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Ludington Regional Fishery Workshop

Event Date: 1/13/2018

January 13, 2018

West Shore Community College
3000 North Stiles Road
Scottville, MI 49454

Details

Lodging

There is a block of room secured at the Ludington Holiday Inn Express for the night of January 12th. Double rooms are $75/night and are first come first serve. 

Group Code: MSU
Group Block Name: Fisheries Workshop
Reservations: (231) 845-7311

Apply Now for NOAA Teacher at Sea Program

Event Date: 11/30/2017

For more than 25 years, teachers have traveled aboard NOAA research vessels around the world through the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program. Applications for 2018 are now being accepted.

June Tiesas (left) is on deck the Oregon II during her Teacher at Sea program with NOAA.

June Tiesas (left) is on deck the Oregon II during her Teacher at Sea program with NOAA. Courtesy photo

Are you a teacher who is interested in learning more about our world ocean and sharing that knowledge with your students and colleagues? Are you excited about the opportunity to engage in ocean research alongside of NOAA research scientists and other teachers from around the country who share your interests? And would you like to do so at NO COST? If the answer is yes, NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program may be just what you’ve been looking for!

Teacher at Sea (TAS) has involved nearly 700 teachers since it began in 1990, with participants representing all 50 states. Eight from Michigan have participated over the past decade alone. Applicants may be classroom teachers (Pre-K through grade 12, community college, college or university), aquarium or museum educators, or adult education teachers. Teacher at Sea participants are typically on board one of NOAA’s research vessels for approximately two weeks and may participate in one of three cruise types: fisheries research, oceanographic research, or hydrographic surveys.

In 2015, June Teisan, a middle school science teacher at Harper Woods Secondary School in Harper Woods, Mich., who has collaborated with Michigan Sea Grant Extension on a number of education projects, was a Teacher at Sea on board the NOAA Ship Oregon II in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Teaching is an other-centered profession. We pour out our time and talents, passion, and praise moment by moment, hour upon hour, day after day. It’s what we love to do but it can be draining. So when the well of inspiration and energy runs dry how does a hard-working educator refuel? For me, self-selected professional development has been one way that I recharge my teaching batteries,” she states. “Over my career I’ve participated in a wide range of webinars, ed camps, conferences and internships, but one of the most powerful experiences was my time as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. Working side by side with top flight researchers 24/7 out beyond sight of land fed my inner science geek, challenged me to grow beyond the city-based bubble in which I’m comfortable, offered me a glimpse behind the scenes of NOAA’s critical role in maintaining the health of our fishery stocks, and gave me the opportunity to share this experience with my students through blog posts and connections to STEM professionals.”

NOAA wants teachers to understand how NOAA research is linked to the Next Generation Science Standards and Ocean Literacy Principles, and pathways leading to NOAA careers. They hope that as TAS alumni, teachers will use NOAA data and resources in their teaching and with colleagues. And they believe that the Teacher at Sea Program will develop an understanding of earth system science while building a workforce for STEM careers.

Applications for 2018 are now being accepted, and the deadline is November 30, 2017. Guidance on how to apply and program FAQs are available on the Teacher at Sea website.

New video shows anglers how to remove stomachs for fish diet study

Researchers are trying to learn more about what trout, salmon, and walleye are eating in lakes Huron and Michigan. Anglers can help by donating stomachs from their catch.

Fisheries scientists around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are working on a project led by Dr. Brian Roth at Michigan State University to understand what, and how much, different species of fish are eating. Invasive species such as round goby have damaged the environment, but they also provide food for some gamefish. Quagga mussels have reduced the amount of food in open water areas, but they also provide a food source for round goby.

Last year, much debate focused on alewife, an open water baitfish. This new study should provide better information regarding how many alewife are being consumed by different species including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, lake trout, steelhead, brown trout, and walleye. Some species, such as Chinook salmon, rarely switch to other food sources. On the other hand, fish such as lake trout, brown trout, and walleye readily switch to feeding on bottom-dwelling fish like round goby. Sometimes.

This comprehensive effort will attempt to figure out when and where certain gamefish take advantage of round goby, alewife, and other food sources including invertebrates like opossum shrimp and spiny water flea. In order to get an adequate number of fish from all seasons of the year and all regions of the two lakes, scientists are hoping anglers can pitch in and contribute stomachs for the study. 

How to participate

  • Watch this short video to learn how to collect stomachs. It is very important not to bias the study by collecting only full (or only empty) stomachs.
  • If you are collecting stomachs after a fishing trip, be sure to collect ALL stomachs from each species that you are collecting.
  • It is not necessary to collect stomachs from every fishing trip you take, but stomachs from 2-3 trips per month would be very helpful.

What, when, and where to collect

  • What: Stomachs from all trout and salmon species, and walleye.
  • When: Now through the end of the 2019 fishing season.
  • Where: All waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, including large bays like Saginaw Bay and Green Bay, but not including rivers or drowned rivermouth lakes.

What to focus on

Creel census clerks with Michigan DNR, biotechs funded by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Geological Survey biologists will be working to collect stomachs at access sites and in conjunction with major fishing tournaments. Anglers can help these agencies to fill in the gaps by contributing stomachs from less-common species, early- and late-season catches, and fish caught at night or in regions that do not get as much coverage by agency personnel.

Some ideas to focus on include:

  • early-season brown trout
  • Green Bay walleye
  • all species in northern Lake Michigan from Grand Traverse Bay north to Manistique
  • mid- to late-summer salmon and trout from St. Joseph north to Saugatuck

All species from all areas of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are appreciated, but these focus areas are particularly important because angler-submitted stomachs may make a critical difference in providing enough stomachs to meet sample size targets.

Materials for stomach collection include:

Data tags, list of freezer drop sites, video and full instructions are also available at www.michiganseagrant.org/diet.

Alpena students learn while caring for island habitats of local community park

Elementary students tackle critical Great Lakes and natural resource conservation issues, enhance their community, and enjoy a little hands-on learning along the way.

Students review debris they recovered at Rotary Island

DenBleyker and students review debris they picked up at the island.

With the sun shining and just a short walk from school, a class of energetic students recently crossed the bridge over the Thunder Bay River to Rotary Island in Alpena, Mich. These third graders from Lincoln Elementary, Alpena Public Schools were on their way to finalize a series of environmental studies and stewardship projects. This field trip culminated a year-long study inspired by their teacher Tina DenBleyker, who has opened her classroom doors into the community to enhance student learning through hands-on environmental studies.

Applying creative place-based stewardship education (PBSE) strategies, DenBleyker engages students through hands-on community connections and environmental experiences. At the heart of their project was Rotary Island – which students ‘adopted’ and in doing so built a mutually benefiting relationship with their local Alpena Rotary Club. Supported through the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network, this Lincoln Elementary educator and student team connected with community and conservation partners, including the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Alpena, Huron Pines AmeriCorpsMichigan State University ExtensionMichigan Sea GrantNOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuaryand U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

This project illustrates a great example of how PBSE strategies enhance learning and foster community connections through environmental stewardship studies; resulting in:

  • An engaging educational opportunity. Learning about life cycles is one example of a science learning goal for third grade students in Michigan; and what better way to learn about life cycles than exploring local monarch butterflies and their milkweed habitats. Reading and writing was another significant goal in this project both as students prepared for their projects and also as they reflected and wrote about their science explorations and findings. Students also gained valuable life skills working in teams, communicating with community partners, and leadership in implementing their projects.
  • Watershed studies resulting in environmental stewardship. Students are conducting litter pickups, planting native pollinator gardens, and a variety of other efforts that enhance and beautify this island and public park. For example, the students pick up litter and tally the items found while accomplishing marine debris monitoring and prevention goals promoted by the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program and NOAA Marine Debris program. While picking up the litter, students identified issues with fishing line – addressing this issue by partnering with Michigan Sea Grant to build and install monofilament recycling bins on the Island. Finally, their monarch lifecycle studies led to learning about pollinators and an eventual partnership with USFWS to plan and plant a native pollinator garden on the island.
  • Valued community connections and contributions. Throughout the year students met and expanded their relationship with the local Alpena Rotary Club who own and manage the island. Mary Dunckel (also an MSU Extension Educator in Alpena County) provides leadership for Rotary Club, which welcomed and supports this school partnership on the island. Students learned more about the island and ways they could help when interviewing Rotarian Patrick Heraghty (Director of Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan). This partnership benefits school improvement goals and provides a community enhancement opportunity.
Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

Alpena Elementary School students show off their completed monofilament recycling station – one of two installed on Rotary Island. Photo: Tina DenBleyker.

DenBleyker’s vision and planning for this stewardship project started last summer during the Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute, a training sponsored by the NEMGLSI network and Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy. Here she learned about place-based stewardship education strategies; connected and traded ideas with other teachers, Great Lakes scientists and a variety of community partners; and gained resources in support of her work. DenBleyker jumped straight into PBSE programming with her students last fall with visits to the island – leveraging new partners and opportunities, navigating challenges, and celebrating successes. She shared her reflections as a new teacher getting started in PBSE during the 2017 NEMIGLSI Regional Networking Meeting. This summer she will share her experiences with new teachers as a lead teacher mentor during the very same Lake Huron PBSE Summer Teacher Institute. This year’s Institute is scheduled for August 14-18, 2017, in Alpena, and teachers interested can learn more and submit applications online. Applications are due July 27.

Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension serve in providing leadership for the NEMIGLSI network, which is part of a larger, statewide network and partnership, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI). Established in 2007 with funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, the GLSI supports place-based stewardship education in schools and communities across Michigan. Partnerships are invaluable in our endeavor to support stewardship of our Great Lakes and natural resources. Through the NEMIGLSI network, and applied place-based education strategies, our educator partners are addressing critical Great Lakes issues.

How much do lake trout and Chinook salmon really eat?

Chinook salmon have been the most important predator in Lake Michigan for decades. With baitfish on the decline, some anglers believe that lake trout are now eating more than salmon.

It takes a lot of food for a lake trout to grow this big, but a Chinook salmon eats much more on an annual basis.

It takes a lot of food for a lake trout to grow this big, but a Chinook salmon eats much more on an annual basis. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The food supply in Lake Michigan is not what it used to be. Invasive species like quagga mussels, nutrient reductions in open waters, and high numbers of predatory fish to feed all play a role in “squeezing” baitfish like alewife. The result can be an imbalance of predators and prey. In other words: too many mouths to feed for the amount of food available in open water.

Of course, this is a simplistic way of looking at things. Different species of fish are not the same in terms of the energy they consume and use. They grow at different rates, prefer different water temperatures, and utilize food more or less efficiently.

These factors become important when considering the total number (or biomass) of baitfish being consumed by predatory salmon and trout in Lake Michigan. Many anglers are particularly concerned about the impact of native lake trout versus introduced Chinook salmon. Both species are currently stocked in Lake Michigan, but both species also reproduce naturally.

Chinook salmon are prized gamefish with a very high growth rate and a short lifespan — they typically spawn and die at age 2.5 or 3.5 with a very few surviving to age 4. Lake trout are also a good gamefish, but they do not draw anglers to the lake in the same way that the spectacular fighting ability of the Chinook salmon does. Mid-sized trout are excellent table fare, but large, old lake trout tend to accumulate more contaminants than salmon. Lake trout can also live much longer than salmon (over 20 years), but they grow much more slowly.

Since there is a limited number of baitfish in the lake, there is a limited amount of energy (calories) available to trout and salmon. How does this all play out in terms of the amount and types of prey fish being eaten by lake trout and Chinook salmon?  To find out, I relayed some questions on the topic to two people who have been studying Lake Michigan fish for a combined total of over sixty years: Chuck Madenjian (USGS) and Jory Jonas (MDNR).

How would a lake trout and Chinook salmon compare in terms of the energy they consume each year?

C.M.: For the period of time from age 1 through age 12, annual food consumption by a lake trout in Lake Michigan averages 13 lbs. This estimate is based on the assumption that the annual food consumption for age-10 and age-11 lake trout is similar to that for lake trout of ages 7-9. For the period of time from age 0 through age 3.5, annual food consumption by a Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan averages 42.5 lbs. Thus, Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan are feeding at a rate more than three times higher than that of lake trout.

J.J.: I agree with Chuck’s summary above, but would also add that Chinook salmon grow faster, inhabit warmer waters than lake trout on average, and are much more active. All of these factors lead to increased demand for energy (food) relative to lake trout.

So, on an annual basis a Chinook salmon eats more than a lake trout of the same size. We know that lake trout live longer than Chinook salmon, though. How much does an average lake trout eat over its entire lifetime as opposed to an average Chinook salmon?

C.M.: The answer to this question partly depends on the definition of an entire lifetime for a lake trout. Based on the bioenergetics modeling by Don Stewart and others, an average lake trout consumes 143.3 lbs. of food between the time of stocking as a yearling into Lake Michigan and age 12. A Chinook salmon consumes 147.7 lbs. of food between the time of stocking as an age-0 fingerling into Lake Michigan and age 3.5, when a Chinook salmon is ready to spawn.   

J.J.: Chuck did a nice job of summarizing lifetime consumption of the two species above. When asking a question like this, it is important to consider why it is being asked. Total lifetime consumption of prey does not equate to information valuable in determining sustainability of the system. New year-classes of fish are always being produced and individual species have different life-spans and life-histories. Several generations of alewife and Chinook salmon will have cycled during the life-span of a lake trout. For example, during the lifespan of a lake trout age 12 which consumed 143.3 lbs. of prey there will have been four generations of Chinook salmon each consuming 147.7 lbs. of prey (590.8 total lbs.). Because of fluctuations in births and deaths and the lack of life-span synchrony among species, we typically summarize population levels of predators and prey on an annual basis in order to monitor for changes over time.

Fish are cold-blooded animals, so water temperature must affect how often they eat and how quickly they digest food. Do temperature preferences play a big role when comparing bioenergetics of lake trout and Chinook salmon?

C.M.: Temperature does play a role when comparing bioenergetics of lake trout and Chinook salmon. However, the main driver of the difference in consumption rates between lake trout and Chinook salmon is the difference in growth rates between the two species. In other words, the main reason for the much higher rate of food consumption by Chinook salmon compared with that by lake trout is that Chinook salmon grow substantially faster than lake trout. Average summer temperatures experienced by lake trout in Lake Michigan range from 46.4 to 50°F, whereas average summer temperature experienced by Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan ranges between 53.6 and 55.4°F. Metabolic costs typically increase with increasing temperature, and so Chinook salmon would be expected to have higher metabolic rates than lake trout. Nonetheless, the primary reason for the higher food consumption rate for Chinook salmon compared with that for lake trout is the higher growth rate by Chinook salmon compared with that for lake trout.

J.J.: Chinook salmon are also more active than lake trout, travelling large distances and generally moving around more. Combine higher activity levels with the factors mentioned by Chuck above, including higher temperature occupancy, and you have a higher demand for calories to support Chinook salmon.

Fish need energy to maintain basic body functions, chase down prey, and reproduce. Additional energy can be used for growth. How do lake trout and Chinook salmon compare in terms of their ability to use food energy for growth?

C.M.: Gross growth efficiency (GGE) is equal to growth (increase in weight) divided by the amount of food consumed to attain that growth. Thus, GGE is a measure of the efficiency with which a fish converts food consumption into its growth. According to the bioenergetics modeling by Don Stewart and others, the GGE for a 3.5-year-old Chinook salmon is 13.3%. That is, the 3.5-year-old Chinook salmon converted its food into its growth with a 13.3% efficiency. The GGE for a 12-year-old lake trout is estimated to be 8.0%. Thus, a Chinook salmon is considerably more efficient at converting food into growth than a lake trout in Lake Michigan.

Large, old lake trout are a common catch in central and southern Lake Michigan. These fish might weigh over 20 pounds and be 20 years old or older. Computer models that calculate how many baitfish are being eaten in Lake Michigan treat a 20-year-old lake trout the same as a six-year-old. Does a 20-year-old lake trout really eat only as much as a six-year-old?

C.M.: To answer this question, a growth trajectory for lake trout from ages 1 through 20 would be needed. Stewart et al. (1983) estimated mean weight at age for ages 1 through 10 only, so information on mean weight at age for ages 11 through 20 would be needed to answer this question. According to Stewart et al. (1983), annual consumption of food by an average lake trout in Lake Michigan remained relatively constant at a value of about 17.6 lbs. between the ages of 6 and 10. In other words, annual feeding rate of lake trout did not increase as lake trout age increased from 6 to 10. Mean weight at age 6 was 6.6 lbs., and mean weight at age 10 was 10.6 lbs. Thus, even though the weight of an average lake trout increased by 4 lbs. between ages 6 and 10, annual rate of food consumption by lake trout did not increase between ages 6 and 10 (Stewart et al. 1983). Note that annual weight gain by lake trout decreased between ages 6 and 10. If the annual weight gain (annual growth) continued to decrease between ages 10 and 20, a large increase in annual consumption over ages 10-20 would not be expected.

J.J.: It is true that larger fish on average require more energy than smaller fish, all else being equal. As lake trout age, the annual growth rate is much less, reducing energy demands, as mentioned by Chuck above. In more recent catch-at-age modelling efforts in eastern Lake Michigan, the mean weight of a lake trout at age 6 was 5.7 lbs., at age 10 was 9.7 lbs. (a change of 4 lbs. in 4 years) and was 11.2 lbs. at age 15 (an increase of 1.5 lbs in 5 years). By age 7 most lake trout are spawning so fish age 7-15 should be experiencing similar energy demands for spawning. Despite this, growth rate (body weight added per year) continues to decline as the fish ages.

Studies on Great Lakes salmon and trout bioenergetics were conducted back in the 1980s. Do they still hold true today with so many invasive species in the food web and changes to the strains of lake trout being stocked?

C.M.: Bioenergetics models for Chinook salmon and lake trout are sufficiently flexible such that they can accommodate changes in the Lake Michigan food web and changes in lake trout strains being stocked. Inputs to the bioenergetics models include growth of the fish (predator), temperature regime experienced by the fish, diet schedule for the fish, energy density of the prey, and energy density of the fish (predator). All of these inputs can be adjusted to more accurately reflect changes in the food web or changes in lake trout strains stocked. Bioenergetics model estimates of food consumption by Chinook salmon and lake trout are especially sensitive to estimates of growth by Chinook salmon and lake trout, so changes in growth over time would need to be taken into account when estimating food consumption by these fishes over decades of time. In the laboratory, the lake trout bioenergetics model performed equally well for both Marquette and Seneca Lake strains of lake trout, so lake trout bioenergetics was very similar among strains of lake trout. The Seneca Lake strain does inhabit slightly cooler water than the Great Lakes strains of lake trout, but this slight difference in temperatures between strains had only a small effect on food consumption. Laboratory performances of both the Chinook salmon bioenergetics and the lake trout bioenergetics model are reasonably good. On average, the model estimates of food consumption are within 5% of observed consumption.           

Now we know how much individual trout and salmon eat, but how many baitfish are eaten annually by all predators in Lake Michigan? How did estimated lake trout consumption compare to estimated Chinook salmon consumption on a lakewide basis in 2016?

J.J.: In 2016, lake trout consumed 13.7 kt of prey and Chinook salmon consumed 38.4 kt. Even though numbers of Chinook salmon in 2016 were at all time low levels lake-wide, they consumed nearly 3 times as much forage as lake trout. In 2016, the biomass of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan was estimated to be 5.0 kt and lake trout 5.9 kt. Just four years’ prior, in 2013, Chinook salmon biomass was substantially higher at 15.7 kt and lake trout were 7.0 kt.

Until now we have only been discussing how many baitfish are being eaten, but we know that Chinook salmon depend almost entirely on alewife while lake trout can eat a variety of prey including round gobies. Have lake trout moved away from eating alewife in Lake Michigan?

J.J.: Lake trout tend to be opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of a variety of prey items, whereas Chinook salmon are more specialized preferring almost exclusively alewife as prey. Since about 2003, lake trout have been taking advantage of a relatively new prey source in Lake Michigan, the round goby. Because of increased public interest in understanding the role of lake trout as predators in Lake Michigan, a variety of new initiatives have begun to better understand this more complex predator. For the last few years, diet collections have been occurring outside of the standard spring assessments which conclude in mid-June, and on broader spatial scales. Preliminary comparisons indicate that there is a seasonal component to lake trout feeding whereby they consume larger numbers of round goby in the spring and increased dependence on alewife as the year progresses. Smelt and bloater have been abundant in the diets of lake trout in the past, but for the recent 5 years over 75% of lake trout diets have been comprised of alewife and round goby. We continue to explore new and more robust methods for keeping up with the changing trends in lake trout consumption. Some of these include evaluation of fatty acid or isotopic signatures which can represent a longer period of lake trout consumption (in the case of isotopes up to one-year). We are seeking funding to conduct broader data collection efforts to better understand changing patterns throughout the lake and in different seasons.

So, we don’t yet know exactly what percentage of Lake Michigan lake trout diet is alewife, but what was the realistic range of possible alewife consumption by lake trout in 2016?

J.J.: It’s still early, but most of us are comfortable with an average alewife diet proportion of around 50% for lake trout, which we currently use in consumption models. Preliminary investigations indicate that in the spring (April to mid-June) alewife comprise between 7% to 20% of the diet of lake trout, and from mid-June to August alewife can represent from 50% to 80% of the diet. We continue to pursue improvements to describe feeding patterns of this more complex predator in the Lake Michigan basin.

Thanks Jory and Chuck for providing detailed answers to these questions.

In summary, when anglers point out that lake trout need more food to reach a given weight they are correct. A lake trout needs about 125 pounds of food to reach a weight of ten pounds while a Chinook salmon needs around 75 pounds of food (based on differences in gross growth efficiency). However, the Chinook salmon consumes this amount of food over a very short period of time when compared to a lake trout.

In fact, a typical Chinook salmon consumes roughly three times as much food in a given year as a typical lake trout does. This is critically important because alewife (and other prey fish) reproduce and grow each year. The absolute amount of food consumed by a salmon or trout in its lifetime is therefore less important to maintaining a good predator-prey balance than its annual demand for prey.

Chinook salmon do burn through alewife much more quickly than lake trout, but that does not mean that lake trout consumption is completely insignificant. Science is always improving, and the upcoming study on predator diets is one example of an effort to better understand what lake trout are eating at different times and in different parts of Lake Michigan.

Despite the never-ending quest for better information, fishery managers must make decisions in real time based on the best available scientific information. We know that an individual Chinook salmon consumes more alewife than a lake trout does, but we also know that Chinook salmon are no longer the only important species to consider when looking at predator-prey balance in Lake Michigan. In the future, scientists will be taking a harder look at diet and consumption of other predators like lake trout, coho salmon, and steelhead.

More information:

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References

Bergstedt, R.A., Argyle, R.L., Krueger, C.C., and Taylor, W.W. 2012. Bathythermal habitat use by strains of Great Lakes- and Finger Lakes-origin lake trout in Lake Huron after a change in prey fish abundance and composition. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141(2): 263-274.

Madenjian, C. P., D. V. O’Connor, S. M. Chernyak, R. R. Rediske, and J. P. O’Keefe. 2004. Evaluation of a chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus  tshawytscha) bioenergetics model. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  61:627-635.

Madenjian, C. P., S. R. David, and S. A. Pothoven. 2012. Effects of activity and energy budget balancing algorithm on laboratory performance of a fish bioenergetics model. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141:1328-1337.

Madenjian, C. P., S. A. Pothoven, and Y.-C. Kao. 2013. Reevaluation of lake trout and lake whitefish bioenergetics models. Journal of Great Lakes Research 39:358-364.

Stewart, D.J., and Ibarra, M. 1991. Predation and production by salmonine fishes in Lake Michigan, 1978-88. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 48: 909-922.

Stewart, D.J., Kitchell, J.F., and Crowder, L.B. 1981. Forage fishes and their salmonid predators in Lake Michigan. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 110: 751-763.

Stewart, D.J., Weininger, D., Rottiers, D.V., and Edsall, T.A. 1983. An energetics model for lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush:  application to the Lake Michigan population. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  40: 681-698.