Success Stories

Research could impact shipping

Elizabeth LaRue

After spending an entire summer collecting genetic data, 2009 Summer Scholar Elizabeth LaRue’s peer-reviewed research on the invasive round goby was published in Hydrobiologia.

The manuscript, “Population genetic structure of the round goby in Lake Michigan: implications for dispersal of invasive species,” was published in the January 2011 issue.

LaRue, a graduate student, worked more than 60 hours a week at the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon and along the Lake Michigan shores. The research was a collaborative effort with Michael Stacey, a 2009 graduate who started the research as a Summer Scholar on the eastern Lake Michigan shore. LaRue expanded on his work, sampling further along the shoreline. Both worked under the mentorship of advisors Carl Ruetz and Ryan Thum.

“She was involved in all aspects of the project, which included design and planning, data collection and analysis, and manuscript writing,” said Carl Ruetz, associate professor at AWRI. “I think this experience has prepared her well for graduate school and a career in science.”

Their research found sampling sites of the round goby close to each other had similar DNA, while sites farther apart had greater comparisons. This demonstrated the small amount of natural dispersal, and the differentiation of DNA resulting primarily by the transportation of ships.

“The teamwork allowed me to learn from two areas of expertise: fisheries biology and molecular ecological genetics,” said LaRue. “I don’t think we could have accomplished what we did if it were not for this collaboration.”

LaRue hopes the research will be used to realize that stricter restrictions need to be placed on ships carrying ballast water through the Great Lakes. Currently she continues to do research on invasive species in the Great Lakes as well as inland lakes through AWRI.

“Seeing her go from having zero experience in this field to being able to run very sophisticated analyses was awesome,” said Ryan Thum, assistant professor at AWRI. “ I’m not sure what more advisors can ask from their students than working exceptionally hard to really learn, while enjoying it at the same time.”

by Sarah Schultz

This story was filed with the tags: Graduate Student, Published