The round goby has recently received much attention by the news media. Round gobies are native to the Black and Caspian seas in eastern Europe, and were first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1990. Anyone that fishes in Muskegon Lake has likely caught one of these small fish. The major impact of round gobies in the Great Lakes appears to be the local extinction of several non-game fishes (e.g., mottled sculpins), but the potential ecological effects of these changes are unknown.
Researchers at the Annis Water Resources Institute are involved with several projects that examine the ecological effects of round gobies in the Great Lakes. One of these projects involves the long-term monitoring of fish populations in Muskegon Lake. This relatively simple work involves sampling fish at three fixed sites in the lake during the spring, summer, and fall. Although the sampling is not comprehensive, it provides valuable information on fish populations over time. This work was initiated during 2003 and has documented the high abundances of round gobies in Muskegon Lake. In future years, this sampling will prove invaluable for understanding how the numbers of round gobies in Muskegon Lake change over time. A second project examines the potential for round gobies to reduce zebra mussel numbers. This work is particularly interesting because both round gobies and zebra mussels are non-native species. Melissa Reneski, an undergraduate student at Grand Valley State University, is conducting the research with Drs. Carl Ruetz and Don Uzarski. Melissa has been able to work on this project because of funds provided by Mr. Allen Hunting to create an internship focused on water resource issues in the Great Lakes. Melissa's research will help shed light on how zebra mussel population dynamics may change over time given the spread of round gobies across the Great Lakes. In addition to these studies, Drs. Uzarski and Ruetz have been conducting a study (in collaboration with Dr. Burton of MSU) exploring the potential of Great Lakes coastal wetlands as refuge for native fishes from the invasion of goby and other invasive fishes. This work was recently recommended for additional funding by MDEQ.