Student Achievements

Dr. Snyder and Biology Graduate Students Conduct Research in the Grand River

November 06, 2023

Dr. Snyder and Biology Graduate Students Conduct Research in the Grand River

Dr. Eric Snyder, graduate program director of Biology, leads graduate research labs with his students in the biology department. Students in his labs are working on two research projects this semester, both focusing on the State Threatened Lake Sturgeon in the Lower Grand River. The projects are being conducted in partnership with the Grand Rapids Public Museum, John Ball Zoo, Encompass Socio-ecological Consulting, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

The first project involves capturing juvenile Lake Sturgeon to collect genetic samples and mark the fish in case of recapture. The length and weight of the fish are also collected to better understand the fish's fitness when finding a surrogate to reproduce. One of the project's purposes is to increase the genetic diversity of the Sturgeon population in the Grand River. Most of the work is done at nighttime using a spotlight to identify the juvenile Lake Sturgeon in the shallow waters searching for its distinct movements and coloration. A single female Lake Sturgeon can produce up to 700,000 eggs in the Spring. In the Fall, students can attempt to estimate how many survived based on the number of juvenile Lake Sturgeon they are able to identify during their research. Ben Gunnett, a graduate Biology student, is working to develop a habitat suitability model for the juvenile Sturgeon in the Lower Grand River.  

In September, Dr. Snyder and his students found four juvenile Lake Sturgeons in one night. This is huge progress compared to last fall when it took them six weeks to find four in total.  

Dr. Snyder says, “It’s been amazing to watch students fall in love with this iconic fish and to provide them with the opportunity to work to conserve a State Threatened species.”  

The second project that the Department of Biology is working on is externally funded by the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act. The project's purpose is to use a variety of sonar arrays to see if Sturgeon can be identified passively. Establishing methods for identifying adult Sturgeon is important because it can help reproduction efforts to increase the number of juvenile Lake Sturgeon. Eamonn Powers, a graduate Biology student, is involved in this adult tracking project.  

We are proud of all of the research and conservation efforts by Dr. Snyder, his students, and the Department of Biology.  

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Page last modified November 6, 2023