AWRI, Notre Dame researchers to study pollutant transfer by migrating salmon

Travis Bisson sets up Soxhlet extractors for sample analysis.
Travis Bisson sets up Soxhlet extractors for sample analysis.

Two Grand Valley State University researchers, who have studied accumulation of contaminants in non-native salmon in the Great Lakes and tributary watersheds, are beginning a new research project with a team from the University of Notre Dame to see if variables in watershed landscapes impact contaminant levels in stream resident fish.

Rick Rediske, professor of water resources at Grand Valley’s Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, said the purpose of the study is to find environmental factors that have an impact on how much contamination, including PCBs, PBDEs, and DDE, is transferred to stream resident fish in areas where salmon spawn compared to areas where their access is restricted.

“Conservation of native fish communities in Great Lakes tributaries is extremely important,” Rediske said. “We hope to learn how to predict how different watershed environments impact how much contamination from spawning salmon is being taken in by native fish.”

Rediske said the research is important to help give scientists and fishery managers an idea of the impact removing barriers in certain waterways might have on the native fish population, as well as a better understanding of the impact the spawning non-native fish have.

Much of the research will take place on Brook and Brown trout streams where dam and barrier removal could allow salmon further upstream. Researchers will take samples from 15 different sites, and will include different landscape variables and watersheds. Rediske said the research team hopes to develop a mathematical process that will predict changes to the watershed landscape on the resident fish.

The research will be funded by a two-year grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. James O’Keefe, research associate at AWRI will conduct the contaminant analyses. Rediske and O’Keefe will work with a research team from the University of Notre Dame on the project.

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