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Effects of Climate Change on Learning and Memory in Early Life Stages of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)

Principal Investigator: Brooke Karasch
Affiliation: Ball State University
Initiation Date: 2022

Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are facing a number of threats, including both climate change and predation by invasive species. Despite these ongoing threats to multiple life stages, research has rarely investigated pressures in combination. When studies do assess one of these threats, they often focus on a single life stage, and it is not often the embryonic stage. Our study aims to understand how climate change could impact predator recognition, memory, and avoidance in the two earliest life stages of lake sturgeon. We will “train” lake sturgeon embryos to recognize a predator using associative learning of olfactory alarm and predator cues. We will also raise the embryos in different thermal conditions. At the embryonic stage, we anticipate that those in the warmest water will exhibit the weakest antipredator behaviors, and those in the coolest will exhibit the strongest. At the larval stage, we anticipate those that were raised in the warmest water will have the weakest memory of the predator, and will lose their antipredator behaviors most quickly, while those raised in the coolest water will retain their memory of the predator the longest. Our research will help inform conservation plans for hatcheries looking to rear early-life lake sturgeon for release into Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes region more broadly.

The Economic Benefits of Water Quality Improvements in Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Principal Investigator: Emma Donnelly
Affiliation: Loyola University Chicago
Initiation Date: 2022

This project proposes to measure the economic benefit of water quality improvements by applying difference-in-difference analysis to local market outcomes in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern (AOC). The implementation of remediation projects in this AOC provides a unique opportunity to observe and compare affected ecosystems and economic outcomes before and after remediation. The analysis will use data on local housing market conditions and socioeconomic outcomes and the timing and location of sediment removal and habitat restoration projects in the Waukegan Harbor AOC. 

Identifying the impacts of urban green space on thermal pollution in the Chicago River

Principal Investigator: Colleen O'Brien
Affiliation: Northwestern University
Initiation Date: 2022

This project will identify the drivers of thermal pollution within the Chicago River and examine the role of green space at the buffer and catchment scale in reducing water temperature. Specifically, this will include the calculation of daily thermal loads from potential sources of thermal pollution to identify the drivers of water temperature in the Chicago River. Thermal loads will be calculated for wastewater discharges, inflow from Lake Michigan, stormwater runoff, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and cooling water discharges using data provided by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and modeling outputs from the Minnesota Urban Heat Export Tool (MINUHET). In addition, statistical analysis will be completed to determine if there is a significant correlation between landscape metrics within the buffer zone or the catchment area and the thermal loads for surface runoff. Landscape metrics will include percent green space, number of patches and patch density at the buffer and catchment scales and will be determined using FRAGSTATS to analyze land cover data.

Quantifying the importance of multiple nursery habitats to alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) recruitment in Lake Michigan

Principal Investigator: Les Warren
Affiliation: Purdue University
Initiation Date: 2022

Since the early 2000s, alewife populations have been on the decline and at an all-time low. This is a major concern to many recreational fishery specialists and salmonid managers. Although some species of salmonids are flexible in their diets, Coho and Chinook Salmon are not very flexible and rely heavily on alewife for the majority of their diet. In years prior, it was believed that the main basin of Lake Michigan was responsible for the majority of alewife recruitment. In recent years, evidence has begun to show that alewife may utilize other habitats like creek and river tributaries and drowned river mouth lakes (DRMLs). These environments may provide additional habitat with warmer temperatures, greater vegetation cover, and greater abundance in prey availability. The main objectives of the study include: 1) estimation of relative contribution of recruits from DRMLs, 2) comparison of growth and survival rates of larvae between the main basin and DRMLs, and 3) prey availability and diet analysis between the main basin of Lake Michigan and DRMLs. With the additional support requested with this proposal, an increased number of samples would be able to be processed with technician support. Additionally, genetic verification of larval alewife will be performed to ensure the larvae being analyzed are not the closely related species Gizzard Shad.

Partnering with Community Centers to Perform ‘Environment to Bioassay’ Antibiotic Discovery

Principal Investigator: Jin Yi Tan
Affiliation: University of Illinois at Chicago
Initiation Date: 2022

This project proposes to collect samples from various parts of Lake Michigan as proof of concept for a new “Environment to Bioassay” approach being developed. Using this approach, we can accomplish many stages of the microbial drug discovery pipeline directly from single bacterial colonies in a semi-automated fashion, bringing a huge advantage in terms of scale and capacity to access diverse portions of Lake Michigan’s microbiome for rapid antibiotic discovery. Furthermore, understanding the bio-assets from Lake Michigan will be key in informing how to best sustainably manage a critical resource and preserve this area. I plan to integrate my research project with an educational outreach program in partnership with the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. 

Improving Infrastructure Flood Resilience of the Southern Lake Michigan Region with Fluid-Structure Interaction Model

Principal Investigator: Chengcheng Tao
Affiliation: Purdue University
Initiation Date: 2022

This project proposes a computational framework to efficiently simulate the flood-infrastructure interaction mechanism, assess the impact and risk of flood on the infrastructure in the southern Lake Michigan region and provide recommendations on the selection of rational infrastructure types suitable for the flooding area. The goal of the proposed research is to mitigate potential losses, improve the current post disaster reconstruction strategy and therefore enhance the flood resilience of the infrastructure and coastal communities in the Great Lake region. Key outcomes include an extensive literature review on the flood hazard data and infrastructure damage data in the southern Lake Michigan region, and a computational framework that integrates the fluid-structure interaction model and flood risk assessment model.

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