Science Transfer

The goal of the Science Transfer Program (STP) is to improve fishery management to successfully achieve fish community objectives by identifying science and science products that can inform management needs, and making science accessible to managers for decision-making. The program funds strategic science transfer initiatives to support the objectives and activities described in A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries.

Activities supported under the STP include, but are not limited to, workshops, symposia, publications, and training.

The Science Transfer Program is advised by a Science Transfer Board (STB ) consisting of fishery managers, sea lamprey control agents, and scientists. The STB identifies and prioritizes fishery management issues requiring science transfer through a "horizon scan" process. Ideas are solicited from the Sea Lamprey Control Board, Council of Lake Committees, and the broader Great Lakes science and management communities, as well as stakeholders and industry partners.

If you have a project idea or management issue that could be informed by available science, please contact the science program.

Science Transfer Initiatives

From fish movement to knowledge movement: Understanding and improving science transfer related to telemetry

Project leader: Cooke, S.

Researchers use acoustic telemetry to collect information about fish movements (e.g., migration patterns, habitat use, survival). An acoustic telemetry system consists of two main components: transmitters and receivers. Transmitters are electronic tags, attached to or surgically implanted in a fish, that broadcast a series of “pings” (sound pulses) into the surrounding water. Receivers are small, data-logging computers anchored near the bottom of a lake or river that “listen” for tagged fish. When a signal is identified, the tag’s unique ID code is saved with the date and time. The Commission has invested millions of dollars since 2010 in the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS). This project seeks to understand and improve how acoustic telemetry data are used in Great Lakes fishery management decision-making. The project will identify barriers to and opportunities for telemetry knowledge use by surveying fisheries managers, clearly communicate technical aspects of telemetry including opportunities and limitations, share GLATOS success stories through management briefs, and increase relevancy of telemetry by identifying lake-specific information needs.

Changes in nutrient status and energy flow through lower trophic levels: Implications for Great Lakes fishery managers

Project leader: Stewart, T.

An aquatic food web exchanges energy among organisms via a complex network of trophic (meaning “pertaining to nutrition, food, or nourishment”) interactions. Use of the term “lower trophic levels” (LTLs) in fisheries management refers to nutrients (most notably phosphorus), plants (e.g., algae), and small animals (zooplankton, mussels, bottom organisms), many of which are eaten by fish. Fishery managers need to understand how LTLs in the Great Lakes are changing as they contemplate changes in fishery management. The goals of this project are to synthesize knowledge on 20 years of changes to Great Lakes LTLs, facilitate discussions among fisheries management decision makers and scientists to develop a fisheries management perspective on food web dynamics, better understand potential consequences of LTL changes to fisheries outcomes, and develop approaches to managing fisheries that account for LTL change. These goals will be accomplished through a series of workshops among technical experts and fisheries managers and production of lake-specific fact sheets.

Uses and limitations of environmental DNA (eDNA) in fisheries management

Project leader: Welsh, A.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a promising technique for greatly increasing the chance of detecting relatively rare or elusive organisms, such as invasive or endangered species. The method involves taking samples from the environment (e.g., water samples) and analyzing the DNA in those samples to identify which species are present. While this technique shows potential as a cost-effective alternative to traditional surveillance methods, it also has limitations. For example, the ability of eDNA technology to quantify abundance of organisms remains a contentious issue, as does the potential ramifications of false positive and negative results. To meet the needs of Great Lakes fishery managers, we are conducting a project that will summarize potential uses and limitations of eDNA in fishery management. The products developed during this project will also transparently acknowledge areas of scientific controversy, and compile resources to help managers make informed decisions about eDNA monitoring in their jurisdictions.

Alternative barrier technologies: History as a control tool

Project leader: Zielinski, D.

Currently, application of lampricides and installation of low-head barriers are the only proven means of sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes. While sea lamprey cannot climb or jump over low-head barriers, many desirable migratory species also cannot traverse the barrier and are unintentionally blocked. There has been considerable interest in alternative barrier technologies (e.g. velocity and electrical barriers) from fishery managers as pressure builds to reduce reliance on chemical control as well as increase stream connectivity and flood conveyance. Although these technologies have been deployed with intermittent success in the GLFC’s Sea Lamprey Control Program, there is a general lack of knowledge for alternative barrier designs. We will complete an exhaustive review on the current state of knowledge regarding alternative barrier technologies, in particular those using velocity as a method to prevent sea lampreys from moving upstream but allow other species to pass, and their historical use in the sea lamprey control program. We aim to communicate our findings to the public and fishery managers and through white papers, fact sheets, and presentations that make use of an extensive image collection of barriers throughout the Great Lakes.

Previously-funded projects

Accounting for potential effects on fish production from barrier removals to inform management decisions: an application of structured decision making.

Project leader: Jones, M.

Completion Report

  • Structured Decision Making (SDM) is a useful tool to help managers, stakeholders, and researchers discuss and make effective decisions on complex fishery issues, including barrier removals in the Great Lakes.
  • Modeling and field studies lend insight into the expected effects of dam removals on fish populations and communities, but many critical uncertainties remain that are important to consider in the SDM process.

STP completion reports can be accessed through the Publication Search.

Benthic animals picture courtesty of GLERL Lab

Water sampling picture courtesty of ACRCC