Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pre- (well, mid-) Travel Blog: The first third of my fellowship year

By Lisa Peterson

To be honest, blog readers, the plan had been to post a blog before the month of May. Because May has been my busy travel month and I liked the idea of a pre- and post-travel blog. But as I am quickly learning during my Knauss fellowship year, time flies by extremely fast. You blink and suddenly you have been working at NOAA for almost four complete months, a third of your year over. And what a third it has been. I am in the midst of travel currently (attending the National Stock Assessment Workshop this week in California as part of my professional development plan), so I will think of this as a mid-travel blog and follow up in a month or so (after the bulk of my travel for the year is complete) to talk about these meetings I have been attending. 
Fellow MISG Knauss Fellow Janet Hsiao and I took some time to check out the cherry blossoms on the Mall. Photo: Lisa Peterson
I want to go a little bit more into what I am working on during my Knauss year, as now I have a much clearer picture of my specific projects. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I am working in the Office of Science and Technology with the Electronic Technologies Coordinator, Brett Alger. I’m working on a variety of projects, but I see myself as having two big ones. Both are related to electronic monitoring (EM — check out EM Explained here). The first is national standards. Throughout the year, I will be working with EM coordinators to think about standards, whether these be minimum requirements, policies, or just best practices, for the various components of EM systems (e.g. hardware, software, data files). My first task is to make recommendations for prioritization and timing and clarify the desired outcomes of creating these standards. Then the plan is to create a subgroup of the national Electronic Technologies Working Group to start working through the potential national standards components.

The other project I am working on combines my background in stock assessments with the EM work I am doing at NOAA. As electronic monitoring expands, special consideration needs to be taken with regards to how this new data is incorporated into the stock assessments that inform management. Some regions, like Alaska, are already incorporating EM into their stock assessments, while others, like the North East, are investing into research on how best to go about integrating their EM data. My goal for the year is to put together a document that synthesizes the current work that has been done on this topic, the progress being made by some of the researchers, and what some roadblocks may be, and potential paths forward. I’m hoping this will be useful to all the regions, no matter where they are in their EM programs.

This is shaping up to be a great year. I am learning a lot and am excited to continue my projects. In addition to the projects described above I am also helping with EM communications — check out this spotlight on the women of EM! I also do find time to explore D.C; see the pictures below!
I am still trying to hit all the main buildings and museums in D.C., but I am always impressed by the Capitol Building. Photo: Lisa Peterson
The beautiful cherry blossoms made for some cool pictures at the Washington Monument. Photo: Lisa Peterson

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The case for cooperation: Two countries, one vision

By Michael Mezzacapo

The Ambassador Bridge connecting Michigan and Ontario is more than a transportation link; it's a symbol of the two countries' commitment to cooperating. Photo: Adobe Stock
The final weeks of my Michigan Sea Grant International Joint Commission (IJC) fellowship provide an opportunity to reflect on the uniqueness of the organization, its mission, and the complexity of Great Lakes water quality issues between the US and Canada.

In today’s world of rapid-fire news cycles, sound bites, and tweets, it’s easy to feel that nothing lasts long. It can be refreshing to see commitment, longevity, and perseverance, especially on a single issue. I see all these characteristics in the relationship between the US and Canada, the IJC, and the staff who serve both countries.

Since the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC has helped the US and Canada resolve complex issues related to water management and quality across the entire US and Canadian border. That’s over 100 years of cooperation spanning 5,525 miles (8,891km) of international border. This type of long-term commitment, diplomacy, and strategic planning has resulted in a stable and productive relationship between the two countries, sharing immense natural resources.
President Nixon and Prime Minister Trudeau signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972. Photo: IJC
The IJC has shepherded the two countries through conflicts and accomplishments. And the continued success of the IJC is evident in its numerous science-based reports which keep governments and citizens informed, all while helping shape important policy decisions on both sides of the border.

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to witness the commitment to cooperation by the Commissioners and the IJC staff at the Great Lakes Regional Office. They share a relentless dedication and passion to providing the governments and citizens with important information needed to protect the Great Lakes.

The IJC isn’t alone in this effort and cannot operate without the input and perseverance of Great Lakes residents, countless businesses, and non-profits who surround this unique and precious resource. Everyday citizens volunteer their time to clean up beaches, write editorial letters, and attend public meetings to voice their opinion and concerns over important issues, ranging from toxic pollution to recreation and invasive species.

I can confidently say the voices of the Great Lakes residents are being heard and governments are responding. Change sometimes takes longer than we like. But the foundation and the stability of the relationship between the US and Canada and its commitment to protecting the Great Lakes, that hasn’t.
We can act today to ensure a healthy future for the Great Lakes. Photo: Michael Mezzacapo
Building and maintaining long-term relationships is critical in today’s changing world. The US and Canada share a unique bond and are positioned to lead by example. The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC, and the Great Lakes Water Quality agreement are testaments to the importance of a shared mission and cooperation. If we all stay committed to the goal of protecting the treasured resource we call the Great Lakes, they will remain great for future generations to come.

Settling in: An update from Knauss fellow Janet Hsiao

Squid dissection at NOAA Kids Day! 
It's hard to believe we’re a quarter of the way through the Knauss Fellowship! Since February, I've experienced a government shutdown, snow day, and wind day — the past three months have been eventful to say the least. Now that I’m more settled in DC, I'd like to share snippets of what I've been up to with the faithful Michigan Sea Grant blog readers.
Knauss fellows volunteered as judges at the 2018 Rock Ridge High School Science Symposium.
Being a part of NOAA's Ocean Observing and Monitoring Division (OOMD) has been a fascinating introduction to physical oceanography. OOMD maintains 50 percent of the global ocean observing system, which includes various technologies (e.g., Argo floats, surface drifters, buoys) that measure temperature, surface currents, salinity, and other essential variables that characterize the ocean. The data feed into models for weather, climate, ocean, and marine forecasts. The long-term records also help us understand how the ocean modulates climate patterns.
Sensors such as buoys, offshore platforms, and ship-based weather stations contribute to the Global Ocean Observing System. Image: JCOMMOPS
Under the guidance of Dr. David Legler, my main responsibility is to facilitate the Tropical Pacific Observing System (TPOS 2020) Working Group within NOAA. This working group aims to improve sustained observations of the tropical Pacific to better understand the El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation. It has been eye-opening to witness different groups (e.g., oceanographers, modelers, program managers) come together to work towards a shared vision. I was empowered by the opportunity to practice prompting collaborative meetings, despite not being a content expert. Knowing who to talk to when is half the battle, as well as setting clear meeting objectives and operationally minimizing technical difficulties. 

Through supporting OOMD communication efforts to multiple audiences, I also gain insights on aspects of how the federal government operates. I help draft messages to our partners and leadership through different stages of the federal budget process. I follow NOAA vessel Ronald H. Brown's journey around the world, and contribute to the blog that chronicles its quest to gather ocean data. There are also opportunities to participate in many public outreach events, such as NOAA Open House and the USA Science and Engineering Festival. I am incredibly honored to work alongside knowledgeable and passionate colleagues, and look forward to what the rest of the year holds. Stay tuned for more updates!
NOAA Science on a Sphere at the 2018 USA Science and Engineering Festival.
Knauss fellows hang out at the Ocean Conservancy's screening of Planet Earth: Blue Planet II.

Stream sampling and goby guts: Graduate student research with Corey Krabbenhoft


I'm Corey Krabbenhoft and I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in Donna Kashian’s lab at Wayne State University in Detroit. I am very excited to be contributing to Michigan Sea Grant’s graduate research this year. Let me start by telling you a little bit about me:

I am originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I received my B.S. and my M.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. My master’s research was on the trophic ecology of young-of-year fishes in arid land rivers.

While the major questions in the Southwest are largely about water demand and species conservation, I found invasion ecology here in the Great Lakes to be concerned with a similar problem — what can we do to protect native species and ecosystems? This is what inspired my dissertation work. I have spent the last few years investigating round goby invasion in Michigan tributaries of the Great Lakes.

If you’re not familiar, round gobies were introduced to the Great Lakes around 1990. They came from the Ponto-Caspian region (Eastern Europe) via ballast water exchange. They have since invaded all five Great Lakes and are actively moving upstream into many Great Lakes tributaries. Every summer since 2015, I have gone to seven tributaries in Michigan to hunt down round goby populations.
Watersheds sampled in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Clockwise from top are the Ocqueoc, Au Sable, Rifle, Clinton, Rouge, Stony Creek, and Muskegon River watersheds. Image: Corey Krabbenhoft
With a lot of help from the fantastic students at Wayne State, I conducted fish surveys on each river every year. We sampled both in areas where round goby occur and in areas where they have not yet invaded. We completed community surveys for fish and macroinvertebrates, some basic habitat assessments, and collected voucher specimens to bring back to the lab for further analysis.
Seining for fish at the Clinton River near Rochester, MI. Photo: A. Wicks
I am now doing a lot of lab work to find out more about how round goby specifically impact native species. I used a native competitor, the Johnny darter, as a representative native species because of the similarity of its niche (small-bodied, benthic) to round goby and its widespread distribution. I am interested in whether the Johnny darter changes its reproductive or feeding habits after round goby invade a stream. To do this I have been doing a lot of dissections. For each voucher specimen, I remove its gonads and weigh them; relative to the total body weight, this measure (called gonadosomatic index or GSI) gives an estimate of the fish’s investment reproduction (since gonads grow rapidly leading up to spawning). I then remove the entire gut tract, open it, and identify the contents. Ultimately, I will compare the contents of the gut to the food available at each site (from our macroinvertebrate samples) to see if Johnny darter food preferences change after round goby invasion. 
A dissected round goby with his gut (left) and gonads (right). Photo: Corey Krabbenhoft
Another goal of this project is to work with local watershed organizations who are regularly monitoring the quality of these rivers. I have been working closely with the Friends of the Rouge, which organizes macroinvertebrate sampling events three times per year. At these events, anyone can volunteer and with a little on-site training, can help sample and track the quality of the river at any one of their 103 sites throughout the watershed (keep an eye out for their next event!).
A volunteer sorts through macroinvertebrates at a bug hunt with the Friends of the Rouge. Photo: Corey Krabbenhoft
These events are a great way for citizens in the watershed to learn about their local river and what they can do to help maintain a healthy ecosystem. The organization is also a great resource for long-term data on river quality. We have coordinated our sampling efforts with Friends of the Rouge over the last few years so that we can compare our data with theirs, and hopefully utilize almost 20 years of data produced by their volunteers. Long-term and widespread data sets like this are so hard to come by, and the folks at Friends of the Rouge have been great to work with! I am hoping that this collaboration will allow a longer time-scale perspective on how the Rouge River has changed over the years, especially following the invasion of the round goby.

I’ll be back again soon to keep you updated, but in the meantime, you can find me at or on my Twitter page: @ckrabb.