Monday, September 14, 2020

Studying rock snot with Molly Wozniak

My name is Molly Wozniak and I am currently a senior at Lake Superior State University (LSSU) studying fisheries and wildlife management, and I work at the Center for Freshwater Research and Education as the Student Education and Outreach Assistant and a Student Field Technician. This summer, I was a Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Intern and presented my research of the effects of Didymosphenia geminata on benthic macroinvertebrates. Today, I’d like to tell you about my research as an Environmental Intern and how I became interested in my research topic. 

Here’s me holding a big pile of didymo! Photo: Molly Wozniak

Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the field with the LSSU Center for Freshwater Research and Education Little Rapids Restoration crew that works conducting post-restoration surveys of the Little Rapids of the St. Marys River. The Little Rapids restoration took place in 2016 when a causeway separating the rapids habitat was replaced with a multi-span bridge to restore flow to the previously stagnant area. This restoration was in effort to increase spawning habitat for fishes that live in the area, particularly salmonids. Since this flow restoration, the crew has been collecting larval fishes, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and fish egg samples to determine what species are utilizing this area for spawning and development purposes. 

The Little Rapids area of the St. Marys River where I conducted my field research and worked this summer. Photo: Molly Wozniak

It was so fun to help the crew collect samples, but I noticed that when they would empty their nets into the collection containers, there was a lot of brown, slimy-looking gunk that was also collected. This mysterious gunk is actually a type of algae that is commonly referred to as “rock snot” or “didymo” (scientific name Didymosphenia geminata). I was instantly fascinated by this because didymo is an under-researched invasive species that grows on rocks in the substrate and produces long, dense stalks when it blooms, which is what the crew was collecting with our samples. Didymo is considered a nuisance due to these stalks because it has been found that they can smother the bottoms of rivers, thereby often reducing the quality of aquatic macroinvertebrates living in the ecosystem as well as being very visually unappealing to everyday recreationalists. Didymo is found throughout the world, particularly in New Zealand, where most research has taken place, but the St. Marys River is the only place it is found in Michigan. 

Stalks of didymo can be seen on the rocks from above the water in the St. Marys River. Photo: Molly Wozniak

After I first became familiar with didymo, I was so fascinated by it and was eager to learn more. I decided that I wanted to involve didymo with my senior thesis project at LSSU. This past summer, I was able to work on the Little Rapids Restoration crew and conduct my research through my Environmental Internship. My project consisted of sampling for benthic macroinvertebrates in areas with didymo and where didymo was manually removed. Finding sites to sample initially proved to be a challenge due to high water levels limiting accessibility to ideal sampling sites (and trying to put on a wetsuit for sampling was no easy task either). However, we were able to persevere and find sites that worked. 

Molly and her research mentor, Dr. Ashley Moerke, are ready for field sampling after getting their wetsuits on. Photo: Molly Wozniak

Each site had paired quadrats that were sampled for aquatic invertebrates before any didymo was removed. After this initial sampling, one quadrat at each site was scrubbed clean of didymo, acting as the treatment and those still with didymo as the control. The sites were then sampled two weeks later to see if there was any difference in the macroinvertebrates collected. After collecting my data and spending time in the lab identifying all of the aquatic insects collected, which is a beloved activity of mine, I was able to finalize my results and present them at the Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Internship Symposium.

A control plot from my research sites. Didymo can be seen heavily coating the rocks in the area and the colored rocks mark the borders of the sampling area. Photo: Molly Wozniak

I found that there was not a significant difference in the number of species of macroinvertebrates collected between the control and treatment plots and between initial and post sampling. Previous studies have shown that the tolerance quality of insects typically decreases in areas with didymo, but that did not seem to be the case in my project. This may be because it was a small area sampled (0.25m² per sampling event) or because the water quality and habitat of the area is of good quality. These conclusions will be further processed.

One of the treatment plots that was scrubbed clean of didymo for my research. It’s crazy to see the difference between the two plots! Photo: Molly Wozniak

Throughout my Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Internship, I learned so much and was able to have so many amazing experiences, like sharing my passion for my research to a broad audience at the Symposium. If you would like to learn more about didymo and how to prevent it, I created an outreach webpage as a part of my internship that is free and available to visit: and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at

Friday, August 28, 2020

Julianne Grenn's Grayling Hatchery Gazette

Note: Julianne wrote about her work as one of Michigan Sea Grant's 2020 summer interns. She even produced a fully laid-out PDF version of her Hatchery Gazette. Click here to read it! 

A family safely visits the Grayling Hatchery during Summer 2020. Photo: Julianne Grenn

My name is Julianne Grenn, and I am a Biology major at Lake Superior State University (LSSU). I am the first Anglers of the Au Sable Summer Research fellow, a new partnership between the Anglers and LSSU. One of my primary responsibilities is to create an operations manual for the Grayling Fish Hatchery and increase educational information for visitors. My work at the hatchery has helped deepen my appreciation and understanding of aquaculture and community outreach, and I hope your knowledge and interest will be expanded too. 

Kids can fish in the Children's Pond for free. Photo: Julianne Grenn

Many of you may be unaware of the Grayling Fish Hatchery's history, but it has a long one and has been in existence for over 100 years! The Grayling Fish Hatchery was established in 1919 by Rasmus Hanson and several fellow sportsmen, including Henry and Edsel Ford. Their intent was to reintroduce Grayling to local waters. Unfortunately, many of the fish did not survive, and production was switched to raising Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout, the Au Sable varieties we know and love today. The hatchery operated under private ownership until the state of Michigan bought the facility in 1926. Since then, the hatchery has changed ownership several times, passing from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to commercial fish producers, and finally to Grayling Hatchery Incorporated in 2017.

Our mission is to establish the hatchery as a hub of learning and discovery--a place where all can come to experience the wonders and beauty of the Au Sable River. We aim to educate our guests about the history, ecology, and conservation of the Au Sable River for generations. 

Visitors can explore the hatchery facility. Photo: Julianne Grenn

We are currently raising 1,300 Rainbow Trout, which were donated by the MI DNR. Following our mission to preserve and protect the Au Sable, fish are reared at low densities to provide a local attraction while conserving the river. Additionally, the hatchery partnered with the Anglers of the Au Sable to conduct water quality tests at locations above and below the hatchery to ensure that phosphate and total suspended particle loads are minimized.

We continue to work alongside scientists and advocacy groups to limit our footprint on the environment and provide learning opportunities for all who visit the hatchery. At the end of the summer, all of the trout are transferred to local lakes where anglers can pursue them.

We are open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4 pm and offer a variety of engaging activities for guests. Due to COVID 19, we cannot provide fee-fishing, but those ages 16 and under are welcome to fish in the Children's Pond for free. Guests also can feed the trout in two of our raceways and the king-sized bluegill and painted turtles in the Children's Fishing Pond. Visiting our turtle sanctuary is a special treat, as it houses a rare Blanding's Turtle and is one of the more popular attractions for children. 

The Blanding’s Turtle who lives in the turtle sanctuary might pose for photos. Photo: Julianne Grenn

This year's improvements spread beyond the logistical functions of the hatchery. A live streaming trout camera will be installed along a portion of the Au Sable River. Trout-cam footage will be available to the public through the hatchery's website, LSSU's Center for Freshwater Research and Education page, and the Grayling Visitors Bureau website. Additional efforts also are underway to enhance the facility's aesthetic appeal. 

A mural of an Arctic Grayling will be painted on the back of the new visitor's center by a local artist! The interior of the center, formerly the admission building, has already been painted, and both the indoor and outdoor spaces will feature nearly 30 informational signs. These improvements culminated with the publication and release of the hatchery's first self-guided tour brochure. 

The resident Blanding's Turtle soaks in some sunshine. Photo: Julianne Grenn

Grayling Hatchery Incorporated continues its efforts to establish a facility that attracts families and researchers while educating visitors on the unique natural resource we have in our backyard - the Au Sable River. Ultimately, our purpose is to serve the community and the Au Sable River. The Grayling Fish Hatchery strives to preserve, protect, and enhance the relationship between our families, our Anglers, and nature. We hope you can visit the Grayling Fish Hatchery to experience all of our education and conservation initiatives firsthand. We have been hatching inspiration since 1919.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Professional development adventures with Kathryn Frens

Hi everybody! Since my last post was about a regular day in the office, this one is about the cool stuff outside the office that you get to do because you’re a Knauss Fellow. Professional development (PD) encompasses a lot of things, from conferences to tours of Congress to communications workshops. All fellows get some money to spend on PD, and host offices give you time for it. So how did I spend my PD money?

I went to Michigan and networked. I did eight informational interviews and a tour of GLERL (the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory) in three days. This was not glamorous but was extremely informative and I’m really glad I did it now that I’m applying for jobs. 

I went to West Virginia and took a class about planning for climate change. This training course was focused on planning processes in general and also on scenario planning, which has been a big part of my fellowship research. It was held at the National Conservation Training Center, which is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s training center/summer camp in the woods.

I went to the Gulf of Mexico and fished for sharks. This was probably the coolest thing I did during my fellowship, and it was also practical in that it gave me some hands-on fishery experience (I didn’t have any before.) I learned how a longline works and how to pull otoliths, among other new skills. Also, SHARKS!!!! 

Sharks! Photo: Kathryn Frens
I went to Hawaii for a really great conference. The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) had its annual conference in Honolulu this fall. SACNAS is a conference about diversity/inclusion in STEM. It was energizing and inspiring and I made some good connections as well. 

Leis and lanyards at SACNAS in Hawaii. Photo: Kathryn Frens
Other PD-related activities happened closer to home. I took notes for a meeting of the leadership of NOAA Research, which was like getting to be a fly on the wall in The Room Where It Happens. I attended a training about salary negotiation, toured the White House and Congress, went to some briefings on the Hill, and was part of the Knauss Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. 

The Knauss cohort. Photo: Kathryn Frens
This is my last post for this blog, and I think you’ll hear from the new Fellows soon. I’ll be defending my dissertation in a few months and then, I hope, will be able to find a “real” job. If you are reading this post because you’re thinking about applying for the Knauss, you should apply. I feel like the fellowship set me up for success both in the fellowship year itself and for afterwards.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.