Clear lakes and rivers turned silty and muddy, native species of both plants and aquatic animals out-competed and driven out of habitat, an invasion of non-native carp, one of the oldest and most invasive species on earth, can lead to a drastic decline of natural ecosystems. And, as the saying goes, drastic times call for drastic measures. CS14 alum Christian Schiro is part of a team at the University of Minnesota currently experimenting with unusual, some would say drastic, techniques to rid lakes and streams of the invasive carp including underwater electric fencing, and even a kind of carp vacuum cleaner called a “Whooshh.”
Bottom feeders often spread out over vast areas of murky waters, carp have for decades proven a difficult invasive to combat using traditional methods. The physical removal of carp one by one from a lake or stream is a slow, labor-intensive task. Enter the Whooshh. “I am currently working for professor Pzemyslaw Bajer,” says Christian of his work with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Research Center, “to assist him with common carp removal experimental techniques. In one case we have installed an electric barrier on a creeks flowing into a lake which helps to congregate the fish in one area. We then have a large net that can be closed when the carp swim in. Once we have the carp captured, we check for tags and then launch them into the Whooshh, a kind of suction hose, that carries them rapidly into a container for permanent removal.” What once could take hours can now be done much more quickly and efficiently. Whoosh.
But even this faster, more efficient method only works in certain locations. Other techniques need to be developed for other areas where carp have invaded. “I am also working with a few other U of M students on what is dubbed the Carp Passageway project,” says Christian. “We are training the carp to feed when a red light is shined down upon our tank, though the tank is separated with a barrier of my own design.” The hope is to develop methods of getting the fish to congregate in areas where they otherwise would be difficult to net.” This project is a part of a larger research study on carp behaviors and personalities to track how much carp move or how active they are at different times of the day and different seasons, even in different parts of the country.
Old problems sometimes call for new solutions. Bringing creativity and ingenuity along with a knowledge of ecosystems to the battle against invasive species, Christian’s work earned him one of only 12 RAP scholarships given to students at the University of Minnesota and he will present his findings at a conference next May. The project has even garnered the attention of the media with a major story recently in the New York Times. For more information on these creative invasive species removal efforts, follow the link below:
Photos submitted by Christian Schiro