The Effects of Plastic on our Local Fish.

Everyone knows that pollution is bad. We all do it to some extent, despite our efforts to minimize it. Often, we can get caught up in the mindset that a little bit of pollution or one littered item can’t hurt anything. However, this isn’t true. Scientists have discovered that even the smallest amounts of plastics in a fish’s habitat can cause major health problems (1). For instance, you drop a water bottle into the water from a boat. You’d think that this would have no effect on the fish that inhabit that water, but it does. Bits of plastic as small as half a millimeter can be eaten by small fish (1). In fact, fish tend to eat these bits quite often. They are unable to distinguish the difference between food and these bits of plastic. These pollutants not only affect adult fish but also prevent eggs from hatching, stunted growth, and increase their chances of being predated (1). These effects can cause major harm to not only an individual, but an entire population, community, and ecosystem. Populations can easily dwindle due to exposure to plastic. This can have a large effect on a community or ecosystem in many ways. For instance, if Northern Pike in Lake Erie prey on perch and the perch population is dwindling due to plastic, then the pike population can also begin to decline (2). This can then have an effect on other fish populations that are no longer predated by the pike, causing their population to soar and throwing the balance of the ecosystem out of whack. So next time you don’t care about that bottle falling out of a boat or you miss the trash can and don’t want to pick it up, think about the effect that you are having on our fish and their ecosystem!

1. Plastic cups found in fish. (1975). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 6(10), 148. doi:10.1016/0025-326x(75)90178-2
2. What do Northern Pike Eat? (2017, February 13). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from

Black List: Black Caviar


Fish products are increasingly being marketed and sold. One product that is surfacing at a high rate is caviar (fish eggs). These markets have the power to greatly affect the populations and management of Sturgeon species. Over the last few decades, populations have been decreasing at an alarming rate. With the demand of this increasing, supply cannot keep up with the demand. The overexploitation for black caviar  coupled with climate change, has resulted in a “threatened” status on the vast majority of sturgeon species.

Due to the complexity of Sturgeon’s life history strategy, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. In some cases it can be 15-20 years before they reach sexual maturity.  In order to conserve and protect these species, governments will need to work together and create regulations in regards to a rational harvests, preserving juveniles, and producing more of species. As a result activists are pushing for caviar from cultured resources, but the aquaculture industry will take years to be comparable with demand and will have to deal with the implications associated with captive sturgeon.


Birstein, V. J., Doukakis, P., Sorkin, B., & DeSalle, R. (1998). Population Aggregation Analysis of Three Caviar-Producing Species of Sturgeons and Implications for the Species Identification of Black Caviar. Conservation Biology, 12(4), 766-775.

Bledsoe, G. E., Bledsoe, C. D., & Rasco, B. (2003). Caviars and fish roe products.

Cohen, A. (1997). Sturgeon poaching and black market caviar: a case study. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 48(1), 423-426.

Consumption Advisories for Lake Erie Fish: What they mean and suggestions to minimize exposure

Lake Erie is a popular fishing spot due to the abundance of sport fishes that can be found in its nutrient rich waters.  Many fishermen and women flock to the shallowest of the Great Lakes every summer to see how many fish they can bring home for a tasty dinner.  Did you know that each year the Ohio EPA compiles a list of fishes in Ohio that they have observed to contain dangerous levels of pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury (OEPA, 2017)?  These contaminants often enter waterways near disposal sites or near factories which use them for production.  Once PCBs and mercury enter a stream, river or lake, they bind with the sediment or disperse throughout the water column, where they are easily available for uptake by fish.  At this point, fish absorb or ingest the contaminants and because they do not easily dissolve, they are stored in the fish’s fatty tissues.  When predators like other fish (or people!) eat the affected fish, the fatty tissues within the predator absorbs the PCBs or mercury (James and Kleinow, 2014).   Watch the video below for a fun visual representation of this concept.  The brown shading represents the contaminants within the fish and you’ll notice that as each fish gets eaten, the consumer adds to the stores in their own fatty tissues.

Above video made by Krystal Pocock using iMovie for iPhone 7.

PCBs and mercury accumulate in fatty tissues and have a negative impact on human health (Hanrahan et al., 1997; Watras et al., 1995).   To prevent adverse health effects, the Ohio EPA makes recommendations as to the frequency and number of fish that are safe for consumption based on the average level of pollutant (e.g. mercury or PCBs) that a particular fish species has been found to contain.  In 2017, the biggest listed offender in Lake Erie was the common carp.  The OEPA recommends that individuals should only consume one common carp (over 27″) every two months.  For a list of other recommendations for common sport fishes (including Small Mouth Bass), please check out the 2017 Ohio EPA Fish Advisory Pamphlet.  If  you decide to consume any of the fish included on this list, the OEPA also recommends that you trim as much of the fat off of the fish as you can to potentially decrease the amount of the contaminants you’ll be consuming (OEPA 2017).  See the drawing below for an idea of where to trim the fat!

You’ll want to trim the fat from contaminated fish as best you can from these three key areas- back, belly, and sides (Image drawn by Krystal Pocock.  Inspired by image in OEPA 2017 –


Hanrahan, L. P., Falk, C., Anderson, H. A., Draheim, L., Kanarek, M. S., & Olson, J. (1999). Serum PCB and DDE Levels of Frequent Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumers—A First Look. Environmental Research, 80(2), S26–S37.

James, M. O., & Kleinow, K. M. (2014). Seasonal influences on PCB retention and biotransformation in fish. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 21(10), 6324–6333.

OEPA. (2017). Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory. Retrieved from

Watras, C. J., Morrison, K. A., Host, J. S., & Bloom, N. S. (1995). Concentration of mercury species in relationship to other site-specific factors in the surface waters of northern Wisconsin lakes. Limnology and Oceanography, 40(3), 556–565.


Algae Threaten the Future of Your Yummy Fish Dinners

Reel in the Culture

For the average Ohio angler, there’s nothing quite like spending a beautiful day casting your line out on Lake Erie and coming home to eat a delicious walleye or perch meal. The fishing tradition on Lake Erie has persisted for generations, with happy fishermen and women returning year after year to harvest the highly diverse fishing stock and enjoy the regional culture. But what happens if the quality of this fish stock were to suddenly be diminished? Would the strong fishing culture of the Lake Erie region be lost with it? This concern has become a little too real in recent years leaving many citizens and scientists alike very worried. Luckily, there are steps that you can take as an Ohio citizen, angler, or even just a lover of fish cuisine to ensure that the Great Lakes Region remains a fertile fishing ground for generations to come!

Figure 1. Young, old, big, and small; everyone enjoys a day of fishing on Lake Erie! (Image from Lake Erie Shores and Islands)

Are there really plenty of fish in the sea?

If you’re an angler targeting big sport fish such as walleye and perch in the Great Lakes, this can be a bit of a loaded question. Walleye populations have been preforming differently in different regions of Lake Erie, and yearly trends from the past few decades bring a lot of practices into question. Media sources from the more eastern regions of the lake report that Lake Erie’s sport fishing industry has a long and bright future ahead of it. Just this past summer angler reports from Buffalo, New York indicated a strong diversity of species within the fish stock as well as several juvenile walleye that will allow this sport stock to persist (The Buffalo News). However data collected from Lake Erie’s western basin shows slightly different and less optimistic results. Summer trawling surveys conducted in 2016 indicate that the population numbers for yellow perch are nearly average while walleye populations have fallen below their yearly average (ODNR). In an environment such as Lake Erie that historically has been known for its abundant fish populations, this may come as a surprise. Why aren’t these fish populations in the western basin performing as well as they used to?

Figure 2. Annual trends in the numbers of young walleye hatched in the western basin of Lake Erie from 1988 to 2016 (Image from ODNR Division of Wildlife).

Something’s Fishy

            It may seem odd that a fish population such as walleye can be successful in one section of a lake and declining in another. However, this trend starts to make sense when you consider the surrounding watersheds and characteristics of the eastern and western basins. While the eastern basin of Lake Erie is relatively deeper and a good portion of its natural surrounding watershed has been maintained, the western basin is very shallow and its watershed has become increasingly urbanized and agricultural. Suddenly the answer becomes very clear; algal blooms are the likely cause of these declines.

Figure 3. This aerial satellite image taken in 2011 clearly depicts the strong presence of algal blooms in Lake Erie’s western basin compared to its eastern basin (Image from Earth Watching).

Harmful algal blooms (HAB’s) are defined as any large increase in algal density that is capable of producing harmful toxins. These HAB’s are caused when large amounts of phosphorous and fertilizers enter the lake through surface runoff such as during a big rainstorm (Ohio Sea Grant). These toxins are of major concern to people who recreate in Lake Erie and depend on it for drinking water. But they are also a major concern and threat to the many fish and aquatic organisms that call the lake home, and perch and walleye are not excluded from this threat. Not to mention that no one wants to consume a fish that has been living in a toxic environment.

What’s Happening to Our Fish?

When these HAB’s occur, the increased algal populations deplete the supply of oxygen that is dissolved in the water, which is necessary for fish survival. This low oxygen condition is known as hypoxia, and can result in massive fish kills where fish just start popping up dead. Fish rely on dissolved oxygen in the water to maintain their metabolic activity and overall energy. This being said, it is likely that a fish that can survive slight hypoxic conditions will still be under some stress and thus won’t grow or perform to its full potential. This can be highly unfavorable for anglers. Knowing all this, it can be assumed that these recent increases in the occurrence of HAB’s probably is playing a role in the declining fish stocks being observed in the western basin of Lake Erie.

How Can You Help?

All this information might come off as dismal and hopeless, but there are several ways to fight the occurrence of these HAB’s and make easy decisions to help our fish friends survive and thrive…

Reduce the amount of fertilizers entering the waterways

This practice can be as simple as using less fertilizer on your personal lawn or garden. Putting less fertilizer out on the landscape guarantees that less will be washed into the sewer and then into a nearby stream the next time it rains. You can also talk to your local politicians regarding fertilizer application laws to ensure that big agricultural operations are also following these rules. Everyone has a voice in their community and it should be used to lobby for solutions to wide-spread problems such as this.

Prevent surface runoff

Again this goes back to reducing the amount of pollutants entering the waterways. Planting shrubs, trees, and other plants can establish a solid root system that acts as a buffer on your property that will suck up excess fertilizer before it can make it into local waterways. Investing in a storm barrel to collect rainwater from your gutters is another easy solution.

Be kind to the environment

We all have heard the phrase ‘go green’, and now its time to do it. Simply making smart environmental decisions can help to reduce the urban stresses being placed on surrounding ecosystems such as water and air pollution. Reduce, reuse, and recycle; three simple actions to improve the state of Lake Erie and its many fishes.

Buy local and sustainable

As a consumer you have the power to vote with every dollar you spend at the super market. By supporting local and sustainable fisheries, you will ensure that your money is going to organizations that value fish conservation and sustaining fish stocks for the future.

While every Ohioan has their favorite spot to get a walleye sandwich, fishing is much more than just a way to get a meal. Fishing is essential to a region’s culture and can bring billions of dollars to the local economy through business and tourism. Fighting for the conservation of Lake Erie’s walleye industry is a fight for fish conservation and sustainability on the large scale, and luckily you can play a role in the persistence of this great Ohio pastime.



“Algal Blooms in Lake Erie (North America).” Earth Watching , ESA,

“Free Family Fun in Lake Erie Shores & Islands: Eight Free, Fun Things to Do.” Lake Erie Shores and Islands , Lake Erie Shores & Islands, 26 July 2016,

Hilts, Bill. “Spreading the Good Word on Lake Erie Fishing.” The Buffalo News, The Buffalo News, 16 Aug. 2017,

“Initial Results of 2016 Lake Erie Walleye and Yellow Perch Hatches Released.” Wildlife News, ODNR Division of Wildlife , 28 Sept. 2016,

“Research in Focus – HAB’s .” Harmful Algal Blooms, Ohio Sea Grant ,

From Pet to Pest!

Did you know that fish are one of the most popular pets in America? And of species of fish, Goldfish are the most popular (American Veterinary Medical Foundation). There is only one problem with having goldfish as pets; dumping them! Properly disposing of Goldfish, whether alive or dead, can cause issues for ponds, streams and lakes in Ohio. Goldfish are a non-native and invasive species of fish, meaning they are not from this area originally and pose many problems to other native species in Ohio (Beatty 2017). An established Goldfish population has already been established in Western Lake Erie and could inhabit bodies of water near you if they are not properly disposed of (Trautman 1981).

Dumping or flushing of live Goldfish into toilets or into bodies of water can directly introduce them to our streams and lakes. By doing so, a non-native species is added into the food web among native species. These invasive Goldfish can grow to massive sizes by taking food resources from native species of fish (Moyle 1976). They have also been found to eat the eggs of other native fish species even further so hurting their future populations (Moyle 1976). Goldfish also occupy habitats that native fish use for reproduction as well as shelter and are even able to reproduce with the Common Carp to produce larger, hybrid species that are equally as detrimental to native populations (Moyle 1976).

Photo 1: Massive Goldfish (Larimer 2015).


Dumping or flushing of live Goldfish can also be detrimental to bodies of water as these non-native species can introduce parasites and other diseases that our Ohio fish are not accustomed to (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). These fish, originally from Asia, as long as the water they live in inside tanks, carry potentially harmful diseases that we do not want shared with our native species of fish and if introduced, could spread these diseases!

As Lake Erie has already been affected by Goldfish, there is an even greater threat to highly sought-after game species of fish (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). Alongside this, there is also a threat to smaller bodies of water in Ohio that are currently unexposed to Goldfish. There have been cases in Colorado and other states where a few Goldfish in a small lake escalated to over 3,000 in just a few years (Block 2015). With Ohio having so many streams and other bodies of water, it is important that we keep Goldfish out of them, whether dead or alive to ensure the safety of our native species of fish.

In an NPR article, fish biologist Ben Swigle, recommends to humanly dispose of these fish. The method he suggests is to freeze the deceased fish overnight and dispose of it in the trash (Block 2015). There are also options to see if pet stores will take the fish back or pass on the fish to a new home.

No matter which option you choose, it is important that these highly desired pets are properly disposed of and do not end up in Ohio’s bodies of water as they have the potential to have long term effects on our native ecosystems and species. So, next time you or a friend goes to toss a Goldfish in a lake, think twice!



American Veterinary Medical Foundation. 2012 U.S Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.

Beatty, S. J., Allen, M. G., Whitty, J. M., Lymbery, A. J., Keleher, J. J., Tweedley, J. R., Morgan, D. L. (2017). First evidence of spawning migration by goldfish ( Carassius auratus ); implications for control of a globally invasive species. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 26(3), 444-455. doi:10.1111/EFF.12288

Block, S. (Host) 2015, April 8. From Pet to Pest, Goldfish Tip Scales of Survival in Lake’s Ecoystem [Radio Broadcast episode].
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Aquatic Invasive Species. Carassius auratus (Wild Goldfish).

Larimer, S. 2015, June 25. Discarded pet goldfish are multiplying. The Washington Post.

Moyle, P.B. 1976. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH.

Sea Lamprey and What to Do About Them

Addressing the issue of invasive sea lamprey within the Great Lakes ecosystems has always been complicated. According to Bryan et al., the introduction of the non-native species into Lake Erie was through the creation of the Welland Canal, which created an opening from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes in the early 1800s (2005)—however, the existence of sea lamprey was not considered a threat until the 1970s (Sullivan et al., 2003). It is due to the implementation of water protections policies, such as the Clean Water Act in 1972, and restoration of various game fish species during that time created an environment in which allowed sea lamprey populations to flourish where they could not before (Steeves et al., 2012).

While there are no formal policies regarding sea lamprey control, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GFLC) along with other informal interest groups, such as recreational anglers and commercial fisheries, have cooperated to address the detrimental presence of sea lamprey on the native wildlife of the Great Lakes. In recent years, the GLFC has begun to advocate for the reduced use of lampricide in favor of physical barriers, which have less of an effect on non-target species that may be sensitive to the chemicals; the downside of barriers is that they are easily swept away by flooding and rain, and are unable to cover wide areas (Bass Fishing, Sea Lamprey Control, n.d.). An alternative method recently approved by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency was the utilization of sea lamprey pheromones as a bio-pesticide dubbed “3kPZS”, its purpose being to attract sea lamprey toward traps (“Sea Lamprey Mating”, 2016), This proves to be an advantage to non-target species because unlike lampricides and physical barriers, which are either selectively applicable or run the risk of capturing or injuring non-target species, it involves the use of a “naturally-occurring, non-toxic chemical” that is specifically targeted for sea lamprey (Klein, 2016). Other methods such as sterile-male-release, in conjunction with the promising outlooks on 3kPZS, are directed toward sea lamprey explicitly and pose little harm to non-target organisms, which is a course of action that I recommend for sea lamprey control in the future.

Current popular methods of sea lamprey control, such as lampricides (a type of highly selective pesticide that target sea lamprey in the larval stage before becoming parasitic), several types of physical barriers that deter adult sea lamprey from reaching breeding grounds, in addition to various others have been highly effective in reducing the sea lamprey presence. The financial burden of maintaining and actively controlling sea lamprey populations, however, can be costly: in 2003, GLFC received $16,037,800 in federal funding from both the United States and Canada (Great Lakes Fishery Commission, n.d.); approximately $3 million of that budget alone was spent on registered-use pesticides (Kinnunen, 2015). The reason why I would advise pushing for strictly sea lamprey-targeted methods of control is due to the non-discriminatory nature of lampricides, barriers, and traps: there is the possibility of capturing federally protected species under protection policy, and thus the actions of the GLFC and other groups need to be closely monitored by the EPA to not cause harm to listed species that may co-inhabit ecosystems with the sea lamprey (Sullivan et al., 2003; Steeves et al., 2012). The use of lampricides has already decreased, and so further steps should be taken to minimize its use as much as possible and focus more efforts onto individual-type methods like sterile-male-release and pheromone manipulation.

Previously addressed, there have been severe conservations about the continued use of lampricide, as lampricides are cost-intensive (Lavis et al., 2003) and its effect on nontarget organisms, raising the concern of environmental protection policies such as EPA and NEPA, which requires agencies to review their methodologies and make sure that they align with the interests of species protection laws. In the past, lampricides have been a great success in reducing the sea lamprey population in Lake Erie to just 10% of its original numbers (Lavis et al., 2003); however, the long-term negative effects have driven the GLFC to pursue alternative methods. One idea that has been minimally tested thus far is the utilization of pheromones to attract sea lamprey to traps, confuse their migration patterns, and further prevent spawning (Steeves et al., 2012; Christie & Goddard, 2003). The most popular alternative method of sea lamprey control, arguably, would be the erection of physical barriers to prevent adult sea lamprey from accessing spawning habitats, and has proven to be the most successful method, other than lampricide (Sullivan et al., 2003). The general public’s perception of using chemicals to treat Lake Erie’s sea lamprey invasion have further supported the idea of reducing the use of lampricide even further (Lavis et al., 2003). Steeves et al. (2012) additionally addresses conflicts that arise from using lampricides during the same time as angler fishers would like to fish game, and in several areas where Lake Erie opens its waters for public consumption may bring forth negative connotations.

Several advantages of the proposed method of constructing more barriers than investing financial resources in lampricide are that building barriers are more affordable and requires relatively little of the sea lamprey control program’s budget, plus barriers have minimal effect on non-target organisms within the same areas of interest of the sea lamprey, falling into compliance with species protection policies (Lavis et al., 2003). Another benefit would most likely be an improved public perception of the sea lamprey control program. A disadvantage of shifting attention from lampricide to barriers would be the intensification of knowledge of sea lamprey migration patterns and places of interest such as sea lamprey-heavy streams within which barriers would most effectively be used (Lavis et al., 2003). The minimally tested method of manipulating sea lamprey with pheromones may yield negative consequences regarding non-target organisms, but has yet to be researched thoroughly; the fiscal requirements of this alternative method have also not been released, and so this may pose an economic dilemma in the future.


Bryan, M. B., Zalinski, D., Filcek, K. B., Libants, S., Li, W., & Scribner, K. T. (2005). Patterns of invasion and colonization of the sea lamprey in North America as revealed by microsatellite genotypes. Molecular Ecology, 14(12), 3757-3773.

Great Lakes Fishery Commission. (n.d.). Sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes. Retrieved from

Kinnunen, R. E. (2015). Sea lamprey control in the Great Lakes. Michigan State University Extension. Retrieved from

Klein, K. (2016). So long suckers! Sex pheromone may combat destructive lampreys. Science. Retrieved from

n.a. (2016). Sea lamprey mating pheromone registered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as first vertebrate pheromone biopesticide. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved from

n.a. (2016). Sea lamprey: The battle continues. Regents of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved from

n.a. (Writer), & n.a. (Director). (n.d.). Bass Fishing, Sea Lamprey Control [Television series episode]. In J. Merone (Producer), Outdoor Journal. Colchester, VT: Vermont PBS. Retrieved from

Steeves, M., Mullet, K., Slade, J., & Sullivan, P. (2012). Lake-level, five-year plans for achieving sea lamprey control targets in each Great Lake. Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Retrieved from

Sullivan, W. P., Christie, G. C., Cornelius, F. C., Fodale, M. F., Johnson, D. A., Koonce, J. F., … Ryan, P. A. (2003). The sea lamprey in Lake Erie: A case history. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 29, 615-626.

Fish: From Foe to Friend

Last summer, I touched a fish for the first time since I was a little girl. Not only did I touch it, but I was in charge of getting it off the hook. (!!!) I looked down at the little girl holding her rod and fish, looking up at me expectantly, waiting for me to take it off the hook, just as my dad had done for me when I was a little girl. So, thinking back to my younger days, I thought I could just grab the fish and wriggle it around a little bit and it’d come off the hook. So I grabbed the fish and wriggled it around. I got it off the hook!! Then, to my dismay, it flopped around, in my hand ended up pricking me, and I jumped back and dropped it. (I learned later it was a Rock Bass-a spiny little fellow!) I didn’t know what to do. I started freaking out because I didn’t know how long it could be on the ground flopping around, and I didn’t want to grab it again because THAT HURT MY HAND.

So where was I and why was I “teaching” this little girl how to fish? I was at Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie in Ohio, and this was my summer job. It was apparently assumed the student workers knew what they were doing, but I certainly did not. SO…here I was, with a fish flopping around on the ground, with no idea what to do. I started screaming for another one of the student workers to come over and help. Thankfully, my fellow coworker knew what she was doing: crisis averted.

FAST FORWARD ONE YEAR: Fish are now my friend! And I now think they are really cool.

A paddlefish caught at work this summer along the Scioto River.

I have since learned a great deal about not only how to handle fish, but so much more. This summer, I had another job that involved fish. Fish were a part of just about everyday, and I learned to love them. Now, any time I walk by water, and see tiny fish darting around, I want to know what it is!

I’m also taking classes about fish at the Ohio State University, where we learn all sorts of fun stuff about fish. Did you know that freshwater fish comprise 30% of all vertebrate species, even though available freshwater habitat makes up less than 1% of the Earth? Crazy!!

Some other cool stuff we are learning are the major groups of fish, how these fish evolved, the morphology and anatomy, how to ID Ohio fish, morphological and behavioral adaptions, how humans effect fish, and so much more!

So here are some of the coolest things I’ve learned about fish this year, and things I would have loved to know last year:

  • There are 181 species of fish just in Ohio! (154 native) Listed below are the species of Ohio.










  • Lake Erie contains only ~2% of the water of the Great Lakes, but supports ~50% of the fish diversity of the Great Lakes. Conversely, Lake Superior contains ~50% of the water of the Great Lakes, but only 2% of fish diversity.
  • Lake Erie tends to be much more productive (more life!) because of how shallow and far south it is compared to the other lakes, (meaning it stays warmer and more supportive of life). It is also surrounded by more farms and human residential areas (meaning more nutrients are coming off the land into the water) compared to other lakes, like Superior, which is largely surrounded by forest (meaning less nutrients). These nutrients cause the growth of things at the bottom of the food chain, such as algae and phytoplankton, which fish eat!
  • Lake Erie is SOOO shallow! At it’s deepest it is only 210 feet. Lake Erie’s western basin (about 1/5 of the lake) is usually less than 25 feet. This is why the lake is so warm and productive! Look below to see how shallow Lake Erie is compared to the other Great Lakes!
This diagram shows the flow of the Great Lakes, from Lake Superior all the way to the Atlantic ocean, as well as the depths of each of the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is shallow when compared to the others.
  • Humans have such a major impact on fish. I never realized how much humans could impact fish and water ecosystems until recently. That new parking lot they’re building down the street? The waterfront apartment building on the river? It affects the fish! But how?

Fish lives in all types of water throughout Ohio. Whether it’s a stream or a pond or a lake, humans have major impacts on fish ecosystems. Impermeable surfaces (parking lots, a sidewalk, a highway, or a building rooftop,) can raise the temperature of streams. When rainwater lands on an impermeable surface, it is warmed by sunlight. Heat is dissipated from the asphalt in the water, which is directed off the surface rather quickly, via a drain or gutter, and is funneled into urban streams, resulting in higher stream temperatures.

When humans build near water, it also decreases shade on the river, increasing river temperature. When trees are taken down, for a better view or for a waterfront apartment building, it opens the water up to direct sunlight, and an increase in stream temperature.

These increases in impervious surface area and reduction of tree buffer zones along streams, as well as other modifications to stream hydrology, impact the conditions in streams. This is known as “urban stream syndrome”. Unnatural spikes in water temperatures are seen in urbanized areas after rainfall. And these water temperature changes can have wide-ranging impacts on fish.

These increases and spikes in stream temperature can have big impacts on the fish that can inhabit the area, as certain fish can only survive within certain temperature ranges. If the temperature spikes too much throughout the day or during rainfall events, it has the potential to stress out the fish, causing issues or even death.

I’m doing research on the stress response of fish to these thermal shifts in streams caused by urbanization, and I am excited to see the results. My lab at Ohio State will be putting fish into tanks and raising and lowering the temperature throughout the day over a period of several weeks, and then testing the stress response of these fish at the end of the treatment. I’m thrilled to be doing work in such a cool field. I think it’s important that we learn how to take care of our aquatic friends as well!

Ironically, the other day while out in a stream doing fieldwork, we found another Rock Bass! (The fish from the beginning of this blog post.) It was the first Rock Bass I had seen since the one that had freaked me out so much last summer. It made me think about what a full circle I had come. It is my hope that you have picked up a thing or two about fish, and hopefully are not as clueless as I was about fish last year! Fish are incredible, and the more I come to learn about them, the more I appreciate what a diverse and amazing species they are.


The (tiny) Rock Bass we found out in the field recently. I was less scared to hold it this time, although it was also 1/10th of the size…


Our all girl field team!
Seining for fish in the Scioto River.



  • Lake Erie cross sectional picture:
    • Michigan Sea Grant
  • Ohio fish species list
    • ODNR
  • Fish facts:
    • Eugene Braig’s and Suzanne Gray’s class lecture slides
  • Other fish facts:
    • Herb et al. 2008
    • Sabouri et al. 2013
    • Klein 1979
    • Wang & Kanehl 2004
    • Walsh et al. 2005





Sea lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) are an eel like fish prevalent in the Atlantic ocean, but have since become an invasive nuisance in the Great Lakes. The lamprey order, Petromyzontiformes, is an ancient one having lasted for 340 million years, surviving four major mass extinction events (GLFC, 2016). Sea lampreys are a fish parasite and have a long tubular body composed of cartilage a large sucker like mouth filled with teeth. They are the largest and most predacious of all their family, using their sucker to cling to a fish and teeth to penetrate the fish’s tissue. Once ruptured, the raspy tongue pulls scales away as their saliva secretes an anticoagulant to prevent the blood from clotting. After feeding, the fish is left with a hole in its tissue prone to infection (IDNR, 2017).

Left: Sea Lamprey mouth (NCRAIS, 2017).

Right: Lampreys attached to a trout (GLI, 2017).



Larval lampreys hatch from eggs buried in the substrate of inland streams. Once they hatch, the current carries them further down stream until they burrow into the silt. Once planted they remain in this stage for about 4-6 years as bottom feeders, eating algae and other organic material. After this stage, the adult parasites leave and move out to sea or other open water to feed on fish. After a period of 12-20 months, they return into the tributaries to spawn and die (GLFC, 2016).

Right: Sea Lamprey life cycle (GLI, 2017).


Most researchers speculate the lamprey gained entrance to the Great Lakes area by means of man made locks in shipping canals. Niagara Falls blocked the lampreys entrance, but with the construction of the Welland Canal and its refurbishment in 1919, lampreys had a path around the natural barrier Niagara Falls presented, gaining a new source of open water to expand. New populations were first noted in Lake Erie in 1921, spreading into all the rest in just 25 years (IDNR, 2017).


In the Atlantic, the lamprey’s targets have co-evolved so that their parasitism does not kill the host. This is not the case in the Great Lakes, where lamprey attack any fish and kill 6 out of every 7 hosts (GLFC, 2016). If a host fish does not die of blood loss, the open wound usually becomes infected causing mortality. The high mortality rates of lamprey hosts in the Great Lakes has lead to serious financial harm in the fisheries economy. Lampreys will feed on almost any fish in the lakes and the high mortality has caused significant population collapses. For instance, lake trout, whitefish and chub populations declined to extirpation in the 1940’s and 1950’s from lamprey predation. Given that a single lamprey is capable of killing over 40 pounds of fish within its lifespan, their pressure continues to affect the lakes today (GLFC, 2017).


Over the decades lamprey populations have grown in size and impact. For instance, the US and Canada used to collect around 15 million pounds of lake trout a year, but this number was reduced to 300,000 pounds a year in the 1960’s. This lack of product forced many out of a job in an industry that was shrinking (GLI, 2017). Currently, the government has managed the populations and advance of sea lampreys costing $14 million annually for conservation. If these efforts were to cease, the losses would be over $500 million a year in the fisheries economy (NCRAIS, 2017). There are close to 6,000 tributaries in the Great Lakes, and at least 433 of them have sea lampreys, and 250 are treated. The methods used include dispersing lampricide, installing low head dams and setting traps. All of which cost money a portion of which is subsidized by taxes (GLI, 2017).


Left: Lowhead dam (GLI, 2017).

Right: Lampricide application (GLI, 2017).



Invasive Sea Lampreys are causing a lot of problems in the lake biota, that has environmental and economical impacts. The cost to mitigate their damage, and conserve the natural species in part comes out of the tax payer’s pocket, showing that lampreys are a nuisance affecting everyone, even those who do not interact with the Great Lakes.


Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). Great Lakes Fishery Commission – Sea Lamprey. 2017 [accessed 2017 Sep 28].

Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC). Sea Lamprey a Great Lakes Invader. 2016 [accessed 2017 Sep 28].

Great Lakes Inform (GLI). Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Great Lakes Inform. 2017 [accessed 2017 Oct 1].

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Sea Lamprey. Aquatic Invasive Species. [accessed 2017 Oct 1].

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Michigan Invasive Species. [accessed 2017 Oct 1].,5664,7-324-68002_73845-374989–,00.htmloutput1edq1f5   

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. NOAA National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species (NCRAIS). Nonindigenous Aquatic Species. [accessed 2017 Oct 1].

Ghosts of Ohio

In 1943, Ohio ichthyologist Milton Trautman made a rare discovery in a small riffle  in Big Darby Creek.  While seining along the downstream edge of a small riffle, he caught two madtoms that until that day, had never been described.  Today, the rare fish is known as the Scioto madtom (Noturus trautmani).  In total, four specimens were found between 1943-1945, all in the same stream section of the Big Darby Creek in a series of four riffles.  The area was searched extensively for a period of years in hopes of finding more of the rare madtoms, but no luck was had for over a decade.

In 1957, a glimmer of hope appeared.  Specifically, it appeared in the form of 14 Scioto madtoms, all caught between September and December of that year, and in the same riffle where the discovery had been made 14 years prior.  This hope was misplaced, however, as not a single Scioto madtom has been seen since, leading to the species being declared officially extinct in the early 2000’s.  As Trautman says in his book, Fishes of Ohio, “Since 1924 no stream section in Ohio has been seined more assiduously and intensely than have these riffles, and few species of Ohio fishes have been more consistently sought after than this one.”

Initially, several explanations were put forth to explain the difficulty in finding more organisms.  Today, it’s widely accepted that the rare catfish species known to be unique to the Scioto watershed is now extinct, likely as a result of habitat changes from a growing agricultural industry.  But at the time of the Scioto madtom’s discovery and subsequent loss, water quality was at a low-point in the United States.

A lot has changed since the last sighting of Noturus trautmani, including the passing of the Clean Water Act and creation of the EPA.  Water quality seems to have recovered in Ohio over the past 50 years, evidenced as recently as last week when students from Ohio Dominican University uncovered tippecanoe darters in Alum Creek.  The Big Darby Creek, where the Scioto madtom once thrived and was eventually lost, now has a near-perfect QHEI rating from the state EPA.  In these ways, the ghost of the Scioto madtom lives on through environmental legislation and education, saving species who otherwise may suffer a similar fate.

  • Trautman, M. B. (1981). The fishes of Ohio: With illustrated keys. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Combating Invasive Species in the Bait Trade

New methods of DNA screening are allowing for detection of invasive fish species in the bait trade and outreach to anglers may help to stop the spread of invasive species into Ohio and the Great Lakes region.

An invasive species is one that has moved into an area it is not native to and damages the environment and organisms that are already established. Invasive species can drive native species out and the damage done can often be economic as well as environmental. Some Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) already have a significant presence in Ohio, such as Zebra Mussel, White Perch, and Round Goby. There are two species of Asian Carp, Silver Carp and Bighead Carp, that are of particular concern to Ohio wildlife managers. While not yet established in the Great Lakes, Asian Carp are abundant in the Mississippi and Illinois, through which they pose a serious threat of invasion (Nathan et al. 2015). These voracious carp have the potential to decimate an ecosystem, and the Silver Carp can even jump out of the water and strike fisherman (

Silver Carp jumping out of the water in the Illinois River

Photo by Nerissa Michaels, Illinois Natural History Survey


Invasive species can be introduced to an ecosystem in a number of different ways. Ballast water from ships, the exotic pet trade, and even habitat managers purposefully introducing a non-native species are sources of AIS. One invasive pathway many people may inadvertently contribute to, is the bait trade. When anglers buy live bait it may contain other invasive species that can be released into the ecosystem.   White Perch, Tubenose Goby, and Ghost Shiner are some examples of established non-native fish in the Great Lakes that are used as baitfish. Baitfish are sometimes sourced from other regions of the country where other AIS are and may result in movement of AIS to new parts of the country (Nathan et al. 2015). To help track the threat of AIS, DNA test have been conducted to track the prevalence of infected baitfish stocks across the region.

Instead of visually searching every bait store for individual organisms, Environmental DNA Surveillance can be used to passively determine if a baitfish supply is infected with AIS. Environmental DNA (eDNA) Surveillance is a method where small strands of DNA are extracted from a water sample, in this case water taken from bait stores. These bits of DNA are not pulled directly from an organism, but rather have been excreted or left behind in the water. These small samples are amplified in a lab using a process called Polymerase Chain Reaction. The amplified strands are then checked against a database of known samples to identify what species of fish were present in the water sampled (Nathan et al. 2015, Mahon et al. 2014).

One study looked at 576 eDNA samples taken from 525 bait shops across all 8 states bordering the Great Lakes. AIS DNA was detected 27 times, including three instances of Silver Carp along the coast of Lake Erie in Ohio (Nathan et al. 2015). Similar studies have also detected White Perch, another species whose sale and possession is banned in a number of Great Lakes states (Mahon et al. 2014). Closing this pathway of invasion poses some challenges though.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. QuickID Features for Baitfish [Digital image from Powerpoint presentation]. Retrieved from


Bait sellers are very often unaware of the species of baitfish they are selling, let alone whether it is invasive or not.  And anglers often don’t know that throwing unused bait fish in the trash and not the water is the preferred method of disposal (Nathan et al. 2014).

Preventing the spread of AIS through baitfish is further complicated since many states have different laws as to what constitutes legal baitfish. The issue crosses international borders as well. The Threespine Stickleback is listed as an invasive but is allowed in Ontario (Nathan et al. 2014). Efforts are underway to inform fisherman and bait sellers of the potential for introduction of AIS into the Great Lakes through baitfish ( Any sightings of Asian Carp in Ohio can be reported at Further outreach to anglers, consolidation of bait laws and potential regulation of the bait industry may be needed to seal up another avenue through which AIS can enter and devastate ecosystems.



Text Citations

Mahon, A. R., Nathan, L. R., & Jerde, C. L. (September 01, 2014). Meta-genomic surveillance of invasive species in the bait trade. Conservation Genetics Resources, 6, 3, 563-567.

Nathan, L. R., Mahon, A. R., Jerde, C. L., & McVeigh, M. (January 01, 2014). An assessment of angler education and bait trade regulations to prevent invasive species introductions in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Management of Biological Invasions, 5, 4, 319-326. doi:

Nathan, L. R., Jerde, C. L., Budny, M. L., & Mahon, A. R. (April 01, 2015). The use of environmental DNA in invasive species surveillance of the Great Lakes commercial bait trade. Conservation Biology, 29, 2, 430-439. doi:10.1111/cobi.12381









How our Local Fishes are affected by Plastic

Everyone knows that pollution is bad. We all do it to some extent, despite our efforts to minimize it. Often, we can get caught up in the mindset that a little bit of pollution or one littered item can’t hurt anything. However, this isn’t true. Scientists have discovered that even the smallest amounts of plastics in a fish’s habitat can cause major health problems (1). For instance, you drop a water bottle into the water from a boat. You’d think that this would have no effect on the fish that inhabit that water, but it does. Bits of plastic as small as half a millimeter can be eaten by small fish (1). In fact, fish tend to eat these bits quite often. They are unable to distinguish the difference between food and these bits of plastic. These pollutants not only affect adult fish but also prevent eggs from hatching, stunted growth, and increase their chances of being predated (1). These effects can cause major harm to not only an individual, but an entire population, community, and ecosystem. Populations can easily dwindle due to exposure to plastic. This can have a large effect on a community or ecosystem in many ways. For instance, if Northern Pike in Lake Erie prey on perch and the perch population is dwindling due to plastic, then the pike population can also begin to decline (2). This can then have an effect on other fish populations that are no longer predated by the pike, causing their population to soar and throwing the balance of the ecosystem out of whack. So next time you don’t care about that bottle falling out of a boat or you miss the trash can and don’t want to pick it up, think about the effect that you are having on our fish and their ecosystem!

1. Plastic cups found in fish. (1975). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 6(10), 148. doi:10.1016/0025-326x(75)90178-2
2. What do Northern Pike Eat? (2017, February 13). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from

Sensitive fish found in Alum Creek proves optimistic for restoration efforts


Image courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website

Hey Central Ohio!

I’ve got some good news for you regarding the water quality at Alum Creek. It has recently been discovered, by Ohio Dominican University Students, that a rare fish is inhabiting Alum Creek. The fish is a Tippecanoe Darter (Etheostoma Tippecanoe if you want to impress your friends with the latin name), which is considered a threatened species in Ohio. Darters are small fish (Tippecanoe darters rarely exceeding 1.5 inches long!) that prefer to inhabit riffles (relatively shallow reaches of a river where the water “tumbles” over gravel and cobbles). Historically they have been found in the northeastern U.S. from Ohio to Tennessee vertically and from Pennsylvania to Illinois laterally where they occur in sporadic or patchy populations. However, these darters have been extirpated (eliminated) in many of their historical reaches including the Muskingum River watershed here in Ohio.

Their numbers largely have been decreasing because of excess sedimentation and habitat alteration. Excess sedimentation has the potential to fill in the crevasses in the riffles where the fish lay their eggs, and can also cause increased turbidity (cloudiness in the water) which can make it harder for the fish to find each other during mating seasons. Sedimentation can occur in both urban and rural agricultural areas. Habitat alteration can occur when impoundments like dams or levees impede the water and sediment transfer abilities of the stream; channelizing a stream (constructing a floor and walls around the river usually with concrete) also eliminates all potential habitat and mostly occurs in urban areas.

Restoration efforts are diverse and involve many organizations, local governments and concerned citizens working in unison. One organization, Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries (FACT), has been working to better the watershed as a whole since 1998 through education/outreach, advocacy, and restoration events like river clean-ups and corridor restoration. It’s important that these sensitive darters were found in Alum Creek because they are good indicators of water quality.  Finding them in Alum Creek is not only good news for restoration efforts, but for all us in Central Ohio that care about healthy waterways!




Why You Should Report a Tagged Fish

Have you ever caught a tagged fish and wondered what to do with it?

If yes, below you will find answers to common questions regarding tagged fish and reporting. If not, consider the role you can play in assuring the fish you enjoy catching continue to thrive.


Why are fishes tagged?

Fish populations are studied by biologists and fisheries managers alike, and without this dedicated field of professionals, many of the sought-after fishes in Ohio would have unhealthy numbers. Tagging fish allows for estimates of abundance, behavior, and survival patterns.


Who is collecting this information?

In Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources, among other agencies, collect data on a variety of fish species in different locations. Independent researchers may also be collecting information.


What do tags look like?

There are a variety of tags; ones most commonly used are anchor tags, coded wire tags, passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags, and visible implant transponder (VIE) tags.

Saugeye caught in Alum Creek with an anchor tag. Source: ODNR


Anchor tags carry information about reporting, while the other types are mainly specific for researchers to identify (or track in the case of PIT tags).


What do I do if I catch a tagged fish?

Reporting tagged fish is easy and some researchers may even provide a cash reward.

Some tags may have contact information, such as a phone number or email address, and others may have a tracking number. In most cases, you are able to harvest the fish. But if you decide to catch-and-release, make sure to leave the tag attached.

To report fish that are studied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, follow this link:


Do tags hurt the fish?

Most common tags do not affect fish growth or survival.


More information on what species are currently being studied by ODNR can be found on their website:


Next time you come across a tagged fish, please consider reporting!




Pintor, L. M. (2017). Marking & Tagging of Fish & Invertebrates [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from OSU Carmen website.

Warm September and Green Algae Blooms in the Toledo Area

Recently, the Toledo Lucas County Health Department has issued a recreational public health advisory for a portion of the Maumee River due to the current algae bloom. The toxic algae, also known as microcystis, has spread to the Maumee River from Lake Erie. Harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie are caused by run-off from nearby farms and cities. The bloom of microcystins is so prominent now that the top of the affected water is coated with the thick, vibrant green algae. Two tests that were taken in the Maumee River resulted in 1.8 and 11.8 parts per billion of microcystins, which is under the 20ppb limit set by the World Health Organization for safe drinking water. While the water is still safe to drink for humans, the algae can still be toxic to local wildlife if they have been exposed for prolonged periods of time. Earlier this month, tests along Maumee Bay State Park recorded measurements of upwards of 250ppb in areas but had decreased down to just 30ppb by September 11th.

Areas of water with a strong presence of microcystins can result in low or depleted oxygen levels, also known as hypoxic zones. When algae die, they drop to the water floor and decompose. The bacteria that decompose the algae respire, which absorbs oxygen in the area. Larger blooms of algae being decomposed lead to greater amounts of oxygen being consumed by the bacteria. When the water is warmer, the oxygen at the bottom of the water is not replaced because the warm surface water will not blend with the cooler water on the bottom. The current warm front northwest Ohio has been experiencing this September has led the temperature levels in the Maumee River to increase by 23-25 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with the rising heat, the area has not received much rain lately, which is causing the river to become more stagnant. These conditions could pose a threat to local fish populations if the blooms become worse in the area. Some fishes will be unaffected because they can swim beneath the algae and avoid hypoxic zones, but other species such as the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) or rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) may not be as fortunate. During this time of year, these fish are feeding on aquatic invertebrates near the bottom of the water column. In times when oxygen is depleted, their prey cannot escape to areas with more oxygen and die off. Less prey to feed on leads to decreased habitat quality in these species. With the current climate trends leading to warmer temperatures, it is likely that northwest Ohio will continue experiencing these algal blooms and hypoxic zones in their waters, despite the efforts of nearby cities and farmers to mitigate run-off. This may have an effect the future of fish populations in the region.


Cited Sources:

1.) US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Hypoxia.” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 6 Oct. 2014, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

2.) “Maumee River recreational advisory continues during algal bloom.” The Blade, The Toledo Blade, 23 Sept. 2017, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

3.) “Green algae leads to water advisory for Maumee River near Downtown Toledo.” The Blade, The Toledo Blade, 21 Sept. 2017, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

4.) “Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve Technical Bulletin No. 3.” How is Fish Habitat Affected? Lake Erie’s Dead Zones, July 2015, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

5.) Staff, WTOL. “Algal bloom on Lake Erie thrives in September heat wave.”, 25 Sept. 2017, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Human Medications Killing Fish

How are your Prescriptions Effecting Fish Populations ?

 Have you or anyone you know ever discarded pills by flushing them down the toilet or washing them down the drain?

Do you know where these medications that are flushed or washed down the drain go after you lose sight of them?

Do you know how to properly discard of pills or other pharmaceutical products?


When I began asking myself these questions I realized that there was a lot that I was unsure of myself when it came to the proper disposal of household medications.

I began thinking about the first question, “have you or someone you know ever discarded pills by flushing them down the toilet or washing them down the drain?”, and I realized that I myself am guilty this action.

I remember being prescribed medication for temporary issues or after-surgery care throughout my life, but shortly after the issues were resolved I was left with pills that were no longer needed or eventually became expired. I distinctly remember cleaning out my medicine cabinet and flushing these unneeded pills down the toilet without ever thinking where these pills go or what they could effect once they were out of my site.

I began to wonder who else around me were discarding their medication in the same manner.

I surveyed 20 individuals that I know.

I first surveyed my four roommates  that I live with here in Columbus, Ohio. Two out of the four roommates admitted to previously discarding pharmaceuticals by flushing them down the toilet.

Next, I surveyed family members that live in Mansfield, Ohio. Out of my ten family members, three of them admitted to discarding medications either through drains or toilets.

Lastly, I surveyed my immediate family members living in Massillon, Ohio (Northeast Ohio) and 2 of the four members of my family (mother and father) admitted to previously discarding their medications through the toilet.

That is eight people (including me) over a 100 miles of Ohio that are contributing pharmaceuticals to our water system in some way. This is only a glimpse of my closest group of people surrounding me, with I’m sure many more individuals that are discarding medications in similar ways.


These results led me to begin thinking about my next question I asked at the beginning of this discussion, “where do the items that are flushed or washed down the drain go after you lose sight of them?”. Specifically, how do these medications affect the environment and organisms that I am experiencing around me.

A study conducted in the Great Lakes region by Randolph Singh from the University of Buffalo explored how flushed pharmaceuticals are affecting species of fish, primarily walleye, bass, and perch. Throughout the course of their research they discovered the presence of anti-depressant in the brains of 10 different species of fish. Furthermore, they indicated that this presence of anti-depressants in the fish brains caused the fishes’ behaviors to be altered. The fish studied began to lose their instinctual behaviors to evade predators. They then became an easier target to kill and this pattern could eventually dramatically effect populations of fish living in the Great Lakes region1.

Singh continues that the amount of these medications found in the fish that were causing behavior changes were only in parts per trillion. This means that if the public continues to be uninformed and continues its trend of flushing medications down the drain, this issue could grow and affect more fish or potentially begin affecting humans in the food chain line.

After knowing what these flushed medications are doing to the environment and organisms in my own state of Ohio, I began looking t the third question I posed “how to properly discard of pills or other pharmaceutical products?”.




 The FDA outlines proper disposal of medications. The best way to remove medications from your possession is through medication take-back programs.

For example Ohio’s next Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 28, 2017 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and a list of collectors near you can be found at:




There are also permanent locations that will take your expired or unwanted medications throughout the year. A list of local locations in Ohio can be found at:

The FDA also mentions that if these drug take-back programs are not feasible, drugs can be thrown away in a household trash if handled in the correct way. They should first be combined with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, coffee grounds, or kitty litter in some type of container. This will create a holding place for these medications that will prevent the leaching through soil into aquatic ecosystems by groundwater or precipitation.


I was not always informed on how improperly discarded medications can cause detrimental effects to fish populations or even there was a right or wrong way to properly discard medications. However, now that I know the facts and that there are precautions that can be taken to avoid this phenomenon I will begin to integrate this into my life and I challenge others to do the same !


Text References:

1.Shoup, C. (2017, September, 15) Flushed Pills affecting Great Lakes Fish, Study Says. The News-Messneger. Retrieved from

Images References:






Life of a Lamprey

What is a lamprey? A lamprey is a primitive fish that looks like a worm and dates back to 360 million years ago. There are 38 known species and 7 in Ohio. Three of the species are parasitic and four are non-parasitic. All of them have a non-parasitic juvenile life stage called an ammocete.

Ammocete lamprey found in southeastern Ohio stream.

Image source: Scott Glassmeyer 2016


The lifespan is depending on the species but ranges from 3 to 7 years (Hardisty, 1944). They spend most of their time in the soil as an ammocete feeding on detritus and algae. A study from an Ohio State University master’s student thesis found Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), as ammocetes, eat more fresh plant an soil organic matter when younger and more algae when older (Evans, 2012).

The eyes of an ammocete are not fully developed because they don’t use their eyes for seeing more than light and dark. They spend the first 3 years in sandy soils usually beneath leaf patches in small rivers and streams.

Head of ammocete lamprey from southeastern Ohio stream.

Image source: Scott Glassmeyer 2016

The dark holes on the side of the “neck” are gill openings where water goes in and out to exchange oxygen across the gills. They do not actively pump water across the gills like most other fish, it simply moves in and out through natural movements.

They metamorphose into adults in the sand and sometimes gravel between July and early winter (Hardisty, 1944). Depending on the species when they metamorphose to adults they transform into parasitic feeding adults and non-parasitic adults (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Life cycles of parasitic and non-parasitic life stages.

Figure source:


Non-parasitic lamprey metamorphose into adults, spawn, and die without feeding. Parasitic lamprey metamorphose into adults, feed on larger fish by latching onto the side and sucking out blood until the victim dies. After feeding and growing, they return to the river, spawn and die. When lamprey are of reproductive age, they spawn in rivers usually at around 10 inches of water right above a riffle in a nest that they dig out. The eggs stay in the substrate for a few weeks and when they hatch, the life cycle repeats itself.


Video Source: Scott Glassmeyer spring 2016


Evans, T. (2012). Assessing Food and Nutritional Resources of Native and Invasive Lamprey Larvae Using Natural Abundance Isotopes. In J. Bauer, M. Daly, & S. Ludsin (Eds.): Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in the Graduate School of The Ohio State University.

Hardisty, M. W. (1944). The life history and growth of the brook lamprey (Lampetra Planeri). Journal of Animal Ecology, 13, 110-122. doi:10.2307/1444


A Rainbow of Ohio Fishes

Have you ever wondered what some of the most colorful species of fish are in Ohio? While it may seem like Ohio couldn’t possibly be home to fish of all colors of the rainbow, there are many. We have gathered some of the most brilliantly colored fish below, one for each color of the rainbow!

What Ohio Fish Are You?

In order to get the general public excited about Ohio fishes, I created a personality quiz called ‘What Ohio Fish Are You?’. After answering a few questions, anyone can be matched up to one of the seven species of Ohio fishes I have selected, dependent upon the answers they choose. The “personality” is based on the ecology and behaviors of each species. There is a description that goes along with each species, which gives further detail about the Ohio fish your personality best matches. I attained this information through the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s website:

Take my quiz using this link:

Let me know what fish you got 🙂


Rehabilitation of the Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes Basin

The largest indigenous fish found within the Greats Lakes Basin is the Lake Sturgeon (Aciperser fulvescens). Lake Sturgeon have flourished in their natural habitat since the glaciers that shaped the basin we know today retreated and gave way to the Great Lakes. However, this once booming population found throughout the majority of the Great Lakes Basin, has declined rapidly since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, the Lake Sturgeon is recognized by the American Fisheries Society as either endangered, threatened, or of special concern in 19 of the 20 states throughout its range5. Overexploitation of the Lake Sturgeon due to its importance in commercial fisheries and sport fishing, as well as, habitat alteration in the streams and rivers that the Sturgeon rely upon for spawning are considered two of the most influential drivers of the current status of the fish1. Current management practices aimed at the recovery of the Lake Sturgeon have proven challenging due to several life history and reproductive traits associated the fish. Lake Sturgeon prefer clean gravel shoals and stream rapids during spawning2. In addition, the Lake Sturgeon requires many years to reach sexual maturity, have slow growth rates, and intermittent spawning cycles that make population restoration progress difficult to track in small periods of time3. Understanding these traits and how they alter management, on top of controlling exploitation, has provided the framework guiding our current recovery practices. This framework has offered a hopeful outlook into the future of Lake Sturgeon populations.

Past Management Practices:  ecosystems

It is important to understand how the Lake Sturgeon population declined from its historical abundances to being classified as endangered or threatened across the majority of its range. Between 1879 and 1900 an estimated 4 million pounds of Lake Sturgeon were harvested annually5. Lake Sturgeon populations were decimated throughout the basin and many of the commercial and sport fishing operations struggled to take in sustainable numbers of catch. Management of Lake Sturgeon exploitation began to spread in the early 1900s as many states began to regulate commercial and recreational fishing. With these regulations in place, Lake Sturgeon population status was widely unknown for vast majority of the last century. Along with overexploitation, human induced destruction and fragmentation of spawning habitat greatly hindered that ability of populations to recover. The installation of dams throughout the tributaries of the Great Lakes prohibited adult Lake Sturgeon from reaching preferred spawning sites located in streams and rivers. Land use, such as extensive deforestation and agricultural development, gave way to increased erosion and siltation that covered these the once prime gravel spawning habitats found in the tributaries3. Documented research of increased water pollution causing low hatching success and decreased survival of young Sturgeon further enhanced the population crash illustrated below1. These anthropogenic stressors act as the primary source of disturbance in natural reproducing populations of Lake Sturgeon and, as stated earlier, mitigating these disturbances has been the main goal of recovery initiatives.

Graph illustrating both the rapid decline of Lake Sturgeon population numbers, but also the decline in juvenile size.                             Retrieved from: Paragamian et al. 2001

Current Management Practices:

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) consists of over 40 multi-agency partnerships whose mission is to preserve, protect, and recover populations of Lake Sturgeon in the Great Lakes Basin1. Funding aimed at reestablishing naturally spawning Lake Sturgeon populations, in addition to hatchery based populations, have initiated many of current recovery projects found in the Great Lakes. The combination of closed seasons, catch limits, and gear restrictions have nearly eliminated all harvesting and recreational exploitation from the Great Lakes in both the United States and Canada. Increased knowledge of habitat fragmentation caused by the installation of dams has resulted in efforts to remove dams that are no longer in use. On top of removal efforts, fish passages through and around barriers that prevent upstream travel have been implemented in existing Sturgeon streams, enhancing the opportunity for Sturgeon to reproduce naturally through many generations. Stream-side rearing facilities have been installed in the majority of the 26 tributaries that currently support Sturgeon1. Rehabilitation efforts and rearing facilities will stock approximately 25,000 Sturgeon each year in an effort to enhance the existing populations basin-wide4. Implementation of human-constructed reefs systems that resemble native stream beds, consistent monitoring of spring run numbers, and consistent communication and monitoring of water usage by hydroelectric power plants are all considered essential for health populations1,3.

Pictured above is a streamside rearing facility withLake Sturgeon eggs and juvenile fish raised as part of restorations efforts.                    Retrieved from:

 Looking into the Future:

            As we look into the future of Lake Sturgeon populations in the Great Lakes Basin, there a number of successful operations that have populations trending in the right direction. Many of the stocking and recovery programs initiated in recent years have existedlong enough for reproduction to occur, yet strategies are full go. Recovery efforts in the New York ‘s Oneida-Lake system and Oswegatchie River have existed long enough for reproduction to occur. Reports indicate that not only are Lake Sturgeon reproducing naturally within these systems, but they are displaying unparalleled growth rates6. Lake Michigan is reporting increasing growth rates as a result of enhanced water quality6. The St. Louis river, which has been extensively cleaned and stocked with thousands of fry and fingerlings beginning in 1983, is a shining example of the success of current recovery efforts6. Building on these success stories and continuing to spread awareness will aid our efforts to return these magnificent fish to their once historic populations numbers.



  1. Schram, S. T., Lindgren, J., & Evrard, L. M. (1999). Reintroduction of lake sturgeon in the st. louis river, western lake superior. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 19(3), 815-823.
  2. Auer, N. A. (1999). Population characteristics and movements of lake sturgeon in the sturgeon river and lake superior. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 25(2), 282-293
  3. Smith, K. M., & King, D. K. (2005). Movement and habitat use of yearling and juvenile lake sturgeon in black lake, michigan. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 134(5), 1159-1172
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