Bubble barrier against invasive fish to be studied

7/16/2021 8:53:56 AM

Grass carp eggs under a microscope.
Grass carp eggs under a microscope.

A two-way bubble barrier for the control of aquatic invasive species will be developed and studied by CEE researchers thanks to a grant from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) providing $89,000 for the first year of an anticipated three-year, $245,000 project. The project is a cooperative agreement with the Great Rivers Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit and will be led within CEE by assistant professor Rafael O. Tinoco.

“Our study aims to develop more efficient, non-physical barriers for invasive fish in natural streams, while assessing the ability of such barriers to improve the health of the aquatic ecosystem,” Tinoco said.

Researchers will develop a novel two-way bubble barrier to aid in preventing the spread of invasive fish, in particular to deter grass carp from establishing in tributaries to the Great Lakes. The team includes Cory D. Suski, a professor in UIUC’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES); P. Ryan Jackson, a hydrologist at the USGS-Central Midwest Water Science Center; and Duane C. Chapman, a fish biologist at USGS-Columbia Environmental Research Center.

Rafael Tinoco
Rafael Tinoco

The barriers to be developed will use curtains of bubbles to entrain and inhibit downstream dispersal of eggs and larvae, and prevent the upstream movement of  fish, with an emphasis on grass carp attempting to reach spawning areas in tributaries to the Great Lakes.

“We will evaluate how the same turbulence features used to redirect and trap certain species can also modify local sediment transport, enhance sediment resuspension and turbidity, and affect overall water quality downstream of the barriers,” Tinoco said. “Our coupled fish-removal, sediment and resuspension study will identify optimal configurations to improve the efficiency of barriers while reducing their environmental impacts.”

Tinoco’s research focuses on the interactions between hydrodynamics and aquatic ecosystems. His research group employs state-of-the-art experimental techniques coupled with high-resolution numerical modeling to solve fundamental questions about physical and biological processes on Ecohydraulics and Ecomorphodynamics. Understanding such complex phenomena allow them to develop solutions to environmental problems, such as stream restoration and coastal protection, with the objective to maximize both ecosystem health and the services provided by those ecosystems. Tinoco joined the CEE at Illinois faculty in 2015.