Team studies 'vampires of the Great Lakes'

7/23/2021 8:48:45 AM

Lampreys at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission office in Ann Arbor, MI (February 2020). 
Lampreys at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission office in Ann Arbor, MI (February 2020). 

Have you ever thought about trying to build a better mousetrap?  An Illinois team is trying to do just that, but targeting fish, not mice.  Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, researchers are studying the effects of turbulence on invasive sea lamprey to learn more about what efforts might best deter them and what might make them ‘choose’ to swim into a particular area.

Called the “vampires of the Great Lakes,” sea lamprey are parasitic fish that kill and injure local species and inflict severe damage on the fisheries economy. The pilot project is taking place this summer at the Hammond Bay Biological Station in Millersburg, Mich. It is a collaboration between CEE assistant professor Rafael Tinoco and Cory Suski, a professor in UIUC’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

Rafael Tinoco
Rafael Tinoco

“Through a series of laboratory experiments with live, upstream-migrating lamprey, we will evaluate the response of lamprey to specific features of turbulent flow, changing the intensity, orientation, periodicity, and size of coherent flow structures generated by different configurations of in-stream structures,” Tinoco said. “Identifying the lamprey preference for specific hydrodynamic features will help us redesign more effective traps and barriers, by either enhancing their preferred flow features or amplifying the ones they avoid.”

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) is an international treaty organization established in 1955 between Canada and the United States that works to control sea lamprey population through the development and use of lampricides, barriers and traps.