Patrick Forsythe's students holding a sturgeon and documenting it's information

Fish tales: UW-Green Bay’s Prof. Patrick Forsythe has long loved one of Wisconsin’s most revered fish species

UW-Green Bay Scientist studies prehistoric sturgeon

Studying one of Wisconsin’s most revered fish species has been a love of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Patrick Forsythe since childhood, but now he gets to study whether or not efforts to save the fish are working.

Forsythe, an associate professor of biology, along with the Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Laboratory, received $300,000 from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and WE Energies Mitigation and Enhancement fund to research whether or not lake sturgeon in the Upper Menominee River are passing through fish passageways which are set up to help them migrate to their ancestral spawning grounds.

Forsythe (right) and students tag and measure a sturgeon in earlier research.

Knowing whether or not revered legends are migrating back and forth is important, Forsythe said, not only for the fish species health, but to see whether or not the efforts to bring the giant species back have been successful.

The problem, he said, was the dam system. Built in the early 1900s, the five dams along the Menominee River were originally put in to assist with the logging operations in the area. But as time passed, the dams were converted to hydro-electric dams to help fuel the area through electricity.

In time, however, the dams prevented the sturgeon from getting back and forth from their spawning grounds at Sturgeon Falls, WI to the big water of Lake Michigan that they like so much. Like salmon, Forsythe said, the fish need to return to their spawning grounds on the rocky river beds of the Menominee River yearly. Unlike salmon though, sturgeon aren’t quite as athletic. (Lake sturgeon caught today weigh between 30-100 pounds and grow to 3-7 feet in length. Females live 80-150 years.) While some do make it back and forth, many can’t.

Forsythe said the dams, and other human elements, had a dramatic impact on the fish’s population. He estimates the sturgeon population is 1 to 2 percent of its historic abundance.

So, through a cooperative effort of federal, state and local government agencies, electric companies and others, a fish passage was built. On one side, a fish elevator starts the sturgeon on their trip upstream. On the other, a waterslide takes them downstream.

On the upstream trip fish are taken by elevator to a research area where researchers check on their health, do an ultrasound and take a small clipping of their fins for DNA analysis, he said. Then the fish are trucked to the lake and released.

Now, it’s up to Forsythe to make sure the fish passage is working and that fish that have passed through the passage are returning to their ancestral spawning grounds to find love among the river rocks.

“Within the last 3 to 4 years they’ve really been making an effort to pass quite a few fish on an annual basis,” he said. “The first step was to figure out if those fish would just fall right back down through the dams or would they go upstream. And some fish do just come back through the dams after they’ve been transported, but a large proportion of them were going upstream.”

Now, Forsythe and his team of will be determining whether or not the young fish are the result of fish that stayed in the river, fish that moved through the fish passage, or fish that stayed in the river mating with a fish that went through the passage.

Having caught some larvae, his research team will use their DNA to see who their parents are. Extracting the genetic material and processing should happen later this year, he said.

From there, scientists and researchers will be able to use the data Forsythe’s project to make future decisions. Data will show which adult fish were most successful at spawning and what characteristics they had, so that wildlife management will know how many fish to pass through the passage each year, as well as what characteristics in those fish will give a better chance of success, for example.

The project is not only important to see whether or not the program is working, and to determine how to manage the fish passage in the future, it’s important for the people of Wisconsin, as well, he said.

“You know, they surgeon are highly revered in the Great Lakes. They call them the King of the Fish,” Forsythe said. “Tribes used to sustain themselves based on the surgeon harvest. Actually, Indian tribes locally, they probably knew more about surgeon than what we do because their migratory behavior was tied to the sturgeon migrations as well.

“It’s really a cool fish. And I think they just got hammered by over exploitation and river pollution. They’ve seen a resurgence recently, and I think people just want to see that and see them come back,” he continued. “You know this is just a really cool prehistoric animal.”

By freelance writer Liz Carey. 


Fish Hatching Photo

UW-Green Bay receives $300,000 for lake sturgeon research

UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Patrick Forsythe (Biology) and the Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Laboratory received $300K from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and WE Energies Mitigation and Enhancement fund to research lake sturgeon on the Upper Menominee River. The main goal of this project is to provide data needed to help evaluate the benefits of passing adult lake sturgeon around the lower two dams and within the Park Mill to Grand Rapids section of the river. This proposed research represents the next critical step in a series of projects designed to evaluate use of an elevator as a means of providing upstream passage of lake sturgeon to facilitate recovery of the Menominee River lake sturgeon population. The project is slated to begin later this spring.

Fish Hatching Photos

Menominee River

Photos of the upper Menominee River from May 20, 2020. See map.

Photos submitted by UW-Green Bay Fisheries Technician Stefan Tucker.

UW-Green Bay’s four campuses offer undeniable natural beauty

UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus provides incredible opportunities to study wildlife and just plain enjoy the outdoors. Associate Prof. James Kabrhel (Chemistry) snapped this photo (below) of what is believed to be a bluet damselfly in the wetlands by the entrance of the Sheboygan Campus. The “amateur wildlife and landscape photographer” says his other favorite spots for wildlife photography are Silver Creek Park adjacent to the Manitowoc Campus and Henry Schuette Park in the city of Manitowoc.

Photo by James Kabrhel

In the photo above, submitted by Kabrhel, features a blue heron near the Sheboygan Campus.

Extreme heat no match for this rising Phoenix

Being a student-athlete and a member of the U.S. Army National Guard during the pandemic can be hard, but to her credit, UW-Green Bay junior Taylor Reichow, a Computer Science major, excels at both.

The Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corp (ROTC) cadet and goalkeeper for the Green Bay women’s soccer team, earned distinguished honors this summer in her Advanced Individual Training (AIT) and received two awards — the Distinguished Honor Graduate Award for placing the highest in a series of tests and the Army Achievement Medal.

Taylor Reichow named Distinguished Honor Graduate

Her training took place at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. As a Multiple Launch Rocket Systems crewmember, Reichow learned things such as loading rocket pods onto resupply vehicles, military communication using the SINCGARS radio system and preventative maintenance checks on all vehicles used to shoot rockets. She did all of this in extreme (120 degrees Fahrenheit) heat!

Reichow shined from the beginning, but was nervous for the last test. “The sergeants and instructors had to give us our grades mid-way through training and to my surprise I was in the number one position with a 99.75%,” she said. “I was super nervous for every test I took because the last two were the most difficult ones. I wasn’t sure I could hold my spot because there was heavy competition. We had a field training exercise which was four days, three nights [and] I had to get a 96% in order to keep my position at No. 1, and with it, the Distinguished Honor Graduate Award.”

The Army Achievement Medal was later awarded when her Drill Sergeant in Wisconsin got word of her high achievements and he sent her name in to be considered. This medal is awarded to any member of the armed forces that distinguishes themselves by meritorious services or achievement.

She was honored by the recognition. “This is the best thing that has happened to me. I was thrilled that I was able to accomplish something this huge. Because I was the distinguished honor graduate, I was able to shoot my first six rockets while I was at training, which was everything I could ask for.”

Back on campus, she continues to train with Green Bay women’s soccer, and has also taken on leadership roles in the Women in Technology student organization. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a job in the technology industry while coaching either soccer or basketball to keep her love of the sports alive. Throughout all of this though Reichow will continue in the Army National Guard.

Two years in, Reichow joined the ROTC to be a part of something bigger than herself. She’s one example of a Phoenix rising to meet the expectations of her coaches, her teammates and her ROTC peers and leaders.

Mission accomplished.

Story by Charlotte Berg, Marketing and University Communication intern

Determined leader: Dean Katers is recognized for regional efforts in science and sustainability

He is a determined leader and a UW-Green Bay alumnus who continues to inspire.

Dean of UW-Green Bay’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, John Katers, was recognized by two major organizations this fall for his dedication to science, engineering, and sustainability.

Katers persistence and leadership in the drive for engineering degrees and the long-awaited Resch School of Engineering at UW-Green Bay, and his unwavering commitment toward the establishment of the Brown County STEM Innovation Center on the Green Bay Campus, has no doubt added to his legacy.

In late August, Katers received word that the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA), named him the three-state organization’s 2020 William C. Boyle Educator of the Year Award. The award recognizes accomplishments in the education and development of future water environment professionals by educators at all levels, from primary grades through graduate students. Katers believes his long history with NEW Water, a government utility that reclaims waters and promote pollution prevention and water conservation, may have led to the nomination. Many of his former students work at the organization.

John Katers

Under normal circumstances, the award would have been presented at the 93rd Annual Meeting in August. His award will also be announced in the next publication of Central States Water, and Katers will be recognized at CSWEA’s 2021 Annual Meeting.

“A big congratulations to you on your well-deserved award and for all your essential work in keeping our waters clean and sustainable for generations to come,” said Jane Carlson, second president of CSWEA. “Your ongoing commitment to the protection of our water environment is greatly appreciated.”

And just last week (Friday, Sept. 18), Katers was presented the 2020 Wisconsin Section American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Engineer in Education Individual Merit Award. The list of award winners through the years included Dr. Al Zanoni (1998) and Dr. Tom Wenzel (1996), two of Katers’ former faculty members and mentors at Marquette University where he completed his Ph.D.

“Dr. Zanoni was my major professor at Marquette and I believe I am the only Ph. D. student of his that finished, while Dr. Wenzel was the Chair of Engineering,” Katers said. “I am not sure that I am entirely deserving of the award, as we have a great team of people at UWGB and in CSET that do remarkable work with our students each and every day, but I am very proud to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Zanoni who I greatly respected as an educatorbecause of his passion and dedication to training the next generation of engineers.”

The Engineer in Education Individual Merit Award is given to those who contribute to civil engineering through actions that serve to advance the art, science or technology of civil engineering.

Katers currently chairs the Brown County Solid Waste Board and has done extensive research on solid waste management and recycling, agricultural waste management and treatment, and pollution control and waste minimization.

In the featured photo, Katers welcomes the Green Bay Packers to the Tiny Earth kick-off (a search for antibiotics) press conference at the STEM Innovation Center in Sept. 2019.