The Environmental Fate of Lampricides in Tributaries of the Great Lakes

For April 18, 2018    

 Hi WN@TL Fans,

“Cows are people, too,” proclaimed Radar O’Reilly of Iowa, in one of scores of philosophical gambits played on the small screen by the writers of M*A*S*H. 

If Radar had grown up in Oconto instead of Ottumwa, he may have had a tougher proposition to parse:  what’s the bioethical status of the sea lamprey?

In the run-up to Earth Day,  the jawless but toothful parasitic fish is hardly an appealing poster child for the environmental movement.  


Still, the lamprey’s invasion of the Great Lakes, and the methods humans have taken over the years to control it and other aquatic invasive species, underscore the challenges anglers, fishery biologists and policy makers must wrangle as well as the competing interests they must balance.  

The sea lamprey has long dined on the lake trout of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.  While the anadromous invader has not been eradicated, it has been controlled in part by the use of lampricides to kill young lamprey in rivers. But what becomes of the lamprey-killing chemicals? Where do they move and dwell and how are they broken down?   

Christy Remucal of Civil & Environmental Engineering will shed some light on the lampricides on April 18 in her talk entitled, “The Environmental Fate of Lampricides in Tributaries of the Great Lakes.”  Here’s how she describes her talk: 

The sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, is an invasive species in the Great Lakes that preys on large fish, including lake trout and whitefish. The fish entered the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean through man-made shipping canals and have been documented in all of the Great Lakes since the late 1930s.

Tonight’s talk will focus on the fate of two lampricides — chemicals designed to kill larval sea lamprey — after they were applied to tributaries of the Great Lakes. Laboratory experiments show that the two chemicals can be naturally degraded by sunlight to form less toxic products, but field studies demonstrate that the degradation of lampricides by sunlight will only occur in a limited number of long, shallow tributaries.

These same field studies also demonstrate that a large fraction of the lampricides are temporarily stored in the hyporheic zone, a shallow region below the river bed. Remucal’s research results are important for evaluating the lifetime of the lampricides in the aquatic environment.

About the Speaker

Christy Remucal leads the Aquatic Chemistry group at UW–Madison. She is a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program, and the Limnology and Marine Science Program. She earned her master’s and doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and her bachelor’s in environmental engineering science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining the UW–Madison faculty in 2012, Remucal completed a post-doc in the Institute for Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.


Next week (April 25):   As a former student-employee of the Dixon Public Library who enjoyed finding old posters and even older books tucked in nooks and squirreled away in crannies behind false walls up in the attic, I’m looking forward to our next installment in the WN@TL series on old tomes.

 Heather Wacha will be here from the iSchool to talk about the Stained Book Project with her talk entitled, “A Library of Stains: Using Multispectral Imaging to Analyze Stains in Medieval Manuscripts.”For some us, few pursuits are more intriguing than the prospect of handling, collecting, cataloging, curating and analyzing documents that were already ancient when Henry VIII or even Charlemagne trod this Earth.

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Thanks again,

Tom Zinnen
UW-Madison and UW-Extension