Preserving the aquatic community

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Dr. Marty Holtgren takes part in a research expedition on the Grand River on Sept. 16, 2022. Photo courtesy of GRPS.

A joint project dedicated to Lake Sturgeon found in the Grand River has been expanded through grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The announcement came along with the culmination of the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s completion of a successful research season with its partners John Ball Zoo, Encompass Socio-Ecological Consulting, Grand Valley Metro Council, Grand Valley State University, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Lake Sturgeon are an important part of our aquatic community, both biologically and culturally, in the Great Lakes Basin. Working together with our partners on these magnificent creatures, we look forward to learning more and supporting this native species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region Acting Regional Director Chuck Traxler.

Lake Sturgeon found in the Grand River. Courtesy photo.

The native fish species, now considered threatened in the State of Michigan due to overfishing and habitat degradation, have been the subject of a six-year study. Last year, with the successful location of juvenile sturgeon in the Grand River, the project expanded to include researchers and graduate students from Grand Valley State University. This year, with nearly $150,000 in grant support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, the team was able to expand their work and documented additional Lake Sturgeon. The project includes habitat assessment and innovative research to track population dynamics and spawning estimates.

The research is pivotal in understanding and preserving the iconic species, and draws attention to the Grand River’s broader ecological importance. In collaboration with local partners, the GRPM aims to delve deeper into the life and survival of the Grand River Sturgeon.

The collaborative research team is dedicated to both juvenile and adult sturgeon studies, leveraging state-of-the-art methodologies such as hydroacoustic imaging and visual surveys for juveniles. This research will be enhanced through the addition of graduate students from Grand Valley State University.  

“The enhanced understanding of Lake Sturgeon in the Grand River is an undertaking of immense ecological significance,” said Dr. Stephanie Ogren, VP of Science and Education at the GRPM. “With the continued support from the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act Grant Program, we’re keenly positioned to make impactful contributions to this cause. We’re grateful for the collaboration and resources invested in our mission.”

The GRPM routinely partners with other organizations to conduct research concerning the Grand River.

Other projects include:

  • Angler Activity Study
    With the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds, efforts are being made to track angler activities in downtown Grand Rapids. This will help assess the potential impacts of river rehabilitation projects proposed by Grand Rapids White Water. Those keen on participating can join the seasonal Citizen Science Training via grpm.org/communityscience.
  • Fish Community Assessment
    Using electrofishing, a coalition involving Grand Valley Metro Council and Grand Valley State University is creating a baseline of fish communities around the proposed restoration areas.
  • Macroinvertebrate Surveys
    Conducted annually near the Museum’s Spillman Carousel, this project monitors aquatic insects and is part of a broader data collection effort initiated by the Grand Valley Metro Council.
  • Habitat Mapping
    To assess habitats for juvenile Lake Sturgeon, Grand Valley State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are mapping the Lower Grand River.

For more insights into GRPM’s Lake Sturgeon research and other initiatives, please visit grpm.org/research.

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