The goal of the Science Transfer Program (STP) is to improve fishery management to successfully achieve fish community objectives by identifying science and science products that can inform management needs, and making science accessible to managers for decision-making.
Science transfer products differ from typical research products in that they are easily accessible decision and communication support tools, such as fact sheets, slide decks, graphical figures, decision trees, or video vignettes that convey synthesized, scientifically rigorous material in simple and concise ways. Browse and download STP products from the STP Toolkit.
The Science Transfer Program is advised by a Science Transfer Board (STB) consisting of fishery managers, sea lamprey control agents, and scientists. Rather than issuing a competitive call for proposals, The STB identifies and prioritizes fishery management and sea lamprey control issues requiring science transfer through a "horizon scan" process. Ideas are solicited from the Council of Lake Committees, Sea Lamprey Control Board, and the broader Great Lakes management and science communities, as well as stakeholders and industry partners. This list of ideas is prioritized by fishery managers and sea lamprey control agents on the STB in late December each year; high-priority ideas are developed into one-page "issue statements" that are reviewed the following April. The STB selects from these issue statements a portfolio of projects for further development, with full project plans reviewed each October and funding recommendations made to the Commission in December. See the full project development process.
If you have a project idea or management issue that could be informed by existing science, please contact the science program. External project ideas should be submitted by December 1 to be considered in the upcoming cycle's horizon scan (e.g., submit by December 1, 2022 for consideration for FY2024 funding) using the Project Interest Form.
Considerations for producing usable science
Project leader: Cooke, S.
Each year there is much science (both monitoring and research) done in the Great Lakes basin that is intended to inform management and conservation of fisheries and aquatic environments. Yet, it is also well known that there is gap between science and its application. This project will involve social science methods intended to explore the basis for this gap and how it can be narrowed or bridged so that researchers are better equipped to generate actionable science. That knowledge can also be used to inform funding bodies (such as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission) about how they can better assess potential funding applications to ensure that mission-oriented projects deliver on their promise to inform management.
Stream selection for lampricide treatments: effectively communicating the process internally and among partners
Project leader: Jubar, A.
Selecting streams for lampricide treatment is a lengthy and complicated process. The rationale behind individual stream treatments and the timing of their application can vary, with some being driven by quantitative estimates of larval abundance and others based upon expert opinion or other unique circumstances. Control agents often receive questions from fisheries biologists and interested parties regarding why a particular tributary is being treated. The goal of this project is to develop clear messaging and outreach materials to support effective communication of the stream selection process to various audiences.
Improving environmental DNA (eDNA) reliability for resource management
Project leader: Wilson, C.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a potent tool for resource management, but its newness, lack of data standards, and vulnerability to error make it difficult for managers to know how much to rely on eDNA findings. As a result, managers are understandably reluctant to rely too much on eDNA detections. With eDNA studies growing rapidly, there are multiple calls to establish data standards and reporting requirements of the underlying processes and methods, from initial sample collection and sampling design to assay testing, sensitivity, and specificity. This project will compile and combine information from existing efforts to establish data standards to build a simplified checklist of required information for managers to request from eDNA labs, as well as to help them interpret the reliability of reported eDNA results.
Practical guidance for selecting a methodology for conducting stock identification in the Great Lakes
Project leader: Brenden, T.
Fish stocks are subpopulations of a particular species of fish. Accurate identification of stock structure is important for sustainable management of fisheries because stocks may respond differently to fishing levels, which increases the risk of overharvest. Many approaches exist for identifying the structure of fish stocks or stock boundaries, including morphometrics/meristics, tagging/marking, fatty acid profiles, chemical composition of hard parts, and genetic analysis. These approaches vary in equipment needs, level of technical expertise required to implement, expected resolution of findings, required sample sizes, and potential confounding factors. As a result, it can be difficult for fishery managers to decide which approach might work best for their needs given available resources. The goal of this project is to provide concise information about the various approaches for conducting stock identification in Great Lakes systems, including operational considerations (equipment needs, required technical skills), strengths and weaknesses of the approaches, and important or limiting assumptions.
"Omics" science transfer: Applications in fishery management and conservation
Project leader: Heath, D.
The branches of science known as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics (collectively referred to as "omics") aim to understand biological molecules such as DNA, RNA, proteins. Despite enormous potential for omics applications in fisheries science and management, the uptake of omics technologies to inform real-world fishery management decisions is lagging. Therefore, this project seeks to to translate the techniques, applications, and benefits of omics technology for fisheries science into non-technical (i.e., reduced jargon) visual educational materials, written resources, and decision-guiding tools for Great Lakes fisheries managers.
Sea lamprey resistance: State of the science and options for monitoring
Project leader: Dunlop, E.
The invasive sea lamprey in the Laurentian Great Lakes has been controlled by the pesticide 3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM) for more than 60 years. As has occurred in other pest control systems, it is possible that over time, sea lamprey could evolve resistance to TFM, leading to increased population abundances of these parasites and significant losses to commercial and recreational fisheries. The purpose of this Science Transfer Project is to share recent scientific results on the topic of sea lamprey resistance with sea lamprey control agents and develop a list of options to monitor for resistance development.
Previously Funded projects
Using stock assessment information to inform harvest policy in data-limited fisheries
Project leader: Jones, M.
- Many Great Lakes fisheries, while important, are small enough that full assessments of fishery status and development of data-driven rules for setting harvest rates or quotas cannot be justified. This can make management of these “data-limited” fisheries challenging.
- FishPath provides a structured approach to developing a strategy for data collection, status assessment, and management actions for data-limited fisheries.
- Application of the tool to two Great Lakes commercial fisheries identified options for more effectively using existing and readily available data to guide management of these fisheries, particularly to help identify measures that could be implemented proactively to ensure fishery sustainability.
- We now have a group of biologists in the Great Lakes region who are familiar with the FishPath tool and could be called upon to guide further applications of FishPath
Effective dissemination of Lake Erie walleye movement and distribution information for use by managers
Project leader: Hartman, T.
- There are many separate walleye acoustic telemetry projects on Lake Erie that address various research questions; however, each individual project reports solely on walleye movement information associated with their specific project objectives.
- The summary tool developed by this project allows interactive creation of powerful graphics that show the migration patterns of Lake Erie walleye, integrated across all projects and using a simple, intuitive interface designed for fishery managers.
- Lake Erie fishery managers are now able to quickly summarize detection data from multiple projects without directly consulting multiple individual project leaders.
- This tool is a prototype that could be used to inform the development of future tools to summarize other species’ detections or detections on other Great Lakes.
Developing consistency in interpretation and communication of non-target mortality associated with lampricide treatments
Project leader: Kaye, C.
- Sea lamprey control agents and other Great Lakes Fishery Commission partners were surveyed to examine their perceptions on non-target mortality (NTM) from lampricide treatments. Results were used to develop a more refined and uniform message regarding NTM that was communicated internally and used will be used to refine external messaging.
- Another goal of this project was to synthesize existing data to develop an evidence-based understanding of the scope and scale of NTM and contributing circumstances. However, the scope and scale of lampricide-induced NTM could not be determined from existing survey and treatment data. The NTM data do provide an indication of the species seen most frequently during treatments.
- A well-designed, long-term study would provide insight regarding the scope, scale, and cause of NTM during stream treatments.
Interactive tool for visualizing fish stocking events and recoveries in the Great Lakes
Project leader: Cottrill, A.
- More than 400 million fish have been stocked into the Great Lakes and their tributaries in the past 10 years alone. Data on these stocking events were stored in a database with limited public interface and no interactivity.
- This project developed an interactive, web-based tool (http://fsis.glfc.org) for visualizing stocking events in the Great Lakes that will be useful to managers, agency staff, and the public
- Development of the tool also led to standardization of data across agencies, improved data accuracy, and a streamlined process for uploading stocking data directly to the site.
From fish movement to knowledge movement: Understanding and improving science transfer related to telemetry
Project leader: Cooke, S.
- This project identified barriers to knowledge transfer and adoption of telemetry science by fishery managers, clarified limitations and opportunities of the technology, and shared successes where telemetry has informed management.
- Quality telemetry studies should consider tag burden, clearly document fish collection methods, and integrate managers/stakeholders into project planning, among other considerations outlined in a telemetry checklist for both researchers and managers.
- A template was created for researchers to generate simple, concise management briefs through the GLATOS website.
Uses and limitations of environmental DNA (eDNA) in fisheries management
Project leader: Welsh, A.
- Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an effective sampling tool for species detection, complementing other traditional sampling techniques.
- The uses and limitations of this technique need to be effectively communicated to both agency personnel (i.e., managers, biologists) and the public.
- Deliverables are provided in a variety of formats so the information can be tailored to the appropriate audience and context.
Changes in nutrient status and energy flow through lower trophic levels: Implications for Great Lakes fishery managers
Project leader: Stewart, T.
- A conceptual model was developed describing the influences of changes in water quality, food web structure, and fisheries management activities on Great Lake fish and fisheries.
- Synthesis of the literature and direct observations from Great Lakes studies confirmed a positive relationship between the total amount of total fish biomass and nutrient concentration.
- Food web structure, fish management activities and increased water clarity can aggravate or mitigate the influence of declining nutrients.
- Concepts developed during the synthesis process and from the workshop will facilitate further discussions among Great Lakes stakeholders to refine the concepts, find mutually agreeable ecosystem goals, and the means to achieve them.
- Many of the mass-balanced descriptions of Great Lakes food webs remain unpublished, others are outdated, and this needs to be corrected. Food web studies requires the integration of large amounts of multi-trophic level, multi-scale data which introduces considerable uncertainty. Methods exist for adequately accounting and understanding the consequence this uncertainty, such as linear inverse modelling (van Oevelen et al. 2010), and can be adapted to existing Great Lakes food web data (Hossain et al. 2017). Applying these methods to existing mass-balance descriptions of Great Lakes food webs would allow a more fulsome exploration of uncertainty and its consequences. Integrating isotope and biomass size spectra approaches may be another independent method to assess Great Lakes food web attributes (Jennings et al., 2002, Trebilco et al., 2013).
- Potential fish production is lower in nutrient poor systems, and as many Great Lakes ecosystems shift from mesotrophic to oligotrophic, not all fish species can be supported at historical levels, while others may thrive. However, highly functioning ecosystems and productive and diverse quality fisheries are still possible. It will be a challenge for managers to adjust their expectations and those of their clients, and to innovate and adapt their fisheries management practices.
Alternative barrier technologies: History as a control tool
Project leader: Zielinski, D.
- The Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s sea lamprey control program has generated a technologically diverse set of barrier designs that focus on influencing or exploiting a single behavioral (e.g., non-physical barriers), phenological (e.g., seasonal barriers), physiological (e.g., fixed-crest and velocity barriers), or morphological (e.g., screens and weirs) attributes to block or trap sea lamprey.
- The fixed-crest barrier has the longest history of effectively blocking sea lamprey passage; owed, in part, to its relatively straightforward design.
- The next most common designs, adjustable-crest and seasonally operated barriers utilize a similar blocking mechanism as fixed-crest barriers but have higher costs associated with staffing and risks associated with automated operation.
- Alternatives barrier technologies such as resistance weirs, velocity barriers, and vertical mount electrodes with pulsed direct current have been shown, at least experimentally, to have potential to block sea lamprey passage; however, none have been deployed yet at a management scale.
- The lesson learned from the history of sea lamprey barriers is that great caution should be exercised prior to implementing new and experimental barrier technologies at the management scale.
Accounting for potential effects on fish production from barrier removals to inform management decisions: an application of structured decision making.
Project leader: Jones, M.
- Structured Decision Making (SDM) is a useful tool to help managers, stakeholders, and researchers discuss and make effective decisions on complex fishery issues, including barrier removals in the Great Lakes.
- Modeling and field studies lend insight into the expected effects of dam removals on fish populations and communities, but many critical uncertainties remain that are important to consider in the SDM process.