My first encounter with Bighead carp

Baby Bighead carp
Duane Chapman, a biologist at the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center holds 5 week-old Bighead carp in the wet lab on July 26, 2010 in Columbia, Mo. | Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 70mm | Exposed 1/125 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 800 (+1/3 EV)

Yesterday I had an opportunity to sit down with Duane Chapman, a research fish biologist with the United States Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center.  Chapman took an interest in Asian carp several years ago and has become an expert on their behavior and has been studying some of the environmental requirements for their survival, such as the velocity of the flow of a river needed for their eggs to successful.
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The Largest Fishing Tournament on the Great Lakes

Fishing poles
Fishing poles rest in one of the official buckets given to registrants of Salmon-a-Rama at Reefpoint Marina, Racine, Wis. The lines of the poles were tied off to beer bottles to alert the fishermen if a fish tugged at the bait. | Canon 1D Mark III and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 89mm | Exposed 1/800 sec. @ f/4, ISO 100 (+1 EV)

The largest freshwater fishing tournament in the Great Lakes kicked off on July 10 in Racine, Wis.  One of the great concerns about the possibility of Asian Silver and Bighead carp entering into Lake Michigan is the potential for the destruction of sport fishing due to the radical changes that could happen to the food chain.  The carp are voracious filter-feeders, and could out-compete the fish that serve as “food” for the trout and salmon, and could be the final nail in the coffin for the lake perch.

It wasn’t foremost on the minds of the anglers participating in Salmon-a-Rama, but when I explained the idea of my project, there seemed to be universal concern about the invasive carp, most recently found only six miles from the shoreline of Lake Michigan.  It’s encouraging that this project is relevent even if the environmental outlook for the Great Lakes seems to be discouraging. Continue reading “The Largest Fishing Tournament on the Great Lakes”

Driving toward controversy

Asian Bighead carp
Asian Bighead carp | source:

This May I assembled a committee of three faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism–Jackie Bell, Bill Allen, and David Rees–to oversee my final project to complete my graduate degree.  The product will be a multimedia story on the effect on the economies of the Great Lakes states should Asian Silver and Bighead carp enter Lake Michigan via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, or the negative effects upon Illinois’ economy should that state shut down that man-made canal.

For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to make some progress, but I realize now that I’m only going to make headway if I’m face-to-face with the 923 feet-deep body of water that these fish are attempting to colonize: I have to go home.

I grew up near the shore of Lake Michigan, and I can only hope that being an “insider” of a sorts will give me an advantage as I attempt to tell a complex story.  It’s ambitious, but I have hopes that I can do it justice.

As this post is going up I am traveling north from Columbia, Mo. to Racine, Wis.–a healthy nine-hour drive.  I hope to have a progress report soon.  Wish me luck!