DeStasio awarded research grant

Jonathan Isaacson

Bart DeStasio, associate professor of biology, received a grant last month from the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program to study the effects of the zebra mussel population in Green Bay.DeStasio and student research assistants will be compiling data from previous studies with the data to be collected in the upcoming study to create computer models of the effects of invading zebra mussels, a species native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia, in Lake Michigan’s largest bay

The $206,000 grant will fund DeStasio’s research and will allow two undergraduate students to join the project as technicians and summer research assistants. The grant will also support one graduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

One objective will be to construct a model that can be used in conjunction with similar modeling efforts under way in Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake in New York.

Towards this end, DeStasio and the Green Bay researchers will be working with researchers at Cornell University and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, attempting to further the understanding of the zebra mussels’ impact on the entire Great Lakes Chain.

DeStasio explained that the impact of the zebra mussel in Green Bay is apparently drastically different than the impact the small mussels have had on other areas within the Great Lakes region.

In most areas where the zebra mussels have been found, the water becomes very clear and has very little food such as algae for native species. Consequently, the native species often go into decline.

“[In Green Bay] we’re not seeing this,” DeStasio said, “There is more algae than before.”

He said that the purpose of the study to be funded by the grant is to determine what is different about Green Bay, and why is it responding the way that it is to the invasion.

The research will be aided by the fact that Green Bay, often considered one of the most productive fisheries in the Great Lakes chain, has been thoroughly studied. A considerable amount of data will be available to the researchers working on this project.

Much of the data that the team will use will come from the work of a retired Lawrence biology professor, Sumner Richman.

Richman, who taught at Lawrence from the late fifties until his retirement in 1995, received a series of grants to study Green Bay. DeStasio, a Lawrence graduate, was a student of Richman’s and participated in some of the research as an undergraduate.

DeStasio’s team will have data about the food web of the bay from each summer throughout the eighties, before the invasion of the zebra mussel, as well as data from a few summers in the early nineties, immediately after the arrival of the mussels.

The zebra mussel was first discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988 in Lake St. Claire, a relatively small lake situated between Lakes Huron and Erie, near Detroit. Since then, the zebra mussels have spread rapidly, making it into Green Bay by 1992, and lake Winnebago by 1998.