UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences is launching a project to sequence and analyze the DNA of important Lake Michigan species, providing data that scientists and others can use to better preserve and protect precious natural resources.
Yellow perch and Green Bay mayflies will be two of the first species mapped as part of the Lake Michigan Genome Project undertaken by the Great Lakes Genomics Center. The center is led by Freshwater Sciences Professor Rebecca Klaper. Assistant Professor Jhonatan Sepulveda Villet will also participate in the study.
By observing how organisms respond to their environment, scientists at the center can uncover what makes different genetic switches turn on and off and provide insight on how human activities and environmental conditions affect the Great Lakes ecosystem. Ultimately, they hope to use genetic information as an indicator of lake health. Data collected by the project will show how contaminants affect aquatic organisms and allow researchers to study species to determine when the ecosystem’s health is at risk.
The project will both benefit rare species and provide information for commercial fisheries management. A 2012 study by the Army Corps of Engineers found that Lake Michigan’s commercial fishing harvest declined from 18 million pounds in 1992 to 6 million pounds in 2009. The value of the harvest declined from about $31 million to $10 million.
The Fund for Lake Michigan, which helped fund the center’s DNA sequencing lab, provided a $100,000 grant for the sequencing of the species. A smaller grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture also will support the project.