Lake sturgeon meta-population structure: migration pathways, spawning fidelity, and survival in a complex river-lake ecosystem
January 2012 - December 2023
This goal of this study is to use acoustic telemetry improve understanding of Lake Sturgeon migration behavior, population structure, and habitat use in an ecosystem lacking barriers to migration and dispersal. Movements of 283 adult-sized (> 120 cm total length) Lake Sturgeon implanted with high-power acoustic tags have been tracked since 2012 on a network of receivers deployed in the Detroit and St. Clair rivers as well as in Lakes Erie, St. Clair, and Lake Huron. Analysis of individual- and population-scale movement data has enabled researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan State University, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to identify novel migratory phenotypes and their genetic basis (Kessel et al. 2018, Whitaker et al. 2018), characterize population structure and interactions (Kessel et al. 2018), identify critical habitat (Colborne et al. in press), select sites for spawning reef construction (Brooks et al. 2017), and describe how Lake Sturgeon interact with their habitat in channelized rivers (Hondorp et al. 2017). Study results have provided information that can help improve management decision-making with regard to population assessment, habitat protection, harvest, dam removal, and restoration of Lake sturgeon habitat in spawning rivers. Movements of Lake Sturgeon also are being used by extension specialists to educate K-5 students about Great Lakes fish and fisheries. Future data analysis goals include using acoustic telemetry to describe survival and site fidelity of adult Lake Sturgeon as well as the effects of climate on the phenology of Lake Sturgeon migration.