The Sci-Files – 11/1/2020 – Emily Mensch – Novel Invasive Species Management of the Sea Lamprey

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

Emily Mensch holding a Sea Lamprey
Emily Mensch holding a Sea Lamprey

On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Emily Mensch. Emily is a 2nd-year master’s student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the Applied Behavioral Ecology Lab. She studies chemical and behavioral ecology in the invasive sea lamprey and how this can be applied to management and conservation efforts in the Great Lakes and beyond. The invasive sea lamprey has been historically detrimental to the Great Lakes- decimating both economic and ecological resources. While current control techniques (such as dams and pesticides) are successful in controlling this species, there is societal pressure to remove barriers and reduce pesticide use, and climate change will likely create more management challenges. This means that alternative or supplementary control mechanisms are necessary. Emily’s research focuses on one such alternative control technique- using smell to manipulate fish movement. Many aquatic organisms, sea lamprey included, are able to smell when a member of the same species is injured or dead. This scent, called an alarm cue, elicits a “fear” reaction in the fish, resulting in behavior patterns such as avoidance. Emily is working to understand the chemical identification of this alarm cue so that it can be used as a repellent in invasive sea lamprey management, with implications for use in the conservation of imperiled species such as the pacific lamprey. Scientifically, this would also be the first full description of a fish alarm cue.
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