Visions from nature

Making Lake Superior Again: Thoughts from the International Charr Symposium

By Sam Perrin

This week I’ve been lucky enough to represent NTNU at the 9th International Charr Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota, a conference focussing on one of my focal species in the genus Salvelinus. Conferences are like this are great for soaking in a swathe of alternative perspectives, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts from day one of the symposium, including a sign of success, one of innovation, and another of hope.

Invasives at Lake Superior

The conference kicked off with a reception at the Great Lakes Aquarium on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. It houses an excellent display on the invasive species of the local ecosystem, the most notorious of which is the Sea Lamprey, a horrific sci-fi species which latches on to the local Lake Trout and essentially sucks their insides out. Jean Adams’ talk, showing how attack frequency could be used to predict attack lethality on Lake Trout, was my favourite presentation today, and has promising results for those monitoring the effects of lampreys on the local population. Despite the fact that the Trout was almost wiped out by the 40s, Don Pereira on Minnesota’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation delivered a message of optimism, reassuring us that concerted conservation efforts have managed to restore the trout populations.

The Great Lakes Aquarium has a fantastic presentation on Lake Superior's invasive species
The Great Lakes Aquarium has a fantastic presentation on Lake Superior’s invasive species (Image Credit: ME)

Using cultural anthropology for public engagement

Lake Windermere is a long lake in northern England, where eutrophication, driven in part by the invasive Himalayan Balsam, has driven down Arctic Charr populations by suffocating their eggs. Professor Ian Winfield showed the short film Brass, Three Down, which deals with the cultural impact of this development. However if you want an absolute visual treat, just watch the ‘music’ video here. Whilst the musical quality may be dubious, it’s certainly an interesting way to engage the public in helping reduce the impact of invasives and restore an ecosystem.


Making Lake Superior Again

The symposium isn’t the only conference in town. There’s a Trump rally in Duluth this week. No joke. It’s a sobering reminder that not everybody shares our passion for conservation. However the Duluth Mayor, Emily Larson, gave a very diplomatic reminder that whilst the current President may not share our concerns, there are millions of citizens out there who understand the importance of conserving the one world we have.

Making the most of the week

I’ll be talking to Don Pereira and his team tomorrow on their remarkable work restoring such a severely hit ecosystem, as well as Ian Winfield on the importance of cultural anthropology in conservation biology. I look forward to bringing both interviews to you in the coming weeks.

Leave a Reply