Sounds Like Fish

Sounds Like Fish

By Sara Berhow

Brooke Vetter ’08 and Emily Cardinal ’13 were biology majors at St. Kate’s, yet their paths didn’t cross until 2014 at the University of Minnesota–Duluth (UMD). Both are now graduate students in the integrated biosciences program. Vetter is in her last year of the Ph.D. track, Cardinal’s in her first year on the masters path.

They are also on a UMD research team studying new ways to stop the spread of invasive aquatic species. Silver and big head carp are fast growing, aggressive fish that have taken food and habitat from native fish species in much of the Great Lakes region of the United States.

While electric barriers are sometimes used to keep the carp at bay, they aren’t feasible in all locations. Vetter, Cardinal and their colleagues are experimenting with high-frequency
sound as an alternative. If successful, the sound stimuli may drive fish away from certain areas or herd them toward nets for capture and removal.

Allen Mensinger is the UMD professor who led Vetter and Cardinal up north. His work on the neural mechanism of behavior piqued Vetter’s interest during her senior year at St. Kate’s. She met him in a seminar on campus. Cardinal worked with him when she was an intern at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Together with Mensinger, the research team works with captive fish at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In previous studies, pure tone stimuli — 1,000–2,000 Hertz beeps — were used to deter fish. In this study, Vetter used a more complicated group of tones, like that of an outboard motor. In controlled experiments, the silver and big head carp swam away from such multi-tone frequencies.

The next step is to build barriers that use sound stimuli. Once the barriers are ready, the research team will start testing on wild fish.

Vetter and Cardinal both aspire to careers in collegiate-level science education.

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