Exploring the depths

Forests for Fish Forum to be held Tuesday

Brandon Gerig, a professor of fisheries biology at Northern Michigan University, holds a brown trout. Gerig, along with Thomas Pratt, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Shawn Sitar, a Lake Superior fisheries research biologist with the DNR, will speak during the Forests for Fish Forum: Lake Superior Food Web – Exploring the Inputs and Depths, which will be held 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the River Rock Lanes and Banquet Center in Ishpeming. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Gerig)

ISHPEMING — For those looking to learn more about the complexities of Lake Superior’s food web while enjoying live music, refreshments and more, the Forests for Fish Forum: Lake Superior Food Web – Exploring the Inputs and Depths will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the River Rock Lanes and Banquet Center in Ishpeming.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resource is hosting the event as part of its Wildlife through Forestry Series, with sponsorship from the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited, organizers said.

“We want to take folks more deeply into an understanding of our freshwater ecosystems so they can better understand why careful forest management of the watershed forests, and especially riparian buffers, is critical for our streams and ultimately the Big Lake,” Gary Willis, a service forester at the DNR’s Baraga Customer Service Center, said in an email.

Attendees will hear from multiple speakers at the event, including Brandon Gerig, a professor of fisheries biology at Northern Michigan University; Thomas Pratt, a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Shawn Sitar, a Lake Superior fisheries research biologist with the DNR.

The free event will open at 5 p.m., with resource personnel available to meet with the public at this time. Musician Adam Carpenter of Chasin’ Steel will then perform on stage from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Pam Nankervis, a habitat biologist with the U.S. Forest Service, will open the forum at 6 p.m. with a discussion about the area’s watershed and the importance of watershed management, Willis said.

Nankervis’ remarks “will show landowners why it is important that the Lake Superior watershed be carefully managed, especially within riparian zones,” Willis said. “Ultimately the nutrients that the aquatic food webs are dependent upon originate from the watershed.”

“She will devote her time to discussion of the watershed, which will allow our featured speakers to focus on the streams and Big Lake, although each speaker will briefly tie-in with Pam’s message of careful watershed forest management to re-emphasize the importance of maintaining riparian buffers,” Willis added.

Following Nankervis’ opening remarks, Gerig, who has studied fish populations in streams, rivers and lakes through the Great Lakes region and beyond, will present a talk titled “Dynamic linkages between the forest and lake: the Lake Superior watershed.”

“I’ll be talking about flowing waters and their connection to the big lake,” Gerig said in an email. “Specifically, I’ll touch on how stream flow, sediment and large wood interact to form the habitat template that stream insects and fish use. Through this lens, I’ll illustrate the importance of groundwater and riparian zones to maintaining cold water fish populations. Last, I’ll speak about the importance of connectivity to Great Lakes migrants including native suckers, sturgeon and Pacific salmon.”

Following the close of Gerig’s talk around 6:55 p.m., a 20-minute break will be held, with music again by Carpenter and refreshments — including baked and smoked lake trout and white fish appetizers — for attendees to enjoy.

After the break, Pratt will present a talk titled “Everything is connected — life in the nearshore zone of Lake Superior.”

“I plan on introducing people to the fishes that use the nearshore areas of Lake Superior, focusing on a few species that rely on healthy watersheds to tie into the evening’s theme,” Pratt said in an email.

Pratt will focus on species such as lake sturgeon, walleye, coaster brook trout, rainbow smelt and lake trout.

“I will also tell the story of the rehabilitation of the fish community over the past 50 years, with an emphasis on where we are today,” Pratt said.

Following Pratt’s presentation, a talk titled “Fishes in the abyss — the offshore ecosystem of Lake Superior,” will be presented at 7:55 p.m. by Sitar, who is also the project leader on the Lake Char research vessel and has led research expeditions to “the far reaches of Lake Superior.”

“My portion of the forum is talk about the far reaches — the greatest depths of Lake Superior and what fishes inhabit the abyss,” Sitar said in an email. “People often wonder if and what fishes live in the deepest parts of Lake Superior and my talk will discuss what fishes are in the abyss and the adaptations they have to be able to live in the extreme depths of the largest lake on Earth.”

After Sitar’s talk, Jim Cantrill, chapter representative for the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited, director of general education and department head/professor in communications studies at NMU, will deliver closing remarks and there will be a question-and-answer session, organizers said.

The event is sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The River Rock Lanes and Banquet Center is located at 1011 North Road, Ishpeming. Contact Willis at 906-353-6651 or willisg2@michigan.gov for more information about Tuesday’s event.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.