Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological Sciences (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Biological Sciences


Nancy A Auer


Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) were historically abundant in the Huron-Erie Corridor (HEC), a 160 km river/channel network composed of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River that connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie. In the HEC, most natural lake sturgeon spawning substrates have been eliminated or degraded as a result of channelization and dredging. To address significant habitat loss in HEC, multi-agency restoration efforts are underway to restore spawning substrate by constructing artificial spawning reefs. The main objective of this study was to conduct post-construction monitoring of lake sturgeon egg deposition and larval emergence near two of these artificial reef projects; Fighting Island Reef in the Detroit River, and Middle Channel Spawning Reef in the lower St. Clair River. We also investigated seasonal and nightly timing of larval emergence, growth, and vertical distribution in the water column at these sites, and an additional site in the St. Clair River where lake sturgeon are known to spawn on a bed of ~100 year old coal clinkers. From 2010-12, we collected viable eggs and larvae at all three sites indicating that these artificial reefs are creating conditions suitable for egg deposition, fertilization, incubation, and larval emergence. The construction methods and materials, and physical site conditions present in HEC artificial reef projects can be used to inform future spawning habitat restoration or enhancement efforts. The results from this study have also identified the likelihood of additional uncharacterized natural spawning sites in the St. Clair River.

In addition to the field study, we conducted a laboratory experiment involving actual substrate materials that have been used in artificial reef construction in this system. Although coal clinkers are chemically inert, some trace elements can be reincorporated with the clinker material during the combustion process. Since lake sturgeon eggs and larvae are developing in close proximity to this material, it is important to measure the concentration of potentially toxic trace elements. This study focused on arsenic, which occurs naturally in coal and can be toxic to fishes. Total arsenic concentration was measured in samples taken from four substrate treatments submerged in distilled water; limestone cobble, rinsed limestone cobble, coal clinker, and rinsed coal clinker. Samples were taken at three time intervals: 24 hours, 11 days, and 21 days. ICP-MS analysis showed that concentrations of total arsenic were below the EPA drinking water standard (10 ppb) for all samples. However, at the 24 hour sampling interval, a two way repeated measures ANOVA with a Holm-Sidak post hoc analysis (α= 0.05) showed that the mean arsenic concentration was significantly higher in the coal clinker substrate treatment then in the rinsed coal clinker treatment (p=0.006), the limestone cobble treatment (p

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Biology Commons