Whether monitoring the apparent natural recovery of a fish species that had vanished from Lake Ontario or searching for hardy populations that could revitalize another species that is threatened in New York, Oswego’s Amy Welsh is working to improve the health of the region’s acquatic ecosystems.
The case of the deepwater sculpin, once thought extinct in Lake Ontario, is intriguing because the small fish could one day provide a healthier, native diet for the lake’s depleted population of lake trout. A conservation geneticist in the biological sciences department, Welsh last year received a Great Lakes Fishery Commission grant to conduct DNA analysis that will give clues to the new sculpins’ staying power.
In the case of lake sturgeon, which is on New York’s threatened species list, the state Department of Environmental Conservation tapped Welsh to learn whether offspring of Oneida Lake sturgeon could be used to stock rivers and lakes in other parts of the state and bring the species back from threatened status. Female lake sturgeon may not mate until they are 30 years old, Welsh said, which complicates species survival as well as scientists' research.
The state’s original effort to revive lake sturgeon populations depended on fish hatcheries, but they have been beset by disease. Finding a self-sustaining breeding population in Oneida Lake could help get the propagation program going again and, ultimately, remove the need for continuous stocking.
"The goal in both cases is to restore more of a native ecosystem with natural genetic diversity," Welsh said.
Photo: Welsh in her Piez Hall lab last year