Project successfully removes invasive quagga mussels near Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lake Michigan

Dec 8, 2020 | News and Announcements

Ann Arbor, MI – The Invasive Mussel Collaborative (IMC) announced a remarkable decrease in quagga mussel density in the weeks following experimental treatments at a test site in Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The IMC’s work to reduce the invasive species also led to a significant reduction in nuisance Cladophora algae at the site.   

Using a molluscicide consisting of dead cells from Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria on a reef within Good Harbor Bay, project partners saw a 95% reduction in mussel density in the weeks following application. The project tested the application to an area important for fish spawning and identified changes in the underwater habitat. Lake Michigan is heavily infested with quagga mussels, which are fueling the growth of nuisance algae in the lake. They also serve as a food source for invasive round goby, which has displaced some native fish species and plays a role in avian botulism outbreaks.   

The IMC also announced the release of a video highlighting its work at Good Harbor Bay. In the months ahead, the IMC will monitor the long-term effects of the project and work to identify future priorities and opportunities to conduct similar work.  

“The presence of zebra and quagga mussels has significantly impacted Good Harbor Bay and the entire Great Lakes basin,” said Dave Clapp of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This project and related efforts show us that targeted mussel removal has the potential to help us restore these important coastal reefs.”  

“The IMC is encouraged by the outcomes of this experimental project and sees an opportunity to conduct related studies in other locations around the Great Lakes,” said Erika Jensen, Interim Executive Director for the Great Lakes Commission, which provides coordination and neutral backbone support for the collaborative. “The IMC is proud to support work to develop and test effective control methods, and we look forward to the results of this project informing future efforts.”  

The project leveraged ongoing work by the National Park Service, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a team of citizen divers to manually remove quagga mussels and study impacts to nuisance algae, local fish, the underwater community and toxin-producing microbes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   

“We’re concerned with understanding the cascading consequences of invasive mussels on these coastal ecosystems and food webs,” said Julie Christian, Head Biologist with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “The National Park Service is pleased to support nearshore monitoring and research efforts at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.”  

“Good Harbor Bay serves as a natural laboratory to monitor ongoing changes in the Lake Michigan ecosystem and test hypotheses about reef and native species restoration,” said Brenda Lafrancois, National Park Service Aquatic Ecologist for Department of Interior Regions 3, 4 and 5.  

Harvey Bootsma, a lead researcher with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who conducted monitoring for the project and is studying the reef ecosystem, added, “Ongoing research in Good Harbor Bay over the last 15 years is teaching us a great deal about the complexities of a Lake Michigan ecosystem that is significantly impacted by non-native species. The information gathered from this work improves our understanding and efforts to manage and restore Great Lakes resources.”  

“This project and other innovative approaches to invasive species control would not have been possible without funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has significantly accelerated efforts to protect the Great Lakes,” said Scott Morlock, USGS Regional Director. “USGS is pleased to be a founding member of the IMC and work with our federal, state and local partners on this project and future work to protect our water resources.”  

The IMC was established in 2015 to share information, identify regional research and management priorities and advance scientifically sound technologies for invasive mussel control. Founding members include the Great Lakes Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The IMC is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey. Learn more about the IMC and its work online.   

The Great Lakes Commission, led by chair Sharon M. Jackson, Deputy General Counsel for Governor Eric J. Holcomb of Indiana, is an interstate compact agency established under the Great Lakes Basin Compact of 1955. The Commission is authorized by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, industry and nonprofit leaders and agency officials from eight states and two provinces. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission office is in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at


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