As invasive carp continue to pose ecological and economic threats to the Upper Mississippi River Basin, researchers at West Virginia University hope to uncover ways to minimize the species’ expansion.

To help inform those recommendations, Brent Murry and Caroline Arantes from the Davis College of Agriculture Natural Resources and Design will conduct field work and analyze pre-existing data gathered in the Ohio and Tennessee-Cumberland River basins, the eastern portion of the Mississippi watershed currently uninhabited by invasive carp.

“When carp first invaded, they quickly moved their way up and down the Mississippi and many of its tributaries,” Murry said. “At the same time, they moved into the lower Ohio and stalled. They really haven’t made it past Cincinnati and the Markland Dam in any real, significant numbers.”

According to the assistant professor of aquatic ecology, the Ohio and Tennessee-Cumberland basins substantially differ from the Upper Mississippi in watershed characteristics, providing an opportunity to explore factors that promote resistance to invasion.

“The invasive species cause environmental, ecological and economic damage; they can even cause physical harm to people,” he explained.

The large, heavy fish are known for rapid reproduction and out-competing native species for food and other resources. Economically speaking, invasive carp impact commercial fisheries by taking over areas once dominated by catfish and freshwater drum.

With a three-year, $151,394 grant from the United States Geological Survey’s 104g program, the team will investigate hydrologic, watershed, anthropogenic and biotic factors related to variation in invasive carp reproduction and survival and thereby identify factors that may be related to ecosystem resistance to invasion.

“We want to keep doing what’s working to prevent them from moving up, but we don’t know what that is right now,” Murry said.

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