Documenting the Occurrence through Space and Time of Aquatic Non-indigenous Fish, Mollusks, Algae, and Plants Threatening North America's Great Lakes

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Digitization TCN: Documenting the Occurrence through Space and Time of Aquatic Non-indigenous Fish, Mollusks, Algae, and Plants Threatening North America's Great Lakes

Great Lakes Invasives TCN
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Project Summary

One of the greatest threats to the health of North America's Great Lakes is invasion by exotic species, several of which already have had catastrophic impacts on property values, the fisheries, shipping, and tourism industries, and continue to threaten the survival of native species and wetland ecosystems. Additional species have been placed on watchlists because of their potential to become aquatic invasives. This project will create a network of herbaria and zoology museums from among the Great Lakes states of MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, and NY to better document the occurrence of these species in space and time by imaging and providing online access to the information on the specimens of the critical organisms. Several initiatives are already in place to alert citizens to the dangers of spreading aquatic invasives among our nation's waterways, but this project will develop complementary scientific and educational tools for scientists, students, wildlife officers, teachers, and the public who have had little access to images or data derived directly from preserved specimens collected over the past three centuries.

This bi-national Thematic Collections Network of >25 institutions from eight states and Canada will digitize 1.73 million historical specimens representing 2,550 species of exotic fish, clams, snails, mussels, algae, plants, and their look-alikes documented to occur in the Great Lakes Basin. It is one of the first efforts to digitize liquid preserved specimens and to integrate cross-kingdom taxa and these methods could become national standards for cross taxon digitization. Students will be provided with hands-on experience in modern methods of specimen curation and this cross-taxon network will provide greater flexibility to existing web platforms for integration of data. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (

Current Research

Proposed research:

  • Identification and documentation of presence and spread of non-indigenous and potentially invasive or harmful species in the Great Lakes.
  • Track, monitor, and predict the spread of invasives through space and time, especially in the face of a more rapidly changing climate in the upper Midwest.
  • Studying points of access, migration routes, lag times, and speed of colonization of different lineages of non-indigenous organisms already established in the Great Lakes to help prevent future invasions.

Project Websites & Social Media

Project website

Great Lakes Invasives Network

Citizen Science & Outreach Projects

Project Leadership

Project Sponsor: University of Wisconsin - Madison (NSF Award 1410683)

Principal Investigator (PI): Kenneth Cameron

Collaborating Award PIs:
Kevin Cummings, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Marymegan Daly, Ohio State University; Thomas Duda, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; John Freudenstein, Ohio State University; Andrew Hipp, Morton Arboretum; Christine Niezgoda, Field Museum of Natural History; Rick Phillippe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Brenda Molano-Flores, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Richard Rabeler, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor; David Seigler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Andrew Simons, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Chris Taylor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Melissa Tulig, New York Botanical Garden; George Watters, Ohio State University

Project Collaborators

Map of Collaborating Institutions

Albion College
Arizona State University
Butler University
Calvin College
Central Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Field Museum of Natural History (NSF Award 1403071)
Grand Valley State University
Hope College
Miami University
Michigan State University
Morton Arboretum (NSF Award 1405396)
New York Botanical Garden (NSF Award 1408974)
New York State Museum
Ohio State University (NSF Award 1401964)
Ohio University
Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Université de Montréal
University of Illinois, Illinois Natural History Survey (NSF Award 1400769)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (NSF Award 1405302)
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (NSF Award 1400435)
University of Notre Dame
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
University of Wisconsin - Madison
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Western Michigan University

Protocols & Workflows

Project resources


Miller, A., Worcester, L., Hipp, A., & Cameron, K. Aquatic Invasive Plants and Their Look-Alikes.

Professional Presentations

iDigBio Summit V, 2015

Other project documentation