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Fish and Invertebrate Lab


Our laboratory specializes in research on North Shore Lake Superior streams, Great Lakes Coastal wetlands, and the nearshore area of lakes for fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates, habitat, sediment, and select water chemistry parameters. We excel at the design of experimental and monitoring studies, including designing and performing Before-After-Control-Impact studies to assess restoration and recovery efforts, determining stressors in the watershed that may be affecting aquatic resources, and assessment of the condition of streams and wetlands using fish and aquatic invertebrates (bugs).

Analyses may include fish and macroinvertebrate (bug) assemblage assessment and comparison to local historic data (as available); population assessments of select fish species; calculation of a large variety of macroinvertebrate and fish traits for better assessment of water body condition; assessment of habitat suitability for various fish and macroinvertebrate taxa. We have staff skilled in a wide variety of statistical analyses. 

Key Services and Equipment


  • Wetland fish sampling and community assessment
  • Stream fish sampling
  • Aquatic invertebrate identification taxonomy
  • Aquatic invasive species research
  • Fish habitat sampling 

Available sample gear:

  • Boats of various sizes suitable for wetland and lake nearshore work
  • Fish fyke (trap) nets
  • Electrofishing equipment for wadeable streams
  • Minnow/crayfish traps
  • Qualitative and quantitative macroinvertebrate sampling gear (Hess, Surber, D-net, Ponar, Gerking)
  • Temperature loggers
  • Sonde units for basic water parameters

Aquatic plant and algal sampling in collaboration with the NRRI plant group and the NRRI paleo group. 

Our laboratory includes numerous high-quality research microscopes, including the ability to take still pictures and video of samples. Identification and laboratory services include: fish ID to species as well as lengths and weights; fish aging from hard structures (otoliths and spines); macroinvertebrate ID generally to genus (including Chironomidae to genus); sediment characterization, including Wolman pebble count, particle size analysis, and percent organic matter; habitat and stream reach surveys; other water chemistry parameters in collaboration with the analytical lab. We can prepare samples for stable isotope analysis and assist with data interpretation.