Invasive species management undergraduate research involves several different projects to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Dr. Thomas J. Zolper has collaborated with biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey on several different projects to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.  Two projects focus on diverse techniques to prevent the spread of invasive Asian carps.  Another project aim is to treat lakes and ponds that are affected by zebra and quagga mussels.

Description of Research

Dr. Zolper has directed several teams of engineering students in the research and development of diverse invasive species control mechanisms. Much of the research is based from using recent technical literature and patents pertaining to control and dispersion of various fluids under a variety of operating conditions. Details of the three projects completed thus far are described below. 

  1. Toxic Microparticle Generator (Carp fish): Invasive Asian carp are filter feeders that consume algae in the size range of 30 to 100 microns in diameter. U.S. Geological Survey biologists (Jon Amberg and Blake Sauey) discovered that they can selectively target invasive species of carp by manufacturing piscicide (fish poison) infused food particles that appeal to the filter feeding behavior of invasive carp. The U.S.G.S. biologists commissioned University of Wisconsin-Platteville engineers to develop a machine to heat beeswax, mix it with a piscicide, and then spray-atomize to material into algae-sized particles. A vortex chamber then solidifies the wax particles and collects them in cold storage for later use. The system operates with a novel combination of heaters and controls using liquid and gaseous nitrogen as a working fluid.
  2. Zequanox Mixer and Injector (Zebra mussels): Zequanox® is a powder-based molluscicide (mussel poison) that selectively targets the digestive lining of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Zequanox® is approved by the E.P.A. to prevent zebra mussels from biofouling water intake lines. U.S. Geological Survey biologists (James Luoma and Todd Severson) contacted UW-Platteville engineers to adapt Zequanox® for use in natural bodies of water. Dr. Zolper performed detailed measurements of the rheological properties of Zequanox®-water mixtures, identified the flow model (Herschel-Bulkley), and projected the power required to pump large volumes of the material in water. Dr. Zolper and students performed research on existing technologies (nozzles and manifolds) and developed a system to mix Zequanox® with water, then dispense the highly-viscous non-Newtonian fluid in a paper-thin layer on the floor of lakes and ponds. The injection manifold is affixed to a lifting mechanism attached to a boat that injects a smooth, uniform later of Zequanox® near the pond floor. The distribution strategy allows the material to stratify through the water column and thereby enter the zebra mussel food supply.
  3. Carbon Dioxide to Water Mixer and Injector (Carp fish): U.S. Geological Survey biologists Aaron Cupp and Jon Amberg have demonstrated that carbon dioxide (CO2) acts as a deterrent to the migration of fish. This insight has led to investigations into use of the technology to prevent the upstream migration of invasive fish, including Asian carp and round goby. Initially, Dr. Zolper and Cupp led students’ teams in developing systems to efficiently infuse water with CO2 on a laboratory scale. Based on the initial studies, they collaborated with Dr. Camacho to expand the work to design nozzles and manifolds to efficiently and thoroughly mix CO2 infused water into large reservoirs. The group developed wall- and floor based liquid-to-liquid injection systems that efficiently infuse and thoroughly mix CO2 into water to a concentration of 100 mg/L. The technology is currently being reviewed for further research activities at installations on major US waterways.

Academic Areas of Focus

The U.S. Geological Survey biologists that coordinated the research and development of aquatic invasive species control systems have extensive backgrounds in environmental biology, fish biology, animal physiology, natural resources, and fisheries. Their background and expertise allowed them to select targeted treatment methods with minimal adverse effects on the native ecosystems. The interdisciplinary collaboration with engineers allowed laboratory systems to be scaled up to field applications.

The invasive species management devices arose from biological research and made extensive use of the topics covered in mechanical engineering curriculum. Each of the devices required extensive application of fluid mechanics including viscous flow, two-phase flow, and non-Newtonian flow. The design and function of the equipment also drew from course material in thermodynamics, heat transfer, automatic controls and mechanisms & machines.

Application and Career Opportunities

There are a vast number of careers for biologist and engineers as exemplified by the research collaborations shown here. Research on treatment and prevention of aquatic invasive species is directed and undertaken by biologists and engineers at UW-Platteville, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Department of Natural Resources.

Join our Research Group

For more information on projects and opportunities to deter the spread of aquatic invasive species, contact Professor Thomas Zolper.

Contact Information

College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science

0254 Sesquicentennial Hall
Regular Hours: 7:45 a.m. - 4:15 p.m., Mon.-Fri. | Summer Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mon.-Fri.

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