Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Whitledge, Gregory


Modifications to Brandon Road Lock and Dam (BRLD), located on the Des Plaines River in northeastern Illinois, have been proposed to prevent the upstream transfer of aquatic invasive species, particularly Asian carps, into the Great Lakes Basin. These modifications, including the installation of an electric barrier, acoustic fish deterrent, and air bubble curtain, are designed to completely eliminate all upstream fish passage and may negatively impact native fish populations in the Des Plaines River by reducing upstream movement and potentially fragmenting populations. BRLD is situated just 21 km upstream of the Des Plaines River mouth, and fish are only able to pass upstream via the lock chamber. Fish species richness within the Des Plaines River watershed has increased over the last 35 years. It has been suggested that the majority of new species to the upper Des Plaines River have migrated upstream past Brandon Road Lock and Dam (BRLD), from the Illinois, Kankakee, and lower Des Plaines rivers. However, documentation of emigration needed to support that contention is lacking and there is limited knowledge of the current rate of BRLD passage by native species. To assess native fish passage through the lock, a microchemical study was conducted using fin rays from fish collected from the Des Plaines, Illinois, and Kankakee Rivers. The edge of each fin ray, which contained the most recently deposited material, was assumed to contain a microchemical signature reflective of residency in the river where the fish was sampled. Fin ray edge strontium:calcium ratio (Sr:Ca) was used to define taxonomic and river-specific signature ranges for four taxonomic groups: centrarchids, catostomids, ictalurids, and lepisosteids. Fin ray edge Sr:Ca data were input into a random forest classification model, and the classification accuracy of fish to their river of capture based on their fin ray edge Sr:Ca was > 97% in each taxonomic group. The classification model was then applied to the entire fin ray of each fish sampled upstream of Brandon Road to infer retrospective environmental history. Upstream BRLD lock passage was suggested by the presence of Sr:Ca signatures indicative of prior downstream residency in the Illinois or Kankakee rivers in a fish sampled upstream of BRLD. Results indicated some evidence of downstream residency that suggested upstream BRLD lock passage for centrarchids, catostomids, ictalurids, and lepisosteids, ranging from 15 – 37% of individuals sampled depending on taxa. An additional 19 – 80% of individuals within each taxonomic group were classified as fish with uncertain downstream residency, whereby the possibility of BLRD lock passage could not be rejected, but there was higher uncertainty in establishing downstream residency in the Illinois or Kankakee rivers. The impact of BRLD modifications and passage restriction on Des Plaines River fish populations is unknown and merits further investigation.




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