Why should we give a carp?

NIU’s STEM Café tackles a fishy foe at free July presentation

They’ve invaded our rivers. They’ve moved north with few natural predators to stand in their way. They’re Asian carp, and if they make it to Lake Michigan, experts say the entire Great Lakes ecosystem could be at risk.

The influx of Asian carp have led to environmental and safety concerns.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources expert Vic Santucci will give a talk titled The Trouble with Asian Carp during NIU’s STEM Café event Wednesday, July 18, at Tapa La Luna in DeKalb. The free event begins at at 6 p.m. and is open to the public. Seafood-themed snacks and drink specials will be available for purchase.

Santucci will discuss how Asian carp made it to the U.S. and entered Illinois rivers, what problems they’re causing for native species and nature lovers, and how the DNR is planning to reduce and remove the Asian carp population.

You haven’t seen them swimming up the Kishwaukee yet, so why should you be concerned? According to Santucci—

  • Asian carp are ‘eating machines’ that can weigh up to 100 pounds each
  • They eat up to 20% of their body weight each day
  • Each female is capable of producing up to 500 million eggs during a lifetime
  • They’ve made their way to rivers in northern Illinois and could destroy native fish populations if they reach the Great Lakes

Santucci is a certified Fisheries Professional with American Fisheries Society. He holds a Masters in Zoology with a specialty in Fishery Science and Management and he’s eager to share information on the Asian carp problem, or as he calls it, “the Perfect Storm for an invasive species,” and the unprecedented collaborative response to prevent these invaders from establishing populations in the Great Lakes.

The DNR has many federal and regional partners in this collaborative effort. Supported by Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds, much of their work has been documented by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Several companies within Illinois are interested in expanding harvest of Asian carp for global markets where it is considered a delicacy, as well as developing carp solutions that include domestic markets and support of humanitarian aid where high quality protein is desired, such as the Target Hunger Now! program.

Patricia Sievert, director of NIU’s STEM Outreach, says the monthly STEM Cafés are a way to demystify science, technology, engineering and math topics for the general public. “Thanks to our partner restaurants, we are able to engage adults in conversation around popular topics in casual settings,” Sievert said. “So far, nearly 100 local community members have attended STEM Cafes.”

Judith Dymond, coordinator of STEM Café events, said they will continue to expand their opportunities in the coming months.

Astronomy and physics experts will discuss the annual Perseid meteor shower during Star Gazing: An Evening of Shooting Stars and Chardonels at Acquaviva Winery from 7:30 p.m to 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12. These fast, bright meteors radiate from the Perseus constellation and appear throughout the night sky, and will be visible using telescopes provided by NIU.

For additional information about The Trouble with Asian Carp and other upcoming STEM Cafés, contact Judith Dymond at jdymond@niu.edu or (815) 753-4751, or visit www.niu.edu/stem.

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