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Rainbow smelt and alewife in Lake Champlain


February 2006 - January 2014


Alewife became established in the 2000s, and are now quite abundant in most basins of Lake Champlain. Previous work on this project studied the distribution of rainbow smelt and alewife in relation to the abiotic environment, and predictive distribution models were created. We used those models, and empirical relationships between distribution and cannibalism, to simulate population and community dynamics for rainbow smelt and alewife. The model was used both to simulate possible future changes in the abiotic environment, and possible management decisions. Our distribution models and data were used to aid fish sampling design, and we compared trawl and acoustic sampling techniques in addition to developing shallow-water sampling methods. We also studied how predators have responded to alewife as new potential prey. Tissue samples were analyzed to determine carbon and nitrogen stable isotope concentrations, and thus trophic positions in the system. Adult rainbow smelt feed at a higher trophic level than adult alewives, and Atlantic salmon consume alewife in addition to rainbow smelt. The basic ecology of mysids (Mysis diluviana) in Lake Champlain was also studied, including trophic relationships, bioenergetics, growth, and abundance. This wass the first such study in this lake.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Simonin, P.W., L.G. Rudstam, D.L. Parrish, B. Pientka, and P.J. Sullivan. 201?. Piscivore diet shifts and trophic level change after Alewife establishment in Lake Champlain. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.
  • Rudstam, L. G., S. L. Parker, Einhouse, D. W., L. D. Witzel, D. M. Warner, J. L. Stritzel, D. L. Parrish, P. J. Sullivan. 2003. Application of in situ target strength estimations in lakes--examples from rainbow smelt surveys in Lakes Erie and Champlain. ICES Journal of Marine Science 60: 500-507.
  • Simonin, P.W., D.L. Parrish, L.G. Rudstam, P.J. Sullivan, B. Pientka. 2012. Native rainbow smelt and nonnative alewife distribution related to temperature and light gradients in Lake Champlain. Journal of Great Lakes Research 38 (Supplement 1): 115-122.
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Technical Publications

  • Parrish, D.L., L.G. Rudstam, P.J. Sullivan, S.L. Parker, and J.L. Stritzel. 2004. Dynamics of the rainbow smelt populations in Lake Champlain. Final Report. Lake Champlain Sea Grant.


  • Simonin, P. W. 2010. Distribution and abundance of native rainbow smelt and nonnative alewife in Lake Champlain.


  • Rudstam, L., S. Parker, D. Einhouse, L. Witzell, D. Warner, J. Stritzel, D. Parrish, P. Sullivan. June 2002. Application of in situ target strength to abundance estimations in lakes-examples from rainbow smelt surveys in Lakes Erie and Champlain. ICES Symposium: Acoustics in Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology, Montpellier, France.
  • Simonin, P.W., D.L. Parrish, L.G. Rudstam, B. Pientka, and P.J. Sullivan. Rainbow smelt and alewife distribution dynamics in relation to temperature and light in Lake Champlain. 52nd Annual Conference on Great Lakes Research, International Association for Great Lakes Research, Toledo, OH, 18-22 May 2009.
  • Simonin, P.W., D.L. Parrish, L.G. Rudstam, B. Pientka, and P.J. Sullivan. Rainbow smelt and alewife in Lake Champlain: abundance dynamics of native and invasive planktivores. 139th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Nashville, TN, 31 August- 3 September 2009.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 102

Masters Students: 241

Phd Students: 163

Post Docs: 58

University Staff: 240

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 703

Scientific Publications: 1901

Presentations: 4321



Funding Agencies

  • Lake Champlain Sea Grant


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