Lawrence University biologist Bart De Stasio is on the hunt. Not for trophy bucks or record-size fish. His targeted prey is invasive species — nickel-sized zebra mussels and six-inch round gobies.

As for his preferred weapon of choice: think giant hot tub.

A specialist in aquatic biology and predator-prey interactions, De Stasio, in collaboration with Lawrence students, is conducting an on-going study of the Fox River, looking for non-native and potentially damaging species that might be making their way up the river from the bay of Green Bay to the upland lakes, including Lake Winnebago.

Working closely with professors outside the classroom on projects such as De Stasio’s invasive species research is regarded by many students as the most enriching experience of their Lawrence education. One of 15 Lawrence students to date who has assisted on the invasive species study, Adam Breseman spent the summer in De Stasio’s lab analyzing water samples, searching for anything from Chinese mystery snails to another invasive fish, the Eurasian Ruffe.

“It was a very intellectually stimulating experience,” said Breseman, a biology major from Baileys Harbor. “Coming into this, I knew very little about zooplankton and benthic invertebrates, but I learned a tremendous amount about those organisms as well as the Fox River watershed system. I’m only a sophomore, so I appreciated the opportunity to work on an internship like this.”

As the process of restoring and reopening the entire 17-lock navigational system between Lake Winnebago and Green Bay moves toward an anticipated 2015 conclusion, De Stasio’s research will be critical in determining whether a proposed boat transfer station at the Rapide Croche lock near Wrightstown is successfully keeping invasive species out of the upper river system.

Started in 2005, De Stasio’s study is collecting data on both species and populations, and is expected to continue for five years after the boatlift becomes operational.

“Right now we’re trying to identify everything, including all of the invertebrates, living at six different locations — three above and three below the site of the proposed boatlift at Rapide Croche lock — and determine whether it is a native or non-native species,” explained De Stasio. “The possibility of transporting something above that lock is a real concern. It would be easy for a zebra mussel attached to a boat’s hull or a spiny water flea on a fishing line to get moved past the barrier.”

Junior Amanda Dwyer from Ralston, Neb., spent 10 weeks this summer dip-netting, beach-seining and working with an Ekman grab on the Fox River, collecting samples for the study.

“It was an awesome experience going out into the field and coming back to the lab to identify what we collected,” said Dwyer, a biology and environmental studies major. “I became more comfortable with the different sampling methods we were taught in class and I learned the distinguishing characteristics of invasive species versus native species we collected. It was great being able to work with Prof. De Stasio on such an extensive and relevant project.”

To limit the possibilities of upstream spread of exotics and in conjunction with his invasive species study, De Stasio has investigated the use of a hot-water treatment to clean boats — and kill any undesirable hitchhikers — before they pass the Rapide Croche lock. Working with a student, Jessica Beyer, De Stasio has determined that for the most probable invasive species, a five-minute minimum immersion in a tank of 110-degree water would essentially kill all any of the invasive species they’ve identified.

“Basically, any boat moving up the river would get dunked in a giant hot water tub that could accommodate boats as large as 53-feet in length,” said De Stasio. “Other parts of the boat, the livewell, bilge and motor, would be hosed down with the hot water as well. This is ecologically preferable to a chemical scrub because you don’t have to deal with any potentially toxic waste issues.”

While the hot-water dunk treatment is expected to prevent invasive species from breaching the Rapid Croche lock, it can’t completely eliminate the possibility of non-native species penetrating the upper river.

Boats taken out of Green Bay or the Fox River below the Rapid Croche lock and relaunched upstream can wind up introducing invasive species beyond the barrier. Educating boaters of this danger will be critical to the success of limiting the number of unwanted species.

An education program created by Phil Moy from the UW Sea Grant Program is is designed to raise boaters’ awareness about the importance of not transporting their boats from one body of water to another without a significant waiting period to allow the boat to completely dry,” said De Stasio. “Five days is the recommended wait time but longer than that would be even better. It’s going to take a concerted effort by all users to keep the Fox River and other upland bodies of water from being invaded with non-native species. While no plan is fail safe, it’s easier to keep them out than it is to control them once they establish themselves.”

via Lawrence University Scientist Bart De Stasio Tracks Non-native Species in Fox River.



An iconic structure at Lakeside Park got a bit of tender loving care this week.

City parks crews spent part of the week replacing rotted spindles, applying caulk and a bit of paint on the railing encircling the upper deck of the Victorian era bandstand near Lake Winnebago.

Parks Superintendent John Keifer said every part of the 111-year-old structure has been replaced during the past 15 years except for the foundation, the ceiling and red and white-striped dome.

“Fifteen years ago, we reconstructed the entire bottom. I was amazed it was still standing, it was completely rotted away,” Keifer said. “From the foundation up we had to rebuild all the supports, the deck and framing. We even had a rubber membrane put on the deck to waterproof it. It was a major undertaking at the time.”

According to historical accounts from Fond du
Lac Community Band historian Mary Arthur, the bandstand was erected in 1900 and donated to the city by William McDermott. The eight-sided structure served as the concert venue for the Fond du Lac Military Band. The bandstand was later renamed after longtime director Joseph Schmitz.

Today the bandstand is still used on occasion by the Fond du Lac Community Band and during Walleye Weekend, Keifer said. Thanks to a renovation project funded by the Gneiser family about 10 years ago, the interior of the lower level was refurbished with the addition of a bathroom, electricity and heat.

“During the holiday season, the bottom level is used by the REACT team as their headquarters,” Keifer said of the group that provides surveillance for holiday decorations out at the park.

The bandstand and lighthouse, two of the park’s signature structures need routine maintenance on an ongoing basis, Keifer said.

“We’re always rebuilding something,” Keifer said. “Those buildings take a lot of maintenance but it’s our goal to keep them in good condition.”

Lake News: Lakeside Park bandstand gets some TLC.



TOWN of FRIENDSHIP — A 911 call from Lake Winnebago during a windy Saturday morning resulted in the rescue of four duck hunters.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department received a distress call about 9:40 a.m. that four men in two boats were stranded about 400 yards straight east of Lincoln Road on the west shore of Lake Winnebago, said Sgt. Renee Schuster of the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department.

The spot is about 1 mile south of Wendt’s on the Lake.

Two men in a 12-foot boat were trying to tow in another boat when the rope from the tow got stuck in the motor and the motor burned out, Schuster said. The boats were taking on water when the 911 call was placed.

Fond du Lac Sheriff’s Department officers took the 32-foot Mercury rescue boat to the area and were able to tow the larger boat to Lakeside West. The smaller boat was anchored in the lake and marked so the men could retrieve it when waters turned calmer, Schuster said.

The four men in the boat, three from Oshkosh and one from Omro ages 19 to 23, were wearing life jackets. No one was injured.

“It was very rough water,” said Schuster, who aided in the rescue. “We had waves coming over the bow of the Mercury.”

Strong west winds buffeted the Fond du Lac area Saturday, with gusts above 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Breezy conditions are expected to continue today, with west winds between 15 and 20 mph, and gusts as high as 30 mph. Temperatures are expected in the mid-50s. The wind is expected to die down Monday night and Tuesday.

Officers were able to make their way to the boat fairly quickly, but due to the rough water, it took some time to tow the boat to Lakeside West. Schuster said officers completed the rescue about 12:45 p.m.

via Duck hunters rescued from Lake Winnebago | Fond du Lac Reporter | fdlreporter.com.



OSHKOSH — After listening to six days of testimony, a Winnebago County jury needed just under three hours Wednesday afternoon to convict a Fremont man of driving a powerboat while drunk and crashing into the Lake Butte des Morts shoreline in 2005, killing a Michigan man.

The jury found Todd M. Frisbie, 45, guilty of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, homicide by operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration and homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle in connection to the June 6, 2005, boating crash that killed Alan P. Richards, 38, of Holland, Mich.

According to the criminal complaint, Frisbie was intoxicated and driving a 34-foot powerboat as he, Richards and a third man were boating home on Lake Butte des Morts after a day of boating and drinking. The boat crashed in a shallow area of the lake near Nickels Drive in the town of Oshkosh.

All three men were thrown from the boat. Richards was found face down in the lake by first responders.

Testimony during the trial focused on who was driving the boat when it crashed into the shoreline. The prosecutor, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyberg, said all of the physical evidence presented at trial combined with statements made by Frisbie and Matt Baum, the third man in the boat, placed Frisbie in the driver’s seat of the boat.

“The truth is, in this case, based on all the evidence, Todd Frisbie is guilty,” Freyberg said during his closing argument. “Mr. Frisbie drove too fast, was too drunk, it was too dark on a waterway that was very dark and turned too late. And that’s why we’re here today. He killed Alan Richards.”

Defense attorney Raymond Dallosto argued that there was not conclusive evidence that Frisbie was driving the boat.

During closing arguments Wednesday morning, Dallosto said Freyberg only called witnesses that helped advance the state’s claim that Frisbie was driving the boat.
Dallosto said a review of the physical evidence from the crash scene by an expert for the defense and testimony of three Nickels Drive residents who responded to the crash after hearing a loud crashing noise pointed to Baum being behind the wheel when the crash happened. Those residents saw Baum in the boat when they got to the crash scene minutes after hearing the noise.

Dallosto argued that Baum’s presence in the boat, coupled with the nature of his injuries suggested that Baum was the driver.

“This is not squid ink,” Dallosto said during his closing argument. “Don’t be fooled by what the state wants you to believe is the truth.”

However, Freyberg said the defense’s case was “a fairy tale.” He said Frisbie told emergency responders, law enforcement, Richards’ widow and an attorney for his company that he was driving the boat during the crash.

“Todd Frisbie said to at least six people at different times and under different circumstances, ‘I was the driver,’” Freyberg said.

Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gritton ordered a pre-sentence investigation be completed before Frisbie is sentenced Jan. 4.

Todd Frisbie of Fremont convicted in 2005 boat crash that killed Alan P. Richards of Holland, Michigan | Green Bay Press Gazette | greenbaypressgazette.com.



OSHKOSH — A mother who was intoxicated when she drove her SUV into the Fox River has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of her 8-month-old baby, who was strapped in the back seat.

A judge in Winnebago County Thursday also ordered 28-year-old Kayla Westenberger to do 200 hours of community service upon her release. Prosecutors say Westenberger, who was pregnant at the time, drank and smoked marijuana before the vehicle was found submerged in the river near Omro last October.

Rescue crews found the baby buckled in the back seat, but were unable to save him.

Westenberger, who now has a baby daughter, was convicted of neglecting a child causing death. WLUK-TV (http://bit.ly/n8yXUx) says two other charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

via Mother sentenced to 10 years in baby’s drowning | Appleton Post Crescent | postcrescent.com.



After more than five days of testimony, attorneys for the state and defense have concluded their cases and a Winnebago County jury will begin deliberating Wednesday to determine whether a Fremont man was behind the wheel of a 34-foot powerboat that crashed along the shores of Lake Butte des Morts in 2005, killing a Michigan man.

Todd M. Frisbie, 45, is charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and second-degree reckless homicide in connection to the June 6, 2005, boating crash that killed Alan P. Richards, 38, of Holland, Mich.

According to the criminal complaint, Frisbie was intoxicated and driving a 34-foot powerboat as he, Richards and a third man were boating home on Lake Butte des Morts after a day of boating and drinking along the Lake Winnebago system.

The boat crashed in the shallows of Lake Butte des Morts near Nickels Drive, ejecting Richards, who was found face-down in the lake by first responders.

Defense attorneys called just five witnesses – three people who live on Nickels Drive that responded to the crash, a professional engineer who analyzed the crash and a detective with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office – Tuesday before concluding their case, shortly before 2 p.m.

Attorneys and Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gritton were going to use the rest of the afternoon to go over jury instructions.

After closing arguments Wednesday morning, the jury will begin deliberations.

via Attorneys finish presenting cases, jury to begin deliberating in boating death Wednesday | Appleton Post Crescent | postcrescent.com.