The United States Geological Survey and its partners like the Army Corps of Engineers are installing an underwater acoustic deterrent system at Lock and Dam 19, in Keokuk, Iowa, to study how sound may be able to stop the spread of invasive Asian carp species.
The invasive fish are harmful because they grow quickly and aggressively compete with native fish for food and habitat. Conservationists have long feared Asian carp will reach the Great Lakes.
"The big concern is that they will get into the Great Lakes and impact the large fisheries there," said Dr. Marybeth Brey, USGS Research Fish Biologist.
Dr. Brey has traveled the country researching Asian carp, which were accidentally introduced into the wild in the 1970s. Without natural predators their populations exploded on waterways like the Illinois River.
Dr. Brey is also among the scientists and engineers assembled at Lock and Dam 19 to install the specialized speaker array.
"It's 16 speakers, it was designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Rock Island District, along with a USGS contractor," Dr. Brey said.
A crane was expected to arrive Wednesday to lower it into the lock -- an ideal location because along Lock and Dam 19, it's thought to be the only route for fish swimming upriver.
U.S. Army Engineering and Research Development Center Research Biologist Christa Woodley said studies have shown that Asian Carp respond to certain soundscapes.
"Some of the sounds kind of start like the first 10 seconds of Motley Crue’s “'Kickstart My Heart,'" Woodley said. "It’s true. We’ll play it for you."
However, Asian carp may not simply find the sounds to be irritating. In fact, the frequency range in some of the sounds is similar to dolphins, top predators in their native waters, which may trigger a predation response from the fish.
A three year study will help scientists determine which sounds are most effective.