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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Bioacoustic manipulation of invasive Bigheaded carp

Supervisor - Jon Amberg
Principal Investigator
–Marybeth Brey


Bigheaded carp, especially silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), are invasive fish species that have established breeding populations dominating large regions of the Mississippi Drainage in the 20 years following escape from aquaculture facilities in Arkansas (1). These prolific filter-feeders directly outcompete native gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) and bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) (2) and potentially threaten entire food webs by altering lower trophic levels. Native fish, mussels and other aquatic invertebrates are the most at risk due to habitat modification by changing water quality and benthic chemistry and structure (3). Bigheaded carp continue to expand northward threatening other lakes, watersheds, and the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Both silver and bighead carp are sensitive to higher frequency sound than many native fish (4) and silver carp exhibit a unique jumping behavior in response to outboard motors, suggesting an aversion to high frequency sound. While control methods such as electroshock and bubble barriers are well researched (5, 6), few studies have investigated the response of these fish to sound. Bioacoustics, using sound to modulate behavior, would be a novel method to control silver carp as it is inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Also, because of silver carp’s higher frequency sensitivity, there would likely be minimal impact of sound on native species (4). Additionally, little research has investigated the jumping stimulus for silver carp and it is imperative to document both the natural history and the sensory physiology of these fish to develop the best strategies for control or containment.

The goal of this project is to investigate the sensory biology of bigheaded carp and determine if sound stimuli can be used to deter and guide the movement of both bighead and silver carp in captivity and in the field. An additional goal is to assess if there are negative impacts of sound stimuli on native fish populations. If successful, this information could be a powerful tool for managing and controlling wild carp population.


  1. Determine efficacy of sound as a barrier to bigheaded carp and effects on native species.
  2. Describe changes in the spatial occupancy of bigheaded carps and native species when a sound is deployed.


(1)        Freeze et al (1982) N Am J Fish Manage. 2: 197
(2)        Schuyler et al (2009) Biol Invasions. 11:483
(3)        Kolar et al (2005). U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Report.
(4)        Lovell et al (2006) Comp Biochem Physiol. 143: 286
(5)        Noatch, M.R. and Suski, C.D. (2012). Environ. Rev. 20: 71-82
(6)        Zielinski et al (2014). Ecological Engineering 67, 95-103.
(7)        Taylor et al (2005) Fish Manage Ecol. 12: 283


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