October 18, 2021

Grant will improve water quality, survey fish populations

Zebra mussels


A University of Nebraska–Lincoln project to improve water quality and survey fish populations has received a $75,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

The long-term implications to water quality and habitat availability in rivers after extreme flood conditions are not well understood. Particularly unknown are the threats to human and animal health due to changes in microbial communities, pathogens and the extent to which invasive species expand into new systems.

Mark Pegg
Mark Pegg

“We aim to better understand the relationship between physical and chemical aspects of water quality and the corresponding biological response across Nebraska following extensive flooding in 2019,” said Mark Pegg, professor of natural resources and project lead.

The university has partnered with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to assess the microbial community and pathogen load, as well as assess the current extent of bighead and silver carp and zebra/quagga mussels across Nebraska.

Researchers will use water samples collected from NDEE’s monthly, statewide sampling regimen at 101 sites to gather information on the microbial community and invasive species through a technique that relies on cells and/or DNA found in the water column. This project will provide one of the first statewide assessments of both the microbial community and invasive species in the country. The project also will provide valuable information for microbes and invasive species as a critical component of maintaining good water quality.

The project is one of 23 Husker projects receiving more than $2.1 million from NET this year. In total, NET awarded 113 grants totaling more than $18 million in 2021.

The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $349 million in grants to more than 2,400 projects across the state. Anyone — citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses — can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The NET works to preserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources for future generations.