Aliens in Alberta: Locating Invasive Species

Latest update April 15, 2019 Started on October 30, 2018

Invasive species can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. In Alberta we feel the effects of many invasive species. One of the most shocking are the self sustaining goldfish (Prussian Carp) populations in the Edmonton Area. We want to help locate these populations and assist the province and municipalities to deal with this problem.

October 30, 2018
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It’s time to gear up for summer!
Everyone loves getting out their new equipment for the season and we’re no different. What new activities are you getting ready for this year? Here at the Aquatic Biosphere Project, we have some exciting things planned. As part of our ongoing efforts to establish a conservation aquarium in Alberta, we’re helping to tackle the problem of invasive species in the province. One such nuisance is the Prussian Carp, and we’re breaking out some high-tech gear to take the fight directly to them. Meet our new reconnaissance drone! With this device on our side, Prussian Carp won’t know what hit them! We’ll be able to thoroughly investigate habitats and monitor the severity of invasion with this new low-impact instrument. This sleek and efficient machine will help us keep our waterways safe from the destruction caused by Prussian Carp. The Aquatic Biosphere Project is busy preparing new things for Alberta this summer, and this drone is just one of them. Watch out for news and get in contact to find out how you can help.

What an exciting time! The snow is melting away which means we can start getting ready to get the drone out into Albertan waters. We have had a very busy winter laying the ground work for a summer of searching for Prussian carp!

How can I help? We have partnered with the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute to make it easy for every Albertan to help track this species. All you have to do is download the smartphone application NatureLynx or you can create an account at NatureLynx allows you take a picture on your phone of any organism and upload it to the application. You name the species that is in the picture and NatureLynx uses your phones GPS to tag the location of the photo. The photo is then verified by experts and added to that species database.

Do you want to help us out? We will be recording all of our sightings in our NatureLynx group "Aliens in Alberta: Prussian Carp Detection Project" ( ) making a map of where Prussian carp are found in the Province. Everyone is welcome to join and report sightings in our group the more the merrier!

Join the Aquatic Biosphere Project, MacEwan University and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute in the fight against the Prussian Carp! Upload any sightings to this group and let's map the spread of this invader together!

Stay tuned as we get the drone ready for some awesome underwater investigations coming soon!

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Things are getting exciting! We’ve just recently received our very own drone. Brand new still in the box. Here’s a small preview of what’s coming up so stay tuned for more exciting updates, expedition progress and footage.


Invasive species of fish can come from an unlikely source – your local fish tank! People who, for various reasons, decide to set their pet fish free can contribute unknowingly to invasive species in our Province. In 2015 the Province launched a campaign through Alberta Environment and Parks called “Don’t let it Loose”. This campaigns goal was to educate the public that letting pet fish go is not allowed – they can carry diseases and compete with native species.

The penalty of releasing your pet fish – fines up to $100 000!

Alberta regulatory bodies have also cracked down on owning genetically modified fish or GloFish since there introduction in 2004. These fish were originally modified by scientists in Singapore to contain an inherited fluorescent protein gene. The idea was to have fish that fluoresce when exposed to toxins in the water – enabling local communities to detect contaminated water.


It’s the beginning of 2019, and I’d like to wish you all a happy new year! We’re kicking off January with more interesting facts on the species. We’re still working closely with MacEwan University and more information on the project will follow shortly.

Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio) fall under the Cyprinidae family and are indigenous to Asia. Since the 1600s C. gibelio have rapidly spread to parts of Europe and North America by migration, and intentional or unintentional release.

During the early 2000s the Prussian carp was first identified in Alberta, Canada however, because visually their structural appearance is so similar to other species within the same family namely, the goldfish (Carassius auratus), they were incorrectly identified. Due to this fact Prussian carps were not properly identified in Alberta until 2014.

Research article: Docherty, Cassandra. (2016). Establishment, spread and impact of Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio), a new invasive species in Western North America, University of Alberta. Department of Renewable Resources. 1-79.

To find out more about the Aquatic Biosphere Project and how you can help check us out at:


As it is now December we are settling in for winter here in Edmonton. We are making plans for students from MacEwan University to take a major part in the expedition beginning in January. As planning unfolds we will be documenting the process here so stay tuned! For now here is a bit more background on the Prussian Carp problem and some current efforts to manage the species!

Prussian Carp (Carassius gibelio) are reportedly doubling the area they are found in the province of Alberta every 5 years. How are they able to spread so quickly you may ask? One of the most interesting facts about this species is that females can reproduce aesexually! They don't need sperm from a member of their own species to fertilize their eggs!

Female Prussian Carps can actually fertilize their eggs with the sperm from other fish from the minnow family (Cyprinidae). They do so by parasitizing the sperm from these similar species in a process called gynogenesis. This means that if a female Prussian Carp finds her way into a new water body inhabited by minnows she can still have babies!

Currently there are many organisations working on this issue. These include Alberta Environment and Parks, the University of Alberta, the Alberta Conservation Authority, and many local municipalities to name a few of the groups involved. Check out the video from the Alberta Conservation Authority on how they are locating populations throughout the province. We plan to reach out and work with these groups to help locate and stop the spread of these aliens in Alberta!

Thanks for following and stay tuned as we continue this journey together!

Research article: Native freshwater species get out of the way: Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio) impacts both fish and benthic invertebrate communities in North America Jonathan L. W. Ruppert, Cassandra Docherty, Kenton Neufeld, Kyle Hamilton, Laura MacPherson, Mark S. Poesch R. Soc. open sci. 2017 4 170400; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.170400. Published 4 October 2017

Photo Credit: Akos Harka [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


We are excited to announce a new partnership with Dr. Ross Shaw, Dr. Mrinal Das and the MacEwan University Department of Biological Sciences! Those goldfish are in hot water now!

Dr. Shaw is an experienced marine biologist with a background in fish disease and coral reef systems. Dr. Mrinal Das specializes in vertebrate evolutionary biology with special emphasis on taxonomy, systematics, anatomy, and natural history of fishes. MacEwan University offers undergraduate students a very interesting course, Biology 498 (Advanced Independent Study). In this course students plan conduct and communicate the results of an independent research project in Biological Sciences. Students will record their progress and findings here in this expedition so you can keep up to date with how we are doing.

We would like to welcome MacEwan University, Dr. Mrinal Das, Dr. Ross Shaw and the students of Biology 498 (Advanced Independent Study) aboard the hunt for the Albertan Goldfish!


Who is putting this expedition together you may ask? This expedition is being led by the award winning Aquatic Biosphere Project.

The Aquatic Biosphere Project is a multi-impact facility being developed by the Aquarium Society of Alberta, a Federally registered charity under the Canadian Charities Directorate. The Aquatic Biosphere is a proposed new development in Edmonton, a water legacy project that will build new economic benefits, support education, develop environmental research and industry in the region. The Aquatic Biosphere Project will be an exciting new face on the horizon of Western Canada’s world-class tourism attractions, expanding economic diversity with enviro-tourism. It will be an exceptional educational opportunity for K-12 experiences, public programming and for post-secondary options. The Project rounds out with active conservation efforts, and focused research, working with local and international institutes.

The Aquatic Biosphere Project is excited to share our experiences with the National Geographic Expedition community as we help our native waters that are currently under threat. This project aligns perfectly with the goals of the Aquatic Biosphere Project and we hope it will spur many more National Geographic Expeditions in our area of the world in the future. Stay tuned as the hunt for the Albertan Goldfish continues!

To find out more about the Aquatic Biosphere Project and how you can help check us out at:

Expedition Background

Invasive species compete for resources and can spread disease to native species. In the Province of Alberta, Canada we have many invasive species but we plan on focusing on the Prussian Carp (Goldfish) to begin with.

The release of Prussian Carp into our waterways is likely due to the illegal releases of these fish by the public. It is a common belief that our extreme winter temperatures would kill any Prussian Carp released into the wild. This however has been proven wrong as the Alberta government estimates that there are more than 50 self sustaining populations within the province.

Prussian Carp are able to survive in poor water quality, low oxygen conditions, and even out of water for quite awhile. They are able to reproduce rapidly with females having up to 3 spawns per year after they reach 1 year of age. As they have no native predators they are able to swiftly outcompete native species and take over whatever body of water they are in.

We hope to aid the Alberta government and local municipalities locate and monitor these populations of Prussian Carp throughout the Province. Help us save our native fish species! Don't let it loose!


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