I spent the past long weekend in St. Louis at the annual meeting of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists, primarily hosted by the American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists. As usual I met many people in the flesh who I've only known through e-mail, including members of NANFA as well as other scientists with similar research interests. For instance, I finally met Jeremy Tiemann who's also a member of the NANFA Board of Directors, and just like I figured would be the case he's a great guy (not only because he also appreciates slow-tap, room temperature Guiness stout). He works for the Illinois Natural History Survey and does field work in streams that might be affected by highway construction. I also finally met Stewart Reid of the Desert Fishes Council who lives in Oregon; we've talked via email about how to set up conservation grants in a non-profit group.
The peak experience for me was giving a talk about my flame chubs research in a 15 minute time block at 9 a.m. Saturday. The challenge is always how to boil down several years of your life into under fifteen minutes. And as always, I wasn't good at the boiling down aspect... I basically got chased off the stage by the moderator at 15 minutes (as should be done). But I think I got the audience's attention with my reporting of flame chubs being present at only 18 of 50 historic sites around north Alabama. Various people came up to me afterwards and said that they liked my presentation, and I don't think they were doing it because they felt sorry for me. The odd thing was that my talk, in a Fish Conservation session, was the only one that didn't involve heavy genetics data.
That session lead to a talk with Yongjiu Chen of North Dakota State, who does excellent population genetics work with endangered fish species. He has developed protocols for a genetic analysis examining microsatellite variation in cyprinid (minnow) fishes, which essentially tests for the existence of repeating motifs of DNA at specific genes. Hopefully we can start a pilot project to examine genetic structure and variability in flame chubs using the alcohol-preserved fish I collected in my field work. Knowing what level of genetic variation exists in a species, and some idea of the evolutionary history leading to current distribution patterns, is a key part of figuring out how to save a species in an efficient manner. So I'm looking for a motivated student to learn Yongjiu's protocols and start a project on flame chub genetics.
Christian's poster about gill parasites in scarlet and striped shiners at the meeting turned out well. Several people at the ASIH meeting talked to her about our subject, and had some good suggestions. She and Kris put it together pretty much on their own, and it tells a good story of a work in progress. I think that we found multiple, new species of Dactylogyrus
parasites, especially in the scarlet shiners. As is true of most good science, research should lead to new questions and more research... I think we're on that track.
Next year's ASIH meeting is in Montreal. Ruth and I have to figure out how and if we'll go. I've never had a chance to visit Montreal, which I've always heard was a fun place to visit and hang out. It would be another chance to attempt to use my high school French, which can be embarassing of course. Would les habitants
be impressed, or would they politely switch to English? I'll keep you posted.