Friday, October 30, 2009

The Flame Chub Manuscript Is Finally Resubmitted

I swear I've been having anxiety dreams this week about various manuscripts hanging over me. So, the path of least resistance was to work on one and get it back out. I just resubmitted my flame chub manuscript to Endangered Species Research now that I think the map is presentable. The whole email package went to an editor whose day job is at Carleton College in Ottawa, Canada. I last corresponded with him at the end of January, so it was time(!). The one loose thread as I see it is how exactly the map will be linked and edited. Kris tells me that we can move it off his web site in .htm format so we won't give away the code for creating our own interactive Google Map, which in truth you have to see to believe; there's no way I could have put together the MYSQL, JAVA, PHP, etc. So, as usual, I hope they like it!

We didn't go out to Limestone Creek today after all. Andrew is sick, and I realized that we have our year-long monthly collections of scarlets going back to last October. We'll leave those scarlet shiners alone at least until the spring.

In two weeks the Southeastern Fishes Council (SFC) is meeting at Guntersville, AL, not even 40 miles east of here. The more I think about it, the more I've gotta go. The complicating factor is that our department is holding its annual retreat that weekend at a state park near town. How can I be in two places at once? We'll see.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back To Fish

The worst part of the second exam season is done. Without trying or meaning to, I smoked the intro classes with the exam on aerobic respiration, cellular structure & function, and osmosis & diffusion. Some of the students at least believed me when I told them weeks ago this would be the hardest exam. After giving back the exam tonight it was a bouncy crowd, like the two dudes in the back row giggling like geeks at a laptop. I speculated if anyone else would want to see what's on the screen, others thought it was funny. It's a little bit of the LSU-effect, some of them come in dumb and go out dumb. Oh well...

But with this behind me I'm back to fish stuff again. I did another round of editing on my flame chubs distribution map (, putting in the occurrence rankings for each historic site I visited on the pop-up tags. I think it's finally, once and for all ready to resubmit to Engangered Species Res.. And of course, I hope they like it.

Tomorrow we're going out to Limestone Creek to make a monthly collection of scarlet shiners. We might not do this again for a while there, I think we'll be OK for now. But we will go back to Estill Fork next month on the new moon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm Entering "Exam 2" Territory

I feel like I'm in a passing lull today. I give my second exam to my two lecture sections of Intro Biology over the next two days, and exam 2 in Vertebrate Reproduction next week. That and some mercenary work I'm doing for a textbook publisher are distracting me from doing the edits on the black darter article. It's also apparent to me that the flame chub article is probably, really, at last ready for formal submission to Endangered Species Res., since I have the Google map set up and hosted on Kris' web site.

Andrew and Taito found a completely different kind of gill parasite in a telescope shiner last week. It seems to be a species in the genus Octomacrum, much bigger than Dactylogyrus with truly scary looking attachment hooks (haptors). From what we can tell, no one has ever reported finding this genus in Alabama, the closest points are Arkansas and West Virginia. Andrew has sent pictures to Cloutman in Minnesota to see what he thinks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Action Photos From Estill Fork Last Sunday

Tessa gave me these photos yesterday. She took a whole bunch of pictures while on the bank as we netted fish. But that's good, we have some shots of darter dancing in action, on this trip with Brittany doing the dancing while Andrew and I hold the net. As you see below, the water was reasonably deep and certainly fast-flowing.

The first shot is looking in the net after doing a dance routine. On the first net or two we actually caught some telescope shiners, we're not always that lucky.

We're just starting to pull up the net in this next shot, trying not to catch Brittany in the lead line. At this point I had not convincingly cinched the belt on my waders...

This is the beginning of the darter dance routine, Andrew and I are trying to pull the net upstream slowly while Brittany skips downstream towards us. The trick in this is to keep the bottom lead line of the net on the bottom, since any fish in the net will try to swim under the net.

This was our access point from the neighboring field. We were doing our water chemistry monitoring after the netting, checking a water sample for pH, total dissolved solids and temperature (12.5 deg. C). The cooler is what I carry all of these accoutrements and chemicals in, along with my log book.

Andrew demonstrates what happens when your waders leak. We've found that inexpensive waders, like the $30 ones from Dick's Sports, last about a year before they begin to go. My super upscale insulated waders, designed for duck hunting, seem to last about 5 years and cost $120. I think I'm going to buy a cheap set of waders for use on warmer days in the winter.

Finally, I've been trying to take photos of the County Road bridge across Estill Fork where we park as a monitor of water conditions. This view is towards the mountain with Hurricane Creek, on the Walls of Jericho property, on the far side. The upper Paint Rock system is a series of long, narrow valleys separated by steep mountains running up into Tennessee and the higher parts of the Cumberland Plateau just to the north.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Driftnet Worked, And We Got The Fish

It was cool but sunny at Estill Fork yesterday. Andrew, Brittany and Tessa made the trip too. Water was fairly high and fast again, with evidence that recently it had jumped the bank into the pasture on the side we cut through. It was Tessa's first trip, and she doesn't have waders, so she too pictures from shore (and I hope wasn't too bored). Brittany found more convincing stakes for the drift net so we were able to stake it into the sediment more convincingly for an hour-plus. And we got the fish we're most interested in at the moment, 25 telescope shiners. We still need November telescopes to complete the gill fluke study which should be possible next month.

Meanwhile, I have to kick myself and get in gear with the black darter paper revisions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Out To Estill Fork Tomorrow In The Cold

Since the new moon is tomorrow, we're going to Estill Fork to run the driftnet and collect telescopes and scarlets. The low temperature here will in the upper 30s F, unseasonably cold, so it's definitely a waders trip.

We had a lab meeting yesterday where four of the students in my lab gave short reports on their work this semester (five if you include Andrew talking about writing up his findings from the summer, largely in the Technical Writing class). It's all good work, steady progress in examining some basic ecology of Estill Fork especially. Taito has about finished examining almost 30 telescopes from Estill Fork last December for gill flukes, and the average number of flukes per fish was 0.7, even lower than the numbers we already have for February and September (~1.5 per fish) at the ends of our 2007 collection. That's consistent with our prediction that in the middle of the winter the fluke numbers should bottom out, with a rebound to over 7 per fish in May or June. The one month's collection we still need is November, which we'll hopefully get next month.

Brittany's work with the driftnet collection is also fun, with the number of odonates (dragonflies) steadily dropping from July to September, and the number of copepods steadily increasing. She has found representatives from 17 Orders of macroinvertebrates, mostly arthropods but also some oligochaete worms. It dawned on me the other day that her work might benefit from applying some diversity indices to it, as well as some form of ANOVA, to better understand how the diversity structure changes month to month (if it does, that is...).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Updates To The Alabama Flame Chub Distribution Map

I spent the afternoon entering data in the online map of flame chub presence/absence sites for Alabama. Kris hugely updated the code on the site, so I have a password to edit and enter sites at my discretion. There are still a few minor edits I hope he can make to the page, but the information is there. Check out the site at (the link format here still isn't working). Click on an icon and you'll see a popup window with information about that site. Red icons are historic sites where we found flame chubs, blue icons are historic sites where we didn't find flame chubs.

I did all of that rather than work on editing the black darter manuscript; I hope to do that tomorrow...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Black Darter Manuscript Accepted At Southeastern Naturalist

The manuscript I and Rachel submitted to Southeastern Naturalist, "Reproductive development in the Black Darter, Etheostoma duryi", has been accepted pending various edits. I erred on the side of leaving in more rather than less in the manuscript, in particular they want to remove all of the photos of gonadal development I included. I probably won't argue with that, even though I think we did come up with a novel way to do the histology with the gonads of such a small fish as the black darter. After what Rachel especially went through on that project I'm glad we're able to get the information into print for a readership that is interested in this kind of reproductive ecology. Hooray, and thanks to the editor and reviewer.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Male Telescope Shiners Have Bigger Brains Than Females

Yeah, it's true (at least in simple average), this time I can illustrate it by presenting the ratio of brain volume to standard length for male and female telescope shiners. The sample size is 10 of each. The error bar in the figure is standard error, and the y-axis is ratio. As is typically the case with species like telescopes with little sexual dimorphism, the males have a higher ratio of brain volume to standard length, but not statistically significantly so as demonstrated by a two-tailed t-test (assuming unequal variance). Interestingly, running an F-test on male vs. female ratios shows marginal significance at P=0.05, so the variance is different between sexes.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Pictures Of Limestone Creek On Sept. 30

These photos are thanks to Taito having the foresight to bring a camera on our trip to Limestone Creek last Thursday. The first one is me putting on the right shoes sitting on my tailgate along the road.

This is what the creek looked like, clear, high and fast-flowing. You can see aquatic vegetation pushed down by the force of the current. We caught fish on the far side of the creek in this image, where the current was blocked by the submerged island to the left.

Andrew is preparing to confront the fish in the creek.

We've entered the creek (of course) in a nice high-contrast light view.

I'm crossing the creek, making it look almost easy in an area of accelerating current.

Here are a bunch of the scarlet shiners we caught that day, being euthanized in MS-222. I don't think any of the larger breeders from the summer are still alive, the population has already turned over and fish this size now will be the big breeders next spring.