Monday, July 26, 2010

Reply From USFWS About Spring Pygmy Sunfish

(This is reposted from the NANFA Forum, I'm not sure what else to say at the moment.)

I received a reply to my letter urging emergency listing of the spring pygmy sunfish today, from Patrick Leonard, Assistant Regional Director, Ecological Services, of the Atlanta office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They aren't moved to do emergency listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). I quote: "We reviewed the information provided in your letter and our files, and do not believe emergency listed [sic] is warranted at this time. This is based on the fact that the meta-population of spring pygmy sunfish within the Beaverdam Creek watershed is under no imminent threat. Also, the City of Huntsville, following the guidance of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, has actively corrected any perceived threats to the spring pygmy sunfish that may have occurred due to the expansion of a sewer line project in the area. Sampling of the population of spring pygmy sunfish in both Moss and Horton Springs has been historically sporadic."

Wow, you can believe what you must believe, I guess. The last sentence is odd; has the act of sampling Moss and Horton Springs been historically sporadic, or has the finding of sunfish in these springs been sporadic? Either way it begs the question of protecting the small areas left of necessary habitat. I'd feel better if they just said they really don't want to be bothered with this because they'd get their Guccis muddy, or whatever. I'll openly laugh at the next clown who mewls about the ESA being overused by an authoritarian government....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Guess Creek This Tuesday

We're on for a Guess Creek trip this Tuesday. Stan Sung emailed the other day and said he's in town this week, hopefully he'll join us on this trip. We're looking for blacknose dace to send to people at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. This creek is a tributary to the Paint Rock in the mid-stretch of the river. It originates in a beautiful cul-de-sac valley surrounded by steep low mountains, with a series of largeish spring runs coming together. This area is also the site of juvenile offender camp, as we found out years ago. We won't go on to their property this time, but work the stream just downstream from them which hopefully won't bug anyone. We may also go to Larkin Fork and check on a flame chub site. And hopefully the weather will be good!

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Flame Chub Article Is Out Today, At An Open Access Site

My research project on flame chub distribution in north Alabama was published today in the journal Endangered Species Research. The title is "Status of the flame chub, Hemitremia flammea in Alabama, USA" by Bruce Stallsmith. It's available for free at (sorry for this cold link, I can't get the html script to work right). I think I only found one typo, at the top of Table 1 where it says the last time flame chubs were collected at Choccoloco Creek in Calhoun County was 2001; that should read 1986. But it's great to see it in print finally. I started the project in 2005, so it's about time!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Interesting Things In Providence

So I'm back from the ASIH meeting in Providence, unfortunately with a head cold. But it was good to see a bunch of people I've known, and hear from others I've never met before. Mike Sandel from Tuscaloosa wants to show me all of the known Spring Pygmy Sunfish sites so that someone local to the Huntsville area knows them, too. He's apparently getting hostile reactions from construction workers and landowners in the sunfish area, always a good sign that someone is doing something useful. We both know that if the US Fish & Wildlife Service drags its feet on the subject of an emergency Endangered listing for this species, it will soon go the way of the Passenger Pigeon.

Bernie Kuhajda, also from Tuscaloosa, did a strong presentation on the rediscovery of the Three Spot Darter in the Coosa River basin. Even with marked phenotypic differences in breeding males from different populations, there was little difference in DNA sequences.

I also met the Chernoff lab group from Wesleyan in Connecticut who are doing DNA work with the two similar species of Blacknose Dace, Rhinichthys obstusus in the midwest and midsouth east of the Mississippi, and R. atratulus in the Atlantic slope. At this point their data show strong structure between the two recognized species, and also within R. atratulus especially. They had one data point from Tennessee just north of Lauderdale County, AL, so I offered to send them some fish from the Paint Rock River system so they have an Alabama data point. In exchange they'll send me some Banded Killifish, Fundulus diaphanus, for one of my long-term projects. Guess Creek in Jackson County, AL, is probably the best source for these dace so I should get out in the next several weeks.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

On To ASIH In Providence

I'm flying out to Providence, RI, tomorrow morning for this year's American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists meeting. It's always good to be with a bunch of other people who think that mucking around for fish or frogs is fun. I'm doing a talk on gill fluke infections in Telescope Shiners at 3 on Friday afternoon at the Fish Life History session which I'll be moderating.

Yesterday I inventoried my Fundulus majalis and F. similis ethanol preserved fish collections. I want to move on with this DNA thing, although I'm still not sure exactly how I'll pay for it. I have plenty of majalis from Charleston, SC, to re-extract, a single fish from Nantucket, and several small individuals from Cuttyhunk Island off of Woods Hole, MA. And I have a lot of similis from St. Joe Beach on the Florida panhandle. The DNA extraction is time-consuming but easy, then I have to get them PCR'd and sequenced. And, I also have to do this for the bifax I have which in truth is a higher priority. Luckily I still have a lot of phenol-chloroform-isoamyl alcohol blend at hand.