Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Have Rain!

Over the last two days we've had over four inches of rain in the Tennessee Valley, so the rivers are recovering from their low levels. And today we've already had one tornado warning that luckily missed the city. So next time we go out the water levels shouldn't be so low.

I also received a print copy of the issue of Endangered Species Research with my flame chub article. It's always gratifying to see one's work in good ol' fashioned print.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pictures From The Baptist Church Site Today

I just downloaded and processed pictures from today's trip to Estill Fork at the Baptist Church site. In the first picture, the view is downstream from the top of what's usually a fairly big riffle but is very low today. The bridge is the County Road 9 crossing.

Here are Brian and Robert, left to right, hanging out while Jeremy uses the pushnet to snag fantails and stripetails.

And, here's Jeremy hard at work in a slowly flowing pool.

And, We Found The Fishes

We only went to the Baptist Church site today. We caught lots of tennessee snubnoses without a problem, along with a good number of redline and banded darters. A blotchside logperch or two were even netted in the low water of what's usually a fast-flowing riffle chute. But we had trouble finding fantails and stripetails. Most of the ones we wound up with, ~23, were caught using my pushnet the old-fashioned way, setting the net downstream from a rock and kicking in to it. Jeremy got really good at it luckily. Several of those fish were males with egg mimics on the tips of their first dorsal fin. It was a warm day and we were able to wade summer-style without waders. I bet it won't be next time.

Out To Estill Fork Today

We're going to Estill Fork to collect darters for Robert's project. The primary species are tennessee snubnose and fantails/stripetails, we'll also keep any johnnys that we find. This week Robert re-ID'd all of the "fantails" that I had collected last May at the Baptist Church site, and half of them are stripetails based on a dark submarginal band on the first dorsal. And, they all seem to be female which makes sense since I netted them above the riffle there in pools along the bank where females would congregate during breeding season while the males defend territories in the riffle. We'll see what happens today, we should probably revisit the Baptist Church site as well as our usual site.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Etheostoma flabellare vs. E. kennicotti

Robert pointed out to me this afternoon that at least one of the "Etheostoma flabellare" from our May collection at Estill Fork is actually E. kennicotti. Small specimens are more difficult to separate between species, but this one has an unmistakable trait: a dark submarginal band on the first dorsal fin. I suspect we'll find a few more out of what we've collected. Flabellare is considered to be more widespread and common than kennicotti, and that's been my experience to date. The interesting part of this is that this kennicotti had a total of 19 gill parasites, so hopefully we can figure out if these parasites are the same as what we're finding on flabellare (which as a group has lots of them, certainly compared to the black snubnoses).

We're going to Estill Fork this weekend just to collect darters. With little rain since the last trip I'd guess that there's no substantial difference with the current and depth, which is to say little of either.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Truck Is Finally Back...

I spent an ungodly amount of money having my engine rebuilt, and the dealership gave it back to me wrong and had to fix it today after some nasty exchanges (I hate that), but it drives almost as good as new. This means I'm much less worried about having a breakdown at some obscure place like Estill Fork.

And last night I gave the year's first seminar talk for the campus Students for Free Thought, Logic and Reason group. It was titled, "Darwin's Friends and Family", focusing on the shared experiences and mutual support of Darwin, Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Russel Wallace as biology shook off the influence of the established Church in Britain in the late 1800s. I had a good time, I got to combine my interest in history with the basis of biological thought. Even better, I got to use the word "pettifogging" in my presentation, the first I've done that for a while. Darwin's my main man.

Monday, October 11, 2010

There IS Lots Of Material In The Flint Driftnet Collections

Jeremy started to look at the material we collected from the Flint River. He quickly realized that there's a very high concentration of whole arthropods in it, more than we found at Estill Fork. One of the components of this kind of drift is exuviae, the shed exoskeletons of insect larvae. He proposed to ignore the exuviae, which Brittany has ID'd from Estill Fork, and only look at the intact animals in the sample. Given that we have five peanut butter jars each about 2/3's full of this material, I agreed, so that we can get some coherent information out of this in less than a year(!). He showed me the first 5 ml of the concentrated drift water he examined under a microscope and it had 7 or 8 intact arthropods, a very high count considering that they will have to be sorted by Order and then counted, out of hundreds and hundreds of milliliters of water in the jars. But at least we'll be bathing in data (if this doesn't drive Jeremy and others crazy first).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

And So, We Driftnetted The Flint Today

I got out this afternoon with Jeremy, Richard and Brittany to the Flint River for our first-ever dual driftnetting (tomorrow's the new moon). We aimed to set the nets between the first and second transects we did two Saturdays ago. But we quickly found that the Flint's substrate is often thin layers of sand sitting on top of buried boulders; it's difficult to drive a stake into the bottom that's able to hold the net against the current. Our net in the middle of the river was finally secured, but the net against the eastern bank needed someone to hold one of the stakes. This isn't so bad for an hour on a pleasant day, we'll see how much fun this might be in the future. Both nets were full of an amazing amount of material after an hour, entrained fine sands as well as lots of organic material (including macroinverts). Sorting through this material will make what Brittany has done with Estill Fork driftnettings look easy, I'm afraid.

I also used the new camera today for the first time. The images won't be as good as with other cameras, but I guess I decided that I'd rather have a camera that will survive this kind of work rather than one with SLR quality. The first photo below shows a view from upstream near the western bank with one net in the middle of the river, and the other net being held by Brittany. You can see the streaks of green algae, along with plants, attached to rocks in the foreground.

And here's a shot of Jeremy, Brittany and Richard standing around the net that had to be held in the water. The ruins of the old highway bridge are in the background.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I Guess We'll Driftnet The Flint

Jeremy in my lab is now motivated to start a driftnetting project on the Flint River at Winchester Road. We have two functional driftnets, and if need be we could have more made (if Ruth will humor us). To me it's a great idea, so that we can compare it to Estill Fork data collected by Brittany. I would expect the two rivers to be pretty similar, but I guess that's like saying the same but different. We should start sometime later this week since the new moon is on Thursday (when drift organisms are more mobile, in the dark of the moon).

I received a new camera on Friday. I ordered a Pentax Optio W90, which is rated waterproof to 20 feet and shockproof to 4 feet. At the least I'll stop worrying about dropping my camera into the creek on trips, and I'd like to try some underwater photography. It's a small camera with 12 megapixels, a 5X zoom and a rechargeable battery. The package includes a strap with a carabineer for hooking onto a pack or whatever seems good for securing the camera. I'm psyched, it was rated "Gear of the Year 2010" by Outdoor Magazine which hopefully means something.