Monday, February 28, 2011

Also On Saturday At The Flint

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that we netted 7 or 8 blotched chubs, Erimystax insignis, while looking for darters. We found them along the west bank, about 5 meters from the shore, in shallow, fast water, but not too fast. This species is ranked as S2, Imperiled, in Alabama since it's only found in parts of the Flint, Paint Rock and Shoal Creek. It's patchily common up in to east Tennessee and southwest Virginia with an overall ranking of G4, Apparently Stable, from the NatureServe site. Several of the individuals we saw were obviously gravid females, so they seem to belong to a healthy local population. It's another species worthy of more research into their current status, along with their general biology.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Heavy Lifting: Estill Fork On Friday, Flint On Saturday

We went out to Estill Fork on Friday afternoon to collect darters for Robert's project, and to the Flint River on Saturday to do the transect work for Brian's project. Both rivers were fairly high, not too high but high enough so that pulling a seine net was a challenge at both. The first photo is of Robert and Jeremy walking downstream at the end of our collection at Estill Fork, the "Baptist Church" site.

The darters are in breeding coloration now, since it's really early spring. We netted several large, colored up male greenside darters including the one below. We also caught some of the biggest sculpins I've seen in local streams.

We had beautiful weather at the Flint on Saturday, with the water level just within the limit we can work in. It's the closest I've been to having a seine net pulled out of my hands, with the complication of uncertain footing. Luckily we got out intact, although Alex halfway slipped in before recovering. The photo is of Brian as we prepared to leave.

And in another hand-held shot, here's one of the electric male banded darters we caught. They always have a distinctive emerald green banding pattern, now it's strongly enhanced.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brittany Passed Her Thesis Defense

Brittany did an excellent job yesterday presenting her research project, "Invertebrate Drift in Estill Fork, Jackson County, Alabama." She'll have to do some editing and reworking of some of her thesis, but she should be able to do that in the allotted time and graduate in May.

Weather permitting, we're going out to Estill Fork tomorrow afternoon to get darters for Richard, and on Saturday go to the Flint to do the transects and darter netting. The Flint has been reasonably low this week, I hope we don't get lots of rain tonight because that might make us cancel if the river rises. We'll see...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Support The Reauthorization Of Forever Wild

Everyone who lives in Alabama should contact their state legislators and ask them to support the reauthorization of the Forever Wild program in Alabama, which expires via sunset next year. This program enables the state to spend money from non-tax sources to buy and maintain parcels of land for public use. Over the 20 years the program has been in place, ~200,000 acres of land have been purchased. My favorite state land tract, the Walls of Jericho, is one of the more recent of these purchases now with about 9,000 acres which largely protects the upper Paint Rock River drainage in Jackson County. For more information about this reauthorization campaign visit Conservation Alabama, at www.conservationalabama.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So, On To American Midland Naturalist

I just submitted our manuscript, "Investigation of the Relationship Between the Steroid Hormone 11-Ketotestosterone and Reproductive Status in the Fish Lythrurus fasciolaris", to the venerable journal American Midland Naturalist. I was happy working with them on the telescope shiner article that was published last April, so hopefully they'll like this one too.

Anyone in the Huntsville, AL, area should drop by the Shelby Center at UAH next Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 2 for Brittany's defense of her thesis, "Invertebrate Drift in Estill Fork, Jackson County, Alabama" in SC 216. She'll do about a 45 minute presentation on her work, and then the committee will decide if we approve and sign off on her to receive a Master's degree. Her thesis is already in good shape, so that should be easy in this case.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No Luck With Behavioural Brain Research

Our 11-KT in scarlet shiners manuscript was quickly rejected at BBR, as something outside their current topics of interest. It was admirably fast; I submitted the material through their electronic portal first thing in the morning, and heard back from them about 4 that afternoon. My cynical thought is they're not interested in anything not done on rats or mice, but what the hell, that's their loss. Anyway, I'm reformatting the manuscript to submit to American Midland Naturalist. The truth might be that the work we're doing is of most interest to people doing "natural history", which self-identification seems to be making a big comeback. I'll just stay away from snide British editors of upscale biomedical journals, which should have been self-evident.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Visit To The Smithsonian In Panama Has Been Approved

So, now I have to figure out how to buy tickets to go to Panama in May using University money, and also use our own money to buy Ruth tickets to go with me at the same time. The one last detail is filing my terrestrial collecting permit through STRI so that I have government permission to run around and catch Brachyraphis episcopi hither and yon. It's all in Spanish, and luckily Ana helped me this afternoon with my CV and the form itself. One question asked if my collecting would damage the environment or cultural artifacts, and my initial answer was, "Que yo sepa no", not that I know of. She suggested I just put down "ninguno", none, as a simpler, more direct answer. I'm learning... ask me to conjugate the verb ir!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

11-KT In Scarlet Shiners Manuscript Submitted

I just finished submitting the manuscript about blood plasma levels of the steroid hormone 11-KT in scarlet shiners to the journal Behavioural Brain Research, part of the Elsevier publishing empire. They have an elaborate online submission system that always takes about an hour to fully understand if you haven't fooled with it lately. But, it's all submitted, and I hope they like our story. The title and authors:

"Investigation of the Relationship Between the Steroid Hormone 11-Ketotestosterone and Reproductive Status in the Fish Lythrurus fasciolaris."
by Jennifer Schade and Bruce Stallsmith

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Driftnetting At The Flint On Friday, Feb. 4

Friday was a threatening day, with the local weather people besides themselves talking about threats of ice, snow, horrible rain, etc. But luckily for us they were largely wrong. By the time we went out to our regular driftnetting site on the Flint in the afternoon there was a light, irregular spitting of rain, and air temperature was about 40 deg. F, with no wind. So standing out in the middle of the river for a little over an hour wasn't too horrible. And the river was maybe 15 cm lower than our last netting, so we were able to set up both nets in the places we've used before. The surface water flow was about 1 meter/second, at 6 cm off the bottom it was about 0.5 m/sec, and water temperature was 6 deg. C. Footing was tricky in the main current, but no one fell, although Doug had a close call. The following photos document the basic work, starting with a shot of the older net being held stably within Robert's PVC frame along with the zinc dowels.

Here's my de rigeur photo of the Winchester Road bridge looking upstream. You can see the low rock formation rising up in front of the bridge just to the right of the photo's center. As long as we can see most of that rock peak, the river is workable. We also watched as deputies chased down some people who ran into their speed trap to the left of this view, on the west bank of the river.

Robert and Doug are able to chat while holding a net in place. Ruth repaired the newer net they're using, and it held up in the deeper, faster site with Robert and Doug's help. Both nets had a fine patina on their exposed surface from entrained clay silt in the river, which was more turbid than usual after recent storms.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thanks to Ana at UAH, I have my plan of study in Panama translated to Spanish so that I can apply for an export permit to leave that country with pickled fish. And the permit has to be filled out in Spanish... so here's the last paragraph, broadly describing what I want to do in Panama:


Yo tengo planeado estar en el STRI por dos semanas durante el mes de Mayo del 2011. El proyecto estará basado en Ancón, en el Centro de Investigación Earl S. Tuppér. Además de conocer el STRI y su equipo de investigadores, la mayor parte de mi trabajo será el visitar los doce sitios en los que Jennions y Kelly (2002) colectaron sus especímenes de B. episcopi, para lo cual contamos con las respectivas coordinadas de GPS. Diez de los sitios están ubicados en el Parque Nacional Soberanía, y los otros dos en los rios Antón y Ahogado, aproximadamente 60 km al sudoeste de Ancón. Todos los peces colectados seran fijados en formaldehido. Durante nuestra estadía en Panamá llevaremos a cabo trabajos preliminares en algunos de los especímenes para detectar presencia de tremátodes. La mayor parte de los exámenes de parásitos y los estudios de las condiciones reproductivas de los peces colectados serán realizados en la Universidad de Alabama en Huntsville.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Waders, And Scarlet Shiners 11-KT Abstract

I received my new waders today, shipped from my number one fashion suppliers at Forestry Suppliers in Jackson, Mississippi. We'll probably go out to the Flint on Friday so I'll definitely use them there. These are much more insulated with Thinsulate than my last ones, so that will be good come Friday.

The manuscript drawn from Jennifer's master's thesis is just about ready to go, 24 pages including figures and tables. Here's the abstract from the work:

In teleost fishes, 11-ketotestosterone (11KT) is a critical androgen regulating primary and secondary sex characteristics. In the sexually dimorphic Lythrurus fasciolaris (Cyprinidae), dominant nuptial males display heavy tuberculation on the head and nape, dark dorsolateral vertical bars, and dramatic red coloration in the fins, venter, and operculum area. This study aimed to quantify 11KT circulating levels in males and females, and determine any correlation with key male reproductive status indicators such as nuptial coloration, size, and gonadosomatic index (GSI). Thirty-one wild-caught L. fasciolaris were divided into three groups according to reproductive status: dominant males (D), non-dominant males (ND) and females (F). Physical measurements, digital imaging, and blood samples were used to quantify body size, GSI, nuptial coloration, and 11KT circulating levels. Dominant males had higher 11KT levels and nuptial coloration traits compared to ND males and females (red area, hue, saturation), and a higher GSI than ND males. Non-dominant males had more 11KT and coloration than females. Increased 11KT levels corresponded to increased coloration, size and GSI.