Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Net From Jonahs Aquarium

I ordered one of Jonah's Perfect Dipnets yesterday for use in Panama. These nets are almost indestructible, and have collapsing handles which is good for international air transit. The total cost is $80 but for my purposes that's almost cheap. I'll be chasing Brachyraphis episcopi around in streams, and they usually hang out in shallow water along the bank so I don't think a seine net is necessary to capture them.

Locally, we hope to get out to the Flint River this Saturday morning for driftnetting. The river level will hopefully be down after the rains over the weekend, and weather is predicted to be sunny and in the 70s.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And, Estill Fork Is Changing

The picture shows a sizable landslide just downstream from our sampling site at Estill Fork. The bank there is pretty steep and rises to the road, which is heavily engineered to fit on the side of a mountain. A large gouge of soil, gravel fill and small boulders slumped from under the road way and carved a shallow gully into the hillside ending at the stream. It has the interesting effect of extending our riffle study area because it juts out fairly fair into the stream, creating a narrows with faster water downstream for about 40 meters before ending at a deep pool. There is evidence that the water may have been as much 3 meters higher last week after the heavy rains, which of course weakened the structure of the roadbed and the hillside below. Next time we drive in on the other road!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Beautiful Day To Go To Estill Fork

We spent most of the day at Estill Fork in NE Alabama doing field work for Brian's transect research. The weather was mostly sunny, and in the 70s F. The darters were all in color today, including rainbows, tennessee snubnoses, fantails, stripetails, johnnys, redlines, greensides and the next two species:

These are two blueside darters, male and female. We usually only net a few on these trips, but today we found about a dozen. Males retain some of that electric blue year-round but it's certainly peaking now.

We found a male and an even larger female blotchside darter. This is the male in a storage bag. He was released about two minutes later. It's a species that should probably be listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Here's the crew soon after arrival: Alex, Brian's brother, Brian, Robert and Doug (l-r). Water temp was 14 deg. C, so some of us waded without waders.

The banks on both sides of the stream had patches of Virginia Bluebells in flower. The wildflower season has just started. What's impressive about the Bluebells being in bloom is that Estill Fork had a major flood last week that obviously scoured the banks heavily. I guess the plants like that kind of high energy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tickets To Panama, Finally

This has been a distracting week, but it's spring break next week so everyone can sober up and take a deep breath. I was finally able to buy tickets to Panama for Ruth and me yesterday, through Orbitz. We even got a surprisingly good price, for which I'm grateful. My Spanish phrase of the day is, que asco, which means "that's disgusting". Hopefully I won't have to use it. Yesterday's (fragmentary) phrase was, mas cerca, or closer.

We're going to Estill Fork on Monday to do transects for Brian, and to collect darters for Robert. The weather should be sunny and in the 70s, so we can't complain about that. The darters should really be peaking in color.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We Missed The Rain, And Interesting Dactylogyrids

It's been a very busy week, I've spent a strange amount of time working on our department's search for three new faculty. As usual, this involves a variety of totally unexpected twists and turns. But, I'll have to tell you later. Also, it rained almost six inches this week, so we were lucky to get out to the Flint last Friday; the river has been at flood stage much of the past week.

We had a lab meeting yesterday, and Robert talked about his work with the darters and parasites. He showed some really good digital photos he has at various magnifications of these parasites, and for the first time I fully realize that they're different from the Dactylogyrus we found on the telescope shiners. The posterior end with the haptor hooks is much more flared in the darter parasites, and we probably have several different species that have to be sorted out on the various darter species. So it's good, we have something.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

An Easy Driftnetting At The Flint, And Alabama Imperiled Fishes

We went out to the Flint yesterday since it's the new moon, so time to driftnet. The original plan was to go out today, but there was a big threat of rain (it's raining now) and also the river was probably lower than last Saturday with no rain in-between. It was a mild day, and the river was indeed about 6 inches lower than last Saturday which made moving around much easier. We were able to set up both nets in the places that we usually put them. The first picture is my standard view towards the bridge, showing lower water level.

Alex and Doug are carefully picking their way back across the river with the net from our "station B" on the far side of the river.

Jeremy and Brian compare strange wader tricks as we prepare to leave for the day.

Alex, Jeremy and Doug wash out a net, trying to flush out trapped drifting animals into a peanut butter jar using as little water as possible. If done right, it's kind of like having concentrated Flint River water.

Also, Brian and I went to the Alabama Imperiled Fishes meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park on Wednesday, hosted by Steve Rider of the state DCNR. 20-plus people were there, sharing experiences and thoughts about various vulnerable species in the state. Bernie Kuhajda from Tuscaloosa talked about his findings with the newly-rediscovered trispot darter, which are very different than what has been found with the Tuscumbia darter - both are spring run species, but the trispots vary genetically from stream to stream while the Tuscumbias vary little across their range. Mike Sandel, also from Tuscumbia, talked about the Alabama pygmy sunfish that faces multiple threats as the city of Huntsville expands to the west into its spring habitat. The species seems to be stable in three of its springs, and in trouble at the other eight or so springs that make up this ecosystem, due to human land uses. Various speakers spoke about finding more Cahaba shiners in various parts of the Cahaba River system than might have been feared, given that the species is listed as Threatened under the ESA. The meeting is an informal way to hear and share about species facing threats in the state, and what is being done to help them and study them. It may be combined next January with similar meetings that have been held for crayfish and mollusks, kind of a one-stop solution since many of the same people attend these meetings.