Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back To The Flint On Friday

This Friday is the next new moon, so we'll be back at the Flint in the morning to run driftnets. We'll also net more darters for Kara's project. She looked at about 20 each banded and black darters from June, and found very few gill parasites, slightly more in the bandeds. These are the two most common darter species at this site on the Flint, and it's reinforcing my growing conviction that the most common darter species in local streams will have fewer gill parasites than rarer species. This is certainly the case in Estill Fork, where the very common Tennessee snubnoses have very few parasites while the less common rainbows, fantails, stripetails and redlines have a lot more parasites.

I'm also curious to seine in the Flint in the deeper flowing pool below the riffles we usually sample to look for more silver shiners. The species prefers such areas below riffles, so hopefully we can find more of this species in this area. The Ichthyology class might go back and look for this too, in two weeks.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Apparently A New Species Record In The Flint River

I took the Ichthyology class out to the Flint River yesterday to sample fishes. We found two species that I've never seen there before. One, the Bigeye Chub, is not a big surprise to find there. The other, which is still only a tentative ID, is the Silver Shiner, Notropis photogenis. Silver Shiners are fairly common just north of here in Tennessee but there are few recent records of them in the northern tributaries to the Tennessee River, mostly from Shoal Creek. Yesterday we netted four of these fish in the Flint. It's possible that they're Emerald Shiners. I'm going to send two of them to Dave Neely for a second ID opinion. There is no record of the species in the Flint, so that would be an interesting range extension. The picture below is big, so it can be easily enlarge for a closer look.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rainy Day At The Flint

We went out Friday morning to do transects at the Flint River site. The river was way low, and we worked in intermittent rain with thunder rolling to our south. We found fewer darters than usual, even with low water, because much of the riffle site is now covered with thick wads of green filamentous algae. My working theory is that this stuff blocks water flow at the bottom of the stream, where darters live and catch food, and the fish leave rather than hang around with this obstruction. The stuff is disgusting. We found the species pretty well separated from each other: the black snubnoses were in shallow, slightly flowing water and in some of the emergent vegation; stripetails were pretty much in that niche, and somewhat out in deeper water; bandeds were in their typical midstream fast water sites; and redlines were largely absent from the main channel, but were very common in an isolated side channel with fast shallow water over cobble and boulder substrate. This time we netted no rainbows or greensides, which was odd. I'm also confident now that the occasional Cyprinella shiners we net are Spotfin Shiners, not really a surprise. In the picture below are Eric, Brian and Alex as we prepare to hit the water. You can see some of the algae crud as streaks in the center of the river.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Finally Have Fundulus DNA Sequences

I just heard from Lance at IXG, of the five DNA extractions I gave him last week he got good sequences on four of them. This is a major break since the Omega extraction kit we've started to use apparently works really well. Each sequence is about 375 base pairs from the cytochrome-b mitochondrial gene, with forward and backward readings along the same stretch. IXG only used the amplifying primer for the sequencing, so we should be able to get the whole gene of 1140 base pairs using several other sequencing primers. The fish that we used are a Fundulus majalis from Charleston, SC, and some F. heteroclitus and F. diaphanus from the MA/RI coast that Tony sent me.

All I can say is, praise Jah it worked!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Things Are Happening, Really!

I haven't written for a week out of sheer procrastination. One fun thing lately is I received 100 g of Damar Gum, a key component of making archival wholemount slides. Hopefully we can get a really good series of dactylogyrids found in darter gills. Kara made a good one over the weekend using Kleermount, which is a synthetic form of Damar but not really archival. She successfully transferred one worm from the gills of a stripetail darter. She had a lesson today on using the confocal microscope, and used this slide to learn how to capture images. Connie, the tech, was impressed by the images so I guess they're good(!). Luckily for Kara she worked with Connie just in time, Connie starts maternity leave tomorrow for obvious reasons.

We're going out to the Flint Friday morning to do transects for Brian's project. The river is REALLY low right, since we haven't had rain for about three weeks. I think this means we can easily do our fourth transect just below the bridge, through a fast deep hole frequented by big greenside darters. We should have a large crew of people show up to help, so it should be easier in general.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ichthyology Class Visit To Estill Fork

I'm teaching Ichthyology for the first time this summer as an all-day Tuesday class with a lab section. Today we did the first field trip, to Estill Fork in the upper Paint Rock River system at the Baptist Church site. In two hours of seining we found most of the species I'd expect to see with the odd exception of rainbow darters; we even netted a huge greenside darter and several blueside darters, along with hogsuckers that deeply impressed the students. Here's a quick shot of most of the class:

Friday, June 03, 2011

Forever Wild Reauthorized By Alabama House

The Alabama House has overwhelmingly approved reauthorization of the Forever Wild program, with 79 yes votes. This means the program will be on the ballot in November 2012 for the voters to approve as a constitutional amendment. The program makes money available to buy and maintain property to maintain them as public access lands in perpetuity. The program was first authorized years ago, and has to be reauthorized every 20 years. It's been a huge success, in a state that has relatively little public land. These lands are variously open to hunting, fishing, and hiking uses. To me, the Walls of Jericho property in the upper Paint Rock River valley in Jackson County is the most amazing of these properties, but there is an increasing number of interesting properties around the state.