A New Year, With New Projects
I went out today and last Sunday on two different projects. Last week we attempted to start Candice's project, to monitor flame chub reproductive biology. Flames seem to spawn earlier than most other local cyprinids, so it seemed to be a good idea to pick some up in January. A big potential problem this time of year is that of course streams are higher, with lower temperatures and no leaves on trees to suck up water. But, we went to Little Paint Rock Creek in Marshall County and Larkin Fork of the Paint Rock River in Jackson County. At Little Paint Rock Creek we caught one female flame chub, along with large numbers of blacknosed dace and bluntnose minnows. The one basin at this site where I've typically caught flame chubs had deep water with lots of sediments on the bottom, not a good combination for any kind of netting. And Larkin Fork had more water in it than I've seen before. The specific site we visited is my "guaranteed" flame chub site, with fish in a small rivulet flowing from a spring field under the road and down in to the Fork. On our visit, the spring field was a flowing creek for several hundred meters, almost knee deep. We caught dace in these areas, along with bluntnose minnows and striped shiners, but nary a flame chub. So, hopefully we'll get out next Sunday with lower water if the rain holds off a bit.
Here's a photo of the county road running along Larkin Fork, with my "sweet spot" in the middle.
Today I drove out to Borden Creek in the Sipsey Wilderness to start a new driftnet project with Rebecca. The manuscript Brittany and I submitted to Southeastern Naturalist was rejected, basically because they thought our taxonomic treatment was too coarse and we weren't bouncing off of recent literature. I'm sorry for that, but the rejection comments and several published articles gave me some ideas on how to do this new project in a better fashion. We're running two simultaneous nets, one at the base of a riffle and the other in what's now a glide but in summer will be more of a pool habitat with slower current. Rebecca's mission will be to describe and measure length and width of everything we catch so that we can quantify the energy input of the drift biomass. It's possible to calculate mass from these measurements using several algorithms, and knowing mass allows the calculation of the energy content of the drift. Luckily the new stereo microscope will make this possible by photographing everything and using the software to measure drift length and width. We'll make these collections on a seasonal basis, so as not to completely overwhelm Rebecca. I have a permit from the Forest Service to run the driftnets, with the condition we make sure that we're not trapping mussel glochidia in the drift.
Here's an upstream view of the creek today, with our riffle driftnet just about dead in the middle of the image. You might see the two dowels sticking up, or the white of the top crossbar of the net. A nice thing about Borden Creek is being able to drive the dowels in to a sandy bottom, unlike the Flint River.
Here's the downstream, "glide" site net in position in slightly deeper water. A pretty violent riffle starts just downstream from it, with whitewater running over some big rocks at the top of the riffle. Measured current velocity at this site was about 0.1 m/s, and flow at the upper site was about 0.25 m/s, both tame by the standards of the Flint River last winter.