Wading In Estill Fork Today, Catching Darters
We went out to Estill Fork today to collect darters to begin a project examining the coevolution of darters with their gill parasites, especially looking at tennessee snubnose darters. This will be based on sequencing parts of both host and parasite DNA, and comparing hosts from different areas who are putatively different species. Anyway, we're just starting with fish from Estill Fork as a pilot project. Today was a good day to get out, since it was in the 70s F and water temperature was 15 deg. C; we were able to wade without waders which is hugely convenient compared to dragging waders there and back. The first photo below is my colleague Luciano, who is new this year at UAH and has never gone darter dancing. I think he had a pretty good time helping to chase fish into the net.
The male darters were all in peak breeding color today. Especially fun was finding a whole bunch of blueside darters who were, indeed, lit up with electric turquoise blocks down their sides. But we didn't take any of them. Below is a male rainbow darter in peak coloration, and he's as big as any rainbow I've ever seen. It's a down and dirty shot without the fins spread out, but I hope you can appreciate his colors.
And here's a shot looking upstream with Luciano partially in the left, then Robert, and Jeremy in his new 2012 Science Olympiad t-shirt. Robert successfully defended his thesis four weeks ago, so you know he's in a good mood!
I talked to Casper from Chatt this morning. He asked me to look for edible morel mushrooms along the bank, since a friend of his collected some from nearby Hurricane Creek earlier this week. We looked along the bank but didn't see any morels. I think they prefer more undisturbed woods along a stream, and this part of Estill Fork isn't totally pristine in terms of land use (even though it's pretty good). But I will continue to look, even though they're probably going by.