Monday, November 21, 2011

Lake Sturgeon Sampling

During the week of November 14-18, Kathlina and Sarah (husbandry intern) were privileged to join TWRA, USFWS, UT Knoxville, and TVA in a lake sturgeon sampling effort on the Ft. Loudoun Reservoir/Tennessee River in and near Knoxville. Two commercial fishermen from Alabama also helped with the effort by showing us their techniques. We set trot lines each evening (Monday through Thursday) and pulled them up every morning to see what we caught.
We baited the lines with chunks of common carp, buffalo, gizzard shad, and earthworms. The gizzard shad and earthworms were not popular with the lake sturgeon but seemed to be enjoyed by a whole lot of catfish! (Several hundred catfish were caught as by-catch during this effort.) We didn’t just see catfish, however, as this sampling effort yielded a record 27 lake sturgeon!!! These fish ranged in age from 1-11 years old and were up to 42 inches long! It was a wonderful experience and yielded much needed data about the size and survivability of the lake sturgeon that have been released over the past 11 years. We can tell how old the fish are by how we mark the fish before release.

Each year, a certain scute (bony plates on the side of the body) is removed from each individual. For example, 2003 year class fish are missing the 4th scute on the right side. Many of the sturgeon also have PIT tags, which are imbedded under the skin of the larger fish we release. We can scan fish with a PIT tag to give us a unique identification number. From these tag numbers, we are able to look up exactly when and where the fish was released.

Once all of this information is compiled, a map will be created to illustrate where and how much the fish are moving in the river. Any sturgeon that was not already PIT tagged was given a tag with a unique number in anticipation of future recaptures. What an exciting study to track the progress of this long-term project!

Thanks to everyone who was involved for all of their hard work in the rain and cold! For more pictures visit our Facebook page!!/pages/Tennessee-Aquarium-Conservation-Institute/151884801512568

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Southeastern Fishes Council meets in Chattanooga again!

Last week TNACI hosted the annual meeting of the Southeastern Fishes Council, where scientists and students share their research on the conservation of southeastern fishes. It’s also an excuse for fish nerds to get together for a little bit of fun! The conference lasted for two days, and we were very happy with a turnout of over 190 people!

Thursday morning started with a great presentation from our keynote speaker Dr. Eve Brantley from Auburn University. She spoke about the importance of partnership for stream restoration, even severely degraded streams through agricultural areas (but don’t call them ditches in front of Eve!).

From left to right, Eric Spadgenske (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Eve Brantley (Keynote Speaker, Auburn University), and Anna George (Director of TNACI).

Presentations began after the keynote speaker, with sessions lasting around 2 hours. During those sessions, scientists and students gave 15 minute presentations on their research. Between sessions there was much coffee drinking and socializing. Here’s a secret for those of you who don’t know…scientists need coffee to survive.

Coffee break after morning session.

On Thursday evening, after all the presentations, SFC and TNACI hosted a social and poster session at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Poster session and social at the Tennessee Aquarium

Like with the student talks, there was a competition between the students for who had the best poster.

John Johansen talks about his research.

There was also delicious food.

Casper Cox and Robert Hrabik

And a silent auction for original artwork of southeastern fishes drawn by Joe Tomelleri.

On Friday, the presentations continued. The winners of the student poster and presentation contests were also announced that afternoon.

Left to right: Loren Stearman, Brook Fluker, Mark Hoger (presentation winners), John Johansen, Laura Stewart, Matthew Wagner & Zach Martin (Chris Yates not pictured), poster winners

All in all it was a great weekend. We here at TNACI had a great time and we look forward to seeing everyone next year in New Orleans!

TNACI Staff left to right, Sarah Candler, Evan Collins, Ashford Rosenberg (Kathlina Alford not pictured because she’s behind the camera!)