Reaching Out: Notes from NANFA's Regional Outreach Program - Summer 2004
By Charlie Nunziata
Your Outreach Program representatives are having a banner year. Activity levels are up, and with the impetus of our recent convention, new interest should be expressed in the form of new members.
Jenny Kruckenberg, our Minnesota representative, is the focus of this issue's report. Each year she applies for a permit to collect up to 75 darters from Cannon River, Belle Creek, tributaries of the St. Croix River, and Square Lake. The permit excludes gilt, crystal, sand, and any other endangered, threatened, and special concern darters. After the collections are made, Jenny files a report with the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Research Manager in St. Paul. The report cites the locations visited, the conditions observed, the species collected, and the names of the attendees. This report is required by the end of January in order to qualify for a new permit.
In addition, Jenny is required to notify several Regional DNR Enforcement and Fisheries Supervisors in advance of the planned trips. Not surprisingly, collectors are not allowed to sell, barter or convert to private use the fishes collected. Since the permit is only good for the month of May, at least two outings (weather permitting) are planned. It's difficult for Jenny to construct a firm schedule, so she contacts likely participants as the collecting time draws near. Her invitation letter recommends supplies and gear for the trip, expected weather conditions, and other relevant information.
Although the invitation goes out to NANFA members all over Minnesota, many live too far away to attend, and the members in academia are often loaded with grading finals that month. As a result, just a few NANFA members typically attend, but these are joined by members of the Minnesota Aquarium Society (likely recruits for NANFA once they collect their first darter). Jenny reports that many aquarium society members have never held a seine net or seen a darter before. It must be great fun to introduce them not only to this marvelous activity, but also to the beautiful world of native fishes.
The darters commonly collected include johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum), banded darter (E. zonale), fantail darter (E. flabellare), rainbow darter (E. caeruleum), Iowa darter (Etheostoma exile), slenderhead darter (Percina phoxocephala), logperch (P. caprodes), and blackside darter (P. maculata).
Jenny's work is an example of the Outreach Program at its best. Virtually every goal of the program is met in this activity: contacts with the professional and environmental communities; liaison with local organizations that may provide future members; introducing the uninitiated to the joys of collecting; and increasing the awareness and appreciation of both our native fish fauna and the NANFA organization. We should consider Jenny's region a prototype for the rest of the Outreach Program. Great work, Jenny. And thanks.
Meanwhile, in the desert southwest, Peter Unmack tells us that the next Desert Springs Action Committee / NANFA trip will be to Ash Meadows on October 8-9. Peter may be able to arrange transport from airports for out-of-towners interested in helping maintain an imperiled desert aquatic habitat.
Finally, our recently introduced NANFA Contact program has received support from several members. We are still working out the logistics of the website listings. Once they are in place, contact between NANFA and the regions should increase accordingly.
For those of you who may have missed the information on the Contact Program the first time around, we have established the position of NANFA Contact as an adjunct to the regional representative. Its purpose is to provide information to visitors, when requested, about NANFA and the native fish and their habitats in your local area. The goal is to extend the NANFA message by providing multiple points through which people can learn about us. By becoming a NANFA contact, you can contribute in a meaningful way to NANFA's future success with only a small investment of time. If you're interested in helping, contact me or your regional representative.