If you say "I don't" or "I can't" or "They won't", you end up jaded and mostly
hopeless like a certain Irate man who'd rather just say "you'll probably fail"
instead of determining if you will or won't. But we all know he's just gonna
You don't have to be the expert. No one starts out the expert. And I've met
a few experts. Many are real aholes and aren't usually interested in much
other than their accomplishments and _opinions_ ;)
Since science no longer functions on opinions... If you understand stats,
you're a good part of the way there, you'll understand the underlying themes
in experimental design. But you don't even have to do that, because each
published paper has a methods section that lays out exactly what was done.
You can just copy their methods. The real tough part is time, and is what
humanity seems to be running short on in a couple different ways.
So let's say you decide you'd like to categorize the food sources for speckled
dace in 4 watersheds within 60 miles of your home. First thing to do is to
find out if someone else has done it. The fine people-in-Google have made
this incredibly easy for you, as they've indexed the links-in-Google Scholar
which compares your search phrase to titles, and sorts (ranks) them according
to the number of times articles have been cited. So, in essence, the
consciousness of the primary literature has already defined what other
articles are pertinent to new ideas.
The url for this website is http://scholar.google.com/
I had an interest in speckled dace 5 minutes ago, so I found the scientific
name is Rhinichthys osculus, and I was interested in their food habits. So I
put the phrase "Rhinichthys osculus food habits" and viola (you already know
how to do this), I have this citation from Copiea that looks like this:
Food Partitioning among Fishes of the Virgin River
Paul D. Greger, James E. Deacon
Copeia, Vol. 1988, No. 2 (May 18, 1988) , pp. 314-323
Food partitioning of one introduced and six native fishes was investigated
from two different sites in the Virgin River. Replicate benthic samples from
riffle areas indicated that chironomid and simuliid larvae composed the major
food base available to fishes. Relativized electivity values suggest that
chironomid larvae were nearly always selected over simuliid larvae by all
species. Stomach analysis revealed seasonal inter- and intra-specific
differences in diets. Desert and flannelmouth suckers fed on a mixture of
sediment, detritus, filamentous algae and invertebrates. Roundtail chubs
consumed largely Spirogyra, Cladophora and diatoms. Woundfin and spinedace
were omnivorous, consuming an array of benthic and drift animals and plant
matter. Speckled dace and red shiners were insectivorous, consuming large
numbers of small dipterans. Food overlap among native fishes was uncommon,
occurring in a biologically meaningful way on only four (7%) of the 55
possible occasions. Biologically meaningful food overlap (>0.60) between the
exotic red shiner and native fishes occurred on four (25%) of the 16 possible
Now, if I was-in-school, I could just get the pdf, which I'm more than glad to
do for people. You can do the same by going to the library-in-a local college
or University. Don't be intimidated. Anyone can use these resources, esp the
state university libraries. YOU PAID FOR IT.
>From here... You have a method to do this, you see there aren't other food
studies from your particular watersheds (I would search them specifically
though) and where are you-in-now?
Well, you know that in the Virgin River (where ever the heck that is) speckled
dace were insectivorous. You'll probably also find out what proposed methods
of extirpation are, and how and why someone else thought looking-in-the lower
trophic levels in this stream were worth spending their grad student's hours.
You may also find references to Indexes of Biological Integrity and so forth
that will give you-in-least genus names on specimens you would find in your
Now you're also stopping-in-the home improvement store to get some vinyl
screen, some pvc (for poles), maybe stop-in-the grocery for some mason jars,
white paper labels, and a couple bottles of isopropyl alcohol. Now you can
voucher what you catch, label the jar (with an id number in your spreadsheet
that has all that water quality data you also took), and store it so that if
someone gets interested in what you're doing... You can go back and verify
what you identified.
In the mean time, you can get a magnifying glass or a cheap microscope and
start learning how to ID those bugs you brought home. Before long you have
this whole reference collection.
>From there, you begin to ask questions. Questions turn into hypotheses.
Hypotheses turn into tests. Tests turn into data. Data turns into evidence.
You're now doing science.
Oh... And then you happened to throw a seine in while you were bug hunting and
observed what species of fish were present. Now you have a data set with some
And only 13 minutes later...
I think I remember you saying you were into photography. This is where it's
just keen. Get photos of things you can't ID. People love to tell you
something when they know it. Post them out on the web and see who drops in.
I still get emails about some juvie redfin shiner pictures that I have
labelled "UNID'd Minnow" on a page from 2002 that I never updated. I can
usually ID a redfin from 30 feet away now, only 4 seasons later... But you
never know where that networking is going to lead. So I never bothered to
update it :)
Well, I'm sure you get the idea-in-this point.
From: owner-nanfa-l-in-nanfa.org on behalf of Jerry Baker
Sent: Fri 2/24/2006 5:55 PM
Subject: Re: NANFA-L-- Speckled Dace - Where Oh Where
Todd D. Crail wrote:
> These are questions that probably need answered more than a look-in-life
> histories of the specific species. No food, wrong environment,
> in lower trophic levels... no spawning, no adults. Simple as that. No one
> can say hum about what you're doing, and you're still making a contribution
> to the success of the species.
I don't have the training or experience to make a determination about
their diet. They have been extirpated from almost everywhere except for
a couple of sites, so it's hard to draw inferences. The only thing I
know very well is water chemistry and fish husbandry along with a knack
for statistics. I want to contribute where I can, but I am in no way
qualified to design and implement meaningful measurements of other
associated aquatic species. I suppose I could go see how many I see and
report that along with water conditions. I dunno.
Thanks for the encouragement.
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit http://www.nanfa.org Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
/ consistent with the guidelines as per
/ http://www.nanfa.org/guidelines.shtml To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get
/ help, visit the NANFA email list home page and archive at