NANFA-L-- Conservation Research Grant winners for 2006

Bruce Stallsmith (
Mon, 13 Mar 2006 11:22:55 -0500

I would like to announce the three winners of this year's NANFA Conservation
Research Grants. Each of the following three will receive $700 to support
the projects which are described below. 18 proposals were submitted for
review this year, a new high. All were interesting proposals that would
increase our knowledge of North America's aquatic systems and their
inhabitants. As with last year's winner, one of this year's awardees (Nick
Lang) is a repeat submitter. Each of the winners has agreed to write an
article for American Currents summarizing their findings in the next year or

This year's review committee for NANFA was Todd Crail, Bruce Stallsmith, and
Jeremy Tiemann.

Following are descriptions of the winning proposals:

* * * * * * * * * *

Nicholas J. Lang, St. Louis University, Missouri
An assessment of the impact of the invasive reed Arundo donax on the Rio
Salado River basin, Coahuila, Mexico, with particular emphasis on the rare
and endemic Rio Salado darter, Etheostoma segrex.
The Rio Salado flows through north-central Mexico and historically drained
the now-isolated Cuatro Cienegas basin to the Rio Grande. Above the mouth
of the Rio Sabinas, this stream is know as the Rio Salado de los Nadadores
and exists as a small to medium-sized stream flowing through a fairly narrow
valley. Habitat here historically included many gentle riffles that were
home to the endemic Etheostoma segrex. This species has been known since
the mid-1960s but was only described in 1997 (Norris and Minckley, 1997).
Although this species was common in the past, especially-in-the type
locality, recent attempts to locate specimens have been disappointing. The
most recent expedition by myself and Dr. Dean Hendrickson (University of
Texas, Austin) in March of 2003 was only able to collect a single specimen
in an entire days work.
The most obvious potential reason for the darters rarity was the very dense
stands of the invasive giant reed, Arundo donax. This species forms tall
thickets that aggressively encroach on the stream. Not only do these thick
stands take an enormous amount of water out of the recharge basin, they also
funnel flood waters into progressively narrower and deeper channels
(Iverson, 1994). This action has caused the destruction of many of the
wide, shallow riffles that were required habitat for the Rio Salado darter
and may have changed the temperature regime of the stream. Control of A.
donax within the Cuatro Cienegas basin is possible and initial steps have
been made to draft a control plan. Data are lacking, however, that will
show the relationship between the distributions of A. donax and Etheostoma
Together with Dr. Hendrickson, I propose to complete a detailed survey of
the Rio Salado de los Nadadores that encompasses the known historical range
of Etheostoma segrex as well as 5-10 km up- and downstream. We will record
not only the presence or absence of every species of fish-in-each site, but
also the depth, width, and velocity of the stream, as well as the extent of
Arundo donax infestation. This data will be used to identify factors that
allow the greatest amount of native fish diversity to survive in the
presence of A. donax. This information will be used to increase the
effectiveness of the limited funds available for A. donax eradication.

Brian Zimmerman, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Microhabitat use by the Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus)
This project is designed to develop a new method for making a model of the
critical habitat used by small stream non-game species for an annual cycle.
Although the redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus) was historically found in
11 US states and one Canadian province, it has drastically decreased in
abundance. This species is considered endangered in Michigan, Indiana, and
West Virginia and has threatened status in Ontario. It has also been
extirpated in Iowa and Maryland. In the remainder of its range it is
considered vulnerable, with the exception of Pennsylvania where it is
apparently secure. Each species fundamental niche is determined by
environmental factors that are critical to its maintenance in a habitat. In
the case of redside dace, according to Trautman, this species prefers the
cooler waters typically found in headwater or spring-fed streams. However,
these are summer requirements and do not address microhabitat needs during
other seasons. To ensure the future of this and other non-game species,
their habitats need to be thoroughly understood so restoration projects of
formerly suitable habitat can be developed with the intent to reestablish
locally extirpated populations.
Objectives: I propose to quantify microhabitat use by redside dace over an
annual cycle while developing a method that could be applied to other
imperiled species and conduct a laboratory study to determine thermal limits
for this species.
Description of work (methods, design, assumptions, constraints): Using
current Ohio EPA stream survey data, I have located four streams that
contain the largest populations of redside dace in the state. At each site I
will set up a half meter grid using marker flags, and in each half meter
square, I will quantify parameters for substrate type, depth, presence of
woody debris, and current velocity. These data will then be put into the Arc
GIS computer program to build site maps. These maps will include not only
in-stream habitat features, but also out-of-stream factors such as canopy
cover, riparian conditions, and gradient. I will return to the sites twice
during each season to document any changes in stream conditions (current
velocity and depth likely will be measured during each visit) and where the
redside dace are positioned. The edges of the grid will remain up for the
duration of the study so stream condition changes and the position of the
fish can be properly incorporated into the site maps. This will allow me to
discern what habitat features are being used by this species during each
season. I will use a combination of capture methods (seining/
electro-fishing) and visual observation. From my experience, because the
redside dace is visually striking and dwells near the surface proper, visual
identification will not be a problem. In addition, a year-long temperature
profile will be produced using Thermocron iButton data loggers (two placed
in each stream) to quantify the thermal conditions for these four successful
populations. Also, a lab experiment will be conducted on individual fish
using Bowling Green State Universitys environmental chambers. In these,
specimens will be maintained-in-various temperatures (with controls and
replicates) to determine the thermal limits of the redside daces ability to
survive and feed. Finally, I will identify potential sites for
reintroduction of this species based on my microhabitat results and
historical data that I am acquiring from the Ohio EPA and Dr. Ted Cavender.
Benefits: Not only will this project directly benefit the redside dace by
providing valuable information about their specific habitat needs, it also
will develop a methodology that could be used in the assessment of other
imperiled non-game small stream species. This project will also provide
grounds for starting a reintroduction project of a non-game species that has
been largely ignored.

Robert Hopkins, Southern Illinois University, Illinois
Investigation of Nesting Biology of the Stone Darter, Etheostoma
The Stone Darter was recently described as a new species. Eth. derivativum
occurs in the middle portion of the Cumberland River drainage (Kentuck and
Tennessee) and was originally treated as a disjunct population of the
Striped Darter, Eth. virgatum. There is no literature describing
distributional, status or life-history aspects of this species.
The primary objective of the proposed study is to describe the nesting
ecology of the Stone Darter. Aspects that will be investigated include: 1)
timing and duration of spawning season; 2) spawning habitat and conditions;
3) spawning substrate and nest characteristics, and, if possible, 4)
breeding behavior.
Benefits: The proposed study of Eth. derivativum will be the first to
investigate and document life-history and populational aspects of this
species. While the Stone Darter population seems to be stable in Tennessee
portions of the Cumberland River drainage, there are only 3 known localities
for the species in Kentucky. The unknown status in Kentucky, coupled with
the inadequate knowledge of the species biology has incited the Kentucky
Nature Preserves Commission to consider the fish for listing on a state
imperiled fishes list. Data generated in the proposed study could serve as
the baseline framework for further investigation of the distribution and
status of Eth. derivativum in Kentucky and, if needed, to develop
conservation and management strategies.

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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