NANFA-- 2004 NANFA Conservation Research Grant Winners

Bruce Stallsmith (
Sun, 14 Mar 2004 15:27:38 -0500

This year, the competitive annual NANFA Conservation Research Grant had a
total of $2000 available for awarding to the best proposal(s). Three hundred
dollars of this years total was contributed by members of the Potomac
Valley Aquarium Society for which we are grateful. We received a total of 16
proposals for review. The review committee, composed of Mark Binkley, Todd
Crail, Gene Helfman and Bruce Stallsmith, chose 2 of those proposals as the
best for advancing conservation goals and each winner will be awarded $1000
towards their proposed research project.

One of this years awardees is Richard Bush, a Masters student at the
University of California in Davis. Richard works in the lab of Peter Moyle.
His research proposal is entitled, Native Trout Conservation to Benefit
Californias Threatened Steelhead. The California steelhead is a federally
listed Threatened species and needs all the help it can get. The big
question Richard wants to address is whether juvenile steelheads utilize
small coastal estuaries in California on their way out to sea. Surprisingly
little is known about this utilization, and its important because many of
these estuaries receive little protection and are being degraded by human
activities. What really impressed the review committee about Richards
research is his proposal to study the juvenile life history of steelhead by
collecting and examining their otoliths (ear bones), bony disks in the
head. Otoliths grow on a daily cycle in fish and contain information on the
fishs age, and also what its been eating and where it has lived, and for
how long. The specific isotopic composition of different layers of an
otolith can be examined to reconstruct the fishs habits. By examining
enough otoliths, it should be possible to demonstrate whether or not these
juveniles pause and use the estuarine environment in their life cycle.

Our other 2004 awardee is Aaron Schrey, a Ph.D. student at the Fisheries and
Illinois Aquaculture Center of the University of Southern Illinois in
Carbondale. Aarons proposal is entitled, Genetic discrimination of pallid
and shovelnose sturgeon. The pallid sturgeon is federally listed as an
Endangered species, and at certain life stages can be confused with the much
more common shovelnose sturgeon. These species share the same habitat in the
Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Aarons work will characterize differences
in the DNA sequences in specific reaches of DNA called microsatellite loci
in each species DNA. Once completed, this genetic characterization should
allow individual sturgeons to be identified with confidence as one or the
other species. Sturgeons to be studied will come from the Missouri River and
the middle Mississippi River.

NANFA is proud to be able to make these awards. We hope both to support
crucial conservation research, and to support the development of the
researchers themselves so that theyll be better able to make future
contributions. This is part of NANFAs Mission, to promote practical
programs for [fishes] conservation and the protection/restoration of their
natural habitats. I want to thank all NANFA members for making the
Conservation Research Grant possible.

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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