Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
2002 Report of Region 1 - Northeast
The fishes unit at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences is plugging along and attempting to weather the state's massive budget shortfall. The struggle to curate and data base the tremendous backlog of collections which accrued from the combination of the UNC Institute of Marine Science, Duke U., and several other collections over the past few years continues, as well as trying to keep abreast of day-to-day acquisitions and requests. The most recent sizeable acquisition was Rudy Arndt's Stockton State University collection of fishes from New Jersey and other areas. With this accession added to previous, NCSM now has among the strongest representations of fishes from the middle Atlantic states, particularly New Jersey, Maryland, North and South Carolina, as well as West Virginia. The data base is fully modified and operational. Fish folks are especially proud of the NCSM drainage hierarchy (for U.S. & portions of other regions) data base and taxonomic data base which are linked to cataloging for quality control. Data based lots are approaching four thousand. Only perhaps another 80,000 or more to go! The outcome of an NSF proposal to support data basing fishes and other collections at NCSM is being anxiously awaited.
The outcome of the funding request is especially important as the fishes unit will be losing both of its technicians soon. Lynn Womack, after five years of service, has elected to pursue a career in teaching and will depart the unit at the end of April; she will be missed. The current temporary technician, Chris Wood, will depart in June to begin a masters program at Appalachian State. With the aforementioned state budget crisis, permanent positions are frozen so replacing one or both of these folks may be a long time in coming. Gabriela Hogue continues to do a sterling job of developing and managing the data base as well as the collections. Our former technician, Morgan Raley, who did doctoral work on molecular systematics of minnows and darters with Rob Wood at St. Louis U., has moved down the street to the NCSU Vet school where we have established, as a joint venture, a fledgling molecular lab to pursue biodiversity questions in the regional fauna. He has begun sequencing work with a few fishes, mussels, and land snails as funding permits.
As for research and field work, Wayne Starnes finally returned the post-review emended version of a large manuscript on historical analysis and biotic integrity of fishes in the lower Potomac near D.C. to be published in the Proceedings of Biological Society of Washington's historic series on Plummers Island area biota (a hanging project from Smithsonian days). He is collaborating with Joe Nelson and Mel Warren on a paper discussing and espousing the capitalization (it's coming, see below!) of fish names (for Fisheries journal) and is trying to pursue some other projects on both freshwater and marine fishes. But curatorial responsibilities stemming from the backlog and databasing effort weigh in heavily these days when added to other time demands. Field work this year will focus on a funded survey aimed at identifying fish hosts for an endangered mussel (the Carolina heelsplitter) and characterizing fish communities where they occur. Other work will be aimed at further surveys for the undescribed "Carolina Redhorse" and, hopefully, searching for additional populations of the Bridled Shiner, Notropis bifrenatus, which was recently rediscovered in a NC Division of Water Quality collection from the lower Neuse basin (known previously in NC from a single record in 1961). Funding for survey work and genetic studies work on both of these species has been requested.
There will also probably be another multi-agency assault on the Pee Dee River this spring seeking additional Robust Redhorse specimens. A total of three are recorded since 2000 between Blewett Falls dam in NC and Cheraw, SC. Several specimens of the rare "Carolina Redhorse" have turned up with Carolina Power & Light's fish monitoring efforts in Blewett Falls Reservoir, as well as one in the tailwater, yielding some optimism for persistence of this species in the Pee Dee. Otherwise, its only known stronghold is the lower Deep River, tributary to the Cape Fear in North Carolina. The existence of a reproducing population of Flathead Catfish was confirmed in that reach of the Deep this past year. The implications of this find with respect to the future of redhorses are a concern.
Some tidbits, several species, none surprising, have been recently documented for the first time from North Carolina waters (so far as known to us at NCSM). Collections from the upper Savannah basin in NC, connected with masters thesis surveys of Jason Robinson of North Carolina State University, yielded first vouchered occurrences in the state of the Blackbanded Darter, Percina nigrofasciata, a new Savannah basin record (in NC) for the Margined Madtom, Noturus insignis, as well as additional specimens of several species known previously only from very few specimens (e.g., Etheostoma inscriptum). Morgan Raley and Bob Jenkins may have the dubious distinctions of documenting the first western mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis, in NC as well as new basin and regional (in NC) record for Pimephales notatus from Hiwassee River tributaries.