Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

1998 Report of Region 2 - Southeast
Relative to the status of Etheostoma trisella, Bud Freeman (University of Georgia, UGA) was accompanied during summer 1997 by personnel of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to the powerline route that crosses the Conasauga River and many of its tributaries. TVA corrected the soil erosion and sedimentation construction mistakes that had occurred as a result of contractor activities. These actions will help reduce the ongoing impacts of erosion associated with the powerline crossing. However, the riparian canopy has been removed for approximately 100 feet on each bank where a crossing occurs and will not be allowed to grow back, thus adding to the cumulative impacts affecting the Conasauga River and its fauna. The effects of the construction on the emphemeral tributary that is the second known spawning site of Etheostoma trisella are at present unknown. All of the riparian vegetation has been removed along an approximately 150-foot reach in the central portion of this stream. This will accelerate evapotranspiration and may result in dessication of the stream occurring earlier each year than normal. Etheostoma trisella was also recently taken from the main channel of the Coosawattee River. Further surveys are being conducted by Bud and researchers from UGA in the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosawattee rivers as part of the tri-state water study.

Research and artificial propagation of the robust redhorse continues. The hatchery rearing program was relatively successful last year. Cooperators released approximately 25,000 "phase-1" robust redhorse fingerlings into the upper Broad River (Savannah River drainage) during October and November of 1997. Fish hatcheries in Georgia and South Carolina participated in last year's rearing activities. Consistent results from the hatcheries are still elusive, so more research will be focused upon early survival and rearing. Personnel of the Georgia Power Company collected an adult robust redhorse from the Savannah River near Plant Vogel during October, while conducting routine sampling for contaminant analysis. The fish was brought back to the McDuffie hatchery after several long distance calls from the field. David Walters (UGA) was dispatched to photograph the specimen and collect a tissue sample for genetic analysis. The fish, a large female, was tagged and released in the vicinity of its capture. The annual robust redhorse conservation committee meeting was held the last week of October 1997 at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) headquarters in Social Circle, Georgia. This meeting was well attended and included representatives from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

A small group of state biologists from Georgia and Alabama, USFWS biologists, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) cooperative-research unit biologists from UGA have met twice concerning the status of lake sturgeon in the Coosa River. Sampling began in February in an effort to collect individuals of this elusive species. A public outreach campaign conducted by the GADNR in northwest Georgia has resulted in several verbal records of lake sturgeon caught since the 1960's, along with a home video filmed in 1962 and a photograph from 1980 of a sturgeon purported to have been collected from the Oostanaula River system. Bud Freeman has examined these photographs and identified them as lake sturgeon.

Bud, Gerry Dinkins (3D/International; Knoxville, TN), and Steve Walsh (USGS; Gainesville, FL) are evaluating the distributional status of lampreys in Georgia, stimulated in large part by recent collections of substantial amounts of material through surveys for the Georgia Department of Transportation and miscellaneous other studies.

Steve Walsh reports that proposed titanium oxide mining by DuPont adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp is an issue that is currently under extensive public debate. DuPont hired a nonprofit organization (named Resolve) that specializes in mediating environmental disputes through a "collaborative problem-solving process to help a diverse, representative group of stakeholders find a mutually-acceptable way of resolving controversy." A Core Group has been formed and several public forums were conducted last year. The U.S. Department of the Interior is boycotting the "collaborative" process, thus employees of the USFWS and USGS have been prevented from participating in the meetings that have ensued. Late in 1997, discussion focused on what might happen if there is no consensus among stakeholders, and efforts were being made to select technical expertise in evaluating potential consequences of mining. Although publicly claiming that it vows to do no harm to the Okefenokee Swamp, DuPont is clearly pursuing every avenue that would allow the company to proceed with mining activity on Trail Ridge.

Jan Hoover and Jack Killgore (Waterways Experiment Station; Vicksburg, MS) are studying spawning grounds and aquatic food webs at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Fish communities there are diverse and include several species of special concern, but fish densities are low and floodplain habitats are limited. Jan and Jack also reviewed wetland fish studies of the southeast in the newly published book "Southern Forested Wetlands: Ecology and Management (M.G. Messina and W.H. Conner, eds., Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton).

Jack and Phil Kirk recently completed a 7-year study of fish assemblages in once-weedy Lake Marion. They found that fish abundance was not associated with long-term declines in hydrilla, now controlled by triploid grass carp, because woody structure and other vegetation persisted. Phil and Jim Morrow, who studied population dynamics of Lake Marion grass carp several years ago, are continuing their work using newly collected otoliths to examine long-term changes in growth and mortality.

Effective at the end of December 1997, Carter Gilbert retired as curator of fishes from the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH), thereby ending the longest continuous reign of a distinguished ichthyologist at that institution. To celebrate this honorable occasion, Jim Williams (USGS) hosted an informal retirement party at his Gainesville home in late January, which was well attended by former students, various colleagues from throughout the Southeast, and assorted associates. A good time was had by all and a light "roasting" ensued following food and beverages. Dave Etnier (University of Tennessee, UT) humorously reminisced about the three things that first came to mind when thinking of Carter (use of a mudpack for sunscreen on his forehead, stripping to the buff in full public view on the highway through Cross Creek, and Carter's legendary frugality). Dave ceremoniously presented a gift in the form of a plastic dinner plate that Carter had used to devour $30 worth of food at a grad student reception during the Knoxville ASIH meetings; in awe, UT students had enshrined the dish for years to honor just such an occasion as Carter's retirement. The FLMNH is expected to advertise for a replacement ichthyologist sometime later this year, a search that will obviously be of great interest to the SFC.

Carter completed his long-awaited, edge-of-your-seat type catalogue of North American fishes, had it published (photocopied) through the newly-created "special series" of the FLMNH, and is offering it for sale at the bargain price (?) of $40; orders can be placed through Rhoda Bryant at the museum with checks payable to the University of Florida Foundation.

Noel Burkhead (USGS; Gainesville, FL) had major back surgery in early February and was out of commission at the time of the call for regional report information. Noel has been out of his typical convivial character for many months, and we hope the surgery will alleviate the pain and lead to a full recovery to good health; the SFC membership joins together in wishing Noel a speedy return to electrofishing in the Southern Appalachians and sharing his unique brand of humor with colleagues in the field and at future meetings. He promises (threatens?) a vigorous return to old form soon, so those that think they got off easy in this year's report better be prepared for 1999!

Jim Williams (USGS; Gainesville, FL) and field assistants completed fish and mussel collections in the Flint River drainage and mussel collections in the Coosa River drainage in fall 1997. This work was done for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and USFWS as part of the tri-state water project. Jim and crew also completed mussel surveys in the Yellow River drainage of Alabama and Florida last August as part of a project supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Leo Nico (USGS; Gainesville, FL) continued fish, mollusk, and crayfish surveys of the Avon Park Bombing Range (U.S. Department of Defense) in central Florida. Leo also conducted quantitative sampling at several fixed sites throughout south Florida as part of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment program. Leo continues focusing on several projects involving nonindigenous fishes and is nearing completion of a coauthored, comprehensive review of fish introductions throughout the U.S., to be published by the American Fisheries Society.

Frank Jordan has left his native turf at Jacksonville University for the Big Easy and is now employed at Loyola University in New Orleans; a collective rumble was reported to have reverberated through the entire global Jesuit community. Despite the change, he is still hyperactive in Florida with studies on seasonal variation in habitat use, size and age structure, and population genetics of marsh fishes in the Florida Everglades (with Joel Trexler; Florida International University, FIU), distribution, habitat use, and trophic ecology of fishes in oligohaline and tidal freshwater portions of the St. Johns River, experimental analysis of habitat selection by important estuarine fishes and invertebrates (with students Heather Soulen, Mark Bartolini, Stephanie Sanborn, and Joanna DeSalvo), and comparisons of food webs in enhanced and unenhanced portions of the Kissimmee River.

Howard Jelks (USGS; Gainesville, FL) has been converted to a permanent full-time federal employee. He and Frank are continuing their work with personnel of Eglin Air Force Base and USFWS on ecological studies of Okaloosa and brown darters. Howard is also working with Bob Lewis and Noel Burkhead on a general aquatic faunal survey of Eglin AFB. Howard and Noel also completed an experiment evaluating the effects of fine sediments on the spawning success of the crevice-spawning tricolored shiner last year, and hope to conduct similar studies on surrogate species of darters in the future.

Bill Loftus (FIU) continues to work on his dissertation research on mercury bioaccumulation in the Everglades National Park (ENP) aquatic food web. Together with Joel Trexler and other collaborators, Bill is also involved in empirical studies of aquatic community structure and dynamics in the seasonally variable wetlands of southern Florida. These projects include: analysis of long term aquatic animal databases; life history and population dynamics of the Everglades crayfish; experimental studies of population growth and predator prey interactions of fishes in ENP; population structure and spatial delineation of aquatic consumer communities in ENP; and surface water ground water interactions involving aquatic animals in the rocky glades habitat of ENP.

The relentless lure of northcentral Florida continues, as Gary Meffe relocated to Gainesville and began duties as Editor of Conservation Biology late last year. Gary has little to report on current research activities, but we all know that his attraction for exciting studies on lipid energetics of Gambusia is unlikely to wane.

Stephen J. Walsh