Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes
2002 Report of Region 6 - Southwest
Fish biologists in the southwestern region were responsible for a surge in habitat studies, and for the development of several databases during the past year. Several ventured beyond the confining taxonomic borders of traditional ichthyology to study aquatic organisms other than fish.
Henry Robison reports that he and Rudy Miller are working on a second edition of the "Fishes of Oklahoma" for University of Oklahoma Press. It will be in the same field guide style as the first edition in 1973, but completely updated. Rob is also working on a "Crayfish Database for Arkansas" for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and adding records to the Arkansas Fishes Database continually.
Steve Filepek, Darrell Bowman, Dave Evans, Stephen O'Neal, and Phil Penny, members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Stream Team, are evaluating angled rock vanes as a method for rehabilitating streams. Adapting technology from the US Army Corps of Engineers, hydrologists are working with fisheries biologists now to show how the use of upstream angled rock vanes, along with topical use of boulders, can be a significant tool in slowing bank erosion while providing instream fish habitat. Much less rock (a.k.a. rip rap) is used than in traditional stabilization efforts, streambanks are stabilized, currents can be redirected when necessary, while streambank cover and diversity are maintained and velocity refugia and feeding stations are established. Several of these upstream angled rock vanes have been used in Arkansas on various sized rivers with good results.
Biology students Mark Antwine and Jimmy Alley, along with faculty Frank Pezold, Peter Aku and Anna Hill, from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) are conducting field surveys of fish and freshwater mussel diversity for the Arkansas and Louisiana field offices of the Nature Conservancy in Bayou DeLoutre and Bayou Bartholomew. Surveys are under the auspices of the ULM Museum of Natural History. Mark and students Jamie Hardage, Valerie Alley, Brian Lynch, Amy Matthews, John White, Joe Schlossman are also working with David Byrd of the Kisatchie National Forest on a project studying fish-habitat associations in forest streams. In addition, Frank, Mark, and other biology students will be assisting the La Natural Heritage Program with a status survey of sensitive fish populations in north Louisiana. A review of the spinycheek sleepers (Eleotridae: Eleotris) of the Western Hemisphere has been completed with Bryan Cage of the University of Mississippi and is in press (Tulane Studies in Zoology and Botany). ULM undergraduate, Chris Davis, has been collecting morphological data on Western Hemisphere and West African species of fat sleepers (Eleotridae: Dormitator). Both genera have species native to oligohaline estuaries of the southeastern United States and may be obtained in freshwater. Peter Aku and student Li Yong are using stable isotopes to study the aquatic food web in an urban wildlife refuge, Black Bayou Lake, on the edge of Monroe.
ULM's extensive fish, reptile, and amphibian records (and specimens) have long been freely available to researchers, but soon those records will be even more readily accessible. All 77,000+ fish records of the ULM Museum of Natural History's Zoology Division are now in a computer database and the approximately 55,000 reptile and amphibian records are in the process of being entered. Substantial progress has been made with snakes, frogs and toads. Frank Pezold reports that he and his colleagues are developing a program that will allow online access to the fish records that will hopefully be in place by the end of this year. For access to the museum and more information, please visit the web site: http://www.ulm.edu/~pezold/welcome.htm.
One last item of note from ULM: Professor Emeritus Neil Douglas has updated his classic book "Freshwater Fishes of Louisiana." The update, written with Robyn Jordan as an article for this volume of the SFC Proceedings, is titled "Louisiana's inland fishes: a quarter century of change." In 1974, Neil documented 148 species in 22 families. According to his most recent account, 168 species in 25 families are now known from the waters of Louisiana. Neil has also been very active in the numerous field projects and in curating the many specimens collected with biologists from the Waterways Experiment Station (WES).
Six members of the WES Fish Team conducted active research in the region: full-time personnel Jack Killgore, Jan Hoover, Steven George, Bradley Lewis, and Catherine Murphy, along with part-time adjuncts Neil Douglas and William Lancaster. Sponsored by the U.S. Army Engineer District in Vicksburg, the WES Fish Team completed field studies of proposed habitat restoration projects in three streams that are degraded: Bayou Desiard, Louisiana, with noxious aquatic plants; Bayou Macon, Louisiana, by seasonal de-watering; and the Ouachita River, Arkansas (below Remmel Dam) by daily pulses of cold water. Weirs of different designs are being considered for these streams that will allow periodic drawdowns for plant control, provide pooling during low water, and create slower, shallow water to facilitate warming. With funding from the Corps of Engineers Ecosystem Management and Restoration Research Program, the WES Fish Team also continued studies of small floodplain pools of Bayou Meto, Arkansas Fish and amphibian assemblages there will be compared with pool communities in central Mississippi. Bowfin collected last year from a Bayou Meto floodplain pool were used in swimming endurance tests; they are currently retired from their careers as professional swimmers but their role in primitive fish research continues as growth rates are monitored in laboratory aquaria.
The WES Fish Team, with sponsorship from the U.S. Army Engineer Mississippi Valley Division, is also continuing studies of shovelnose and pallid sturgeons in the lower Mississippi River. More than 1200 sturgeon have been sampled from Memphis to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Data are collected on macro- and micro-habitats, fish size structure, morphomeristic characters, and most recently on food habits. A technique for safe and gentle gut sampling (i.e., colonic flushing) was developed and has proven very successful for obtaining fecal samples from which prey are identified and enumerated. Preliminary results indicate that in winter pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon both feed on caddisworms, burrowing mayflies, and larval midges, but that pallid sturgeon also consume large quantities of cyprinids.
Smaller streams of east Mississippi are also under study by the WES fish team. In cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, delta streams that were sampled for flood control studies in 1989-1994 are being re-sampled so that fish-based indices of environmental quality can be developed. Also, upland streams of the Yazoo Drainage are being sampled in conjunction with geo-morphological studies in an effort to relate the sediment transport dynamics and stream channel evolution to fish communities.