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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
VENTURA FWO: The Endangered Mohave Tui Chub:  Partnering to Achieve Recovery, Education, and Community Outreach or How Two Students Can Make a Difference
Region 8, June 1, 2008
Mohave tui chub (USFWS photo)
Mohave tui chub (USFWS photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Deppe Pond, future home of the Mohave tui chub at the Lewis Center. (USFWS photo)
Deppe Pond, future home of the Mohave tui chub at the Lewis Center. (USFWS photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Judy Hohman, Ventura FWO:

What is a Mohave tui chub and why is it endangered?
Historically, the Mohave tui chub (Siphateles bicolor mohavensis) was the only fish native to the Mojave River system in the Mojave Desert, San Bernardino County, California.  This 8 inch minnow probably evolved with no aquatic predators.  The Mohave tui chub is adapted to the alkaline lacustrine or lake-like habitats of the desert portion of the Mojave River (Snyder 1918).

The mid-to-late 20th century brought increased human development to the Mojave Desert and an increasing demand for water.  Settlers to the Mojave River watershed dammed and diverted water from the river and “stocked” the Mojave River, either intentionally or accidentally, with non-native fish and bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana).  Some introduced species preyed on the Mohave tui chub and may have brought diseases to which the Mohave tui chub had no resistence.  Another non-native fish, the arroyo chub (Gila orcutti), may have hybridized with the Mohave tui chub (Hubbs and Miller 1943, Miller 1961, Miller 1969).  Habitat loss and degradation plus possible hybridization with and predation by non-native species and the possible introduction on non-native diseases led to the extirpation of the Mohave tui chub in the Mojave River prior to 1970 (Service 1984, Debra Hughson personal communication).  Fortunately, the species survived at a few locations away from the main channel of the Mojave River.

The USFWS and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) listed the Mohave tui chub as endangered in 1970 and 1971, respectively.  In 1984, the USFWS approved a recovery plan for the Mohave tui chub (Service 1984), which calls for the establishment and persistence of a minimum of six populations of Mohave tui chubs within its historic range, each with a minimum population size of 500 fish each before considering downlisting the species to threatened.

Development of the Mohave tui chub project - the power of two high school students
In 2003, two high school students at the Lewis Center for Educational Research, Apple Valley, California, learned of the plight of the Mohave tui chub.  The Lewis Center’s Mojave River Campus spans both sides of the Mojave River and the classroom facilities are located adjacent to the river.

One of the focuses of the Academy for Academic Excellence, which manages the Lewis Center, is to study inquiry-based, experiential learning.  With the support of their science advisor, the students contacted the USFWS and CDFG with the goal of returning the Mohave tui chub to the marsh-like portion of the Mojave River on campus. 

In 2007, representatives of the USFWS, CDFG, and Mojave National Preserve visited the Mojave River Campus to learn about the students’ proposal.  Because of the threats to the survival of the Mohave tui chub if placed in the river (e.g., hybridization with and predation by non-native species, exposure to disease), the Lewis Center offered to place Mohave tui chubs in Deppe Pond, an on-campus pond isolated from the Mojave River.  However, Deppe Pond was too small to produce a self-sustaining population of Mohave tui chubs; it had non-native animals such as goldfish (Carassius auratus), bullfrogs, and mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis); the cattails (Typha sp.) were rapidly encroaching on the pond.  The Lewis Center proposed to rehabilitate Deppe Pond and create a larger extension of it, Tui Slough.  Deppe Pond with Tui Slough would be suitable to support a population of Mohave tui chubs, would be managed for the benefit of the Mohave tui chub, and would provide opportunities for student-led research.

The Mohave tui chub project
The Lewis Center, USFWS, and CDFG developed a partnership to implement the Mohave tui chub project.  In 2007, the USFWS provided partial funding to the Lewis Center for the project.  Through a Memorandum of Agreement, these three entities agreed to:

(1) Work cooperatively to create suitable lacustrine habitat in Deppe Pond and Tui Slough,  

(2) Manage and maintain Deppe Pond and Tui Slough for the benefit of the Mohave tui chub, and

(3) Develop an educational and outreach component for the students and the community to learn about the biology and status of the Mohave tui chub and actions they can implement to help this imperiled species.

(1) Create lacustrine habitat in Deppe Pond and Tui Slough

The students at the Lewis Center were asked to help develop and implement a plan to rehabilitate Deppe Pond and create Tui Slough.  To accomplish this assignment, the students drained Deppe Pond; developed and implemented the best methods to trap and remove goldfish, mosquitofish, and bullfrogs; researched then implemented the most effective techniques to reduce the density of cattails, and planted native non-invasive bulrush; and collected water quality data before and after filling Deppe Pond.

To create Tui Slough, a 120-foot well was drilled nearby to provide water for Deppe Pond and Tui Slough habitats.  A water distribution system was planned and installed.  The students helped design Tui Slough dimensions, based on those of the G-1 Channel at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station.  The site for Tui Slough was excavated and nearby roads graded to decrease runoff into the pond and slough.  After excavation, the students measured and described its geometry in preparation for a liner.  They tested water quality (e.g., temperature, pH, dissolved ooxygen, turbidity, etc.) of the well water to determine if it was within the range tolerable to Mohave tui chubs.

(2)  Manage and maintain Deppe Pond and Tui Slough for the benefit of the Mohave tui chub

The students will develop and implement a habitat management plan for Deppe Pond and Tui Slough and species management plan for the Mohave tui chub.  These plans will include measures to monitor and manage water quality, water quantity, and control non-native or invasive plant and animal species.  To monitor the Mohave tui chub population, the students will gather data on the Mohave tui chub population in Deppe Pond and Tui Slough (e.g., population size, population trend, time of reproduction, growth rates, etc.).  Both plans will be developed and implemented in coordination with the USFWS and CDFG.

(3)  Develop an educational and outreach component for the students and the community

The Lewis Center recently installed an aquarium display and a computer kiosk in its Technology Building to display Mohave tui chubs.  The computer will be used to educate students and visitors on the importance of regional watershed management (via a partnership with the Mojave Water Agency) along with the activities for managing and monitoring the Mohave tui chub.  The Lewis Center installed a web camera so other students, the community, and the world can observe Mohave tui chubs when placed in the aquarium.

The Lewis Center has purchased a permanent outdoor kiosk near Deppe Pond.  This kiosk will display information on the Mohave tui chub for the students and visitors to the campus to learn about the Mohave tui chub.

Two former students created a website on the Mohave tui chub:  http://www.lewiscenter.org/local/tuichub.php.  The site has information on:

         Life history information/publications

         Threats to the Mohave tui chub

         Legal and taxonomic status of the Mohave tui chub

         Data collected on the ponds and the fish at the Lewis Center

         Recent local newspaper articles on the Mohave tui chub and the Lewis Center’s conservation and education efforts

         A summary of and available literature about  the Mohave tui chub

         Photographs of Mohave tui chub population survey efforts, and the three locations where Mohave tui chubs currently exist

         Information about the other locations of Mohave tui chub populations

         Thoughts on re-establishment strategies and

         Historic and recent photographs of the Mojave River in the Apple Valley and Victorville areas.

Beginning with “A wish about a fish” the web site tells the story of how two students at the Lewis Center persisted to bring the Mohave tui chub and its story to the Lewis Center and the community.

Benefits of the Mohave tui chub project

 Bringing an endangered species closer to recovery: 

This project adds population number four to the six needed to downlist the Mohave tui chub according to the Mohave tui chub recovery plan.

Connecting children with nature:

Connecting people with nature is one of the USFWS’s six top conservation priorities.  An important subset of this priority is to re-connect children with nature to engage children in conservation and restoration efforts to give them personal empowerment that they can make a difference. 

The students at the Lewis Center will observe how the Mohave tui chub uses different areas of the ponds for feeding, shelter, and breeding.  In addition, they will observe how other species of plant and animals, from microscopic algae to great blue herons interact with and depend on the pond habitats.  The focus of this project is the Mohave tui chub, but the students are creating a lacustrine habitat with a myriad of interacting biotic and abiotic components.

Motivating and teaching students about science and the environment: 

The students at the Lewis Center have learned and will continue to learn about the needs of the Mohave tui chub.  They recently completed site visits to existing populations at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and Soda Springs where they assisted with trapping Mohave tui chubs to determine population estimates.  From this knowledge base, they have developed numerous questions.  Through experiential learning and application of the scientific process, they will collect data to discover new insights about the Mohave tui chub population at the Lewis Center including:

           Population status, trend, and health

           Growth and reproduction

           Habitat preferences, and

           Controlling non-native aquatic predators

The students developed and implemented a rehabilitation plan for Deppe Pond.

Connecting the community through partnerships:

The Lewis Center has a history of partnerships with many agencies and businesses.  However, this project required the Lewis Center to contact new entities and create innovative partnerships with local and national businesses and agencies to implement this project.  These partnerships include securing funding, discounted material costs, donated materials, and/or donated expertise.  See the Acknowledgements section below.  These agencies and businesses support the Lewis Center’s efforts to combine conservation and education through student-led-research, and hands-on experience to learn about and manage for the endangered Mohave tui chub.  As more people learn about the Mohave tui chub project, more are joining the partnership and the Mohave tui chub project.

Educating students and the community about how they can help the Mohave tui chub:

Through implementation of its outreach and education component, the Lewis Center will inform and challenge the students and the community on ways they can help the Mohave tui chub.  The Lewis Center will use the various tools for this project:  web site, blog, kiosk computer, aquarium display, and ongoing media articles, to remind students and the community of the plight of the Mohave tui chub and provide suggestions on how they can help.

Demonstrating how two students can bring change to the community:

Two students were interested in conserving the Mohave tui chub.  They shared this interest with their science advisor, and through contacts with the USFWS and CDFG, this interest spawned partnerships with a variety of agencies and businesses.  It became the Mohave tui chub project at the Lewis Center.  Other schools in the area learned recently about this project and have expressed interest in implementing similar projects on their campuses.

Literature Cited

Hubbs, C.R., and R.R. Miller.  1943.  Mass hybridization between twogenera of Cyprinid fishes in the Mojave Desert, California.  Pp 343-378.  Paper Michigan Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters 28: 343-378.

Hughson, Debra. 2008. Personal communication.  Mojave National Preserve, Barstow, California.

Miller, R.R.  1961.  Man and the changing fish fauna of the American southwest.  Papers Michigan Academy Science, Arts, and Letters, Vol. XLVI, pp. 365-405.

Miller, R.R.  1969.  Conservation of fishes in the Death Valley system in California and Nevada.  Cal-Neva Wildlife Transactions 1969:107-122.

Snyder, J.O.  1918.  The fishes of Mojave River, California.  Proc. U.S. Natural History Museum 54:297-299.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1984.  Recovery plan for the Mohave tui chub, Gila bicolor mohavensis.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon.  56 pp.

Acknowledgements

Molly Estes and Amanda Pearson

Catalysts for the project, Class of 2004, Lewis Center, Apple Valley, CA; Created “Tui Chub Home” at http://www.lewiscenter.org/local/tuichub.php

The Lewis Center for Educational Research, Apple Valley, CA

Science advisor, Matthew Huffine, creator of “Working with Mohave tui chub” a blog at http://lcermtcrefugia.blogspot.com/

PetSmart – Joanne Sherry, Events and Grand Opening Coordinator Phoenix, Arizona    Donated $400 for the aquarium display

For My Kids Construction or F.M.K. Construction, Oak Hills, CA; Excavated “Tui Slough” and graded the surrounding surfaces

Conco Construction, Apple Valley, CA; Building the “Tui Slough” dam at cost

CETCO Lining Technologies, Reno, NV – Lori Tockey Donating the Akwaseal ® pond liner

Mojave Water Agency, Apple Valley, CA  Funded 90 percent (about $25,000) of well installation

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Ventura, CA; Provided $25,000 to help with the project and expertise to help the students

Desert Studies Consortium, California State University, Fullerton, Zzyzx, California; Provided lodging and expertise to help the students

The agencies below provided expertise to help the students:

California Department of Fish and Game, Bishop, CA

Desert Discovery Center, Barstow, CA

Mojave National Preserve, Barstow, CA and

China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, Environmental Management Division, Ridgecrest, California

 

Contact Info: judy hohman, 805-644-1766 ext. 304, judy_hohman@fws.gov