Carterville FWCO Leads Field Sampling with Future Biologists
BY JEFF STEWART, CARTERVILLE FWCO
In early October Fish Biologist Jeff Stewart and Biological Science Technician Allison Lenaerts of the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) led a stream fish sampling and identification field trip for the Wildlife Biology classes from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. This was the fourth year that Stewart has led the fish sampling module in a weekend field trip that Associate Professor Dr. Tim Carter presents each year. Carter introduces his students to many aspects of wildlife biology including sampling techniques and identification of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds as well as the fish module.
We met the caravan of students and their professor at Green Creek in Union County, in southern Illinois. This access on Green Creek is a popular spot for field trips with lots of folks because it has safe and easy access and is a diverse and fairly healthy upland stream.
I say "fairly healthy" because during the course of the last two years we have discovered that this stream and indeed most of the Clear Creek system has been invaded by a non-native minnow species called the Bleeding Shiner. Bleeding Shiners are widespread and common in adjacent Missouri upland streams but are not previously known to reproduce in Illinois waters. In 2013 we collected about 20 Bleeding Shiner specimens at this same site. This year there are hundreds, they appear to have become the most abundant fish species next to the Central Stoneroller in Green Creek. This is of course an important real world lesson for the students. It is unclear at this time what impact this non-native minnow species will have on the fish community of this system but as with most introduced species the effects on the native species are likely to be negative.
Fortunately we were able to capture most of the expected native fish species as well, and the students enjoyed taking turns seining and picking fish and invertebrates from the net. We presented both the physical and the life history characteristics of the fish species that were caught. The students were able to experience several different seining techniques and observed numerous native fish species. As usual the Ball State students had many compelling questions about the fish that were captured and we look forward to doing it again next year with a new batch of aspiring wildlife biologists.