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Iowa State University to Study Topeka Shiner Habitat Restored by the Rock Island Field Office
Midwest Region, July 18, 2011
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Researchers from Iowa State University use a bag seine to sample a restored oxbow for the presence of Topeka shiners. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS
Researchers from Iowa State University use a bag seine to sample a restored oxbow for the presence of Topeka shiners. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS - Photo Credit: n/a
Researchers from Iowa State University use a barge shocker to sample the stream outside of a restored oxbow to determine what could colonize the oxbow in the case of a flood event. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS
Researchers from Iowa State University use a barge shocker to sample the stream outside of a restored oxbow to determine what could colonize the oxbow in the case of a flood event. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS - Photo Credit: n/a
Aleshia Kenney, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist with the USFWS, assists Iowa State University in sorting through fish obtained during an electrofishing survey of a known Topeka shiner stream. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS
Aleshia Kenney, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist with the USFWS, assists Iowa State University in sorting through fish obtained during an electrofishing survey of a known Topeka shiner stream. Photo by: Aleshia Kenney, USFWS - Photo Credit: n/a

The Topeka shiner, a federally endangered species, is the subject of an intense field study being conducted by Iowa State University from April to November, 2011.  

Topeka shiners are a small minnow-type fish that historically thrived in the prairie streams of the Midwest.   As the prairies disappeared from the landscape, so too did the wild, meandering prairie streams that dissected them.    Topeka shiners rely on these streams and the ephemeral and perennial floodplain wetlands that accompany them for survival and reproduction.   Topekas are known to leave the stream and enter the floodplain during flood events.  They seek out depressions in the landscape and stay there once floodwaters recede.   We know that reproduction occurs in these off-channel habitats, but there are several things we do not know, including when they enter/exit these habitats and what effects other fish, especially predators, have on Topeka shiners. 

Iowa State University is currently performing a study to help us understand what goes on in these off-channel habitats throughout the year.   They have selected 12 oxbows on three adjacent tributaries of the North Raccoon River for study.   Of these 12, five have been restored by the USFWS Rock Island Field Office to specifically benefit the Topeka shiner.  Each oxbow contains a stage and temperature logger, and data will be recorded throughout the year.  Flood stage was determined at each site, so that it will be known if and when the oxbow becomes connected to the stream.  All oxbows will be sampled with bag seines once a month from April to November to determine how the population of fish assemblages changes throughout the year and with stream connectivity.   The main stream channel will also be sampled monthly to know the pool of fish species that lurks outside the oxbow that may colonize it in the case of a flood event.    

We expect a lot will be learned through this study about Topeka shiners and the fish community dynamics of small stream oxbows.   The study will also examine the difference between restored and unrestored oxbows, and what makes one oxbow better for Topeka shiners than another.  This information will help biologists at the Rock Island Field Office determine where to focus Topeka shiner restoration as they continue to work toward recovery of this endangered fish. 


Contact Info: Aleshia Kenney, 309-757-5800 ext. 218, aleshia_kenney@fws.gov
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