Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Nekton sampling at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region, August 19, 2014
Print Friendly Version
Female Mummichog: Rachel Carson NWR’s largest mummichog of 78 mm!
Female Mummichog: Rachel Carson NWR’s largest mummichog of 78 mm! - Photo Credit: Toni Mikula/ USFWS

Run! Run! Run, while holding a throw trap over my head! As I approach the edge of the water, I thrust the trap away as far as possible and watch. The throw is good! My reflexes kick in and I jump into the salt marsh pool to secure all corners of the trap into the mud. A dipnet is handed to me. Swoop! What interesting critters have been caught? Mummichogs, sticklebacks, shrimps, silversides, crabs, eels, or all of them? I can’t forget to measure the water depth, salinity, and temperature. Why am I doing all of this?


The Land Management and Research Demonstration (LMRD) team is doing nekton sampling throughout Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge’s salt marshes this summer. Data from nekton surveys are used as part of a comprehensive salt marsh integrity assessment to determine current conditions and monitor future changes of our salt marshes. Salt marshes provide important ecological services: they provide wildlife habitat, act as buffers to hurricanes and tropical storms, and filter contaminants from water. Sea-level rise could flood these marshes and disrupt their ecological functions. Healthy salt marshes have a better chance at surviving sea level rise. Monitoring changes of the salt marsh can help scientists discover management strategies that will help maintain or restore salt marshes.

The health of the salt marsh can be assessed by looking at the abundance and diversity of nekton. Nekton are free swimming marine organisms; whales, tuna, shrimp, etc. The nekton that we catch are the much smaller fish, shrimps, crabs, and eels. Fundulus heteroclitus, mummichogs, are the most common nekton species caught. Mummichog presence indicates healthy vegetation and their abundance are indicative of salt marsh production. In turn, mummichogs are food for predatory fish like striped bass, bluefish, flounder, cod, and other game and commercial fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  has been conducting SMI surveys along the East Coast from Maine to Virginia since 2012. With help from Hurricane Sandy funding the Service plans to finish surveys by 2016. Results from these surveys will be used to determine future management and restoration activities in our vitally important salt marsh ecosystems.

For more information contact:
Susan C Adamowicz, LMRD Biologist
Rachel Carson NWR
(207) 646-9226 ext. 31

Contact Info: Brittany Forslind, 2076469226 ext 31, brittany_forslind@fws.gov
Find a Field Notes Entry

Search by keyword

Search by State

Search by Region

US Fish and Wildlife Service footer