Helping out some folks in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue, especially Casey Day and Sarah Meronk (a Masters student with Dr. Patrick Zollner and an undergraduate with Dr. Liz Flaherty, respectively) I headed out on a beautiful May morning to electrofish along streams in northwest Indiana. So what’s electrofishing? In our case, this meant that a small boat with only a generator and an electrofishing unit mounted on it was pulled along by Dr. Reuben Goforth, while another student slowly moved the electrofishing wand in an arc in the stream. The rest of us walked behind, wearing waders and rubber gloves (as insulation against getting shocked), scooping up stunned fish with nets and setting them carefully into a collection bucket. Within minutes, the fish recover from the shock, so time is of the essence. The purpose of this exercise was twofold: to identify species that could potentially be part of river otter diet, and to collect tissue samples for isotope analysis (so the fish could be identified to species if present in river otter poop). We also noted river otter sign (tracks), so we confirmed that they were in the area. We also climbed over a beaver dam, so they are also present. Overall, it was a very productive day. The best part of electrofishing is sampling fish that you might otherwise not have known were lurking under submerged branches, especially the non-game fishes that are not typically caught via angling. I found that,
once again, my polarized sunglasses were a huge help in helping me see beneath the surface of the sun-dappled water. I also managed to get through the day without dying or miscarrying, despite being 4 months pregnant, I’m sure all you other lady scientists out there are shocked by that news, right?