|Mudminnow habitat - Connor Creek, Grays Harbor County|
Even before we hit the road with our boots and nets, there was a lot of planning and collaborating for Roger to do. He and fellow biologists here at USFWS and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are working together to research documents and historic data to uncover places where Washington’s only endemic fish were found in the past. This saves us time and money, keeps us from driving to every pond and ditch that looks promising, and allows us to identify land owners so we can ask for permission to access and sample on their property. Once the ground work was done, Roger and I hit the road in search of the mudminnows.
|Roger Tabor looking for Olympic mudminnows|
in Steamboat bog
Even though our target is genetic samples, I cannot help becoming interested in the many differences and similarities between locations that mudminnows call home. All the sites were in very flat, barely flowing water with vegetation growing in the water and on the edges. We visited shady coastal creeks less than a mile from the ocean, sunny sphagnum bogs, lily-pad ponds, and wetlands at the corner of two busy roads. In some locations, our nets and traps caught up to four other fish species, giant water bugs (which still lurk in my nightmares), dragonfly nymphs, salamanders, frogs, freshwater mollusks (clams and snails), crayfish and more, while in other locations it seemed to be just the mudminnows and us.
For our samples, it’s a quick trip from biologist to geneticist and on to improving our understanding of the history and biology of mudminnow populations, painting a broad picture of how the mudminnows got to be where they are today, and possibly where they might be heading in the future. I, for one, cannot wait to see the results.
---Teal Waterstrat, STEP Student