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What Endangered Species for Conservation Project?


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#1 justastudentfornow

justastudentfornow
  • NANFA Guest

Posted 30 April 2020 - 08:39 PM

Hello all, 

 

I'm new to this forum, so if I'm doing stuff wrong just let me know, mods. I'm a first-year Biology student at my university, and I'm looking for topics for an undergrad research project. My primary interest is freshwater ecosystems, and I have a pretty solid background in aquaria. Naturally, my idea for this project is to create a captive-breeding & research program for an endangered species of fish. I'm currently researching what the best candidates would be; I've got plenty of fish from Asia (mainly Betta species) but would appreciate some feedback from you guys on natives!

 

So, what are some North American fish that are particularly threatened/understudied, and can benefit from ex-situ research and conservation? 

 

So far my biggest candidates from NA are the Spring Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma alabamae) and the Blackbanded Sunfish (Enneacanthus chaetodon). 

 

Thanks!



#2 UncleWillie

UncleWillie
  • NANFA Member

Posted 01 May 2020 - 07:09 AM

Welcome!  For clarification, are you wanting to acquire endangered species and attempt establish a breeding program?  Or are you just wanting to develop one on paper for endangered species?  The former will be very difficult, whereas the latter is certainly a good topic to research.  The spring pygmy sunfish is federally listed as threatened, but the blackbanded sunfish is not a listed species.  I think exploring a captive propagation program for rare species (or species with patchy distribution) will be more attainable than trying to get your hands on federally listed species.  I encourage you to check out CFI and explore their webpage. https://www.conservationfisheries.org/.  They have successfully captured, raised, spawned and reintroduced rare species.  These have ranched from pygmy sunfish and killifish to madtoms, darters, and redhorse.

 

When starting your research into which species you'd like to do, be sure to address these things: 1) what is a need/purpose, 2) is it feasible to breed them, 3) is it feasible to stock/reintroduce them, etc.  

 

 


Willie P
Roswell, GA


#3 justastudentfornow

justastudentfornow
  • NANFA Guest

Posted 01 May 2020 - 11:36 AM

Welcome!  For clarification, are you wanting to acquire endangered species and attempt establish a breeding program?  Or are you just wanting to develop one on paper for endangered species?  The former will be very difficult, whereas the latter is certainly a good topic to research.  The spring pygmy sunfish is federally listed as threatened, but the blackbanded sunfish is not a listed species.  I think exploring a captive propagation program for rare species (or species with patchy distribution) will be more attainable than trying to get your hands on federally listed species.  I encourage you to check out CFI and explore their webpage. https://www.conservationfisheries.org/.  They have successfully captured, raised, spawned and reintroduced rare species.  These have ranched from pygmy sunfish and killifish to madtoms, darters, and redhorse.

 

When starting your research into which species you'd like to do, be sure to address these things: 1) what is a need/purpose, 2) is it feasible to breed them, 3) is it feasible to stock/reintroduce them, etc.  

 

 

 

Thanks, this is all very helpful! I do want to start a breeding program for an imperiled species, specifically one that can be collected and studied in aquaria by recreating its natural habitat- essentially a biotope aquarium. I've come across CFI while reading Joel Sartore's Photo Ark, I should definitely reach out to them! To follow up, how exactly would I get my hands on federally protected species? Surely there must be some kind of license, or appeal that has to go through USFWS. If this isn't possible, perhaps the blackbanded sunfish would be a good choice for a U.S. native. The IUCN lists it as Near Threatened, and I found a couple other sources discussing its declining population and habitat loss/fragmentation. 



#4 centrarchid

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  • NANFA Guest

Posted 01 May 2020 - 12:10 PM

I would look into methods that promote effective population size of fish actually breeding after the initial stocking. Most breeding efforts I have seen start with a limited number of brood fish, get only some of those to produce good broods, then stock immature fish that have huge mortality rate before start of breeding season making so likely a small portion of fish started with actually contribute to newly founded population.

 

I would strive for more consistent spawning success of the brood fish harvested from source population(s) and getting fish to be stocked to quality breeding size and ready to breed immediately upon release. That way, even if stockers have poor long-term survival, there is still good chance they will be represented as founders of that first age class that can adapt to new location starting from conception.

 

Most stocking efforts I have seen started with immature fish at least one growing season before first reproduction.

 

Another approach may be having hatchery with lots of quality adults produce spawns that could be successfully transported prior to swimmup. That is done with some commercially produced minnows and could be done with sunfishes where they is not care after swimmup.

 

The Banded Pigmy sunfish could be used as a surrogate for the Spring Pygmy. I think the pygmy sunfish clan would work well for either approach. I also think pond reared fish needed to be compared to tank / aquarium reared fish. 


Find ways for people not already interested in natives to value them.

#5 Casper

Casper
  • NANFA Fellow
  • Chattanooga, TN alongside South Chickamauga Creek, just upstream of the mighty Tennessee River.

Posted 02 May 2020 - 03:40 PM

I don't know where you live and thus convenience but a visit to CFI in Knoxville, TN would certainly be advantageous.

 

There are a lot of North American native fishes that could use additional research.

 

In selecting a fish specie i would suggest one from your own region which would offer many advantages.

 

Join NANFA and your project would make for good reading in our quarterly publication, American Currents.


Casper Cox
Chattanooga, near the TN Divide on BlueFishRidge overlooking South Chickamauga Creek.

#6 Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe
  • Board of Directors
  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 03 May 2020 - 02:31 PM

Seriously consider changing your name.  There is no value in calling yourself 'just a student" around here.  Many very smart people here are not even students, we are just hobbyists that volunteer our time and interest in native fishes.  You should be proud to be a student... if we all acted like students for longer in our lives we would no doubt learn a lot more and be better for it.

 

With that being said, you are already getting good advice, but I would say that as an undergrad, you will have much more luck using a surrogate species for your efforts.  This is a strategy that CFI has used in the past... learn how to breed a similar but not endangered species... then apply the learnings to the actual species of interest.

 

Also agree with the idea of looking at something that is local to you... hyper native is the way to go whenever possible.


Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#7 UncleWillie

UncleWillie
  • NANFA Member

Posted 04 May 2020 - 06:59 AM

I'll second Michael's suggestion for finding a surrogate species for your study.  Perhaps find a species local to you that might have similar life history to an imperiled species, and then extrapolate to make some inferences on how a breeding program similar to what you came up with could be applied to an endangered species.  So pick a species with potentially similar feeding habits, habitat habitat use, reproductive strategies, etc.  For instance you could spawn a Notropis minnow species and use your findings to make suggestions for captive propagation of Cape Fear shiner, a listed species.

 

Each U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permitting and field office is different, but for me getting and maintaining a permit for federally listed species has been a long process.  I have a permit to collect several fish and mussel species, which took about 12 months to receive.  A few years back, my renewal for that same permit took over 22 months.  Now I have applied for an additional half-dozen or so fish species and I am 8 months in with no end in sight.

 

So I suggest either finding a surrogate species, OR find an "at-risk" or potentially imperiled species (like you mentioned) that is local to you and doesn't yet have a protective status.


Willie P
Roswell, GA


#8 centrarchid

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Posted 04 May 2020 - 07:53 AM

I also suggest a surrogate species


Find ways for people not already interested in natives to value them.

#9 Hecklad

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  • NANFA Member
  • Ooltewah, TN

Posted 04 May 2020 - 07:34 PM

If it is legal to have them, Fundulus waccamensis might be a good species to work with as they're iucn listed as vulnerable, but not federally listed as far as I know.

If this is wrong someone please correct me

#10 justastudentfornow

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  • NANFA Guest

Posted 05 May 2020 - 05:11 PM

Wow guys, this is all great stuff! I'm definitely looking into the use of surrogate species now, honestly didn't occur to me before. Doing that would really expand the possibilities of what could be achieved with such a project. I'm pretty new to doing this kind of formal research- looks like I got a lot more reading to do! I'm still deciding on species, and right now I'm not even sure if I'll stick to a native one. If I do, I'll definitely look into American Currents once I get some good results. Thanks everybody :)

 

And to Michael- that's a great way of looking at things. Guess the name's gotta go. Believe me, I have an immense respect for hobbyists. Part of the inspiration for this project was seeing a bunch of information about tropical species discovered and recorded by fish keepers that the scientific community- well, at least at my university- was completely unaware of. Seeing the IUCN have a two-sentence vague description of a species, while some guy on Reddit posts a multiple-paragraph essay on his first-hand experience with them, is a sign that everyone could benefit from having such information move more into the light. Science is all about collaboration, and so is conservation. Hopefully this project can show that too. 



#11 Dave Neely

Dave Neely
  • NANFA Member
  • TN

Posted 06 May 2020 - 09:04 AM

If it is legal to have them, Fundulus waccamensis might be a good species to work with as they're iucn listed as vulnerable, but not federally listed as far as I know.

If this is wrong someone please correct me

It's got Special Concern status in North Carolina, so take within the state would be a misdemeanor. Transport of said specimens outside of NC would be a Lacey Act violation and would make it a Federal offense...

 

To the OP -- I've got a paper that you might want to read before you take any of this on. Drop me a PM and I'll send you a pdf.



#12 justastudentfornow

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  • NANFA Guest

Posted 06 May 2020 - 05:55 PM

It's got Special Concern status in North Carolina, so take within the state would be a misdemeanor. Transport of said specimens outside of NC would be a Lacey Act violation and would make it a Federal offense...

 

To the OP -- I've got a paper that you might want to read before you take any of this on. Drop me a PM and I'll send you a pdf.

PM'd! 



#13 Hecklad

Hecklad
  • NANFA Member
  • Ooltewah, TN

Posted 06 May 2020 - 06:24 PM

It's got Special Concern status in North Carolina, so take within the state would be a misdemeanor. Transport of said specimens outside of NC would be a Lacey Act violation and would make it a Federal offense...


I appreciate the clarification. I am certainly not trying encourage any illegal possession.



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