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Volunteers Needed For Slackwater Darter Habitat Assessment

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#1 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 05:40 PM

Be a biologist for a day... volunteer to assist in the identification of suitable habitat for the slackwater darter in Madison County, Alabama, on Saturday, March 15, 9:30 a.m. ~ 4 p.m. Call Allison Bohlman at (256) 656-3334 for information and to sign up.

The Project:

We, at the Flint River Conservation Association with support of the World Wildlife Fund are investigating the Flint River habitat of the slackwater darter, Etheostoma boschungi, a native fish species of the Flint River Watershed that has been listed on the federal and state Threatened and Endangered Species Lists since 1977. It was first identified in the Flint River in 1969. Darters are small bottom-dwelling members of the Percidae family (Perches) and got their common name from their habit of darting from place to place.

Physical Description
Adult Size: 1.5 to 2.5 in. (40 to 60 mm)
Coloration: Dark bands, or saddles, across its back and dull orange undersides and a conspicuous blue-black vertical bar under the eye.
Breeding males display bright red-orange to orange-gold coloration on the underside of the head and body and blue-black on their back. Dorsal fin with blue to greenish band at base, reddish orange band in middle, and dark band on top edge.

Estimated life expectancy is 23 years. Hatchlings will grow up to 1.25 in. (32 mm) in length within the first year. Although highly dependent on rainfall, breeding season is typically January May. Schools of adults migrate together to spawning ground from January to mid-March. Spawning in seepage waters from overflowing streams and rivers occurs from March to late May.

Inhabit two distinctly different habitats: non-breeding and breeding habitat. Non-breeding habitat ranges from small to large slow-moving streams, and may migrate up to several kilometers to their breeding habitat. Their breeding habitat requires flooded lowlands (open pasture, semi-wooded, wooded areas) with spring-fed seepage waters adjacent to the small streams they have migrated along. It is in these flooded areas where they lay their eggs on the submerged grasses and aquatic vegetation (i.e. Juncos, Eleocharis, fescu, water-starwort). Thus, the reproductive success of this species is very sensitive to habitat conditions.

With support from the World Wildlife Fund, our goals at the Flint River Conservation Association are to 1) identify and preserve these highly specific breeding habitats 2) verify the continued presence of Slackwater darter populations in the Flint River and 3) enlist the local community to assist in our conservation efforts for this threatened species. The last survey of this species was more than a decade ago in 1995. We have created probability maps of potential non-breeding and breeding habitats combined with survey sites we wish to assess. With the support of community volunteers and landowners, we will make habitat assessments of the potential sites and at favorable sites we will look for the presence of the Slackwater darter.

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