Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Answers for Mrs. Renauldo's class

I received an email this morning from Mrs. Renauldo's 4th grade class in Delton-Kellogg, MI.

They are following the blog and had a few questions:

Do these fish only live in the six lakes in southwestern Canada?

These particular stickleback species only live in the 6 lakes in southwestern Canada. Their history is actually very fascinating! Their ancestors were marine (lived in the ocean)! There used to be glaciers over this part of Canada. When the glaciers started melting, the ocean level became lower. The marine ancestors got isolated (trapped) in little pockets of water on land. These pockets of water are now freshwater (not like salty marine water) and the stickleback species have adapted to this new habitat.

We also have stickleback species in Michigan! We have brook stickleback, threespine stickleback, and ninespine stickleback. Here is a website from the MI DNR about stickleback:

Are these species native or invasive?

These species are native!

Question for you!

We saw this pile of shells today along the shore when we were collecting stickleback. The pile was near a tree and some shells were in the water and some were on the ground.

Why do you think these shells are here?

Post a few guesses/hypotheses you have and we will post the answer at the end of our trip!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The never-ending travel day

Yesterday's travel was extremely long! We got up at 5am to catch our 7am flight from Lansing to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our flight from Lansing was delayed by about 1.5 hours, and we nearly missed our next flight to Vancouver. We had to run through the airport with our bags and just barely got to the plane before they closed the doors. Whew! So glad we made it.

Once in Vancouver, we met another researcher at the University of British Columbia, who helped us to pack up all the gear we would need on our trip. Some of things we packed included a yellow canoe, fish traps, nets, buckets, rain boots, and four big coolers that we will use to transport the fish from the lakes to the airport when we fly back to Lansing.

After we packed up our gear, we took 3 ferries up the coast of British Columbia (see map below). We finally arrived at our destination by 11:45pm Pacific time, which means we had been up for almost 22 hours!
Blue lines show where we took ferries. Red lines indicate our driving route.

This morning we got up early and put out fish traps at two lakes: Paxton Lake and Priest Lake (see map below). We caught some fish, but not as many fish as we were hoping to catch. Hopefully tomorrow will be even more successful.
The two lakes on Texada Island where we trapped fish today.


When you travel to Canada, you have to go through customs. You wait in a long line for a stern-looking officer to ask you to approach a booth and to present your passport and customs form.
When it was my turn to approach the booth, the officer asked what I was going to be doing in Canada.
I said, "I am traveling in British Columbia to study fish."
Then the officer asked me, "What specifically are you studying about fish?"
"I am studying the habitats and behaviors of two species of stickleback fish."
"Stickleback. They are small bait-sized fish."
"Why would you want to study them?"
"To understand what impacts biodiversity."
"Oh. Okay. Have a nice trip."

Just goes to show that you never know when you will need to explain your research to the public.

Celebrity homes!

Hello everyone, my name is Melissa and I am joining Alycia to help her with her field season this year. I have a lot of previous experience studying fish: I currently study juvenile bluegill behavior or "personality") and my degree in college was fisheries management. I love studying fish in lakes so when Alycia asked if I would help her I said yes!

Today was our first day in the field. I was so excited to get to see the lakes where these famous fish species live! I have heard many interesting facts about stickleback from researchers all over the country. These particular stickleback species are pretty famous in the field of biology so I felt like I was visiting the home of a celebrity! We set minnow traps in various habitats hoping to catch both benthic and limnetic species adults. We know these fish species have different habitat preferences but sometimes where we found them was not so obvious as to where they should be.
We found other cool things in the traps as well. The most fun were red-bellied newts! We also saw insect larvae of various types. Outside of the traps we have seen two bald eagles, three loons, deer, ducks, and MOSQUITOES (luckily they aren't biting us though)! Frogs are out and calling here as well! It feels like spring in British Columbia.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome to Fish Tales!

Here I'll blog about my trip to British Columbia, Canada to collect stickleback fish for my research at Michigan State University. I'll travel with Melissa, another GK-12 teaching fellow and scientist, who will also contribute to this blog.

At the right is a picture of the two species of stickleback fish we will collect. These stickleback fish live in six freshwater lakes in southwestern Canada.

There are lots of differences between the two species. One difference you can notice from the picture is that benthic fish are bigger than limnetic fish. The species also live in different areas of the lake. Benthic fish are bottom-dwelling and limnetic fish spend their time in open water.  The species also have different diets. Benthic fish eat small worms and insects that live in the mud along the bottom of the lake. Limnetic fish eat small organisms called plankton that float around in the open water. Both fish in the picture are males. These males are colorful when they are ready to mate. Benthic males are black and limnetic males have red throats and blue bodies. Male sticklebacks make nests and court females to deposit eggs in their nests. Then males care for the eggs and the fry (baby fish) that hatch. Benthic and limnetic males typically nest in different habitats. Benthics nest in the plants and limnetics nest in the open.
Benthic males (black) nest in vegetation. Limnetic males (red and blue) nest in the open.

Melissa and I will travel from Lansing's airport to the airport in Vancouver, Canada on March 27th.

Click on the picture to view full size.

Check back soon for more updates on our travels and research experience!