Earlier this year, I met Ms. Laura Dugan during a Science Under the Stars event at the University of Texas at Austin Brackenridge Field Laboratory, and she talked with me about how the invasive Jewel Cichlid shatters native ecosystems.
Ms. Dugan is pursing a doctoral degree in biology, and she is studying the effects that the invasive species, Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis guttatus), is having on the native species, Minckley’s Cichlid (Herichthys minckleyi), found in Northern Mexico.
She invited me to help her with her research. I was a little nervous, since I had not worked on a university science project before, but I was looking forward to it because I thought that I could learn a lot and it could help in the fight against invasive species. Plus it sounded like fun too!
Rounding up the usual suspects
For two days last week, I worked with Ms. Dugan to collect both the invasive Jewel Cichlid and the native Cichlid from the field lab’s outdoor circular water tanks. These tanks were so big that I couldn’t put my arms around them even if I tried. Some tanks just had invasives, just natives, or a mixture of both. The tanks were covered with a net to keep fish from jumping out.
First, we put down the pipes for all the tanks so they could drain, and we turned off the inflow of water. We gave the tanks a few minutes to drain about 3/4 of the way down.
With the water drained, it was easier to catch the fish. We used larger nets for the adults and smaller ones for the babies, the “fry”. Both types of fish liked to hide in the algae, but they were no match for us. We caught a lot!
We put the fish in pickle buckets with water, and we wrote the tank number on blue tape that we stuck to the side of the buckets so we knew where the fish came from.
After we collected all the samples, we took the buckets back up to the lab building where Ms. Dugan started using them as part of her doctoral studies.
Ms. Jeanine Abrams McLean also volunteered to help Ms. Dugan. I met Ms. McLean earlier this year during her presentation at the Brackenridge Field Lab entitled, “Contagion: How Emerging Infectious Diseases Impact Amphibian Population Declines”.
Thanks, Ms. Dugan, for the wonderful opportunity to work with you and learn more about invasive species. I can’t wait to see the results of your research and to see you again at the next Science Under the Stars!