Research collections are built through two primary avenues. Many specimens belonging to a single genus or family may be collected from a broad geographic area as part of a research project into the diversity, distribution, or biology of that lineage. Alternatively, specimens belonging to multiple lineages may be collected from a single place as part of studies into the diversity of a geographic region or drainage.
Our collaboration with the Ohio Division of Wildlife (https://obcp.osu.edu/) to assess the diversity of fishes in Ohio has followed both of these paths, exploring the distribution and genetic diversity of species of particular conservation concern across Ohio and capturing the diversity of particular rivers or drainages.
One of the “tricks of the trade” for our surveys has been to use diverse techniques. To make sure we have sampled all of the microhabitats within a waterway, we use everything from electrofishing to seines to trawls to snorkels.
This week we demo’ed a new net system in the Muskingum River and were pleased with the biomass and diversity of fish and other animals that we caught, including some HUGE flathead catfish as well as bycatch of softshell and snapping turtles. This is a new sampling method to us but has long been used by commercial fisherman and fisheries professionals alike. These nets will be part of our arsenal of methods as we establish baselines for the species diversity of the Muskingum River.
Our electronic database and tissue voucher collection means that we can record occurrence, size and abundance, and sample animals with the safest, most effective methods.
Most of the fish we catch are identified, measured, photographed, and released. Specimens belonging to species whose distribution, diversity, or identity are questioned and species not well represented in museum collections are brought back to the museum for further study.
A global database called “Fishnet” (http://www.fishnet2.net/aboutFishNet.html) integrates our database with those of other museums, making these collections visible, searchable, and accessible to scientists around the world.
About the Author: Dr. Marymegan Daly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and Director of the OSU Fish Division.