Over the summer, I completed my first field season for my thesis research at the OSU F.T. Stone Laboratory in Put-In-Bay. My research focused on the combined effects of hypoxia and temperature on the predator-prey interactions between Smallmouth Bass and invasive Round Goby in Lake Erie. I was super excited to finally begin the interaction experiments I started planning in the summer of 2021 with my advisors, Dr. Suzanne Gray and Dr. Lauren Pintor. I arrived to Stone Lab in mid-May of 2022 and to say I was surprised when I saw all the tourists would be an understatement. However, it was fun to see the town bustling with people and having them visit the Aquatic Visitors Center next door to Stone Lab.
I began my research by organizing and setting up my holding tanks in the wet lab. Then I was able to do the fun part: collect fish. We captured Smallmouth Bass via boat electrofishing, which was so cool to see all the huge bass surface in the bay. We also saw Longnose Gar and Bowfin surface. We went seining to capture Round Gobies, but we weren’t very successful in capturing them via this method. However, we did catch one Tubenose Goby, which was neat to see but that means their numbers are increasing in Lake Erie. We decided to pivot from seining and try old school fishing, and we caught a ton of gobies very quickly off the dock in front of the Aquatic Visitors Center. Some of the gobies people caught were much bigger than I thought possible. I didn’t think they grew much bigger than 5-6 inches, but they definitely do. I also learned that Smallmouth Bass love to eat mayflies, so when the mayflies started to emerge, we would catch some and feed them to the bass in the holding tanks. It was fun to see them jump out of the water to eat the mayflies. The best part was starting my trials and watching the bass search for the gobies. Some of the bass were very aggressive and would actually push the rocks around. However, the very aggressive bass gave us some issues and would try to jump out of the tank, so we had to improvise and cover it when the trial wasn’t active.
Despite all the work I had to do, I was still able to enjoy myself and have fun with the other students and staff on the island, which made the experience even better. I was able to play on the island softball team, visit Middle Bass Island and eat the best pizza, have bonfires, join the downtown festivities, and catch a personal best Smallmouth Bass. I have to give partial credit to my boyfriend in catching the bass because he is an avid fisherman and helped me land it. One thing I have definitely missed is watching the sunsets from Peach Point — they are absolutely gorgeous! All in all, it was so much fun to be able to spend the summer at Stone Lab while conducting my research. To say the least, I am definitely looking forward to going back this coming summer. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in making my first field season a success!