Electrofishing gives students look at fish diversity

Tobie Blanchard  |  4/14/2015 9:13:57 PM

A. Raynie Harlan, a research associate in the LSU College of Agriculture’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, returns from taking a group of students electrofishing on Lake Maurepas. The students, from left, are Ryan Gary, Matthew Repp, Geoffrey Rhode and Aaron Christie. Christie is securing the anodes that are used to send electrical currents through the water and temporarily stun the fish. (Photo by Tobie Blanchard)

Samantha Lott, a master’s student in the LSU College of Agriculture School of Renewable Natural Resources, scoops up fish while electrofishing on Lake Maurepas. (Photo by Tobie Blanchard)

LSU College of Agriculture students Morgan Ducote and William Budnick seine for fish at a boat launch on Lake Maurepas while their classmates electrofish on the lake. Associate professor Mike Kaller (left) looks on with other students. (Photo by Tobie Blanchard)

News Release Distributed 04/14/15

RUDDOCK, La. – With Lake Maurepas standing in for their classroom, LSU College of Agriculture students in the School of Renewable Natural Resources boarded a boat equipped with a generator and anodes. The anodes send electrical currents through the water to temporarily stun fish.

The students were “electrofishing,” which is used to sample fish populations in an area.

Matthew Repp, a senior from Vermilion Parish studying natural resource ecology and management, was in the first group of students to go out on the water.

“We did a type of method where we would continually shock and move through an area so we could get a lot of variety of fish,” Repp said.

The students netted fish that came to the surface and brought their catches to shore to be identified and counted.

Electrofishing offers a broader view of the diversity in the water than fishing, said Ryan Gary, a junior from Baltimore, Maryland, studying natural resource ecology and management.

“Out here I get to see the larger ones that you don’t catch, the smaller ones, the bait fish, the forage fish. It really brings it all together to see what all is in the water, not just what you are targeting,” Gary said.

Associate professor Mike Kaller teaches the course, which covers quantitative techniques in habitat, water quality and fish population assessment in freshwater ecosystems. The class features hands-on activities that help the students learn the skills of their professions.

“We do stream and river sampling through electrofishing and seining. We do habitat management exercises. We do aging exercises to understand how fish are growing in different environments,” Kaller said.

Many of the fish were returned to the water. Others were brought back to campus for additional lab work.

“It was a really cool experience because we’re learning about sampling fish; learning about collecting fish,” Repp said. “And this is one of the most exciting and energetic, I’d say, methods of collecting fish.”

Electrofishing is a common scientific survey method and does not permanently harm the fish.

Tobie Blanchard
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