So far, this has been the most interesting week in the REEU program. Taylor and I fully dove into our research project, and began this by setting fyke nets in the pond at Martell and ponds in Purdue Wildlife Area. On Monday, we started with the pond in Martell, and the setting of the nets went swimmingly. Also, on Monday, high schoolers interested in learning about science and nature in general arrived. All of the REEU undergrads and some grad students participated in icebreakers, including the frozen T-Shirt challenge. The frozen T-Shirt challenge forced us to team up and try to unfreeze a knotted T-Shirt by any means necessary. Our team utilized the nearby Indian Creek, but unfortunately our efforts were not enough, and we came up short.
Tuesday was the most eventful day, and we also had the high schoolers observing and helping us that morning. For the high schoolers, we showed them the process of pulling a fyke net, and then collecting/measuring the fish. However, snapping turtles incorporated themselves into this process, and this led to a show for the high schoolers. In the first net that Taylor and I pulled out of Martell, there were two snapping turtles, and hundreds of green sunfish. We quickly had to get the sunfish in a bucket of water so that they would not die, but we also had to be wary of the turtles rummaging through the net. Eventually, we managed to get the fish in the bucket, but the snapping turtles were still caught in the net. In order to properly handle the situation, we had to pull the net to shore, and attempt to get the turtles out. After tirelessly positioning the turtles to get out of the small slit at the front of the net, we, along with the counselor for the high schooler’s Emily, were able to get both the turtles out. Unfortunately, this was not our last encounter with a snapper that day, as we had to repeat the process to get a turtle out of our third and final net. While the snapping turtles were a struggle, we caught over 500 green sunfish that morning, so we were very happy about that.
On Tuesday afternoon, Taylor and I placed the fyke nets at our three sites in PWA, and hoped that we would get some fish. Unlike Martell Pond, we weren’t sure how many fish are in the PWA ponds. On Wednesday, we went to retrieve the nets and our first net had nothing. However, our second net had an array of leeches, large crayfish, and two black bullheads. The black bullhead was a great discovery for us. Our final net had yet another surprise for us, another snapping turtle, and the largest yet! We requested the help of our grad mentor Lizz, and members of the herps group Mae and Maggie. We were able to guide the turtle out, and we were relieved it would be the last turtle we would have to deal with for the week.
We also conducted water quality tests at each of the sites over the course of the week. Part of these tests were E.Coli and total coliform count tests. Our first site at PWA is next to a hog farm, and we hypothesized that this would have a large impact on the water quality at the site. So far, it looks like this assumption is very true, as that site had way more coliforms present than all the other sites. It will be very interesting to see how it compares statistically after we do our full analysis. Overall it was a very successful week of data collection, and it was good to get our feet wet. There were many interesting moments, and it is clear that you never really know what will happen during field work. In the next week we will be testing Indian Creek and seeing how wastewater effluent affects the aquatic community. Also, it will be fun to use the backpack electroshocker, and collect a wide variety of fish species from the streams. While the ponds have been interesting, we did only collect one species at each of the ponds, and we are expecting a much more diverse pool of specimens from the streams. Hopefully these assumptions are correct!
Pulling net from the water