What’s it eating? In the fishing world, whenever a fish is cleaned for the frying pan, inevitably the curious fisherman will take a few seconds to remove the stomach and see what the fish was eating. Minnows were dinner last night? Time to get out the Rapala. Damselflies and mayflies? Break out the flyrod tomorrow evening. In fisheries research, scientists are also interested in what the fish are eating to better understand their biology and the ecosystem in which they live. How can we see what they ate without dissecting them? We pump their stomachs! Continue reading
In a past life, I worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service outside of Washington, D.C. Interested in protecting habitat to improve fishing and other ecosystem services, we set out to conduct the largest ever assessment of US estuaries. Estuaries are the mixing zones where rivers flow into oceans. They are dynamic ecosystems, and support teeming fish and wildlife populations. One of their most important functions is to serve as a nursery for young fish. Hiding in seagrass or mangroves is a lot safer than swimming with tuna for a little fish, and there are plenty of food sources for these fish during the early part of their lives. After they grow up in the ocean, fish like Striped Bass, Atlantic Salmon, King Salmon, Steelhead, and others swim through estuaries on their way to spawn. This makes estuaries a critical transition zone for many commercial and recreational fish species.