Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011IN314B

Habitat Use and Movements of Shovelnose Sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, in the Wabash River, Indiana

Institute: Indiana
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $10,803 Total Non-Federal Funds: $21,605

Principal Investigators: Reuben Goforth

Abstract: The shovelnose sturgeon (SNS, Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) is the only sturgeon species that still supports a sustainable commercial fishery in North America. Despite its importance as a source of roe for the caviar industry and generally high abundance in larger rivers of the Mississippi and Missouri River basins, few studies have described the species ecology in the Wabash River. There is also recent evidence that SNS may be a sentinel species for the Wabash River because its preferred habitat appears to be significantly different from all other fish species. However, recent listing of the middle Mississippi River SNS population as federally threatened will likely result in greater commercial harvest in the Wabash River. Given that SNS likely fill a unique niche in the Wabash River and loss of this species could have serious ecological consequences, it is important to better understand the ecological and life history needs of this species to support sound management. This includes knowledge of habitat use both within and outside of the spawning season. My lab has conducted some studies of movements and spawning habitat use by SNS in the Wabash River using surgically implanted acoustic transmitters. These data have allowed us to begin addressing the specific habitat needs of SNS in the Wabash River, although many questions remain. An opportunity exists to increase understanding of Wabash River SNS movements and habitat use by creating a low-cost, value-added project whereby SNS movement data will be collected primarily using infrastructure and labor associated with an existing project to track Asian carp (Hypopthalmichthys spp.). To make this possible, I am seeking funding from the IWRRC to purchase additional tags for shovelnose sturgeon to be tracked in 2011 in association with the ongoing Asian carp movement project. I am also seeking modest undergraduate technician support to allow my lab to conduct several float trips down the Wabash River to more explicitly determine SNS habitat use during the non-spawning season.