Though water and electricity are not usually a good mix, the combination is one of the best methods for collecting fish and determining their health. The electricity stuns them long enough to allow them to be scooped up in long nets, measured and tossed back.
“The integrity of the Center Hill Dam has been compromised and as the engineers fix it, everything downstream is changing and people want to know about it,” said Phil Bettoli, the primary investigator of the project and assistant leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, a joint effort between TTU, USGS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“The Army Corps of Engineers hired us to do the assessment of what is going on in that fish community now, but when they finish their repairs to the dam, they may go back to the way they used to operate the dam which is going to change the fish community again. We want to be able to predict what’s going to happen then.”
As engineers pump concrete into areas where the water has eroded the limestone into which the dam was built, a team of TTU researchers is collecting fish on the river at five locations below the dam. They have been there for two years and will be there for the next year and a half, working with two grants worth nearly $300,000 from the Army Corps of Engineers.
In the nearly four years that the dam repair has been underway, the biologists have found that the ecosystem has gotten healthier. The engineers have used a small gate that releases water and also aerates it at the same time, providing more dissolved oxygen for the fish and insects in the river. Also, water is being released on a more regular basis to lessen pressure on the structure, which provides a more consistent environment for the organisms living downstream.
“The dam was built for two main reasons; for electricity and flood control,” Bettoli, who is also a professor of biology at TTU, said. “They didn’t think about wildlife habitats in the 1940s when they built this. Now, you can’t ignore it.”
Researchers from a team of more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate students can be found on the river during all four seasons, at all times of the day. They are found either in a small flat-bottomed boat equipped with a small generator and long probes that run an electric current through the water, or wading through the river themselves with packs that generate electricity on their backs, nets in hand.
“I wanted this job because a lot of rivers are having the same issues the Caney Fork is,” said Tomas Ivasauskas, a TTU graduate who is working on the project. “If the engineers weren’t pumping the concrete in, the whole dam would have been compromised.”
Once the study is complete, their work will also provide a baseline of information for dam operators, as well as the TWRA, which manages a popular trout fishery on the river and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is interested in the impact of the work on the Cumberland River and its endangered mussel populations. With the knowledge, they will be able to monitor the effects of the dam on the river and change their operations, if necessary.
Nearing the end of the first two-year grant, the team is getting ready to present its research. Studying fish populations below dams is difficult because researchers must alter their schedules to work around the various times the dam is generating power. Biologists also tend to consider dammed rivers to be artificial ecosystems; many native species are often killed off when a dam is built and other, nonnative species move in.
“There’s not a whole lot of this kind of work going on in North America under large hydroelectric dams,” Bettoli said. “The thinking was that people were not interested in the biotic integrity of radically altered systems. We expect a lot of questions and interest from our peers.”
Lori Shull | Newswise Science News
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
30.03.2017 | Studies and Analyses
30.03.2017 | Life Sciences