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Fieldwork

Integrated Science in the Suwannee River Estuary


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map of Florida, highlighting Suwannee River study area on Florida's Big Bend coast
Suwannee River study area.
At the end of Florida's County Road 349, beyond the reach of cellular telephones, lies the Suwannee River estuary. Unlike familiar embayment estuaries, a shallow limestone shelf and oyster reefs create the low-energy environment of this unique estuary. The Suwannee River is one of the least disturbed rivers in the Southeast United States. The estuary and surrounding marshes are nursery, feeding grounds, and refuge to countless fish, crustaceans, and invertebrate species; they are also home to the threatened gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi).

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s Florida Integrated Science Centers (FISC) are conducting a project to identify and map essential fish habitat in the shallow nearshore of the Suwannee River estuary. The project combines mapping with multispectral imagery, hydrologic modeling, and an evaluation of fish assemblages in the tidal creeks.

Field teams set out in thick fog to collect fish samples and groundtruth data during March 2003. A USGS team from Gainesville, FL, including George Dennis, Bob Lewis, and Steve Walsh, joined the USGS team from St. Petersburg, FL, Carole McIvor, Randy Edwards, Ellen Raabe, Keith Ludwig, Gary L. Hill, and Chad Stout (USGS contract employee through ETI Professionals).

Gary L. Hill, Randy Edwards, and Carole McIvor (USGS, St. Petersburg, FL) return from collecting fish in the Suwannee River estuary. Carole McIvor works with George Dennis and Bob Lewis to locate rivulets draining the surface of the marsh at low tide. Chad Stout, Randy Edwards, and Keith Ludwig  empty fish from a seine net to a collection trap.
Above right: (Left to right) Gary L. Hill, Randy Edwards, and Carole McIvor (USGS, St. Petersburg, FL) return from collecting fish in the Suwannee River estuary. Photograph by Ellen Raabe.

Above center: Carole McIvor (USGS, St. Petersburg, FL) works with George Dennis and Bob Lewis (USGS, Gainesville, FL) to locate rivulets draining the surface of the marsh at low tide. Rivulet nets are set up to capture fish that use the surface of the marsh for feeding and refuge during high tide. As the water ebbs during low tide, the fish are trapped in the net. Photograph by Ellen Raabe.

Above left: (Left to right) Chad Stout (ETI), Randy Edwards, and Keith Ludwig (USGS, St. Petersburg, FL) empty fish from a seine net to a collection trap. Fish from the tidal creeks are identified, measured, counted, and released. They are typically small fry, 0.5 to 1.5 inches long, and might include juvenile spot, flounder, and baby blue crabs. At this site on Bumblebee Creek, a 1-ft-long stingray was also trapped in the seine net. Photograph by Ellen Raabe.

The USGS teams pooled resources with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Steve Barlow for the field effort. Seine nets, throw traps, and rivulet nets were deployed to catch and identify fish species that use the creeks, seagrass beds, and marsh surface throughout the tidal cycle. Ground positions were annotated to identify substrate, water depth, submerged aquatic vegetation, and emergent vegetation. Braving fog and thick marsh sediment, airboat operator Bob Lewis mobilized night crews to collect the rivulet nets at low tide. The team plans to have a map of essential habitats and geomorphic and benthic conditions this fiscal year.


Related Web Sites
Center for Aquatic Research Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Gainesville, FL
St. Petersburg Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), St. Petersburg, FL
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

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Suwannee River Estuary

Research Ecologically Sensitive Islands in the Bering Sea

Outreach Track Florida's Manatees Via Web Site

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Meetings Saltwater Intrusion and Coastal Aquifers

Gas Hydrates CODATA

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Staff & Center News New Chief Scientist for Western Coastal and Marine Team

Mendenhall Fellows Lecture in Reston, VA

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May Publications List


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