Apr
08
2010

Sewing Beads on Fish

NCED researcher sewing beads on fish: University of Maryland researcher Eric Tytell sewing beads on fish.
NCED researcher sewing beads on fish: University of Maryland researcher Eric Tytell sewing beads on fish.Courtesy National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics
This past summer in the Outdoor StreamLab at the University of Minnesota’s Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), Kristan Maccaroni sewed red beads onto the backs of fish.

Kristan was doing research that may help predict the impacts that stream and habitat restoration projects have on individual fish.

Kristan is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota. She spent last summer working with Anne Lightbody and Fotis Sotiropoulos, both researchers from the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, and Eric Tytell, a University of Maryland researcher. The group was trying to understand whether commonly used stream restoration structures create water flow conditions that are favorable to fish.

To answer her question, Kristan attached multiple beads to individual fish so that she could see their swimming motions more clearly underwater. She released the fish into the Outdoor StreamLab and filmed the fish swimming. Afterward, she analyzed the video footage of the fish motions and counted tail beat frequencies. She reasoned that the fish were conserving energy when their tail beat frequencies were lowest.Beaded fish swimming in Outdoor StreamLab: Confetti flows on top of the water in the Outdoor StreamLab to help visualize fluid flow.  The white arrow points to a beaded fish.
Beaded fish swimming in Outdoor StreamLab: Confetti flows on top of the water in the Outdoor StreamLab to help visualize fluid flow. The white arrow points to a beaded fish.Courtesy National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics

Kristan and her fellow researchers are now planning to combine measurements of water flow velocity with measurements of fish position and tail beat frequency to understand fish energy expenditure under different flow conditions.
Thus far, Kristan’s work suggests that some fish species prefer to swim in deeper, slower water where their energy expenditure is likely to be minimized. Work that the researchers are planning will determine whether structures that are commonly used in restoration projects create water flow habitats that are beneficial for fish.

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