Repeat spawner series: “Winter: the forgotten study season”

At the Fisheries Blog, we’re starting a new series of posts, once a month, where we bring back “oldie but goodie” posts from our now extensive archive. Rest assured, these “repeat spawner” posts, smell a whole lot better than that leftover fish you found in the fridge from two weeks ago!

As we head into the traditional summer field season (in the northern hemisphere), we wanted to remind our readers that field work is also important in winter, too! Please enjoy this “repeat spawner” post from guest blogger, Michelle Lavery, from February 2015:

A beautiful, -26°C or -15F° day on the Little Southwest Miramichi River.

For many hydrologic regimes of the world, streams and rivers are ice covered for the majority of the year, yet minimal research is conducted during this period compared with the more “researcher-friendly” open-water period. Without a doubt, scientific progress is hampered by the logistical difficulties and high cost associated with conducting “winter” research. (Prowse, 2001 (part II))

It seems as though every winter ecology paper contains some variant of this sentiment – we know that winter is important, but we’re not crazy enough to study it. As researchers, we’ve built sampling regimes that ignore an entire season because winter is harsh and unforgiving. It’s cold, sharp, and sometimes deadly to us, and so we operate under the assumption that the same goes for the creatures we study.

Alas, it is not so. There’s a lot going on under the snow, and even more going on under the ice. For example, Atlantic salmon eggs incubate in the gravel under river ice in Eastern Canada for six frigid, snowy months at water temperatures barely above 0°C. They emerge from the gravel during the spring melt period, when ice jams bulldoze forests and water levels climb metres in minutes. These tiny fish are at the mercy of a dynamic and unpredictable season, and we barely know anything about it.

As a pampered girl from ‘tropical’ Toronto…click here to continue reading the original post!

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