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Electrofishing at Prairie Ridge Ecostation

May 26, 2018

This blog post is brought to you by Richa Patel, Prairie Ridge’s YAIO summer intern.  Richa will complete her degrees at NC State in aerospace engineering and political science this fall.  Thanks Richa!

On the beautiful, warm morning of May 23, volunteers and staff gathered at Prairie Ridge Ecostation for an exciting event: it was time to survey the creek! Prairie Ridge is home to a small stream that, thankfully, despite the past day’s heavy rain, still remained accessible and rich with fish.

This morning, staff members who work in the Ichthyology (or fish studies) Unit, Gabriela Hogue and Lindsay Abrams, helped lead the event. After we all switched into rubber boots and walked down to the stream, their intern Connor Neagle put on an impressive looking battery backpack. This, they explained, was to help us catch fish.

YAOI Intern Connor Neagle wearing backpack generator for electrofishing.  Photo by Richa Patel.

This super cool technique involved using the battery on Connor’s back to create a current that passed through the positive (anode) and negative (cathode) electrode rings on the end of the rods he’s holding. Those rings are placed into water and, when the battery is turned on, the field of electricity the device creates in the water causes fish to swim towards the anodes before becoming stunned and floating belly up. No worries! This paralyzation only lasts for a few seconds, just enough time to nab the fish, before the fish are up and swimming again.

(Note: Don’t try this at home! Our staff members are trained professionals with the proper permits to legally electrofish.  Recreational use of electrofishing is both illegal and dangerous.)

A fish is netted in the water.

A fish is netted in the water.  Photo by Richa Patel.

Quite a few fish were snagged during this event, with Gabriela and volunteer Bryn Tracy (the creator of the aforementioned backpack battery) doing an excellent job teaching us about each type of fish, key identifying factors, and interesting sets of behavior. Citizen Science Unit staff member Chris Goforth, our resident aquatic bug expert, also wowed the group with bugs she found during the expedition: mayflies and damselflies and even her first dragonfly at the creek!

Paralyzed fish are collected from the stream when the generator is turned off.  Photo by Richa Patel.


Gabriela Hogue, the Museum's fish collection manager, shows off a creek chub.

Gabriela Hogue, the Museum’s fish collection manager, shows off a creek chub.  Photo by Richa Patel.

The fish are so interesting, they deserved their own post. Want to know more about some of the fish living in the Prairie Ridge Ecostation stream? Make sure to check our next blog post: Which Fish Are In the Prairie Ridge Creek?

Thank you to all of the volunteers and staff members who came out and made it a fun, educational morning. Cool stuff is always happening at Prairie Ridge Ecostation!  Keep up with events on the Museum’s event calendar or our Facebook page.

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