Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Maine DIFW Regional Wildlife Biologist Intern Week 9

March 13 - March 19 "Aging Otoliths and All the Data"

Fisheries experience in this internship is very coveted by me; as a wildlife biology major, I don't get to encounter fisheries things all that often. Everything I do in fisheries is something I've never done before and will likely be my only fisheries experience through my college career.

This week, we aged the pike, perch, and crappie from Sabattus Pond (back when I did the Creel Census in early February). This is done by removing the otoliths from just behind the skull, which are tiny bones that function as part of the ear in fish. Otoliths have rings throughout them, and each ring represents a year in the fish's life. Additionally, the cleithrum, a bone located behind the gills, can be aged in the same way. It's remarkable to me how many things in nature can be "aged like a tree". What if trees can be aged like cleithrums? Or otoliths can be aged like cementum annuli on bear teeth? Or can you age bear teeth like the annuli on turtle shells? All of these are technically correct, and also very useful in the wildlife world.

Scott Davis, one of the fisheries biologists at Sidney, has been around in the department for a while. That's especially evident when he introduced me to this projecting microscope that looked absolutely ancient, but was definitely cool and something I'd like to see come back for folks like me who occasionally get nauseous or strained looking into a compound microscope.

Of course, in the science field, data is essential to making our decisions and conclusions. The best part about data is collecting it; the most disliked part is processing it. For us, we have stacks upon stacks of forestry data, wildlife data, and fisheries data, all of which need to be entered into a database or crunched somehow.

My downtime is essentially data entry time, which includes entering piles of forestry data about Swan Island. This is data about the forest plots throughout the island, all of which is being input to the widely used NED software for analysis later. This is fairly tedious as it's information about individual trees (including DBH, quality of wood, pulp feet and board feet), so it is somewhat time consuming, but it does help the time pass when nothing is left to do.

That is all for this week, thank you for reading!

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