Science Behind the Projects

John Blaha
Science Behind the Projects
TAMU Corpus Christi-HRI masters study candidate, Alex Tompkins and Lindsey Laskowski obtaining a sample using the epibenthic sled method. Photo by Lisa Laskowski.
Texas volunteers work hard to raise money at CCA Texas events all across the state. These dollars are raised to help fund projects that CCA Texas partners with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), other like organizations, and government entities. We have talked about Cedar Bayou a lot in the last couple of years and our most recent article gave an update on how the project is progressing. CCA Texas, along with its partners in conversation get a lot of questions about the monitoring phases and the science behind projects and, more specifically, how is it captured and analyzed.

At Harte Research Institute's (HRI) Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Master of Science student, Quentin Hall, is currently working on his thesis titled, "Determination of Seasonal Abundance, Density, and Distribution of Nekton Species Proximal to Cedar Bayou Pre- and Post-Opening" under the direction of Dr. Greg Stunz. His specific research focuses on the effects of reopening the Cedar Bayou tidal inlet on nekton species. Nekton refers to aquatic organisms within a body of water able to move independently of water currents.This study is a key component in quantifying the success of the Cedar Bayou-Vinson Slough project and has drawn a lot of interest from CCA Texas volunteers and the local community. CCA Texas funded $32,000 for the pre-opening monitoring of the project area and the post-opening monitoring costs are being funded by Aransas County.

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, Quentin and other researchers from HRI hosted approximately twenty CCA Texas members and volunteers who had shown great interest in this part of the project. The day started out at Goose Island State Park and we made our way out to Cedar Bayou on a beautiful day. The group made its first stop not long after entering the bayou and stopped for a talk about the monitoring portion of the project where the movement of redfish in the system is being tracked. Quentin and his team discussed the method for tracking and gave hands on demonstration of the acoustic telemetry equipment used in the study. In this particular project, HRI has installed ten receivers in the Cedar Bayou and Mesquite Bay area, placed at main travel points in and out of the bay and Cedar Bayou. Eleven redfish are a part of the project study and have been implanted with transmitters. This has proven to be a simple and effective method used by HRI in several related projects to monitor fish movement. In less than a year, over 16,000 detections have been recorded from these eleven fish and, to date, all eleven are all still swimming free in the bay and back and forth to the Gulf. If you should happen to catch a redfish in the area and it has a green tag, please release it and notify the Center for Sportfish Science at HRI or CCA Texas that you caught it and released it.

The group then moved down toward the mouth of Cedar Bayou-Vinson Slough and received a demonstration on the use of the epibenthic sled. The epibenthic sled is invaluable in the study and helps determine what species of marine life are present in the area and their density based on analysis of samples from various sampling locations. Attendees were invited to pull the sled and see the results of the samples. Quentin discussed the methods and analysis of this sampling method and what has been seen since the bayou was opened and earlier when it was closed. Hall stated, "In the two years prior to the opening, not a single juvenile redfish had been found in the immediate Cedar Bayou area. Within days of the opening, juvenile redfish were present." Other samples taken earlier this spring have shown flounder, blue crab, Atlantic croaker and many other species that are all vital to the surrounding ecosystem.

One attendee was high school student, Lindsey Laskowski, who commented, "Thanks to HRI for giving us a great opportunity to see how important research is being done on habitat restoration projects. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me and makes me really excited about my future studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi where I will begin my freshman year in the fall."

Attendees included members from across the state, which only drives home the interest in the Texas coastal resources by our members, and shows that the desire to be involved in CCA Texas is for the good of the resource. Special thanks to the Harte Research Institute, and the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation for hosting this group for a day of "Science on the Water."