This story is from the category Sensors
Date posted: 29/05/2014
The biologist wore an orange slicker rather than hospital scrubs, and his operating room was a small fishing boat in the middle of the Hudson River. But Wednesday's operation was serious work as Burnett used a scalpel to make a 3-inch incision in the belly of a gasping shortnose sturgeon, inserted an electronic tracking device and quickly stitched up the wound.
After a few minutes in a holding tank to make sure the sturgeon was OK and a test with a monitor to make sure the new transmitter was working, the 25-inch, 3-pound patient was dropped back into the river.
If all goes well, its movements will be tracked for months by underwater receivers. And the fish will play its part in a study that stems from the construction of an immense new bridge in the New York City suburbs, right in the middle of its habitat.
"This will give us a much better understanding of where these fish are spending their time, when they're moving, where they're feeding, and whether they're affected by the construction," said Justin Krebs, a fish ecologist and a consultant on the study.
The fish was gently placed into a tank spiked with an anesthetic, then measured, weighed and injected with a microchip that will identify it if it's ever caught again. Then Burnett, in purple gloves, performed the surgery, inserting the inch-and-a-half long beacon into a body cavity while O'Herron kept the fish hosed down with river water.
The Thruway Authority is nearly halfway to its goal of tagging 120 sturgeon with the transmitters, which can provide clues for long-term research and for immediate information about the effect of the bridge construction.
Hundreds of sturgeon previously have been tagged with electronic monitors for academic studies, and the Thruway project will use some of that data, although it hasn't reached agreement with a researcher who has tagged more than 300 Atlantic sturgeon.
Riverkeeper says the state should make sure it gets access to all the data.
"We support the idea of the monitoring plan, of course, but it's not fully effective unless you're detecting every tagged fish that goes through," Musegaas said.
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