This semester, in Dr. Kim de Mutsert’s fish ecology lab, I am conducting an OSCAR project where I am researching population sizes of river herring, the collective name for alewife and blueback herring, in three tributaries of the Potomac River. River herring have historically had important commercial and recreational value, but in recent years have experienced population decline. In my research, I utilize field collections and data analysis with the goal of determining differences in population sizes of river herring between three tributaries in the Potomac River. I’m also researching which water quality parameters (such as pH, water temperature, etc.) may have an influence on the river herring population sizes. Each of these tributaries receives different amounts of treated wastewater discharge and runoff from impervious surfaces like streets. Both discharge and runoff can impact water quality, which in turn can impact populations of fish such as river herring.
I became interested in researching river herring after spending the summer of 2019 monitoring a commercially important run of sockeye salmon for the U.S. Forest Service in southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Upon returning to George Mason in the fall, I wanted to continue working with fish like salmon, so I started to work in Dr. de Mutsert’s lab at the Potomac Science Center and developed an interest in river herring. River herring are similar to salmon in that they are both anadromous, which are fish that spend their adult life in the ocean but return to freshwater tributaries to spawn. Doing research on river herring is preparing me to do a graduate degree in fisheries, where I hope to conduct research on anadromous fish that are important to humans. Eventually, I hope to become a fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service and manage projects aiding in the conservation of fish.
On a weekly basis, I typically spend several hours filtering river herring data collected over the past several years and analyze the data statistically for relationships and trends. Starting in mid-March, I will collect new data for this year by making field collections and observations of river herring and water quality data with other individuals in Dr. de Mutsert’s lab to complete my OSCAR project that will be important in my career pursuits.