Nicholls professor to research understudied gar

Houma Today –

A levee in rural southwest Mississippi has long blocked the Mississippi River’s access to the floodplain behind it, which previous owners tried to use for farming since the 1800s.

A new flood-control structure under construction by the Nature Conservancy will restore the connection between the river and the floodplain in an area that a range of animals, including fish, rely on for habitat.

On a visit to the site, in Wilkinson County, Louisiana Nature Conservancy Freshwater and Marine Science Director Bryan Piazza said he found thousands of gar fish stacked against the levee.

Immediately, he thought of Nicholls State University’s Gar Lab.

“Solomon David,” he said. “That’s who needs to work on this project.”

Once the structure is completed, David, a Nicholls biology professor, and at least one of his graduate students will embark on a two-year study of the site. They will gather data on what animals take advantage of the floodplain’s habitat with a focus on the alligator gar.

“If they don’t have access to floodplain habitats then they will not spawn,” David said. “If that happens, it could lead to a population decline.”

While researching the new structure’s impacts on fish health, David said he plans to use a nonlethal sampling method developed by one of the Gar Lab’s other graduate students, Thea Fredrickson, over the past year.

Read more