Monday, September 12, 2016
When creeks dry up, where do the fish go?
It's an enigma — baking in a vanishing stream parched by drought: If a river dries up, where do the fish go? That unusual question — focused on a fish species most people have never heard of — has launched a study along the Utah-Wyoming border. It involves a fish-finding tool most people would never have thought of: aerial drones. "Throttle is 63 percent, ground speed is 15 meters a second," said a ground-based radio communicator as the drone flew computer-controlled loops along a stretch of Yellow Creek. "She's crabbing a bit with the wind, but she looks really steady," said drone pilot Daniel Robinson. Both of his feet were planted firmly on the ground just outside Evanston, Wyoming. The fixed wing drone with a wing-span of 8 feet is part of a 10-drone fleet owned by 'Aggie Air,' a flying research service out of Utah State University. The target this time? A fish species rare enough to have a worrisome future. The northern leatherside chub lives only in tributaries of the Bear River and the Snake River, reported KSL-TV. "And nowhere else in the world," said Joan Degiorgio of the Nature Conservancy. "If we can't sustain them here, story over!" The problem is that Yellow Creek tends to dry up late in the summer when runoff from winter snows is depleted and when farmers and ranchers are still drawing water for late-season irrigation. The diminishing water flow in the creek leaves patches of dry creek bed and isolated puddles of water. Only in certain stretches is there running water with a noticeable current. "We want to try to find out where we have water during the worst conditions possible, so late summer and during a drought time," said Paul Thompson of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources...more