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MBI offers specialized expertise in aquatic and terrestrial biological assessment, monitoring, and technical evaluation. Our goal is to assist our clients toward better management, restoration, protection, and improvement of our nation’s natural resources. MBI also offers specialized training in aquatic resource ecology, evaluation, and restoration, as well as personalized training to meet the unique needs of individuals and organizations.
Photo by Frank Brockmeyer
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Restoring River Herring in Maine

Author: Chris O. Yoder

MBI has sampled the fish assemblages in the lower Kennebec and Sebasticook Rivers in central Maine since 2002. The purposes of this project are to develop a consistent sampling technique for riverine fish abundance and to monitor the effectiveness of efforts to restore diadromous fish populations. Diadromous fish species are a prominent part of the Maine riverine fish assemblage and are the focus of restoration and recovery efforts by multiple state and federal agencies. A diadromous species migrates between fresh and salt water to complete parts of its life cycle. Species that spawn in freshwater and then emigrate to salt water to mature are termed anadromous. Species that spawn in salt water and then migrate to freshwater are termed catadromous and are represented in Maine by American eel. River herring are anadromous and include three species - alewife, blueback herring, and American shad.

Populations of these species have declined due primarily to a lack of access to their spawning rivers and lakes due to dams constructed in their natal rivers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Efforts to improve access by these species to their historical spawning habitats include improving their "passage" around dams by transporting fish directly, installing fish ladders and lifts at dams, and the outright removal of selected dams. In the Kennebec and Sebasticook Rivers a combination of these strategies is being employed. The Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Augusta, ME was removed in 1999 which restored eleven miles of formerly impounded river to free-flowing riverine habitat and opened a total of 17 miles of freshwater to access by diadromous species. The benefits were almost immediate and included a nearly five-fold increase in fish biomass and numbers including that of native freshwater species. The Ft. Halifax Dam at the mouth of the Sebasticook River in Winslow, ME was removed in 2008 and restored 3 miles of impounded river to natural riverine habitat and provided a direct connection with the Kennebec R. Fish lifts were installed at 3 upstream dams which provided access to historical spawning habitats for river herring.

Our 14 years of annual sampling in the Kennebec and its tributary, the Sebasticook R., have shown remarkable increases in the number of river herring. The increases were most notable following the Ft. Halifax dam removal in 2008 and the corresponding installation of fish lifts at upstream dams in subsequent years. Sampling conducted on October 13-14, 2014 revealed the highest catches of river herring in 13 years consisting of 10,000s of individual fish on their "outmigration" to the sea (see photo inset). Alewife spawn mostly in lakes and ponds that are connected to the Sebasticook and Kennebec Rivers by small tributaries - what we observed in October 2014 was the outmigration of young-of-year fish spawned in May and June. Blueback herring are spawned in rivers and their outmigration coincides with the alewife. These data plus the increased the passage of adult spawning fish in the spring are compelling proof that the restoration efforts have indeed been successful. Sustaining this success depends on the maintenance and further expansion of access to historic spawning grounds.

Squaw Root

Author: Pete Precario

One of the most interesting plants I recently stumbled upon – literally – in northeastern Ohio is the American Squawroot (Conopholis americana). It goes by a number of common names including cancer-root and bear corn. It is an achlorophyllous plant, a big word that simply means that it doesn’t have any chlorophyll. Consequently it is not green and doesn’t photosynthesize any of its own food. Individual plants are from 4 to 8 inches tall and often well camouflaged by leaf litter.

Because it doesn’t produce its own food supply, Squawroot is a true parasitic plant. It is parasitic exclusively with oak trees and feeds off of their roots. At the point where the Squawroot attaches to the oak root a nodule or lump often forms leading to one of its common names -“cancer-root”. Unlike a lot of parasites, it does not do any apparent damage to the oak tree host and appears to live in harmony and balance with its food supply.

Because it blooms early in the spring, it is also reputed to be a favorite food of bears just coming out of hibernation. This is the apparent source of another of its common names – “bear corn”. Squawroot apparently does have some astringent medicinal properties. Reputedly it has also been used in tea or concentrated form for relief of headaches and pain.

The genome of the Squawroot has been sequenced. Interestingly, the genes related to photosynthesis are missing while the rest of the genome is largely similar and consistent with other vascular, seed-bearing flowering plants. This leads some to the conclusion that there was a genetic mutation responsible for the current dramatic nature of the plant.

While there are no flowers apparent on the pictured plants, Squawroot is a flowering plant. It produces seeds that work their way into the ground looking for oak roots rather than growing toward the sunlight. If you’re lucky enough to encounter the Squaw root stop and take a close look. It is a remarkable plant.

Photo by Frank Brockmeyer

2016 MBI Training Courses Available!

We currently have the following courses available for registration in 2016:

  • Ohio Credible Data Program training, Fish and Macroinvertebrate Specialties
    • June 6 - 10

  • Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI) training
    • April 25 - 26
    • June 6-7 (as part of Ohio Credible Data Program training)

  • Primary Headwater Habitat Training
    • April 27 – 28

Click on the training tab for more information, and check back again soon for additional course offerings.

2016 Vernal Pool Workshops – Save the Dates!

The Ohio Vernal Pool Partnership will be offering the following workshops:

  • March 26th, at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio

  • April 9th at The Wilderness Center in Wilmont, Ohio

  • Check back soon for more information and details on these upcoming events.

    Primary Headwater Habitat (PHWH) Training