This first-ever study of brook trout’s use of Red Brook, from the headwaters to the saltwater, funded in part by SRBTC, was published in February of 2014.
As little is known about wild brookie’s use of the estuary and salt water below the stream, UMass graduate student Erin Snook worked with a team of scientists and volunteers to implant sonic tags in Red Brook brookies working in conjunction with Steve Hurley’s PIT tagging crew.
Like PIT tagging, radio-frequency antennas need to be deployed to pick up signals from sonic-tagged fish – but unlike PIT tagging, sonic tagging is considerably more elaborate.
Sonic tagging studies are much more sophisticated and expensive as it requires numerous antennas attached to buoys or weights that are distributed as an array throughout the salt and fresh water environs. This advanced technology is necessary as present-day PIT tagging can only be deployed in fresh water. It also increases the complexity of running such a project as various buoys and weights can get lost or damaged through battery failure, tide, weather and other events. Simply maintaining a couple of dozen of them throughout the seasons can be quite an adventure.
Unfortunately, as all projects ultimately have to end, the multiple-antenna array had to be removed, so any additional data collection from the sonic tags was curtailed when they were pulled out.
Anecdotally, it was reported that one of Erin’s sonic tags started showing up down on Chesapeake Bay antennas; it is believed that this was a signal from a tagged trout that had been consumed by a predator, possibly a striped bass – however we’ll never truly know about the fate of that particular trout.
It is very much our intention that SRBTC conduct additional sonic tagging work, as time and resources allow.
Meanwhile, you can download Erin Snook’s paper here.
This kind of academic research is extremely critical in discovering how our native brook trout can and do spend time in saline and salt water. It is an excellent example of how academia, partnering with local NGO’s can help explore natural phenomena. Of course, none of this work would be possible without the generous support of the Lyman Family, The Trustees of the Reservation, Southeastern MA Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, Greater Boston Trout Unlimited, TU MA/RI Council, Embrace-a-Stream, AD Makpeace and many others — all under the able guidance of Warren Winders.
Their work has spawned quite a variety of additional academic work, ultimately I hope we can provide some sort of archive of all the fisheries conservation efforts and environmental studies that are coming out of the various and numerous colleges and universities working on Red Brook.
It is our hope and strong belief that this type of scholarship will continue and will help inspire conservation efforts wherever necessary.
Over time, we will work up a more detailed description of this particular work, with pictures, etc – and this section is specifically set up for comments / questions below.
Special thanks to Andy Danylchuck, Ben Letcher and numerous other UMass people who helped to make this work possible.
If you are interested in participating, leading or supporting this type of work, by all means we’d love to hear from you.