Fish Raise Their Voices to Shout Over Noise

Courtesy of April Reese and Discover Magazine –

image of a shiner fish

Cyprinella lutrensis, or red shiner, is a cousin of the black shiner.


Every day, thousands of cars and trucks rumble across bridges all over the U.S. Their drivers probably don’t give much thought to the fish swimming in the rivers, lakes or bays below. But the fish notice them: They can hear those noisy engines passing overhead, and according to a new study, they are having to shout to communicate over the din.

The effects of sonar and other human-made sounds on the communication of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins is well documented. But fish “talk” too – so far, researchers have identified about 800 different species of fish that use vocal signals. One of them is the blacktail shiner, which lives in parts of the Southeast, Midwest and in Texas. Dan Holt, a fisheries biologist at Auburn University in Alabama, wondered how the shiner responds to the loud traffic on bridges in the area.

“You don’t hear much about freshwater systems,” he says. “But I drive over three or four bridges just coming to work, and a lot of times, we’re out collecting data by bridges, and we hear that noise. This fish is exposed to a lot of different types of sounds — boat traffic, 18-wheelers, lots of bridge noise,” he says.

Louder Purrs

Holt and his co-researcher, Carol Johnston, wanted to find out if the blacktail shiner communicates differently in noisy areas. They knew that male shiners “purr” to attract potential mates and “pop” to fend off competitors. Would they move closer to one another, Holt and Johnston wondered, so they could be heard more easily? Would they repeat themselves? Or would they just “talk” louder, the way people shout over the music at a rock concert?

For their initial study, published in the April issue of Behavioral Ecology – which Holt says is the first to examine a fish’s response to elevated noise levels – the researchers exposed the fish to white noise, a common method for testing hearing. They found that the fish simply turn up the volume.

“This is the first fish in which it’s been found,” Holt says. But blacktail shiners don’t pump up the volume by very much, and it’s unclear whether they can still communicate effectively in noisy environments, he adds. Holt and his team are now studying the fish in their natural environment to find out whether traffic noise is interfering with mating or other behaviors.

After that, the next step will be to study how other types of fish respond to elevated sound levels, he adds.

“There are a lot of fish out there that make sounds, especially in these small freshwater streams,” he says. “A lot of questions remain to be answered.”

Communication Breakdown?

Across “the pond” in England, another team of researchers studying acoustic communication warn that noise interference can have tragic consequences for species that rely on verbal signals for survival. A review study by a team led by biologist Andrew Radford of the University of Bristol, published in the same journal last month, looked at previous research on the responses of birds, amphibians and marine mammals and suggested that fish, which account for more than half the world’s vertebrate species but whose responses to noise are not as well understood, may be adversely affected by noise and should be studied more closely.

Since fish make up more than half of the world’s vertebrates and provide the main source of protein for one billion people, the British researchers note, studying their response to a noisy environment will be important for people too. The human population is expected increase by 1-2 billion by 2050.

“The world is getting noisier,” Holt says. “It could have a lot of impacts.”

Auburn Water Watch uses honey bees to maintain stream water quality in Kenya

Beekeeping in Kenya

Auburn water researchers using bees to help Kenya with nutrition, income and river protection




Note: This feature story is based on a 2014 Auburn Speaks article written by William Deutsch of Auburn University’s Global Water Watch and Njogu Kahare of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement. The Auburn Speaks book, with the theme of food systems, safety and security, will be released during Auburn’s Research Week April 14-17. More information about Research Week is available at

Beekeeping in Kenya

Auburn’s Global Water Watch has joined with Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to find innovative ways of linking honey production with improved nutrition, higher incomes, community development and river protection. Pictured are community members displaying beekeeping supplies; William Deutsch of Auburn’s Global Water Watch is on the far left, while Njogu Kahare of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement is on the far right.

In Kenya, traditional cultures place a high value on honey and related products of the beehive – in the past it was part of the dowry or “bride price” for marriage, and a man needed to have at least 20 liters of choice honey to present to a prospective father-in-law when asking for his daughter’s hand.

More than just a tradition, this commodity could be the key to improving many aspects of Kenyan lives.

Auburn University’s Global Water Watch has joined with Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to find innovative ways of linking honey production with improved nutrition, higher incomes, community development and river protection.

“Honey has been an important part of the human diet for millennia, and gathering wild honey predates agriculture in many parts of the world,” said William Deutsch, Global Water Watch director. “We believe we can improve production, and in turn their lives and livelihoods, through cleaner water while also helping the environment.”

The Global Water Watch program, established at Auburn more than 20 years ago, is a worldwide network of community-based water monitoring groups that has worked in almost a dozen countries with citizen groups that often include indigenous peoples. These include the Quichua of Ecuador, Quechua and Aymara of Peru, Akha of Thailand and Tala-Andig of the Philippines, among others.

“Cross-cultural perspectives from all over the world have greatly enhanced our understanding of how people relate to and value their aquatic resources,” Deutsch said.

Beekeeping in Kenya

Beekeepers prefer to keep their hives on riverbanks with continuously flowering natural vegetation for a pollen and nectar source. This practice maintains the streamside buffer zone that filters eroding soil and other pollutants and thus protects water quality.

In 2012, the Green Belt Movement organization in Kenya contacted Global Water Watch through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The group was founded in 1977 by Wangari Maathai, who was one of the first Kenyan students to receive a scholarship to study in the United States as part of a precursor program to the Peace Corps, originated by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1959. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for raising public awareness about the environment and exposing illegal logging. She died in 2011, but the staff has continued with her environmental vision.

Following two trips to Kenya by Auburn researchers, the EPA funded a one-year pilot project in a cooperative agreement with the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a nongovernmental organization from Washington, D.C.

Deutsch and his colleagues in October 2013 initiated water monitoring and environmental education activities in the Upper Tana River Watershed that originates between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Range of mountains. The Tana River is one of the largest in the country and provides much of the water for the capital city, Nairobi.

Scores of community members from four areas of the watershed have begun to attend workshops to learn how to test water, and they are now establishing 100 monitoring sites on several streams and drinking water supplies. Many of these volunteers have previously participated in Green Belt Movement ac¬tivities such as tree planting, beekeeping and other forms of community development.

Deutsch plans to return to Kenya in mid-March to conduct more workshops for new community members and to establish new water monitoring sites.

“The tree planting of the Green Belt Movement and the watershed monitoring and stewardship of Global Water Watch seemed like a natural fit,” Deutsch said, “but a beekeeping component added an important dimension to the project. The residents can help with our water-monitoring while improving their honey production.”

Beekeeping in Kenya

The beekeeping component of the Global Water Watch project provides income that enables community members to be more economically secure and allows them to more easily participate in voluntary activities like water monitoring.

Among the necessary tests of honey quality for commercial marketing, assurance that the product is free from E. coli is also critical. Plans are underway to adapt simple E. coli water tests for testing honey.

“A steady flow of high-quality honey can net a Kenyan farmer a much greater income than most other agricultural crops that the farmer can produce,” Deutsch said.

With the growth of cities and the expansion of supermarkets, the demand for honey has created opportunities for mass production and modern marketing. The Kenyan Ministry of Livestock is promoting beekeeping, and development organizations such as USAID have provided grants to beekeepers to expand their operations.

“Many more producers are needed to fully meet the domestic demands for honey, let alone those of international markets,” Deutsch said.

Edited by Charles Martin, Office of Communications and Marketing

SFAAS Searching for Director of School

Director, SFAAS

AU tower logo v10Auburn University is seeking a Director for the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences in the College of Agriculture to provide vision and leadership that enhances the College’s tradition of excellence in teaching, research, extension/outreach, and service. The successful candidate will serve as the chief academic and administrative officer for the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences and will report directly to the Dean of the College of Agriculture.

The newly designated School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences began as a department in 1933 and is noted as one of the best programs of its kind in the world. The School conducts outstanding teaching, research, extension/outreach, and international programs in freshwater and marine aquaculture, fisheries managements and aquatic resources. The School consists of 23 tenure/tenure-track faculty, five research fellows and over 100 other employees. There are approximately 160 students, of which 100 are graduate students pursuing a Master of Science, Master of Aquaculture, or Doctor of Philosophy in Fisheries.

The College of Agriculture consists of the Departments of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology; Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences; Animal Sciences; Biosystems Engineering; Entomology and Plant Pathology; Horticulture; Poultry Sciences; and the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. The College of Agriculture has 138 tenure and tenure-track faculty members, 270 graduate students, and over 1,000 undergraduate students.

Auburn University ( is a comprehensive land grant, sea grant, and space grant institution wit ha dynamic 150 year history. The University’s main campus has a 2013-2014 enrollment of 24,864 students and offers degrees in 12 schools and colleges at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. Auburn University is not only known for its great education programs, but is also notable for its $4 billion+ impact on Alabama’s economy. Auburn University is located in the family friendly town of Auburn, Alabama, with a population of 50,000, a renowned school system and nationally recognized medical center. Auburn is located approximately 50 miles from Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, and 110 miles from Atlanta, Georgia. This location provides a moderate climate with easy access to both beach and mountain recreational facilities.

The responsibilities for this position are to provide visionary leadership, and overall management of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences. The Directory will be responsible for all budget development and management, securing funding, recruitment and supervision of personnel, professional development of faculty and staff, and coordination of the assessment and development of academic programs within the School. The Director will be assisted in these tasks by two Associate Directors. Together, they will provide oversight of the numerous state-wide departmental facilities which include extensive research, teaching and outreach/extension facilities at North Auburn, South Auburn, Greensboro, Mobile, Dauphin Island and Fairhope.

In addition to leading the transition and expansion from an outstanding department to a world-renown School, the Director must develop strong working relationships with other departments, commodity groups, agribusiness representatives, various government and private/non-government agencies, and students and alumni. The successful candidate will report to the Dean of Agriculture and maintain close relationships with the Directors of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit, the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the Alabama Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (Dauphin Island Sea Lab) and the Aquaculture and Fisheries Business Institute.

The position requires an earned doctorate or equivalent and a distinguished scholarship record sufficient to merit appointment with tenure at the rank of Professor. The successful candidate should have an outstanding record of academic achievement in one or more of the following areas: research, teaching and/or extension/outreach; a strong commitment to shared governance; interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary program development; and a demonstrable record of successful administrative skills, experience and cooperation to achieve university level goals. Effective communication skills with multiple constituencies in a diverse community; management skills for complex organizations including facilities development; strong interpersonal skills; and wide-ranging participation in service activities and professional societies are required. Capacity for visionary leadership and successful experience in the process of securing funds from the university and external sources for programs related to teaching, research, extension, community outreach and service are desired. The candidate must be knowledgeable of, and committed to, the unique mission of a land-grant institution and have substantial accomplishments in at least two of the three land grant mission areas.

Candidates should submit a letter of application, curriculum vita, five references, and leadership philosophy to the address below. While applications and nominations will be accepted until the position is filled, interested parties are highly encouraged to submit their materials by DECEMBER 31, 2013 to assure optimal consideration. For details please see:


Search Committee-Director, School of Fisheries, Aquaculture & Aquatic Sciences

Attention: Managing Director

Breckenridge Partners

1025 West Everett Road, Suite #4

Lake Forest, Illinois 60045

Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

~Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer~

The candidate selected for this position must be able to meet eligibility requirements to work in the United States at the time appointment is scheduled to begin and continue working legally for the proposed term of employment.


Click here to download PDF copy: FAAS Director FINAL

Counting Memories- The History of Auburn’s Oldest Remaining Fisheries Research Building

Many professors in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University – along with alumni, staff and students – probably have a faint memory of the old counting shed at the North Auburn Fisheries Research Station, recently renamed the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center.

The counting shed was constructed in 1948, making it the oldest building on research station land. One of the first incumbents was Lamar Black, the superintendent from 1948-1985. Mr. Black was followed by Randell Goodman from 1985-2011, as well as Karen Veverica, the current station superintendent. The counting shed was enclosed and enlarged to include more storage space, office space, fish holding tanks, and a fish hatchery. Construction was concluded in 1962.

The memories that are associated with the shed are not easily shaken, nor should they be. Veverica remembers the open concrete drains that ran through the counting shed floors next to the walls allowing water to flow back into the creek. Offices for the station manager and staff were located in the counting shed. 


The Original Counting Shed constructed in 1948

Nonchalantly, Veverica stated “it was not that strange to see a snake in the drain. Any critters could come into the shed.” The shed outwardly was plain and simple. No one seemed to have a problem with the simplicity; in fact, that very same simplicity seems to be the factor that brings smiles to the faces of those that worked in the building. The shed was fully equipped with the latest and greatest tanks and nets, as well as some of the most intellectual fishery students and staff. The shed, however, lacked heating, air conditioning, and restroom facilities of any sort. “The station crew would sit under a shady shed located near the counting shed to get out of the hot summer sun and eat watermelon. The shed was simple, but it got the job done, and for a long time,” Veverica stated, reminiscing on the sixty-five year old structure.


Fisheries student Paul Smith catfish in the counting shed in 1970

Dr. Leonard Lovshin, a faculty member at the time, remembers the year round marketing that started on Saturday mornings in 1981 at the counting shed. The counting shed served as the first fish market at Auburn. “When I was a student in 1970, we would have tons of fish left over after sorting, counting and weighing the fish upon removal from the research ponds. We, [the students and station crew], could take home as many fish as we could stuff into our cars. When the market opened, we rarely got to take any fish home. People loved our fish. There was no cleaning of the fish, they were always sold live and whole.”

Dr. David Rouse experienced the counting shed in the early 1970’s as a master’s student. Rouse remembers the shed vividly. “Most folks probably thought all electrical plugs were placed on the walls at the four foot level for easy access, but really it was to keep them out of the water during floods.”  Rouse, as a graduate student, was asked to work one to two days a week at the station. “We would learn about each other’s research but maybe more interestingly, we [learned] about the other students, their home countries, football, hunting and fishing.” Not only was the counting shed a place for intensive, groundbreaking research, but it was also for making relationships- making memories that would stand the test of time.

The creek that ran alongside the shed often overflowed when there was a large rainfall. The shed wall contained a visible flood line that was about three feet off the concrete floor. “We couldn’t keep anything in the bottom two drawers of our filing cabinets. Everything would be ruined if you did,” Veverica added. Veverica laughed as she conveyed all of this information, making it seem as if the counting shed was one of the most charming places in the world. Seemingly important things such as air conditioning and restrooms were overshadowed by the relationships, the knowledge, and the Auburn spirit that was present in the treasured shed for more than sixty years.


The Counting Shed Today


The shed is not currently in use due to it condition. Space for counting, weighing and holding fish has moved to the recently completed center for Aquatic Resources Management building located at the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center. The roof on the shed is clearly in no shape to house a functional research program. The tanks are poured concrete and, therefore, are permanent. The tanks are not currently housing fish, but are usable if needed. Many requests for repurposing the old counting shed, pending a new roof, to store equipment have been made. Regardless of the outcome, the counting shed has been home to many laughs, tears, successes, and failures and will forever remain a part of Auburn Fisheries.

Article written by Celena Spurgeon, Assistant Director of Social Media Marketing, and Katie Durbin, Director of Social Media Marketing.

Auburn’s Annual Ag Roundup Featured in the Opelika/Auburn News

Annual Ag Roundup features farming and fun



Ag Round up 5

Saturday morning, Miss Lulu the cow cooled off in a special demonstration trailer as crowds gathered to see how Alabama’s milk goes from farm to table. In the booths beside her, little girls in Auburn cheerleading uniforms lassoed hay bales and two baby cows teetered around the petting zoo at the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s annual Ag Roundup.

The Roundup, which took place at the Ag Heritage Park on the university’s campus Saturday, welcomed about 1,500 guests before the Tigers’ homecoming football game.

“The Ag Roundup is put on by the Auburn Agriculture Alumni Association,” explained Sutton Moore Gibbs, the association’s president and a class of ’87 agricultural economics graduate. “This is our big fundraiser for the year.”

For a $5 admission fee, a donation to the college’s scholarship fund, farmers and football fans alike participated in live and silent auctions and enjoyed “all you care to eat” treats from across the state.

“All of [the vendors] have to bring food from Alabama,” Gibbs said. “It’s called ‘A Taste of Alabama.’”

From Conecuh sausage to pecans to applesauce, guests sampled some of the best foods Alabama has to offer, including ice cream.

Representatives at the yellow Blue Bell trailer handed out cups of vanilla ice cream to a constant flow of guests throughout the morning. By 10:30 a.m., just an hour and a half into the event, half of Blue Bell’s 2,500 cups were gone.

“You can’t run out of ice cream on a hot day,” Robert Wood, territory operations manager for Blue Bell, said.

Across the park, junior landscape horticulture major Christopher Combs presented guests with boutonnieres crafted from orange and blue flowers. The Alabama Nursery Landscape Association donated funds and materials for the 400 boutonnieres, and Auburn’s Horticulture Club spent two days making them.

Ag Round up 6

Ag Roundup 2

“A lot of people seem to be wanting to get them to bring them back to their glory days,” Combs said. “A lot of little girls have been getting them, too.”

Pretty flowers and a petting zoo weren’t the only draw for the Roundup’s younger guests. The event also featured a children’s area, complete with an Agriculture in Action demonstration trailer and a painting activity using rubber replicas of different types of Alabama fish.

“We decided to try a children’s area this year,” said Ag Ambassador President and senior in animal sciences Christa Ray. “So far, it’s been really good.” 

 In the children’s area, Manina Harrison, of Hatton, and Maranda Berryman, of Chelsea, watched some of their youngest family members cast fishing lines into a field of plastic fish.

“We come pretty much every year,” Harrison said. “It’s kind of a tradition.”

For Ariton resident Cyndi Barefoot and her son Quincy, an Auburn University freshman majoring in political science, this year’s Ag Roundup was a first.

“I love it,” Barefoot said as she and her son waited in a long line in front of a tent. “I’m not really sure (what we’re waiting for)… We think it’s fish.”

Ag Roundup 4

Ag roundup 3

All morning, vendors dished out food, clubs and organizations hosted demonstrations and country music played over the loudspeaker, interrupted occasionally by a fast-talking, smooth-selling auctioneer.

But one demonstration required a little quiet.

Baxter, a three-and-a-half-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, needed to focus.

“He’s going to go out and look for boxes,” said Animal Health and Performance Program instructor and handler Bart Rogers. “It’s a real-world scenario.”

Baxter quickly sniffed out the hidden explosive powder, sitting proudly by the correct wooden box. Rogers rewarded him with a tennis ball.

Back in the cool of the Ham Wilson Livestock Arena, Gibbs surveyed the silent auction items up for grabs. She said she was excited about how the event has grown over the years.

“Agriculture is very innovative. There’s a lot of technology,” Gibbs added. “Agriculture is not just putting plants in the ground.”

Original article posted by Opelika/Auburn News

Ag roundup




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