Briceville students assist in reintroduction of
native fish species to Coal Creek
Friday, October 26, 2007

Briceville School students assisted UT’s Erin Schiding and her associates in efforts to restore native fish species to Coal Creek.  Today, rainbow darters were tagged and released. 

For the past seven years, Briceville students have performed fish and aquatic insect surveys of Coal Creek under the direction of volunteers from Trout Unlimited and TVA to assess the health of the creek.  The bioassays show that Coal Creek rates as good in its diversity of aquatic insects, but only fair in its diversity of native fish species. 

Insects can fly to repopulate Coal Creek as water quality has improved, but not fish.  The cold water of the Clinch River tailwater below Norris Dam appears to impede the natural recruitment of six missing warm-water species of fish that should be present based on water quality and insect diversity.  The missing species include: telescope shiner, warpaint shiner, Tennessee shiner, rainbow darter, fantail darter, and American brook lamprey.

Because warm-water fish species are reluctant to swim through the cold water of the Clinch River to reach Coal Creek, environmental scientists from UT, TDEC, and TVA are collecting the missing species in nearby streams and releasing them to Coal Creek.

Before releasing the fish, they are anesthetized to enable “tags” of medical-grade fluorescent silicon to be injected.  After being tagged, the fish are allowed to recover from the anesthesia while becoming acclimated to the water in the creek.  The process is the same as when tropical fish are purchased from a pet store and then acclimated and released into an aquarium. 

Future sampling will enable the success of the fish restoration project to be tracked.  The goal is to find such species of fish in Coal Creek with no tags, which will indicate natural reproduction.


PROCESS STEPS (Click to enlarge thumbnails):

Click here for more information
on this project

Step 1:  Anesthetizing rainbow darters to enable tagging Step 2:  Injection of silicon tag
Step 2a:  Close-up of tagging procedure Step 2b. Rainbow darters after tagging
Step 3.  Allowing temperature of water in plastic bag containing rainbow darters to equalize with the temperature of Coal Creek Step 4.  Slowly introducing water from Coal Creek to acclimate the rainbow darters to the water chemistry of their new home 
Step 5. Releasing the first group of rainbow darters Step 6.  Releasing the second group of rainbow darters
Step 7.  Future fish assays in Coal Creek, such as the one shown here with TVA, TU, and Briceville students, will enable the success of the fish restoration project to be assessed The "A" Team -- Left to Right:
Tiffany Foster, Charlie Saylor, Joyce Coombs, Erin Schiding, Nikki Maxwell, and Trent Jett

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