Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Think Like a Fish

On weekend mornings, I often get my fly fishing gear out and with my husband head to a stream nearby.  I live in Concord, NH and I am fortunate that there are so many great fishing streams nearby.  I might head west to fish the Contoocook, north up to the White Mountains to fish the Pemi or the Ammonoosuc, west to fish the Isinglass, or even stay in the “city” and fish the Merrimack, Soucook, or Suncook.  On long weekends, we might head further afield to explore a new stream.  One of my favorite trips was up to the north country last fall to fish the Dead Diamond River.  It was a cold but beautiful day and we didn’t see anyone else, the river was all ours.  We didn’t catch any fish but I really loved that river, the big cobbles and the complexity of the habitat.

 Madeleine fishing on the Dead Diamond River.  Photo credit Neil Olson.
When I was learning to fish I was told to think like a fish and I have taken this advice to heart.  When I am choosing a fly I often say: “Well if I was a fish I would think this looks yummy” or walking up to a new stream I say: “If I was a fish, I would live in that pool under that cut bank, it looks cozy”.  Maybe I was a fish in a past life, I feel very at home in or near water.  I love the white noise of water flowing over rocks which helps to calm my often overactive brain.  I spend a lot of my time in streams because in addition to visiting streams for my hobby, I also work in streams.  I am a stream ecologist and I study water quality. 

Since I enjoy fishing, you might wonder why I don’t study fish but I like having a more holistic view of the whole ecosystem.  A healthy native fish community is a great indicator that the stream ecosystem is healthy.  However, monitoring and understanding water quality allows us to detect disturbances to the stream ecosystem early on and potentially address these issues before negative effects cascade to impact the fish.  

I appreciate the streams and rivers of New Hampshire both as a fisherman and a scientist.  For the ecosystems and society project, I am working on understanding how climate change and land development will affect water quality in our rivers.  These two human disturbances are some of the most serious threats to the health of our rivers and understanding how they will affect water quality is necessary to maintain healthy rivers in NH.  Because whether I’m thinking like a scientist or like a fish, I think good water quality is necessary for our rivers, our fish, and ourselves.

Posted by Madeleine Mineau, Research Scientist, Earth Systems Research Center, University of New Hampshire

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