ARSN biologists seek to expand range of rare Trispot Darter
December 22, 2020

Biologists from the Southern Company, the Geological Survey of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are hitting the streams in Cherokee, Dekalb, Etowah, and St. Clair counties in Alabama and in Bartow, Floyd, Gordon, Murray, and Whitfield counties in Georgia this winter in search of the Trispot Darter. The Trispot Darter is federally listed as threated under the Endangered Species Act.

The Trispot Darter (2 in. long) spawns in headwater streams of the Coosa River watershed, using winter flood pulses to migrate upstream over stream barriers almost 10 times its size.

Currently this fish is only known from a few tributaries of the Coosa River watershed. Biologists are hoping to find additional spawning locations in order to expand the known range.

"Identifying additional spawning sites will aid in protecting and recovering the darter and its habitat and will allow us to bettter understand the species' needs during this vulnerable part of its life cycle," said Jennifer Grunewald, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This project is part of a grant agreement funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The current survey efforts are an attempt to groundtruth environmental DNA sampling previously conducted by the University of West Alabama. Water samples were taken from streams across the study area and then analyzed for the presence of Trispot Darter DNA. Sites indicating presence were then prioritized for traditional fish sampling.