Past Projects

Influence of predator density on brood predation rates during a catch-and-release angling event

The impact of the removal of a nest-guarding male bass during a catch-and-release angling event on the survival of that male’s brood should be determined by three components: the length of time that elapses between removal of the parental male and first intrusion of a brood predator; the number of brood predators feeding on eggs; and the length of time the male is gone from the nest. All three factors combine to determine the total number of eggs consumed during the angling event. Brood loss is an important signal to a returning male bass that impacts the decision by the male to either continue to defend the remaining brood or abandon the nest entirely (Suski and Philipp 2004). Our study examined how brood predator densities near the nest and male parental care behaviors were influenced when looking at these three factors.

Stein, J.A. and D.P. Philipp. 2014. Quantifying brood predation in Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) associated with catch-and-release angling of nesting males. Environmental Biology of Fishes (DOI 10.1007/s10641-014-0244-9).


Impacts of catch-and-release angling on largemouth bass recruitment

Largemouth and smallmouth bass are highly sought-after sport fish in North America. They also exhibit remarkable reproductive behaviors, including extended parental care. Male bass provide the sole parental care to the brood, a period that can last 2–4 weeks, depending on water temperature and fry growth. Males aggressively defend their sites, and in many populations nest defense can be critical as egg and fry predators can be abundant and predation pressure can be high. The reproductive ecology and parental care behaviors of largemouth and smallmouth bass make them especially vulnerable to angling during the reproductive period. During a catch-and-release angling event, the brood of the angled male is exposed to increased risk of predation by nearby brood predators. A reduced number of eggs or larvae remaining in the nest may trigger abandonment by the parental male, eliminating any contribution to the year class by that male. Even if the male continues to defend a reduced brood, the maximum number of individuals that male may contribute to the upcoming year class may be reduced. Alternatively, compensatory mechanisms may allow surviving young to maintain year class strength. This study examined whether brood reductions across an entire population affected the size of the resulting year class.

Philipp, D.P., J. Claussen, J. Koppelman, J. Stein, S. Cooke, C. Suski, D., Wahl, D. Sutter, and R. Arlinghaus. 2015. Fisheries-Induced Evolution in Largemouth Bass – Linking Vulnerability to Angling, Parental Care, and Fitness. Pages 223-236 in Tringali, M.D., M.S. Allen, T. Birdsong, and J.M. Long, editors. Black Bass Diversity: Multidisciplinary Science for Conservation. Proceedings of the Symposium Black Bass Diversity: Multidisciplinary Science for Conservation. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

William M Twardek, Aaron D Shultz, Julie E Claussen, Steven J Cooke, Jeffrey A Stein, Jeffrey B Koppelman, Frank JS Phelan, David P Philipp. 2017. Potential consequences of angling on nest-site fidelity in largemouth bass. Environmental biology of fishes 100 (5), 611-616

Fishes of Champaign County

Streams and their aquatic communities are directly and indirectly influenced by the past and present activities of humans. Land-use changes in Champaign County over the past 100 years has significantly influenced aquatic communities. More recently, climate change may be rapidly impacting fish assemblages throughout Illinois. Building on the efforts of Forbes and Richardson (1908), Thompson and Hunt (1930), Larimore and Smith (1963), and Larimore and Bayley (1996), the next iteration of “The Fishes of Champaign County” was conducted by our lab. The study, which began in 2012 and finished in 2015, included sampling of fish populations at pre-determined field sites, and then the land-use and stream habitat data was assembled and analyzed, as was the physio-chemical habitat data, all contributing to the analysis of the effect of fish community/environmental parameter interactions on distribution and assemblage characteristics.

The biggest news was the return of three Illinois Endangered Species, the Bigeye Chub (not seen since 1928), the Bluebreast Darter and the eastern sand darter (not seen in this area previously).

In addition, we have seen a drastic improvement in the fish communities in the Saline Branch downstream of Urbana. This study is currently being written for publication.


Impact of Stream Restoration on Movement of Smallmouth Bass in the West Branch of DuPage River

Urban areas have experienced dramatic growth in recent years, resulting in major impacts on aquatic ecosystems. For this reason, large-scale stream restoration is taking place in many urbanized areas, which benefits these regions in numerous ways: increased wildlife conservation, flood prevention, and recreational usage. One such area is the West Branch of the DuPage, where we worked to determine the habitat use of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) in a restored urban stream.

This project examined the movement of adult smallmouth bass within the restored reach. Small acoustic tags implanted into the bass were tracked using state-of-the-art acoustic transmitters and receivers. We looked at determining the extent of movement, as well as which conditions correlate to movement, such as seasons, temperature, flow conditions, etc.


Evaluation and Restoration of Sport Fish Populations on the West Branch of the DuPage River

The DuPage County Forest Preserve District, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Sport Fish Ecology Lab at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS)  teamed up on a research and monitoring project of sport fish populations on the West Branch of the DuPage River. A large-scale Superfund clean-up and stream bed reconstruction on the West Branch of the DuPage River was completed, and this was the area is where our research team monitored, investigated and assessed the recovery of sport fish populations in a restored urban stream, highlighting the potential for a quality urban stream fishery in the Chicago suburbs.


Acoustic Tracking Study In Grand Bahama

Throughout the islands of The Bahamas, bonefishing is not only a popular sport, but also an important component of the tourism industry that contributes greatly to the economic health of many communities. For such a valuable fishery, surprisingly little is known about bonefish movements, particularly when it comes to migrations associated with their reproduction. A  joint study in Grand Bahama was designed to help provide that information. A team of scientists and fishing guides from industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations worked together on a  research study to answer these questions and ultimately provide the information needed to manage the long-term health of the bonefishery on Grand Bahama. Dr. Jeffrey Stein, Dr. David Philipp and Julie Claussen, all members of our lab, were an integral part of this study.

Karen J Murchie, Aaron D Shultz, Jeffrey A Stein, Steven J Cooke, Justin Lewis, Jason Franklin, Greg Vincent, Edward J Brooks, Julie E Claussen, David P Philipp.  Defining adult bonefish (Albula vulpes) movement corridors around Grand Bahama in the Bahamian Archipelago. Environmental Biology of Fishes 98 (11), 2203-2212


Influence of hook type and hook retention on angled bonefish

Hooking is an unavoidable consequence of a catch-and-release angling, potentially causing tissue damage to fish that have been caught. In many situations, fish are hooked in the lip or corner of the mouth, which can make hook removal prior to release easy and rapid, and therefore minimizing major tissue damage. In some instances, however, hooks are ingested deeply by fish with hooking occurring in the gut or esophagus. Additionally, there are many types of hooks used in sport fishing — barbless, barbed, etc. To date, there have been several studies for a range of marine and freshwater species that have investigated the effects of leaving deeply set hooks in place, as well as the post-release effects of removing deeply set hooks.

The objective of this study was to quantify the consequences of hook retention on the survival and feeding performance of bonefish, and to determine if these responses were influenced by hook type, hook size and/or hook location. This study attempted to simulate techniques used in both fly angling and bait fishing.

Stein, J.A., A.D. Shultz, S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, K. Hayward and C.D. Suski. 2012.  The Influence of Hook Size, Type, and Location on Hook Retention and Survival of Angled Bonefish (Albula vulpes). Fisheries Research 113(1): 147-152.


Long-Term Trends in Shark Diversity and Abundance in Eastern Exuma Sound

 The joint CEI and University of Illinois shark research team spent two years, a total of four 2-week field expeditions, studying shark populations in The Bahamas at a shallow bank known as “the bridge,” which connects the southern tip of Eleuthera to the northern tip of Cat Island. This historical project is re-creating a study from a dataset detailing the diversity and abundance of shark populations in The Bahamas that took place over 30 years ago. The data resulting from those surveys, conducted under the direction of Captain Stephen Connett, represented a snapshot of Bahamian shark abundance and diversity from over 30 years ago. Our research program recreates these shark surveys to look for historical variation in the diversity, abundance and demographic population structure of apex predator assemblages to provide insight into the effectiveness of potential conservation strategies. By repeating an assessment of shark populations in The Bahamas 30 years after the original assessments by Connett, it will be possible to test the effectiveness of the 1990s longline ban, which halted any commercial exploitation of sharks within Bahamian territorial waters.

Results from this study are currently being worked on for publication.

This study is done in partnership with:

  • Dr. Edd Brooks, Cape Eleuthera Institute
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stein, Illinois Natural History Survey

Funding provided by: University of Illinois Research Board, Cape Eleuthera Institute, and Illinois Natural History Survey