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Loyola biologists help endangered fish to recover

April 8, 2011

An Okaloosa darter in the greenish color phase. Okaloosa darters vary in color from dark cinnamon to turquoise depending on the habitat they are in. Credit: Howard Jelks.

Thanks in part to help from biology professor Frank Jordan, Ph.D., and student researchers at Loyola University New Orleans, the Okaloosa darter will be downgraded from endangered to threatened on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list May 2. The announcement was made recently by Acting USFWS Director Rowan Gould, who said the population is being managed so well, the small fish is making major strides in its fight for recovery.

"With the help of our partners at Eglin Air Force Base, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S Geological Survey, Loyola University and so many others, I am thrilled to say the Okaloosa darter is no longer in danger of extinction," said Gould. "The downlisting is a result of tireless work to restore the habitat, and a strong, successful partnership."

Originally listed as endangered in 1973, the Okaloosa darter is a small bottom-dwelling fish known to occur only in six clear streams draining into two Choctawhatchee Bay bayous in northwest Florida’s Walton and Okaloosa counties. About 96 percent of this drainage area is under the management of Eglin Air Force Base, as is most of the darter’s present range.

Using innovative sampling techniques, U.S. Geological Survey and Loyola researchers provided monitoring data to USFWS to support reclassifying the Okaloosa darter from endangered to threatened. For 18 years, this research team has monitored the species, and data has shown that the average number of darters has almost tripled at monitoring locations.

“I am very excited that research I’ve been doing in collaboration with many Loyola undergraduates has played a central role in helping to recover the Okaloosa darter,” said Jordan. “This is a conservation milestone because only a handful of endangered species have recovered sufficiently to be removed from the endangered species list.”

For more information, contact Sean Snyder in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at smsnyder@loyno.edu or call 504-861-5882.

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