Date of Award

12-1-2018

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Zoology

First Advisor

Whitledge, Gregory

Abstract

Knowledge of natal environments and dispersal of Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) inhabiting the Ohio River, and Kentucky and Barkley lakes would inform development of strategies to control established and emerging populations. However, the principal natal environments supporting the emerging bigheaded carp population in the Ohio River basin are unknown. There is also a need to assess the role of tributaries as nursery sites to increase understanding of dispersal patterns and better target young fish. The goal of this study was to identify recruitment sources and determine dispersal patterns of Silver Carp in the Ohio River basin using evidence from otolith core trace element compositions relative to ambient water elemental measurements. Fish were collected from the Ohio River, and Kentucky and Barkley lakes from 2014-2017 and water samples were taken during summer 2012-2017. Water samples maintained temporal stability and spatial differentiation for the Ohio River and tributaries during the sampling period. Results suggest that most Silver Carp in the Ohio River are utilizing tributaries during early life. Results also suggest there is passage of carp through the locks into the lakes from the Ohio River and natural reproduction is occurring in or above Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Results will inform development of efforts to target and remove spawning and young bigheaded carps as well as direct management efforts in the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems.

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