Scientists refer to their study species using their Latin names. In previous blog posts and in the blog title itself, I mention the species name for Lake Sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens. When I began tagging Lake Sturgeon in March, I went from studying a single species to a collection of individuals. Through tracking these fish over then next 4 years I will be learning about the behaviors that make each Lake Sturgeon unique. Think of the fish having their own unique personalities (somewhere a behavioral ecologist is cringing). Some fish will be homebodies, rarely leaving a single pool, 0thers will be more adventurous moving hundreds of miles or more. Some will be males that make spawning migrations every other year while others will be mature females that will only migrate every 4 to 7 years.
Attributing human characteristics to your study animals is scientifically controversial if not outright taboo. However, naming my Lake Sturgeon has practical significance. Say I locate a fish near the Bonnots Mill access on the Osage River one week and return a week later and find that a fish is again hanging out in the same area. If I were referring to fish by tag numbers, I doubt that I would remember whether fish 16198 was the same fish as last time. Instead if I give the fish human names, I might remember that Moe likes hanging out near the boat ramp. In addition to being a memory device for me, I thought it would be a good way to communicate information about the fish to the public. You would probably be more interested in learning that a Lake Sturgeon named Emma Watson passed Lock and Dam #1 than fish #16204.
I assigned the naming task to my wife’s 8th grade science students. Students have named 24 fish and another 17 are awaiting new names. As long as I can pronounce them, I don’t think I will have much difficulty remembering them. They include: Cosmopolis, Lianlian, Emma Watson, Demitri, Julio, Rudinger, Danica (likely as speedy swimmer), Miles (likely a mover), and Fin. I plan to visit their class periodically to give them updates on what their fish are up to.