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Biology professor and Harlem students devote spring break to preserving imperiled fish

Loyola Associate Professor and Department of Biological Sciences Chair Frank Jordan arranged for seven high school students from East Harlem, New York to spend their spring break restoring habitat of a tiny endangered fish, the Okaloosa darter, which is restricted to six streams in northwestern Florida.

The students focused their efforts on restoration of Mill Creek. About half of Mill Creek was channeled through culverts and buried under a golf course before the government began protecting the darter. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists dug up the culverts and used heavy machinery to recreate the historic creek channel. The students from East Harlem then spent three days planting trees and other plants along the new stream to stabilize sediments and prevent erosion. They also harvested and planted aquatic plants in the stream channel to provide habitat for darters and other stream organisms. Finally, the students quantified habitat as part of a long-term monitoring program to evaluate success of this restoration project.

This is the fourth such trip for students from The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, an all-girls high school founded to emphasize math and science. Their teacher, Susan Vincent, was Jordan’s student and then employee, before moving to teach in East Harlem. Vincent organized the spring break trips with Jordan so that her students could see and do research as well as participate in service work. On last year’s spring break trip, the first trip after the flooding in 2005, the students studied fish and mosquitoes that colonized abandoned swimming pools in eastern New Orleans, and put mosquito-eating fish in pools that did not have any fish colonies.

Since 1992, Frank Jordan and his Loyola undergraduate research students have spent part of their summers studying the Okaloosa darter and other aquatic organisms on Eglin Air Force Base in northwestern Florida. Ninety-four percent of the darter's range drains to the base. Jordan is involved in the study of the ecology of freshwater and estuarine systems, with special emphasis on the biology of aquatic arthropods, fishes, and amphibians of freshwater wetlands. He is personally and professionally dedicated to the restoration, enhancement, and conservation of aquatic ecosystems through teaching, research, and community service. He has published numerous articles and is involved in a variety of research projects.