July 7, 2003

Beck, student checking IDs of Lullwater fish

Michael Terrazas

Ever since Emory acquired Lullwater in 1958, visitors have been treated to the sight of amateur anglers fishing along the banks of Candler Lake, located about a quarter-mile inside the park between Lullwater House and Clairmont Campus. But until now—well, until this fall—no one could be exactly sure what the fishermen could catch.

This summer biology lecturer Chris Beck is working with a student from the University of Texas-San Antonio to catalog the species of fish living in Candler Lake and study their habitat preferences and movements. Once the species inventory is completed, it will be added to the appendices of the Lullwater Management Plan, which already lists the birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that live in the park.

Beck is supervising the work of rising junior Carlos Lozano, who is visiting from Texas as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), sponsored by the Center for Science Education through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

A biology major, Lozano is interested in studying coastal fisheries, and though the 11.5-acre Candler Lake boasts only a modest measure of coastline, he said the work is preparing him well for graduate school.

“I’ve been a fisherman ever since I can remember and have always loved it—this experience will provide me with a foundation to build on,” Lozano said. “I have done marine research in the past, however this is the first time I’ve worked exclusively with fish.”

Lozano and Beck designed a sampling protocol involving a network of traps of different sizes placed systematically around the lake; there are four “minnow traps” that catch small fish, three turtle traps and one large-fish trap. Twice a day Lozano wades into the water and records the aquatic species detained inside the traps. The pair also will use rod and reel to land some of the bigger fish like bass and catfish.

“We’ve identified eight species so far,” Beck said. “We’re progressively moving around the perimeter of the lake, then we’ll move toward the interior.”

To study their movements, he and Lozano are tagging fish with tiny streamers of colored beads, sequenced to allow for individual identification later, and recording the exact position in which the fish were caught using a global positioning system (GPS) device. By the end of the three-month project, Beck said the pair should have a fairly comprehensive survey of what’s living in the shallow lake.

Though this project does not tie directly into Beck’s primary research interests, he said it carries scholarly value; most studies of fish migration have been performed on a much larger scale, he said, and small-scale movement patterns have not been well studied in the ecological literature.

“It will give us insights into habitat preference,” said Beck, adding that he and Lozano also are mapping the physical structure of the lake: its depth and its oxygen, pH and light levels.
“With some of the sport species like bass, you could use some of that knowledge to manage a lake, for instance.”

Candler Lake is named for Walter Candler, third son of Asa Candler and original owner of Lullwater House and its grounds. Candler created the lake in 1952 by building a dam on South Fork Peachtree Creek, but it is not known whether the lake’s species migrated in via the creek or whether it was stocked with sport fish such as largemouth bass.

This fall, Beck said he and another student, along with Oxford biology professor Steve Baker, will survey the fish living in Lullwater’s many streams. Admitting he is not much of a fisherman, Beck deflects much of the credit for this summer’s work to his pupil from San Antonio.

“Carlos brings with him a lot of basic knowledge of freshwater fish,” Beck said. “Combined with my background in ecology, we can turn this into an interesting ecological question.”