What's the Big Idea?—Using Citizen Science to Track Aquatic Food Webs

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Detailed Description

Ted Kennedy, research ecologist at the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, discusses how citizen science helps better inform his work on aquatic food webs of the Grand Canyon.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:03:49

Location Taken: Flagstaff, AZ, US


Hi, my name is Ted Kennedy.

I am a research ecologist with the Grand Canyon
Monitoring Research Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

So my group did some synoptic food web studies
from 2006 to 2009.

Where we described food webs throughout Grand
Canyon...looking at algae, and detritus, and

the invertebrates that eat those materials
and then the fishes too.

And what, what fishes are eating, and what
we found was that aquatic insects were key

prey items everywhere, just got me thinking.

Are there other ways we can keep track of
these animals besides professional scientists

just going and collecting samples ourselves
and, and that's where I got this idea for

the citizen science based project.

So, we came up with a simple light trap device
that catches the adult life stages of these

insects after they've emerged from the river
and working with professional river guides

and private boaters and also on our own science
trips, we have these folks deploy these traps

each night, while they are in camp.

Using standard protocols, so we are able to
keep track of, of the adult like stages, which

tells us a lot about the animals and the scope
of the data set we are able to acquire is

much, much greater than we could do ourselves.

So, so this image that I'm showing here, all
of these dots are representing collections

by these various boaters, so we are getting
seven hundred to a thousand samples per year.

The scope of what we could do on our own with
river trips would be one tenth of that.

Because again, the Grand Canyon is a national
treasure and you've got endemic endangered

fishes living here and we need to understand
how these food webs and these ecosystems functions

and if we can do that, then we can better
manage them.

Well, I grew up in the west.

I grew up in California and was always fascinated
by the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.

I grew up in Los Angeles and so water and
the west, you know those...that's a big issue

in the west.

And I ended up traveling, going out to Minnesota
for my PhD work, but I ended up doing my dissertation

in Nevada in a place in the Mojave Desert,
looking at Salt Cedar and how that non-native

tree, it affects, you know stream food webs.

So looking at interactions between terrestrial
food linkages basically, and when I saw this

job advertised back in '02, I jumped at the

You know to work in the Grand Canyon and on
these food webs here and, and to do work that

was...you know...very applied.


Where we are trying to improve the health
of the river and to understand the factors

that are driving fish populations.

That was just...really appealing to me.

To get to, to do fundamental, basic science.

But then to have an avenue for presenting
those results directly to do the folks that

are making decisions about how the dam is

That was a very exciting opportunity for me.