Southeastern biologist creates poster on 'Fishes of Lake Pontchartrain Basin'
Contact: Rene Abadie
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PICTURING LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN BASIN FISHES -- Kyle Piller, assistant professor of biological sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University, displays his poster depicting the fishes of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, a project produced through a grant from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. The poster was designed by Southeastern Public Information Office graphic designer Terry Bahm.
HAMMOND -- Nearly everyone in southeast Louisiana knows the Lake Pontchartrain Basin features a variety of fresh and saltwater game fish, such as speckled trout, croakers, redfish and bass.
But most don’t know that the basin – which covers about 5,000 square miles and touches 16 parishes in the region – is also home to a large collection of other fishes, including the colorful speckled darter, the tiny clown goby, or the prehistoric-looking freshwater paddlefish.
Southeastern Louisiana University biologist Kyle Piller is on a mission to educate the people of the area about the basin’s wide variety of fishes. Through a grant from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, he has produced a poster that pictures 30 of the more than 100 documented species that exist in the lakes, rivers and bayous that make up the basin.
“The majority of the fishes that occur in the basin are not sportfish at all and are not recreationally harvested,” Piller said. “Because of this, most species in the basin are unappreciated and don’t receive the ‘press’ that the sportfish do. But they are important species and play valuable ecological roles.”
The number of species, he explained, changes constantly.
“The basin is very dynamic,” Piller explained. “For example, changing salinities and other ecological factors allow marine species to enter the basin during particular periods of the year, so the numbers change all the time.”
Certain species, he said, are indicators of environmental quality, and when they disappear or become rare, it can be an indication there’s an ecological problem in the waters.
Unlike previous fish posters that showed freshwater species of Louisiana and the fishes of the Gulf of Mexico, no previous efforts have been dedicated to depicting the variety of fishes indigenous to the region as a whole.
“I wanted to include a mixture of the marine, freshwater and estuarine species that occur in the lakes, bayous and rivers like the Tangipahoa, Blind and Amite that comprise the basin,” he said. “I would like to see young children gain an appreciation for nature’s diversity and become better aware of all of the organisms that we have in the region.”
The 3-foot by 2-foot poster will be distributed to all of the schools within the Lake Pontchartrain watershed and will be given to attendees at educational workshops for teachers and others that are routinely held at Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station located in Pass Manchac.
The poster also will be available for purchase by individuals in the fall once a price has been determined. Contact Piller at Kyle.Piller@selu.edu for more information.
Piller said the project took about a year to complete. He obtained the images from renowned biologist and fish illustrator Joesph Tomelleri of Kansas City, Kan., and worked closely with Southeastern graphic designer Terry Bahm to layout and design the poster.
“Hopefully, this poster can showcase some of the diversity of fishes that occur in the basis, and everyone can have a better appreciation of the diversity that we enjoy in this region,” Piller added.