The Aquatic Biology and Fisheries Center (ABC) is a focal point for aquatic research and service activities at Ball State University.
Officially established in December 1998, the center currently includes four full-time faculty and one staff research biologist who cooperate in promoting applied research in the aquatic sciences discipline. The center, the first of its kind in the state, grew from a respected Aquatic Biology and Fisheries Program (ABF) in the Department of Biology.
The ABF program has been extremely successful in obtaining extramural research funding, making strong contributions to science through publications, presentations, and student theses, and preparing capable students for the workplace. Graduates of the program are employed as highly successful professionals across the country in a variety of positions involving conservation and use of aquatic natural resources.
Current major research focus in the center includes an ongoing study of yellow perch in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan and a fisheries community study in the middle reach of the Wabash River.
Since the 1970s, Ball State has provided much of the technical data used by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in its management of yellow perch and other near-shore species in Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.
Over that period, an extensive database has been generated, helping to contribute to improved understanding of dynamics of the yellow perch population including growth, recruitment, and mortality as well as the interactions with the rest of the fish community.
As part of the Lake Michigan project, several peer reviewed journal articles have been published, including “Gape Limitation and Piscine Prey Size-Selection by Yellow Perch in the Extreme Southern Area of Lake Michigan, with Emphasis on Two Exotic Prey Items”, “Changes in Mottled Sculpin and Johnny Darter Trawl Catches after the Appearance of Round Gobies in the Indiana Waters of Lake Michigan”, and “Yellow Perch Length-Fecundity and Length-Egg Size Relationships in Indiana Waters of Lake Michigan."
Ball State has been studying the fish communities of the Wabash River annually since 2000.
This is continuation of a project that James Gammon at DePauw University began in 1974, providing a long term data set that is extremely useful to studying changes in fish communities. The field work includes collecting fishes at 28 sites using a boat electrofisher.
Two private corporations are the financial sponsors of the project: Eli Lilly and Company and Duke Energy.
The results show that the Wabash River still contains a high diversity of fish species. Pollution problems that were present in previous decades and resulted in fish kills are reduced.
The existence of the ABC provides a heightened awareness of Ball State’s reputation for excellence in this field. As an example, the ABC penned a partnership agreement with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that streamlines research funding opportunities, opens lines of communications, and facilitates cooperative efforts that benefit both the DNR and Ball State University.
The center serves as an important source of scientific expertise that will be increasingly important in meeting the challenges for use and perpetuation of aquatic resources in Indiana. As we look to the future, the ABF program and the center will serve to attract, retain, and produce high-ability undergraduate and graduate students, promote research activities at the university through extramural funding, and serve as a model in the aquatic sciences discipline in our state and the region.