Fish are widely recognizable to anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and everyday citizens. Size, body shape, and color distinguish different taxa of fish and help when trying to identify a species.
The body shapes of fish have developed to take advantage of the habitats where they live and feed. Longer, torpedo shaped fish inhabit fast moving water, while deep bodied fish have adapted to thrive in slower moving pools. Fins and tail, position of mouth, and barbels (whiskers on a catfish) enhance a fish’s ability to swim, feed, and locate food respectively. These and other physical characteristics not only allow a species to take advantage of certain stream habitat unpopulated by other fish but also help the scientist to make a conclusive identification.
The Stream Monitoring Program uses information obtained during fish sampling to determine the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) for a local stream. In order to identify the fish specimens and safely release them in the field, the Stream Monitoring Program works closely with a fisheries biologist.