Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SIU Research Project on Kickstarter

Ever wanted to make a donation to help a species in need of conservation but didn't really know how your contribution was going to be used?  Researchers at SIU Carbondale have kicked this trend by using the popular fundraising platform Kickstarter.

"We've been conducting research on sturgeon in the Mississippi River basin for more than 15 years," says Dr. Jim Garvey, Director of the Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences at SIU.  "Funding has been steady until the last couple of years.  We are trying to find alternative sources to continue our research.  Crowdfunding seems like an effective, grass-roots option."

Among the sturgeon Garvey and his colleagues research is a federally endangered species called the pallid sturgeon.  Key to recovering this species is identifying its spawning habitat in the river.

"One of the big mysteries for most any fish species is its spawning habitat.  In rivers like the Mississippi, it is impossible to actually see spawning occurring.  Knowing the site of spawning is critical because this is where the next cohort in the population will be produced.  Spawners need the right habitat and proper protection during the spawn."

Garvey and his team including Dr. Brian Small, Ian Suni, and Haibo Wang at SIU are raising money on Kickstarter to develop a sensor that will tell scientists when sturgeon are spawning.  The sensor will be implanted in female fish and attached to a transmitter.  When spawning occurs, the transmitter-sensor combination will be activated and send both the time and location information back to the researchers.

Garvey notes, "All the technology for developing a working biosensor that detects the spikes in reproductive hormones that occur during spawning are available.  The key is to develop a working model for the field affixed to commercially available animal transmitters.  We hope we can raise sufficient funds from Kickstarter to interest both government agencies and industry in partnering with us on more research."

Kickstarter is a great way for the public to become involved in conservation research at SIU and learn more about sturgeon in the rivers of the US.  The researchers benefit by accessing a unique source of funding.

Ultimately, the sturgeon win.

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