The Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit has a long history of tackling a wide array of fisheries research topics that include imperiled species biology, sport fish management, and stock assessments for commercial fisheries. Imperiled species research in recent years has focused on describing life history traits and genetic stock structure of species such as the bluemask darter and snail darter (Federally-listed endangered species), and monitoring reintroductions of hatchery-reared Barrens topminnow (a State-listed threatened species).
Applied research on sportfish management has encompassed topics such as investigating the fate of stocked fish (trout, black bass, crappies, walleyes), improving the efficacy of stocking programs, and understanding the factors that influence catch-and-release mortality and the delayed mortality of fish caught in fishing tournaments.
Research on commercial fisheries has focused on stock assessments of paddlefish, which are exploited for their caviar throughout their range, including the Tennessee waters of the Mississippi River and Tennessee River. Unit staff and students are supported in their fisheries research by external funds from varied sources such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Nature Conservancy.
The Unit is well equipped with all manner of fisheries sampling gear, including such items as state-of-the-art backpack electrofishers; three electrofishing boats, an electrofishing barge, an electrofishing whitewater raft, outboard motorboats (15 - 150 HP), two jetboats, and a wide selection of gill nets, trammel nets, trawls, and hoop nets. Unit personnel have at their disposal two Mark IV automatic microtag injectors and an assortment of hand-held multishot injectors and detection wands. The Unit has completed many projects using chemical immersion techniques to mark fish and shellfish and a fully equipped epifluourescent microscope is available for student and staff use.