An Integrative Approach to Studying Flathead Catfish Invasion in the Susquehanna River Basin: Linking Ecological Field Studies and Public Perception for Effective Outreach on Aquatic Invasive Species

An Integrative Approach to Studying Flathead Catfish Invasion in the Susquehanna River Basin: Linking Ecological Field Studies and Public Perception for Effective Outreach on Aquatic Invasive Species

Principal Investigator: Megan Kepler Schall, Pennsylvania State University Hazelton

Co-Principal Investigator: Julian D. Avery, The Pennsylvania State University

Years funded: 2020-2021

Project Description:

Flathead Catfish (Pylodictus olivaris) are actively invading many river systems throughout the Mid-Atlantic. As an apex predator, Flathead Catfish threaten native and established fisheries through competition and predation. In the Susquehanna River Basin of Pennsylvania, Flathead Catfish were first documented in 2002 and are currently expanding their range. Ecological-based field studies are now underway to investigate their population dynamics and predatory impacts on fish communities. Importantly, there is a critical gap in our understanding of how the public perceives the introduction of Flathead Catfish in this system, or invasive species in general. Flathead Catfish are also a trophy sport fish, which may influence angler perceptions of this invasive species.

To create effective outreach communications that garner public support for Flathead Catfish management, we propose a study that will integrate our ecological work with data on pre-existing knowledge and attitudes collected from the general public. Our objectives are to 1) administer a human dimensions survey to anglers that will assess knowledge and perceptions of invasive species and 2) design educational messaging opportunities that use our ecological data to address identified gaps in public knowledge. Through research and education, we will provide information to the public on the need for management of Flathead Catfish and future biological invasions.

Photo: Geoffrey Smith, Pennyslvania Fish and Boat Comission