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Citizen Science: American Eel Research

Students and Community Partners Research Migratory Fish

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Watch a clip of the eel project on DEC TV

a bunch of glass eels in the palm of the reasercher's hands
These nearly transparent glass eels
were born in the Atlantic's
Sargasso Sea

The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is a migratory fish that is born in the Atlantic Ocean and enters North American estuaries as tiny "glass eels." The species is in decline over much of its range, and baseline studies of migrations are crucial for management.

Teams of scientists, students, and community volunteers collect glass eels using net and trap devices on several Hudson River tributaries each spring. The juvenile fish are counted, weighed, and released, and other environmental data is recorded.

The project involves students and teachers directly with scientific design and field methodology. Students experience their local ecosystem firsthand, and collect important information about migrating fish and environmental conditions over an entire season.

Volunteer With Us

The 2014 Eel Season in upon us! Nets have been deployed at several locations along the estuary and we are looking forward to a fun and exciting sampling season.

Project Description: Volunteers check nets one or more days per week. It takes approximately 45 minutes to sample each day. All gear and materials are provided, but personal transportation to the site is required. Volunteers should be willing to work outside under variable conditions, wear waders into the stream, and work collaboratively within a team of students and volunteers. The project is fun and provides important data on eel migration.

Sample streams include:

High school students collect eels on a local stream
Poughkeepsie High School students collect
glass eels on the Fall Kill
  • Richmond Creek in Staten Island
  • Mill Creek in Staten Island
  • Bronx River in the Bronx
  • Saw Mill in Yonkers
  • Furnace Brook in Cortlandt
  • Minisceongo Creek in West Haverstraw
  • Indian Brook at Constitution Marsh in Cold Spring
  • Quassaick Creek in Newburgh
  • Fall Kill in Poughkeepsie
  • Crum Elbow Creek in Hyde Park
  • Black Creek in Esopus
  • Saw Kill in Annandale-on-Hudson
  • Hannacroix Creek in New Baltimore

2013 Eel Project Results

Volunteers from the Eel Project celebrate the end of the sampling season and go over results with DEC staff

More than 500 volunteers monitored ten sites from New York City to Greene County. Over 100,000 juvenile eels were caught! These eels were often released above dams and barriers to access favorable habitat.

The past two years have been stellar for the America eel. In 2012 volunteers caught an average of 144 glass eels per day and in 2013 volunteers caught an average of 199 glass eels per day. This is a significant increase from previous years during which the average catch per day was around 20-30 eels. Do you think 2014 will be another great year to catch eels?

We installed eel ladders at several streams to help eels get over barriers to their upstream migration. Eels successfully were moved over dams at Furnace Brook in Westchester County, and at Crum Elbow Creek and Saw Kill in Dutchess County.

Volunteers at all sites were involved with other aspects of research and restoration. They planted trees along streams, measured water quality, and checked for spawning river herring.

Thank you for your support
In addition to hundreds of volunteers, the Eel Project is supported by many organizations and partners.

Please contact us to find out more and sign up to volunteer:
Chris Bowser, chbowser@gw.dec.state.ny.us
Zoraida Maloney, ztmalone@gw.dec.state.ny.us; (845) 889-4745 x.107
Caitlin Zinsley, cmzinsle@gw.dec.state.ny.us; (845) 889-4745 x. 108