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In this podcast, reporter Alastair Bland and UC Davis PhD student and fish researcher David Ayers discuss the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, its fish, its marshlands, its flows, and its future. Ayers explains the focus of his research, which seeks to reveal how underwater topography in the wetlands fringing the estuary affects interactions between predators and small fish. While restoration projects often focus on adding more water to this ecosystem and encouraging that water to overflow the river’s banks, Ayers says small fish need more than just water and wetlands to survive. Variation in habitat features, such as the width and depth of wetland channels that wind through these ecosystems, create a complex, dynamic habitat and may offer juvenile Chinook salmon and Delta smelt better odds at evading predators like striped bass, largemouth bass, and channel catfish, and, in the long term, better odds at surviving as species.
David Ayers is a PhD student in the Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology Department at the University of California, Davis. Ayers graduated from the University of Idaho in 2009 and arrived in the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta in 2014. He quickly became intrigued by the region’s complex ecological challenges. Later, in 2018, he joined Andrew Rypel’s Aquatic Ecology lab at UC Davis and initiated a project to investigate fish habitat use in the Delta. Ayers recently received a Delta Science Fellowship, a competitive grant hosted by the Delta Science Program and the State Water Contractors. This award allows researchers to investigate key topics related to water management and ecosystem health in the San Francisco Bay-Delta. Overall, Ayers’ research focuses on understanding how aquatic habitats structure ecological processes and influence fish distribution, habitat use and predation dynamics. Ultimately, he hopes to generate findings which can help optimize habitat restoration activities and achieve conservation goals for native fishes in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.
SCIENCE IN SHORT is co-produced by Maven’s Notebook and Estuary News, with support from the Delta Stewardship Council. The opinions expressed do not reflect those of our funders, employers, or supporters.