Legacy of New York State's Watershed Surveys, 1926-1939

TitleLegacy of New York State's Watershed Surveys, 1926-1939
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDaniels, RA
KeywordsAquatic resources, Fisheries, New York, Watershed surveys

On 16 June 1926, A. L. Hazzard was casting flies into Dyke Creek, upper Genessee River, and reeled in two common shiners. That was the beginning of the watershed surveys of New York, which involved scores of individuals and stretched over 15 years. The state legislature authorized surveys of the aquatic life in streams and lakes with a $15,000 appropriation “to determine the most practical methods of increasing fish production.” Under the leadership and insight of Emmeline Moore, the surveys accomplished this mission by providing a basis for assessing the need and appropriateness of what previously had been a general stocking program. Groundwork for the surveys began under John Titcomb, and his writings and management activities influenced Dr. Moore. Her approach led to more than a refinement of stocking policy; she and her staff recognized the importance of assessing watersheds as systems and that policies affecting game fish required information on more than just the game fish. Staff conducted synoptic surveys of biota, assessed chemistry and hydrology, and paid particular attention to pollutants. The importance of vouchering specimens was recognized, and the surveys provided a steady stream of specimens that were used in several taxonomic studies. Finally, Titcomb and Moore recognized that in order to affect change in stocking policy, states needed well-trained biologists knowledgeable in all aspects of freshwater ecology. So, the surveys became the training school for a suite of biologists that dominated fisheries science in universities and in management agencies in the mid- and late 20th century. Perhaps the most important legacy of these surveys is not the reports, illustrations, specimens, or input from the well-trained fisheries scientists; it is a way of thinking about aquatic resources and the role of the manager in developing them