Keeping Green Sturgeon Chilled


Research assistant holding an eight month old green sturgeon

FM recently provided some critical support to Green Sturgeon research being led by the Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology Department – the only folks in the world breeding Green Sturgeon (8-month-old Green Sturgeon pictured at right). Back in February, research associate Dennis Cocherell, got confirmation that UC Davis would be receiving live Green Sturgeon in April. He immediately contacted IPE Ken Schaefer requesting a new chiller to make their ensuing research possible. Schaefer’s task was rushing the project, ensuring the chiller was spec’d, ordered and installed so the research could be started on May 1. Schaefer and his team hit that target on time and under budget, leaving money on the table for researchers to use on other research efforts.

Though Green Sturgeon are a threatened species, the Yurok Tribe, whose territory encompasses a large stretch along the lower Klamath River in northern California, are the only group allowed to legally catch the fish. They caught and then donated one male and one female from their annual harvest allotment to make the UC Davis study possible. The nearly 5-foot pregnant female laid about 30,000 eggs at the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture, which researchers will hatch and use to study the effects of feed rates and water temperatures on Green Sturgeon growth rates.

The new 30-ton chiller takes well water and cools it to a consistent 9.5 degrees Celsius, allowing researchers to accurately manage temperatures in 32, 90-gallon tanks. This chiller replaced two, unreliable 15-ton chillers, which had failed in the past, resulting in lost opportunities to collect data. Cocherell says this is one of the biggest material upgrades he’s seen in the lab since he joined in 2001 and one that’s “going to produce at least ten years of good research.”

Cocherell is incredibly grateful for FM’s quick turnaround on his work request, which will allow them to reliably study the optimal water temperature needed to raise Green Sturgeon and preserve native populations in the wild. Congratulations to the project team: Al Bacchini, Nate Cardoza, Marvin LeBlanc, Manny Preciado, Tom Kane, Jim Truso and Virgil Velarde for their role in assisting such a unique research project!