Flyfishing for science

Next week a CTCF delegation will visit the Valbona River valley in Albania. Initially the purpose of this trip was to get a general impression of the situation in the basin, and to assess its potential for a project that combines trout/habitat conservation and the establishment of eco-tourism in that very habitat. Depending upon this trip’s findings and results we were to define its continuation, the first priority most probably being the necessity of doing scientific research in order to determine which particular trout species we would be dealing with.

It should be noted that only nine trout specimens have ever been sampled along quite a long stretch of the Valbona River (by Alain Crivelli; see previous blogs). This is, by far, not enough to get any picture at all of the genetic structure of the trout in this basin. In this respect we asked ourselves, while being there, and surely not able to resist the urge to cast a fly or two, why we should not collect the genetic material needed for such survey ourselves? And so it will be.

Since he would not be able to make it to Albania, Aleš Snoj, dedicated to the project as genetic researcher, provided a crash course on how to collect and preserve fin clips the proper way. Carlos Rodriquez, holding a Ph.D. in Aquatic Biology, will supervise the collecting, and document it. The flyfishermen: Alfonso Soria, Tjong Khoe, Olsi Nike, and René Beaumont. All samples will be shipped to the Department of Animal Science of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, for further investigation by Aleš Snoj c.s., and, ultimately, by Alain Crivelli.

Last but not least: at the last minute Johannes Schöffmann decided to join us in Albania, where he last did research some twenty years ago. For the past decades Johannes has contributed largely to the world’s knowledge of salmonid distributions, phylogenetics, and ecology through countless adventures to remote places in his search for native trout. Johannes has been referred to as “the master without a Masters”. He never attended a university (he took over the family bakery…) yet became a world expert on his subject, and expanded the understanding of the incredible diversity of trout.