The distribution of fish communities in the Lower Paraguay River basin and floodplain is barely known; the few published sampling localities are only briefly described. 6854 specimens were collected for this study, encompassing nine orders, 22 families, 54 genera, and 88 species, based on preliminary species identification. Fish specimens were collected to begin the nonprofit Para La Tierra’s (PLT) inventory and museum collection for the Paraguayan department, or state, of Ñeembucú. Upon specimen identification, species richness and evenness were calculated for each sampling habitat type. This project explored relationships between sampling localities and fish communities based on the localities’ water quality and vegetation cover. Preliminary results indicate that as communities move from permanent riparian and wetland habitats to temporarily flooded habitats, generalist species dominate those communities due to significant variation in water quality and vegetation cover in the temporarily flooded habitats.
This research experience was an intensive introduction to field work, ichthyology, and museum collection. Field work had not been a part of my Penn curriculum, even as an Environmental Science major, and ichthyology (the study of fish) and museum collection are perhaps too specialized to have their own classes at Penn. Thus, the only parts of my research experience that I had any familiarity with beforehand were introductory biology, from Penn coursework, and scientific writing, from the previous summer’s research internship. I feel fortunate to have gotten a crash course in so many different skills through this research experience. Conducting research at a field site in a foreign country proved to be an around-the-clock endeavor, one very different from any 9 to 5 internship.