From Xplor for Kids
August 2011 Issue

Wild Jobs: Darter Diver Doug Novinger

Publish Date

Aug 01, 2011

This scientist searches streams for one of Missouri’s rarest fishes.

Doug Novinger floats facedown in the water, breathing through a snorkel while he scans the pebble-strewn stream through his diving mask. He spies a small fish darting between the rocks, and with a bubbly sweep of his arm, deftly scoops it into an aquarium net.

The pinkie-sized fish, a Niangua darter, is as brilliant and rare as a gemstone. With an orange belly, bluish-green stripes, red spots and two jet-black dots at the base of the tail, it looks like you should find it swimming around coral reefs in the Caribbean. But Niangua darters are found only in Missouri. Part of Doug’s job is to keep tabs on how these rare fish are faring.

So from May to September, Doug, fellow biologist Jamey Decoske and their crew of researchers—they call themselves “Team Niangua”—don snorkels to search streams for darters. To avoid clouding water ahead of them, they work their way upstream by pulling from rock to rock or swimming like mad. It’s thrilling, exhausting and full of surprises.

“I’ve stuck my arms in leech nests and had to pull off dozens of bloodsuckers,” says Doug.

Despite leeches, Doug thinks he has the world’s best job. “I get to swim in beautiful Ozark streams, see tons of amazing animals and study one of the world’s rarest fishes,” he

Also in this issue

Photos With Nop and Dave: Starry Night

Starry Night Dave Stonner reached the summit of Stegall Mountain at sunset. He’d been hiking since daybreak, up and down 15 miles of hilly Ozark terrain. The straps of his backpack, weighted by heavy camping and photography gear, dug into his shoulders. His feet hurt. His legs wobbled. Dave was tired.

You Discover

With summer winding down and autumn gearing up, there’s plenty to discover outside in August and September. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

My Outdoor Adventure

Jacob Moore prowled the fields and creeks around his house looking for frogs, lizards and snakes. He wanted to be a reptile and amphibian biologist when he grew up.

The Underworld

Nature uses every nook and cranny—even the ground underfoot. Hidden from view but often just inches below the surface, animals search for food, raise their babies, escape the weather and hide from predators. Want to shed some light on these creatures of the underworld? Then watch your step, and let’s head down to nature’s basement.

Having a Blast

For end-of-summer fun, nothing beats a dove hunt.

Xplor More: Ask a Persimmon

Will Winter be cold and snowy? Ask a Persimmon.

This Issue's Staff:

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White
Kipp Woods

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