Why Keep Counting?

Dear Fish Counters:

Thank you for counting on the Mystic River Herring Counting website.  Based on the data you have helped provide, the run estimate is already over 600,000 river herring!  That’s a hundred miles of fish, end to end.

So you might ask: why keep counting?  Is my new video count adding value to the project?

The answer is: absolutely yes!  Here are a few reasons:

  • The migration is not over.  If you don’t believe me, check out this video from just this morning, June 2. If everyone stopped counting today, we’d miss all those new fish. Every year we see fish well into June.  
  • Better estimates.  Our model estimates the total number of fish that pass each day.  But a model is only as good as the data you give it.  Estimates can be made with only a few samples, but the uncertainty is high with small sample size. More counts will reduce the uncertainty and shrink our error bars.  At the moment, the modeled number for May 26 has a 95% confidence interval that ranges from 64,000 to 96,000 fish.  That’s a big difference!  So which is it?  Closer to 64K or 96K?  The only way to tell is to get more samples, to count more fish! (The system will keep serving up older videos, slightly weighted to recent days.)
  • More counts allow us to do more with your effort. In May we installed an infrared light that allows much better nighttime videos.  We have expanded the counting times to include two extra hours on either side of dusk and dawn.  We will learn something valuable about how fish move at night with your help.  We can only do this because we are hoping that we will have enough total counts to get good daytime estimates as well.  
  • You will have fun.  One goal of our project is to connect us all with the living system of the Mystic River.  When I see amazing numbers passing in videos like this, I am reconnected to the abundant life in the sea, to the way that rivers are connected to oceans, to the mystery of animal migrations.  It gives me energy and makes me a better advocate, I am certain. Every new observation is a good for science, and good for our project.  Every new count reconnects us with a hidden natural wonder.

So don’t think we’re done.  Count away.   And thank you.

Happy counting,

Andy Hrycyna