Due to uncertainty with the COVID-19 situation registration for this event is currently closed.


Darter Fest –

Ecology, Field ID, and Conservation of Eastern Darters


August 27-30, 2020 Thursday through Sunday 


Brian Zimmerman, Biologist, The Ohio State University

Dan Rice, Retired Biologist, ODNR, Division of Natural Areas & Preserves

Michael Hoggarth, Professor, Department of Biology and Earth Science, Otterbein University

Kelly Capuzzi, Fisheries Biologist

Amy Mackey, Biologist, Ohio University Voinovich School


Held at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary 


$450/person registration includes nine meals and all curriculum.

$15 discount on registration for current Arc members

Optional 3-nights of lodging at the Sanctuary: 

$45/night/person shared; $75/night private room

Darters are to the fish world, what butterflies are to insects, orchids are to wildflowers, and warblers are to birds. Gorgeously hued, they are associated with pristine waterways, most often with cool, well-oxygenated riffles; and often serve as a gateway to deeper aquatic studies and understandings. They are also among some of the fish species most vulnerable to water pollution. Relatively small in size, searching for them often feels akin to seining for gleaming jewels in the water. Every creek and river in Ohio that is healthy enough to support darters has its own signature assortment of species. Ohio has recorded 22 darter species in its entire history; some of which are now extremely rare or extirpated.

Darters are endemic to the North American continent, where over 200 species have been described, all belonging to four genus of the Perch family of fishes. In the Eastern half of our nation, in that same area once covered by the Eastern Deciduous Forest, darters are signature aquatic species. Here, in this relatively high rainfall region of the world, darters reach their greatest diversity of species and express their richest color palettes.

In this dynamic field-oriented course, we have gathered together some of Ohio’s top fish experts and aquatic biologists as course leaders, including the two authors of the recently published The Naturalist’s Guide to the Fishes of Ohio: Daniel Rice and Brian Zimmerman, as well as three (or more) distinguished fish experts and educators from all around the state. Check out the leader tab. The Naturalist’s Guide will serve as the field guide for the course, and is therefore highly recommended to be in hand. As part of your registration, if you don’t yet have a copy, you can opt to order a copy through us (and save on shipping) or buy your own. 

Each day of the course will be spent in the field exploring Ohio’s south central waterways – as far north as the Big Darby and as far south as the lower Scioto. In this course you will literally be immersed in a large variety of aquatic habitats. We will be spending the entire weekend in the water: catching fish, learning their ID and ecology, and safely releasing our “teachers” back into the water.

Here’s your take-away for the course. You will learn:

  • Basic fish anatomy that you can apply after the course as you deepen your fish studies
  • How to identify all 22 Ohio Darter species
  • How to identify the most common 15 to 20 or more of Ohio’s fish species
  • How to read the river! –  Understanding fish habitats – what they need to survive and reproduce
  • Fish connections – how fish, mussels, aquatic insects and other organisms interact
  • Fish and humans – how human negatively and positively impact fish habitats
  • How to catch darters (and other non-game species) with a seine and rules and regulations about using seines.
  • Resources for learning more about the fishes of Ohio and freshwater fish of North America.


Banded Darter Male, Photo by Brian Zimmerman
Variegate Darter Male, Photo by Brian Zimmerman
Seining, Photo by Dan Rice
Orangethroat Darter Male, Photo by Brian Zimmerman
Spotted Darter Male, Photo by Brian Zimmerman
Photo by Dan Rice
Iowa Darter Male, Photo by Brian Zimmerman