Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Stuart A Welsh

Committee Co-Chair

Daniel A Cincotta

Committee Member

George T Merovich


This thesis examined 24-h diel periodicity of upstream migration of yellow-phase American Eels (Anguilla rostrata), and the chronology of upstream movements within diel periods (day, night, and twilight). Further, relationships were examined for total lengths of upstream migrants and diel movements (vespertine, nocturnal, matutinal, and diurnal), as well as for total lengths and season of year. The thesis is comprised of two chapters: (1) an introduction and literature review on American Eel life history, migration and movement, and population concerns, and (2) a research study of diel periodicity and movement chronology of upstream migrant yellow-phase American Eels at an eel ladder. Study objectives were to (1) examine diel periodicity of upstream migrants using time-series spectral analysis, (2) describe the distribution of passage counts during diel periods (day, twilight, and night) among seasons (spring, summer, and fall), and (3) examine size of upstream migrants relative to diel and seasonal periods. Data were collected at the Millville Dam eel ladder on the lower Shenandoah River, West Virginia, from 2011--2014. Six multi-day passage events with a high number of passage counts were selected for analysis and categorized by season (spring, summer, late summer/early fall, fall) and diel periods of movement (vespertine, nocturnal, matutinal, and diurnal). To examine diel periodicity of movements, I graphically-depicted passage count data as time-series histograms (10-min bins) and used time-series spectral analysis (Fast Fourier Transformation, FFT) to identify cyclical patterns and periodicity of upstream migration. I also pooled histogram data into 14-h periods (18:00--08:00 hours) using 10-min bins for each multi-day passage event (representing vespertine, nocturnal, and matutinal movements). Using pooled 14-h histograms, I examined patterns of movements for each passage event and described multiple peaks of passage counts for vespertine, nocturnal, and matutinal movements by fitting a normal model and eight normal mixture models (2--9 mixtures). The Bayesian information criterion (BIC) was used to select the best approximating model. A mixed-model methodology was used to examine relationships among total length (TL), diel period, and season. Periodicity of movements closely followed a 24-h cycle of activity with most movement being nocturnal. Based on mixture model analysis, multimodal models were supported by the data, but distribution patterns and timing of upstream migration were complex and variable across the six passage events. An additive-effects model of diel period + season was selected as the best approximating model for the mixed-model analysis of TL. Also, the mean TL of individuals using the eel ladder decreased as the night progressed (i.e., from vespertine to diurnal periods of movement) and was the highest during fall (330.3 mm +/- 1.9 SE, n = 472) relative to similar mean values of TL for spring (304.1 mm +/- 1.0 SE, n = 1700), summer (301.2 mm +/- 1.1 SE, n = 1548) and late summer/early fall (303.4 mm +/- 0.87 SE, n = 2269). This study increased our understanding of upstream migration ecology of yellow-phase American Eels and dam passage at the Millville Dam eel ladder.