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WVU Professor publishes book about Appalachian fishes, honors early naturalists

Man holding large fish near river

Not everyone has the privilege to visit streams and lakes across West Virginia to see what  Stuart Welsh sees: the native fishes of Appalachia. 

Welsh, a professor of ichthyology in the  WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, has published his first book, “Hornyheads, Madtoms, and Darters: Narratives on Central Appalachian Fishes,” that discusses various fishes native to central Appalachia and present-day issues they face.

“I’m trying to reach people who aren’t necessarily scientists but maybe have an interest in nature and want to learn more about the fishes of the region,” Welsh said.

Photo of book cover "Hornyheads, Madtoms, and Darters"

Published by Ohio University Press, the collection of essays extolls the importance of each fish within nature. From a fish’s unique behaviors to public attitude toward certain species, the 23 essays are relatable and enlightening. 

One essay, “Ill Regarded,” is about public disdain for the longnose gar wherein Welsh explains how useful the fish truly is. A later chapter, “Smoke Screen Foraging” explains the human benefit of simply watching fish. Two other chapters emphasize concerns for the candy darter and the diamond darter, two species in need of conservation in West Virginia.

Although the collection is varied, Welsh maintains a thread throughout the book of the need for species conservation. He also details the ecological impacts of fish, describing how each species relates to its physical environment with resounding effects on the entire ecosystem.

Welsh has had many opportunities to speak with people in the communities about the research he and his students are doing and what they’re learning about fishes of the Appalachian region.

“Many people who are interested in nature have a bird feeder at their window, but you can’t really do something like that with native fishes in the stream without going there and snorkeling,” he said. “I wanted to do something for those people.”

Buy a copy of “Hornyheads, Madtoms, and Darters: Narratives on Central Appalachian Fishes.”

Welsh teaches ichthyology in the wildlife and fisheries resources program at the Davis College. His research focuses on the natural history, ecology and geographic distributions of native and nonnative species and migration ecology. Welsh has had numerous articles published in the “Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies,” “North American Journal of Fisheries Management,” “Conservation Genetics” and the “Journal of Natural History.”

Welsh is also a research fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey where he serves as the assistant unit leader of the West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He was part of the team that was named the northeast region’s 2022 Recovery Champions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for his work preserving the endemic candy darter.

For more information, contact Stuart Welsh at 304-293-5006 or

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube by following @WVUDavis.



MEDIA CONTACT: Leah Smith    
Communications Specialist  
WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design