ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
Carl D. Prophet
1988 - Carl D. Prophet
It is difficult to believe fish ever had a better friend than Dr. Prophet.
He was always involved in finding ways to pull some fish type back from extinction or make sure they were happy in their environment.
Contracted in 1984 by the Kansas Fish and Game Department to study the impact of the threadfin shad on the zooplankton — an organism usually too small to be seen by the human eye, but an excellent food source for the shad — and the other fish in Reading Lake, northeast of Emporia. Prophet set out to find out how this type of shad got there and if they were good or bad for the environment.
“I am an aquatic ecologist,” he remarked at the time, “I have always been interested in fishing lakes — what goes into them, their problems, and their ecological resources. The presence of threadfin shad in Reading Lake has opened a whole new area to study.”
The generally tiny threadfin shad, growing to around an inch — although some have been found as large as eight inches long — are a primary food source for bass and catfish.
Prophet had also worked in 1982 on a project funded by the Kansas Soil Conservation Service to study and save from possible extinction the Topeka Shine, a small fish or minnow that only grows one or two inches long. The fish lives in small streams of some Flint Hills watersheds in Chase and Morris counties.
Once widespread in Kansas, the Topeka Shiners had become primarily restricted to small tributaries of the Kansas, Neosho, and Cottonwood river systems that originate in the Flint Hills. Construction of new lakes and dams in these areas meant the shiner’s natural habitat was being threatened.
Prophet sought to find new homes for the fish.
Many of the Shiners were moved to tributaries of the Upper Fall River in Greenwood County that had already been stabilized by watershed projects. Scientist geographer John Wesley Powell once described a watershed as “that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, with which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simplic logic demanded that they become part of a community.”
“People may wonder why we take so much trouble for this small fish with no real economic value,” said Prophet. “The real issue is not so much the fate of the Topeka Shiner, but the future of the total environmental picture. Man has threatened the continued existence of this species. If we destroy this fish are we putting other forms of wildlife in jeopardy? We need to know how we interfere with the lives of other species. We have to find ways in which we can live in harmony with our natural resources.”
Prophet was born in Anthony, Kan., and went to school in Caldwell, Kan. He first came to ESU (Kansas State Teachers College at the time) as an undergraduate student and earned a bachelors of science in education degree in 1955 and a master’s from Emporia State in 1957.
Prophet was a junior high teacher for a couple of years in Caldwell. He spent time in the Army from 1951 to 1953 when he was stationed in Alaska.
After earning his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in 1962, he returned to Emporia as an assistant professor of biology.
In 1971, Prophet received the Xi Phi Outstanding Professor Award. Active in various research activities, Prophet is nationally known for his work in aquaticbiology. Over the years, he has been successful in generating federal and state research grants for study in aquatic wildlife in the state and nation.
His work on feedlot runoff provided valuable data on the water quality of Kansas lakes, rivers, and streams. As a result he has been an expert witness for congressional hearings on environmental water quality. He also has done considerable work with the Soil Conservation Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas Fish and Game commission, and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
He was an expert witness for congressional hearings on environmental water quality because of his work on feedlot runoff and its effect on water quality of Kansas lakes, rivers, and streams.
Dr. Gaylen Neufeld, chair of biological sciences at the time, said in nomination of Prophet for the Roe R. Cross honor, that “He has excelled in scholarship, in the mentoring of students, and in service to the academic and professional community. He is respected by students and colleagues. I can think of no one who has worked harder or how has been more conscientious in his responsibilities.”