WSU Professor, Students Fish for Conservation
The fishing trips were part of a creek-sampling project that started in 2008. A collaboration between
Hoagstrom and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), the project spanned 31 small streams from Brigham City to Bountiful, Utah. During the expeditions, Hoagstrom and his students determined if fish were present. If so, they documented the quantity, type, size and age of the fish, and then the width, depth and flow of the stream.
Hoagstrom and his students found that 14 of the 31 streams contained some species of trout, mostly rainbow but also brown trout and the Utah-native Bonneville cutthroat trout. They also gained a better understanding of the factors that contribute to a creek’s ability to support successful trout populations, thanks to research provided by WSU students Tyler Anderson of Farmington, Utah, and Madison Kingsford of Perry, Utah.
“With knowledge about the current status of fish distribution in the Wasatch Front streams – many of which had not been sampled during the previous two decades – we can better focus on native trout restoration, habitat enhancement and population monitoring,” McKell said.
“An understanding of specific streams, the terrain through which they flow, and any tendency for landslides is useful to us from the standpoint of where we place management emphasis,” McKell said. “Streams that are prone to damaging floods would be ranked lower in terms of management priority than more stable systems. As an example, we are less likely to stock trout in a stream prone to landslides than other less- prone streams.”
According to historical data collected by WSU students Tim Healy of Uintah, Utah, Jared Eames of Ogden, and Bryce Galbraith of Syracuse, a population of the Lahontan cutthroat trout was found in 1977 in the Pilot Peak Mountain Range in Box Elder County, Utah. Fish from this population were stocked in several streams across Northern Utah, including a stream in Weber County in 1986. Biologists believed the transfer was a failed attempt, as no offspring could be found.
Healy, however, had heard that the population did still exist, so he set out to find it. The fish stories proved true.
“This has been a wonderful experience for students,” Hoagstrom said. “Undergraduate research makes you think more deeply. Learning to collect data correctly is important, but the key is what you then do with that information. I know I’ve done my job when a student says, ‘If I could go back, I would have done this differently’ or ‘Here’s an extra thing I’d like to know.’ That means they’re thinking about it; they’ve made it their own.”
“This has been a great opportunity for collaboration between the UDWR and Weber State, particularly with Chris, a relationship which will no doubt continue into the future,” McKell said.