Gwen Williams Prize 2011–2012 Recipient

Trout populations and their habitats in creeks of the northern Wasatch Front

Chris Hoagstrom, Zoology

During the summer of 2011, Chris Hoagstrom conducted fish surveys in creeks along the Wasatch Front, sampling sites.

The overall goal of the project was to sample trout populations in all streams along the Wasatch Front between Brigham City and Bountiful, Utah. Many creeks issue from small canyons along the front, and there had been no comprehensive survey to determine which creeks had trout. Beyond this, there was very little information on how trout populations and habitats differed among creeks.

In all, 31 creeks were sampled, some on more than one occasion to get better information on the distribution and abundance of trout. Sampling in 2011 was critical for allowing sampling of eight of these creeks. Fourteen of the 31 creeks contained a trout population. In most cases, these populations were rainbow trout, but one population was brown trout. The discovery of Bonneville cutthroat trout (a native species) in one creek was noteworthy as was re-discovery of an introduced (refuge) population of endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout.

This project involved 10 Weber State students, with three posters that have been presented at the Weber State University Undergraduate Research Symposium and Celebration, the Day at the Utah State Capitol and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Most notable is a poster completed by Tyler Anderson and Madison Kingsford that summarizes the findings of the entire study. Tyler has not only compiled all the data and performed an analysis to determine what habitat characteristics determine whether or not a trout population is present, he also conducted extensive library research to determine the flood histories of each canyon. With this combined information, he and Madison have determined that larger creeks that are less steep and drain mountains of higher elevation are more likely to support trout and that catastrophic flooding and landslides can wipe out trout populations even in more suitable creeks, but some populations have survived floods and landslides. This provides great baseline information regarding trout populations along the Wasatch Front. Another result of this work is that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has plans to re-introduce native Bonneville cutthroat trout to streams that do not presently have trout populations but appear to be suitable for them. As a result of his work, Tyler has been awarded the Department of Zoology Evolutionary Ecology Award.