Research

SRBTC works with a variety of partners conducting research about sea-run brook trout.

Recent projects include:

Supporting PIT Tagging and Sonic Tagging of Sea Run Trout in Southeastern Massachusetts

Conducting Water Temperature Assessment in Mill Brook, West Tisbury MA

Conducting Water Temperature Assessment in 3 coastal access streams in Stonington, CT

Stream Monitoring Program on the Carmans River, Long Island, NY

Partnership with TU National to fund replacement of poorly designed culverts on Marshall Brook in Acadia National Park, ME

Partnership with Maine Inland Fish & Wildlife to initiate an isotope study, designed to assess the extent of anadromy, of brook trout in four coastal Maine streams, with SRBTC funding $ 10,000 to match a Federal State Wildlife Grant (SWG) for a match of 1:1

Ongoing research project at UMass /USGS studying triggers for diadromous behavior of coastal brook trout (details shown below)

UMass/USGS Research Statement

Summary Statement: Our goal in partnership between UMass/USGS and SRBTC is to conduct research that will support the goals of the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition to stop the loss of remaining sea-run brook trout populations as well as restore populations in southeast New England and Long Island, NY.

The overall research question is whether a ‘fish is a fish’ or whether certain individual brook trout inhabiting coastal streams are predisposed (genetically) to anadromy. Understanding what controls anadromy in coastal brook trout populations will allow us to determine the role natural and anthropogenic disturbances play in maintaining and restoring sea-run brook trout stocks. Our research will be divided into three critical research questions:

Patterns of anadromy: To what extent does use of saltwater vary among populations? Can this be related to variation in functional genes among populations? What is the spatial ecology of sea-run brook trout populations, especially in coastal waters?

Genetic vs. environmental control of anadromy: How does individual growth history influence anadromy? Does extent of anadromy vary among populations with different historical opportunities for anadromy and for individuals with different functional genes? Mechanisms of anadromy: What controls anadromy and what are the consequences of anadromy for population persistence?

Question 1: Patterns of anadromy

Systematic survey of historical brook trout streams to document the presence/absence of anadromous and resident brook trout.

For a selected set of streams that contain a) anadromous fish and b) resident fish that have been isolated for varying amounts of time, we will examine:

Length distribution of fish within populations

Patterns of saltwater use by fish (isotopes and acoustic tagging)

Genetic analysis with Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers in functional genes to identify:

Historical population relationships

Genes associated with migratory tendency

Question 2: Genetic vs. environmental control

Tendency to migrate to the ocean may be influenced by the environment, but the way populations respond to environmental cues could be controlled by genetic factors. This is of interest because the tendency to migrate may be lost due to selection against migration following extended isolation of formerly anadromous populations. As such, we will conduct an experimental test to determine the environmental sensitivity of migratory tendency within and among coastal brook trout populations.

Three coastal stream types: (1) anadromous, (2) resident above anthropogenic shorter-term barrier, (3) long-isolated resident above natural barrier

Juveniles will be captured from the three stream types and exposed to three diet treatments (low, medium, high) in the laboratory for one month to induce variation in growth rate

Reciprocal transplantation of PIT tagged fish back to streams from which parents were taken

PIT tag antennas at stream mouths will identify migrants and migratory tendency will be related to stream type and diet treatment

Individual SNP genotypic variation will be related to migratory tendency

Future years could involve experimental crosses within and among stream types to determine the genetic basis of anadromy.

Question 3: Mechanisms of anadromy

A comprehensive long-term analysis of three anadromous streams is necessary to understand how individual variation in fitness contributes to overall population dynamics and long-term persistence of populations.

Demographic analysis (PIT tags, acoustic telemetry, physiological indicators of stress, detection systems, modeling)

Genetic analysis (SNP markers, sibship and multi-generation pedigree reconstruction)

Quantitative genetic estimates of genetic basis of migratory tendency, growth rate, and body size estimates of the effects of size selective harvest, fragmentation, climate change

 

SRBTC's Partners include scientific, regulatory and management agencies

Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation The Trustees of Reservations Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of Trout Unlimited
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Buzzards Bay Coalition U.S. Geological Survey Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture


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