Bozeman Fish Technology Center
Mountain-Prairie Region

New Research Systems and Studies: (Photos clockwise from left) Artificial stream,  Open-channel flume, Swim tunnel


New Research Systems and Studies

Through collaborative projects with local and regional partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bozeman Fish Technology Center has enhanced its research capabilities by adding an open-channel flume, swim tunnels, and an artificial stream to its wet-laboratory facilities. Studies conducted in these new research systems will help answer specific questions on fish swimming abilities (having application to the design and function of fish passages and barriers); fish physiology, fitness, and adaptations; and the ecology and life-history requirements of aquatic organisms. Results of these studies will help fill important information gaps identified by the Great Northern and Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) related to effects of climate change and other landscape-scale disturbances.


Open-channel flume: The flume channel is 56 feet long and has an adjustable width that extends up to 3 feet. Water velocity is created by tilting the flume at an angle (slopes > 6% are possible). A fish is placed in the tail-box and released. Overhead cameras and pit tag arrays (not shown) record the fish’s movements as it swims through the channel

Open-Channel Flume and Swim Tunnels

The open-channel flume and swim tunnels are the result of a partnership involving Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC, U.S. Forest Service-Gallatin National Forest, Turner Enterprises, and Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.  With the addition of these research systems, the Bozeman Fish Technology Center is now a test-bed facility for addressing a broad range of questions related to habitat connectivity for aquatic species.


Studies conducted in the flume will determine scientifically valid volitional (unforced) swimming abilities of fish species in a dynamic setting and will focus initially on westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, shovelnose sturgeon, and endangered pallid sturgeon. Locomotion data generated using the open-channel flume (volitional swimming) will be compared with data generated using a more traditional swim tunnel (forced swimming).


Progress Update
The open-channel flume was “structurally” completed and water-tested in July 2010. Successful pilot swimming trials were conducted with 50 wild westslope cutthroat trout at two water temperatures and two water velocities. Data collected from these pilot trials represent the first and only information on the swimming ability of westslope cutthroat trout!


Swim tunnel

In spring to early fall 2011, swimming studies with westslope cutthroat trout will continue and swimming studies with rainbow trout, shovelnose sturgeon, and pallid sturgeon will be initiated in the flume and in a swim tunnel. Swimming studies on sturgeon are supported by the Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC and will be the first LCC project assessing the swimming abilities of Great Plains fish species.  Future collaborations with the Plains and Prairie Potholes LCC on other important fish species may involve blue sucker, paddlefish, pearl dace, sauger, sicklefin chub, sturgeon chub, burbot, and Topeka shiner.




Artificial Stream

The artificial stream is a result of a partnership involving the U.S. Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, and the Great Northern LCC, and direct funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region. When fully installed and operational by spring 2011, this system will allow researchers to simulate varied stream conditions for addressing a wide variety of questions on fish ecology, behavior, and life-history requirements relative to selected environmental factors.


The first project to use this new research system will be a U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service Science Support project titled: “Spawning of Pallid Sturgeon and Shovelnose Sturgeon in an Artificial Stream: Estimating the Effect of Temperature and Flow on the Timing and Duration of Spawning with Implications for Regulated River Management and Response to Climate Change”.


Pallid and shovelnose sturgeon spawning has not been observed in the wild. After two decades of telemetry studies, fishery scientists studying pallid sturgeon continue to envy lake sturgeon biologists who can collect life-history observations in wadeable and low turbidity rivers. Studies on lake sturgeon have provided information on spawning behavior and how this behavior relates to water temperature, discharge, and substrate. Empirical observations of spawning behavior of pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon in the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers are unrealistic given the depth, high current velocity, and high turbidity. Thus, a viable alternative is to study their spawning behavior in an artificial stream. Creating an artificial stream in which pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon spawning can be observed requires developing an environment that meets their habitat preferences. The artificial stream at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center is based on a design used to successfully spawn shortnose sturgeon at the Leetown Science Center’s Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Laboratory in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.