Bozeman Fish Technology Center
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Bozeman Fish Technology Center

4050 Bridger Canyon Road | Bozeman, MT 59715
Hours: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm | Phone: (406) 587- 9265 | Fax: (406) 586-5942

Sensitive Aquatic Species Conservation – Projects

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Local Adaptation and Genetic Load in Cutthroat Trout: Are Cutthroat Trout Locally Adapted to Their Natal Stream Temperature? »

Oviposition in westslope cutthroat trout. Native cutthroat trout habitat in western Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Local Adaptation and Genetic Load in Cutthroat Trout: Are Cutthroat Trout Locally Adapted to Their Natal Stream Temperature?

Principal Investigators: Steven Kalinowski and Mark Taper (Montana State University), Brad Shepard (Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks), Molly Webb, Al Zale (USGS Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit)

Graduate Student: Daniel Drinan (USGS Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit

Partners: Montana State University, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, USGS Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit

Funding Source: JNational Science Foundation

Project Summary: Understanding local adaptations is a fundamental goal of evolutionary biology and would provide managers information necessary to better protect and conserve species. Salmonid are a particularly useful system for studying local adaptations as they often persist in disparate and isolate environments. In addition, their sensitivity to temperature provides a likely candidate for natural selection to act. We studied thermal adaptation in four wild populations and one hatchery stock of westslope cutthroat trout. Mean native stream summer temperatures ranged from 6.7º to 11.2ºC. Embryos were collected from all populations and differences in embryonic development, embryonic survival, and juvenile growth were measured. We found a significant relationship between median embryonic survival and native stream temperatures at warm incubation temperatures (Rank test; P = 0.04). The change in embryonic survival across incubation temperatures was consistent for populations from warm streams but changed drastically for populations from cool streams. This difference suggests that populations from warmer streams may be thermal generalists, and populations from cooler streams may be thermal specialists. Results have both short- and long-term implications. In the short-term, managers should use these data to support the consideration of local adaptations when performing translocation projects. In the long-term, these data suggest that global climate change may be detrimental for westslope cutthroat trout.


Fitness Consequences of Hybridization between Native Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Nonnative Rainbow Trout »

Introgressed westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout embryos. Glacier National Park in Montana. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Fitness Consequences of Hybridization between Native Westslope Cutthroat Trout and Nonnative Rainbow Trout

Principal Investigators: Molly Webb, Clint Muhlfeld (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center), Steven Kalinowski (Montana State University), Brad Shepard and Matthew Boyer (Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks)

Graduate Student: Daniel Drinan (University of Washington)

Undergraduate Student: Beca Gunderson

Partners: USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Montana State University, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, University of Washington

Funding Source: USGS Science Support Partnership

Project Summary: Human-mediated hybridization between native and nonnative invasive species is a leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. How low-levels of hybridization affect fitness and what level of hybridization is permissible pose difficult conservation questions with little supportive empirical information to inform policy and management. This is particularly true for salmonids, where widespread introgression among nonnative and native taxa often create hybrid swarms over extensive geographic areas, threatening natives with genomic extinction. We are assessing how low-levels of nonnative genetic introgression with nonnative rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) affect fitness of native westslope cutthroat trout (O. clarkii lewisi) at various life stages using controlled laboratory experiments. Results will be used to inform management and recovery programs to conserve and protect westslope cutthroat trout populations and other cutthroat trout subspecies throughout North America.


Destruction of Lake Trout Embryos in Natural Settings to Enhance Persistence of Native Trout »

Dredge-less vacuum applied to spawning grounds of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Destruction of Lake Trout Embryos in Natural Settings to Enhance Persistence of Native Trout

Principal Investigators: Jackson Gross (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center), Molly Webb, Robert Gresswell (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center)

USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

Partner: Archer Daniel Midlands, Montana State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service

Funding Source: USGS Science Support Partnership, Trout Unlimited

Project Summary: Since 1994 when the lake trout Salvelinus namaycush were first discovered in Yellowstone Lake, the National Park Service has been actively attempting to reduce the effects of this nonnative predator, primarily by capture with gill nets. Over 200,000 lake trout have been removed from the lake, and up to 23 km of gill nets have been used at one time. There are signs of success; however, the number of lake trout caught annually remains high (>50,000 each year since 2006). Although lake trout successfully spawn each year, there has been no effort to destroy the potentially large numbers of developing embryos on the spawning grounds. To this end, we investigated techniques for killing lake trout embryos. Our two objectives were to: 1) critically assess ecological effectiveness, cost effectiveness, and safety of alternative methods to destroy lake trout embryos in natural settings and 2) based on initial assessments, develop a practical methodology and associated equipment to destroy lake trout embryos in natural settings. An initial literature review identified possible strategies for suppression and eradication of fish during early life-history stages in natural settings. Subsequently, we conducted preliminary tests of five strategic approaches to suppress lake trout and other invasive salmonids, including electricity, carbon dioxide, UV light, dredge-less vacuums, and acoustic energy.


Development and Optimization of Spawning and Intensive Culture Techniques for Woundfin: Development of Spawning Techniques and Reduction of Embryo and Larval Loss »

Hormonal injection of adult woundfin. Ultraviolet exposure system. Credit: USFWS.

Project Title: Development and Optimization of Spawning and Intensive Culture Techniques for Woundfin: Development of Spawning Techniques and Reduction of Embryo and Larval Loss

Principal Investigators: Molly Webb, Andy Ray (USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center), and Cal Fraser

Undergraduate Students: Luke Holmquist and Sierra Alexander

Partners: USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program, Dexter National Fish Hatchery, Wahweap State Fish Hatchery-Utah, Bubbling Ponds State Fish Hatchery-Arizona

Funding Source: Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program

Project Summary: The endangered woundfin Plagopterus argentissimus has been reared in captivity since the mid–late 1980s at Dexter National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center (NFHTC). Initially, the captive rearing program was intended as a means to retain natural genetic diversity and maintain a refugial population in the event of catastrophic loss in the Virgin River. Dexter NFHTC has consistently provided approximately 5–10 thousand woundfin annually since the early 2000s. The Virgin River Resource Management and Recovery Program is in the process of determining how many fish will be needed for an effective restocking program, which could possibly require an order of magnitude or more increase in annual hatchery production, perhaps as many as 100 to 200 thousand annually. We are working collaboratively with the conservation propagation facilities to develop methods to 1) increase egg and embryo production and compress the spawning season through manipulation of the thermal regime during the pre-spawning and spawning season and develop hormonal injection protocols and 2) reduce embryo and larval loss through predation and UV-B exposure. These techniques will assist the propagation program to meet the increased need for woundfin released into the wild.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: April 08, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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