jackson Birrell

Variation in oxygen, temperature and flow in streams and how they influence the behavior of the giant salmonfly, Pteronarcys californica

Aquatic insects are integral components of stream ecosystems and are the primary food resource of Montana’s trout populations. However, many aquatic insects are sensitive to environmental change and are undergoing range shifts and local extirpations across the State. Predicting how populations will respond to climate change remains a high priority for watershed managers, yet our ability to do so is limited because we lack a clear understanding of the mechanisms that drive aquatic insect tolerances and distributions.  

Jackson Birrell, a PhD student at the University of Montana, will begin to fill this knowledge gap by measuring how the microhabitat preferences and tolerances of salmonfly nymphs (Pteronarcys californica), respond to variation in their environment. His research will facilitate a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive the distributions and tolerances of aquatic insects and will ultimately enhance our ability of predict how aquatic insect communities will respond to climate change.