Conserving Native Trout in Montana
Montana’s freshwater streams and river habitats are often considered the quintessential trout fisheries of the lower 48 contiguous United States. In recent years, however, invasive fish species have increasingly challenged the overall sustained health of native trout habitat. This poses a major threat to native trout conservation, and demands the attention of scientists and sportsmen alike.
At the University of Montana in Missoula, Taylor Wilcox, Ph.D. student, and a team of fisheries scientists are investigating how invasive fish species influence the persistence of native fish species across rivers and streams. Specifically, Taylor is using genetics to study environmental DNA (explained below) and helping to develop novel and cost-effective research techniques.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) refers to genetic material which is found free in the environment – much like genetic evidence at a crime scene. In freshwater ecosystems, fish and other animals release DNA into the water, where it can be captured and analyzed without ever seeing the animal that it came from. Overall, sampling for eDNA will provide [potential] important scientific insight on the overall heath, distribution, and population of invasive and native fish species across the Montana.