Citizen Scientists Sample Streams for Brook Trout DNA

WV Rivers and Trout Unlimited partner with state and federal agencies to convene the Wild Trout Collaborative, a work group that discusses the challenges and needs to sustain a healthy brook trout population. One of the identified needs is comprehensive identification of streams that support healthy wild trout populations.

That’s why, with our agency partners and Trout Unlimited, we are creating a Wild Trout Atlas. The map identifies streams documented by various agencies as containing trout and streams that are rumored to contain trout but have not been given an official designation. Designating streams as official brook trout streams offers the species and the stream additional protections. Brook trout streams have stronger water quality standards because trout are very sensitive to pollution. Additionally, construction activities taking place within streams are restricted during the trout spawning season.

Once we determine which streams may contain trout but are not protected, we train volunteers to collect brook trout DNA from the stream. The water in the stream is pumped through a filter. Brook trout DNA is caught in the filter and the filter is then sent to the US Forest Service’s genomic laboratory in Missoula, Montana. Every species has a unique DNA signature that is specific to that species allowing lab technicians to analyze the sample for brook trout genetic markers.

While we await the results of our current sampling session in the Spring Creek Watershed, previous sampling trips resulted in the official designation of trout steam in 4 previously undocumented streams. Those streams were offered to the WVDEP to be eligible to receive additional protections. If you’d like to support these efforts, consider making a donation to WV Rivers.

See our volunteers in action below loading the filter cap, placing the filter in the stream and pumping the water through the filter.

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