NSF Graduate Fellow
Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of cutthroat trout by nonnative rainbow trout.
Ernest R. Keeley and Margaret Ptacek (Clemson Univ.)
PhD in Biology with a focus on the ecology of freshwater fishes.
University Department and/or Lab:
Department of Biological Sciences
Description of Research:
I am investigating possible mechanisms that allow nonnative rainbow trout and cutthroat-rainbow hybrid trout to displace native cutthroat trout. My work combines a large-scale field survey of the distribution of rainbow trout and hybrid trout within a Yellowstone cutthroat trout population and several experimental approaches to test for competitive differences between cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and their hybrids. Goals of the survey include identifying streams with pure native cutthroat trout and testing for relationships between environmental conditions and the spread of rainbow trout alleles. My experiments focus is on testing for swimming, foraging, and growth differences between cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and first generation hybrids. My results should provide information important to the conservation of remaining cutthroat trout populations and to the broader field of invasive species ecology by identifying some specific pathways that provide competitive advantages to rainbow trout over native cutthroat trout.
One example of how you integrate your research into your GK-12 experience:
Over the summer prior to joining the GK12 program, I worked with my teacher on surveying native and nonnative fish in local streams. We incorporated this work into several lesson plans to illustrate how nonnative species and pollution may impact food webs in local watersheds. Based on this survey, we also planned field trip locations for an Environmental Science Academy to sample fish, macroinvertebrate, and water quality in impacted and pristine stream environments. We also established several water quality monitoring stations that we collected samples from for in class experience conducting water quality surveys. Finally, throughout Physical Science and Biology courses, I continuously use pieces of my field survey and experimental research to demonstrate the scientific process and to inspire students to pursue careers in ecology.