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Science Spotlights

Sampling streamwater in watersheds of the Hayman Fire
Severe wildfires remove vegetation and organic soil layers and expose watersheds to erosion which can transport large quantities of soil and ash to nearby rivers and streams. But once the burned areas have stabilized, do severe wildfires have any longer-lasting effects on watersheds or water quality? This study follows the Hayman Fire, 2002, Colorado, and shows that yes, there are long-term effects.
National Genomics Center stream water filter setup for eDNA sample collection
The National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation pioneered development of eDNA sampling of aquatic environments at their laboratory in Missoula, MT. The Center has partnered with dozens of National Forests, as well as other state, federal, tribal, and private natural resource organizations to assist in the collection and processing of eDNA samples. Thousands of eDNA samples are collected annually and constitute a rapidly growing...
Effective conservation and management decisions for habitats require information about the distribution of multiple species but such data is expensive to obtain; this often limits data collection to just a few, high-profile species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling can be more sensitive, and less expensive, than traditional sampling for aquatic species, and a single sample potentially contains DNA from all species present in a waterbody. Cost-...
Concerns about climate change effects on cold-water biodiversity sparked broad multi-agency collaborative efforts throughout the American West. U.S. Forest Service research teams led development of massive interagency databases that now enable precise mapping of critical habitats and species distributions in streams flowing through 101 National Forests.
Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.
Native trout are culturally and ecologically important, but climate change is likely to shrink the cold-water environments they require. Much can be done to preserve these fish but efficient planning and targeting of conservation resources has been hindered by a lack of broad-scale datasets and precise information about which streams are most likely to support native trout populations later this century. The Climate Shield is a useful took for...
The bull trout is an ESA-listed species that relies on cold stream environments across the Northwest and is expected to decline with climate change. Resource managers from dozens of agencies are charged with maintaining bull trout in thousands of streams, but monitoring this species is difficult. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is much faster, easier, and more sensitive than traditional fish sampling methods and provides an opportunity to better...
Research conducted by RMRS scientists demonstrates how intensive sampling efforts across a large geographical scale can influence identification of taxonomic groups among the fishes of the genus Cottus in the northern Rocky Mountains. Researchers used specific sequences from mitochondrial DNA regions and phylogenetic analyses techniques as indicators of biodiversity and to identify unique species.
Predictions of future climates include higher flows in mountain streams during mid-winter; a time when salmon eggs are incubating in streambed gravels. Unique stream bathymetry data and high resolution hydrodynamic models allow us to quantitatively assess the risk of bed scour and egg nest destruction in low gradient mountain streams during a variety of flows.