Zach Penney holding a female kelt at the Lower Granite Dam Juvenile Bypass Facility on the Snake River.

Meet Zachary Penney

By Sue McMurray

Year: Second year doctoral student
Program: Fishery Resources
Hometown: Wallace, Idaho

In the first study of its kind, fisheries doctoral candidate and Nez Perce tribal member Zachary Penney is working with several agencies, including tribes, to find out why recent studies estimate repeat steelhead spawning rates are less than two percent in Idaho.

Unlike their salmon cousins, which die after spawning, steelhead can return to the sea and live to spawn another day. Penney and other fishery students and biologists studying post-spawning fish (kelts) have been sampling Idaho, Oregon and Washington waters since January 2009 to determine characteristics associated with successful downstream migration and recovery to spawn again.

“If a wild female steelhead is able to spawn multiple times in her life, she is then able to distribute her invaluable genetics to more offspring,” said Penney. “More wild fish is a good thing.”

Because many wild stocks of steelhead are threatened in Idaho, as well as other areas in the Pacific Northwest, Penney’s research will provide managers with the science to make decisions to improve recovery efforts for this species.