Dr Brian Kennedy

Dr. Brian Kennedy, University of Idaho

The overarching study plan describes the proposed work for the next two to three years (2010-2011). The goals of our ongoing collective research and educational mission on Big Creek are 1) to continue to develop a spatially explicit bioenergetics model that can be used to assess the potential impacts of food and habitat limitation on the growth and survival of juvenile Chinook in Big Creek (continuation of project from 2006-08) and 2) to understand the ecological drivers of juvenile salmon movement, migration timing and adult salmon straying rates within the drainage of Big Creek and how it relates to the greater Middle Fork system (new project, continuing from 2009), 3) to implement a basin wide temperature monitoring system that is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of a Field Station Improvement Grant as well as the statewide Climate Impacts on River Systems – EPSCoR initiative (see attached proposal) and 4) to integrate our scientific and educational missions with a field-based undergraduate curriculum that may be approved for funding and start as early as August 2011. This semester-long program would provide undergraduate instruction in field based courses across seientific, natural and human history disciplines. Courses would be based out of TWRS and McCall Field Campus. Different parts of these projects are collaborative with USFS-RMRS, NOAA-NMFS and IDFG. As part of this effort there would be at least two graduate student projects and possible undergraduate projects. The two graduate projects have been funded by NOAA-NMFS and the DeVlieg Foundation and are described briefly in the attached proposals. Additional efforts will include undergraduate research projects that will provide pieces of information toward the overarching project goals and objectives.

Doing this work in the wilderness area is critical for a number of reasons. The selected study sites allow us to merge our spatially explicity and temporally intensive field work from a select number of sites into the longer term data available for fish and aquatic systems in Big Creek (e.g. NOAA censusing, IDFG snorkeling surveys). The relatively pristine streams and rivers near the Taylor Field Research Station in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area represent one of the few areas in North America where the freshwater portion of the salmon life cycle exists as it has for thousands of years and allows for an understanding of individual performance and community interactions in a relatively unaltered evolutionary context. Our measurements of movements and migrations allow us to understand how these processes work in a wilderness system in the absence of other confounding effects that hamper other studies such as major hatchery influence and anthropogenic hydrologic alteration (outside of hydropower projects.) The coupling of a wilderness system with a disturbed migration corridor allows us to place the Middle Fork system in the context of wilderness and wild salmon systems throughout the Norther Pacific. We will be casting our work along comparative gradients with wilderness systems in Kamchatka, Alaska and British Columbia. Additionally, One can study the feeding behavior and physiology of native salmon in the absence of invasive species and without the effects of human disturbance on the banks and in riparian areas. Little is known about the long-term dynamics of fish populations within these expansive wilderness ecosystems. Using long-term data, we can begin to understand the spatial and temporal fluctuations in population and its relevance to a potentially larger metapopulation system (Rieman and Dunham 2000). This study will build significantly upon other aquatic research that has been established in the region (NMFS fisheries and productivity data), but will be the first of a projected long term sets of studies that attempts to establish consistent sampling sites, methods and protocols in order to address some of the fundamental questions of population dynamics of salmonids in this system.