Dr Colden Baxter

Dr. Colden Baxter, Idaho State University

Continuation of long-term stream ecology monitoring
In summer 2010 we propose a continuation of the long-term monitoring of stream-riparian system responses to wildfire that has been conducted Dr. Wayne Minshall and colleagues over the past two decades, and which is now being carried on under the leadership of Dr. Colden Baxter. The streams will be sampled in the same manner as they have been over the past 20 years, during late July. This work provides the most comprehensive, long-term record of the dynamics of wilderness streams in this region. In addition to its value for assessing the reponses of these systems to wildfire, we now recognize the importance of this dataset for detecting trends in these systems associated with other changes, such as those driven by climate alteration. In addition to the long-term support from the Payette National Forest, this work is now supported by the award of a large National Science Foundation grant to the state of Idaho to study effects of climate change on water resources of the state. This dataset is among the most important in the state from that standpoint. To enhance our ability to interpret these data, we are collaborating with Dr. Ben Crosby (ISU Dept. Geosciences) and students, who are continuing studies of water and sediment fluxes at these sites (see separate application).

Undergraduate research project and continuation of stream discharge and sediment process monitoring
During summer 2010, we propose to continue stream discharge monitoring that has been conducted by Dr. Ben Crosby and students over the past two years. Coupled to this and to the ecological sampling described above, we propose an undergraduate research project entitled “Investigating Relationships between Flow, Bed Mobility, and Stream Organisms: Steps Toward Predicting Climate Change Effects in Tributaries of Big Creek, A Wilderness Watershed of Central Idaho” . This study will be conducted by ISU undergraduate Matt Schenk, under the guidance of Drs. Baxter and Crosby. Details of methods can be found in the attached proposal. To continue monitoring of stream flow, we request permission during the spring and summer of 2010 to measure stream flow in the same list of tributaries to Big Creek (see below) in which ecological measures are conducted. We propose to use the same non-invasive, not-permanent monitoring techniques used over the past two years to quantify stream flow. Monitoring sites have been chosen by Crosby, Baxter and Minshall to complement existing studies in the tributaries surrounding TWFS. We will use techniques to access these sites that avoid creating new trails or enlarging existing ones and not alter the vegetation, stream bed or bank during the study.

In addition, in each of these same sites we propose to follow the movement of streambed material. The mobility and scour of the streambed is an important mechanism by which changes in the flow regime may affect stream organisms. In order to understand the mechanisms and predict the responses of organisms to changes in stream flow that may accompany wildfire, beetle kill or changing climate, studies that link organisms to these processes are needed. In particular, such study is needed for wilderness streams, where the influences of other factors (e.g., land use, water withdrawals) do not confound our ability to identify and describe the relationships. We propose to use a non-obtrusive technique of marking rocks with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags, much as is presently done for hundreds of fish in the basin each year. These marked stones are then relocated repeatedly, and estimates of scour and mobility can be derived. In turn, these measures can be related to organism distribution and abundance patterns (see attached proposal for more detail).

Finally, in addition to participating in the ecological sampling associated with the annual Baxter-Minshall monitoring, the undergraduate researcher proposes to conduct underwater (mask and snorkel) surveys for fish and amphibians in each of the study sites. Historically, the ecological monitoring done at these sites has focused on periphyton and invertebrates but has not included vertebrates. This undergraduate research project would take an important step, matching knowledge of fish and amphibians (principally tailed frog tadpoles) in these tributary locations to both the long-term ecological data and the streamflow and sediment process information. Snorkel surveys are a non-invasive, no-trace technique appropriate to the wilderness context of these streams, as well as the endangered species that may be present. The student will be trained by Dr. Baxter, who has over 20 yrs experience using this method, including in systems with sensitive species like Big Creek. In particular, care will be taken to avoid surveying streams when fish redds might be disturbed.