Image caption: Kylie studying juvenile sturgeon in her Stream Ecology class during her junior year at Allegheny College (2018), not knowing that she would be working with them as a graduate student two years later!
Kylie Wirebach, a new graduate student in Dr. Pennuto’s lab, has completed her first summer of work on the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service-funded sturgeon project, in collaboration with Dr. Dimitry Gorsky from USFWS. The goals of the project are to map historic habitat use by lake sturgeon in Lake Erie and assess the current suitability of those habitats for lake sturgeon reintroduction efforts.
Today, Lake Erie sturgeon are only known to spawn in the Detroit and Niagara Rivers, though juveniles have been released in recent years into the Maumee River. However, Kylie’s preliminary research has found that lake sturgeon may have previously spawned in up to 22 tributaries of Lake Erie. Of these, 13 are in Ohio, 3 in Michigan, 3 in Pennsylvania, and 3 in New York.
The next steps for this project include gathering habitat data for these tributaries, including substrate, stream velocity, stream depth, and water temperature. Kylie is planning to use remotely-sensed (satellite and aerial imagery) data to derive some of this information. Once complete, these stream characteristics will be ranked and compared in a GIS environment to identify suitable and unsuitable habitats.
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