UWP compiles data of fish population in Rountree Branch
PLATTEVILLE-Wading waste deep through water, algae and other stream vegetation, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Assistant Biology Professor Kristopher Wright and two undergraduate students, David Hartmann of Lancaster and Brianna McDowell of Mineral Point, spent the summer surveying fish populations in the Rountree Branch Stream.
"Considering the history of the land use in this area, the stream is really in good condition today, thanks to the efforts of many individuals in the area," Wright said.
Wright and the students selected 20 sites in the stream, running from campus up through Mound View Park, to collect samples of fish. Financed by a UWP Opportunity Fund Grant, the group was able to purchase an electro-fisher, allowing them to net fish in the safest, least traumatic method available to fish.
"Using an electro-fisher, which is basically a small generator that sends an electric charge into the water, momentarily stunning the fish, we were able to net a nice sample of fish," Wright said. "Once netted, we placed the fish in buckets and identified what type of fish it was, how much the fish weighed and how long it measured, the number of fish we collected from each area, and sometimes we flushed the stomach of the fish to take diet samples. We then released the fish, back into the stream, unharmed."
Wright said he was pleased with the survey results, which in general showed the stream to have a very diverse population of fish, ranging from darters and dace to sunfish and trout.
"We determined there is a moderate, yet healthy population of brown trout that is self-reproducing," Wright said. "Our supporting evidence is the size range of brown trout, from 3 inches to 24 inches. This data was particularly pleasing because for many years the Department of Natural Resources had to stock the stream with trout."
While the fish population survey results were positive, Wright said he would ideally like to see more fish downstream, in the campus area. Currently, the fish population is more concentrated upstream near the Highway 151 and Highway 80/81 intersection.
Other data collected on the Rountree Branch showed vegetation and algae diversity to be low with a cause for concern of algae overgrowth in some areas. Wright said such a thorough study of the Rountree Branch has never been conducted.
"This is by far the most extensive survey ever done on the Rountree Branch, giving us the best picture of the area," Wright said. "Using the information we've gathered will help us identify concerns or needs for the area, determine the health of the system and direct future projects and recreation opportunities. It's also good to have a general knowledge of what's in our streams and the data will aid city planners and managers to make informed decisions regarding the Rountree Branch area."
Conducting the survey of the Rountree Branch was Phase 1 of the project. Now the group moves into Phase 2, compiling the information and analyzing the data. Wright and his students will compare how different species of fish vary in location related to vegetation, algae and other stream components. The data will eventually be used to create science education for the trail and other projects.
Also included in Phase 2 will be the design of signs for the Rountree Branch area. Wright will work with the UWP Publications Department to develop signage for the branch. An announcement has also been sent out to UWP engineering and arts students, requesting student involvement in the trail layout and design of the nature area.
Phase 3 will include the enhancement of the existing access points of the Rountree Branch Nature Trail and the creation of new access points, providing easy and safe access to the trail and nature area. General improvements such as gravel fill, brush clearing or the addition of wood chips will also be made.
The final phase of the project, Phase 4, will be the provision of educational opportunities to the University and community that reach above and beyond the new signs.