Back in 2009, Weber State University professor Christopher Hoagstrom started a project to measure local creeks and look at which ones were good habitats for fish.
“Partly, these creeks are just very convenient, and we’ve used them for classes,” Hoagstrom said about beginning the project. “It just makes a good outdoor laboratory.”
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources contacted Hoagstrom to say general surveys of the creeks would be useful for it, but it was something it didn’t have the money to do itself.
“Once we started doing it, I also became more intrigued, just because we were finding some interesting things, and each canyon is a little bit different,” Hoagstrom said. “It’s kind of fun just to explore the different canyons and see what we find in them.”
The original thing they looked for was whether or not the creeks had fish in them at all. Hoagstrom said they expected fish in some creeks but not others, and they wanted to try and figure out why one creek would have fish and another wouldn’t. About one-third of the creeks had fish in them, and they tended to be the bigger and less steep creeks.
Some of the larger creeks didn’t have fish in them, and they hypothesized why that would happen.
“We think that has to do with landslides back in the 1980s,” Hoagstrom said. “There were a bunch of big floods . . . that probably could have killed some of the fish that were in there.”
In one creek, the group found a non-native fish that was reintroduced into the environment back in the 1980s. People thought it had gone extinct.
The DWR has a program for reintroducing native fish into these bigger creeks based on the information collected.
Tyler Anderson first got into the project while taking one of Hoagstrom’s classes. While looking on the professor’s webpage to access some course material, Anderson found the project.
“Probably the most valuable thing was to see how research happens,” Anderson said.
Anderson graduated from WSU in the spring as a medical major and is planning on going to medical school in Virginia. He said learning about the research method will help him in his career because he can get a better perspective when new research comes out in his field.
“I can judge for myself whether it is good or not,” Anderson said.
The creeks were in between Brigham City and Bountiful. The group measured each creek and looked for fish in each using electroshock fishing.
“(I learned) quite a bit,” said WSU student Bryce Gailbraith. “It’s not just how much food is in a stream. There are lots of criteria for fish habitats.”
Gailbraith joined the project in fall of 2010 and continued into the summer of 2011. He recently earned his degree in zoology and is now going to WSU to take classes in preparation for medical school.
“I loved it,” Gailbraith said about the project. “It was awesome, a good workout, and I got to fish. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?”
This fall semester, Hoagstrom and his upper-division classes will be studying Strong’s Creek in Ogden.
“It’s a different kind of learning than just regurgitating things in a class,” Hoagstrom said.