Restoration of Coaster Brook Trout and Their Endangered River

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (19)
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Why This Project Is Important 

Lake Superior coaster brook trout are at risk. By restoring the spawning site of the coaster brook trout, we will have a better chance of saving this unique migratory fish, and we can train the next generation of scientists and educators to have a better understanding of aquatic ecology and watershed dynamics.

Project Description 

Coaster brook trout were once common throughout Lake Superior basin tributaries and near shore waters, but the populations were wiped out due to over-fishing and habitat degradation. The Salmon Trout River, in Marquette, Mich., hosts the last known remnant breeding population of coasters in the area. Our team has been conducting long-term research on the status and ecology of this population since 2000. Based on annual assessments of coasters using stationary fish-counting weirs and visual counts of fish at spawning sites, the population appears to consist of only a few hundred adults that ascend the river each fall to spawn. Over the last decade, the Salmon Trout River has become degraded by land use and roads in the watershed causing erosion. Sand now covers the small section of stream-bottom cobbles where the majority of coasters once spawned, making the existing small population even more at risk of dying out. As sand continues to cover the cobbles and gravels where the coasters spawn, it also changes ecosystem dynamics; we have been examining these effects as the sands accumulate in the river so that we can also study the beneficial effects of removing the sands. In an attempt to save the main spawning site, we received funding to install a sediment collector (which traps sand as it moves downstream) in August 2012. So far, it has produced excellent results, trapping sediments moving downstream. But the sediment build-up downstream of the collector still poses a big problem. This coming summer, we hope to remove sand from the spawning site downstream of the sediment collector. Once we have cleared the sand that covers the spawning site, the collector will be able to keep the site clean on its own, allowing coaster brook trout populations a better chance of recovery. Now, we need your help to fund the restoration of this critical river habitat and its iconic coaster brook trout population.

Meet the Researcher

Casey Huckins

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Questions for the Researcher

john soyring's picture
John Soyring  May 13, 2013 - 9:23pm
Casey, would you please comment on the effectiveness of the Salmon Trout River sand traps relative to the other rivers studied by the DNR and described in the news article at:
cjhuckin's picture
Casey Huckins (Researcher)  May 13, 2013 - 10:07pm
John, This is a great question. The classic sand trap constructed for the removal of excess sand bedload requires the excavation of a section of the stream channel to create a deep pool, which then collects sand. These sand traps need to be routinely cleaned (i.e., re-excavated) using large equipment to maintain their function. By design they also alter the pool-riffle structure of the stream. The sediment collector we installed requires no excavation. Rather it rests on top of the stream bed and as water and sand flow over it, the sand falls into a hopper, which is intermittently emptied by an attached slurry pump. The sand is thus removed from river channel before it impacts the downstream spawning site without causing additional disturbance to the stream bed or bank.

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of $10,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $526
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Clean sand from coaster brook trout spawning areas
  • Provide promising students with internships to study the river and its ecosystem throughout the project
  • Offset travel and supply costs
Although there are no rewards for this project, all donors will receive an email receipt with tax-deduction information.

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