Mentors & Lab: Georgia Third & Paige Gardner- Palkovacs Lab

Positions: 2-4 interns

Tentative dates: July-August 2024

Project Location: Santa Cruz Mountains

Project Background: If you want to spend your summer hiking outdoors, working on a project contributing to the conservation of a threatened migratory fish then look no further! When people think of steelhead trout, they typically think about the migratory fish that spends part of their life cycle in freshwater and part in the ocean but there are also populations of O. mykiss with a non-migratory life history strategy that remain resident in streams year-round. Only the migratory steelhead are federally listed under the endangered species act as threatened, and thus get significantly more research and monitoring attention. We want to study how populations of resident and migratory O. mykiss differ in their effects on stream ecological functioning. To study this we will comprehensively sample migratory and non-migratory steelhead populations and the streams in which they reside. We will be investigating differences in size, age structure, morphology, diet, thermal tolerance, and growth of fish as well as stream differences in macroinvertebrate communities, organic matter decomposition rates and algal accrual as a consequence of either migratory or resident populations of fish.

Intern duties: The duties of the intern will be field work dominant with some lab work and data analysis. The field work will involve field surveys of several streams containing populations of resident and anadromous steelhead trout. Interns will assist in the capture, anesthetizing, measuring, photographing and fin clipping of fish. A small subsample of the fish are lethally sampled to collect a variety of internal tissues and the intern may be involved in the lethal sacrifice process. The stream characterization work will involve measuring the dimensions of the study site, collecting macroinvertebrate samples, deploying and collecting leaf packs and algal tiles. Lab work and data analysis may focus on either fish samples, invertebrate samples, or abiotic stream characteristics depending on the interests of the student.

Intern qualifications: The intern should be passionate about fish ecology and conservation and willing to learn. They should be a good team player and have good initiative. We need someone who is physically fit, a solid hiker who is steady on their feet while carrying sometimes large and heavy equipment to remote areas. They should be comfortable hiking off trail and in streams. Although we do our best to minimize exposure to poison oak, it is common at many of our study sites and some contact is likely. The streams are typically shallower than 2m, but for extra safety, they should be able to swim. The intern should be willing to work sometimes long, strenuous days outside. The intern should be comfortable around dissections and dead fish.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Not necessary.