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New Headwater Streams project

June 14, 2012

Below is an update from Coowe Walker, Watershed Specialist with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve.

Since 2006, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve (KBRR), in partnership with Baylor University and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, has been leading research to learn about the headwater streams of the Kenai lowlands, which embraces the Anchor River, Deep Creek, Stariski Creek and Ninilchik River.   We have learned that headwaters, the tiny streams at the uppermost reaches of our watersheds, are very important nurseries for juvenile salmon.  In fact, we estimate that  over ¼ million juvenile salmonids use these headwater streams as rearing habitat.

Our previous research has shown that juvenile salmonids use different types of headwater streams at different age classes, and that stream structure is strongly influenced by the surrounding landscape.  Now, we pick up a new piece of this story by looking at juvenile fish movement between headwater stream types.  We are working with Coble Geophysical, a local business, to install and operate antennaes for detecting movement of tagged fish. The antennaes are powered by solar panels and marine batteries.   There are a total of five of these anntennae set-ups; three on branches of the Anchor River, and two on a branch of Stariski Creek.  These antennaes will operate year round, enabling us to detect seasonal movements between headwater stream types.  We are PIT tagging as many juvenile Dolly Varden and coho salmon as possible in these headwater streams. We hope to have 500-1000 juvenile salmonids tagged in each stream by the end of the season.

 Stay tuned for  more new ‘salmon in the hills’ research coming online in July and August.  These efforts are funded through a grant from the Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund, with additional support from KBRR, Baylor University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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