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Student Research Impacts State Policy
Susquehanna University Freshwater Research Initiative
Susquehanna University Freshwater Research Initiative

November 26, 2018

Susquehanna University students sampled 88 stream sites during the spring and summer of 2018 in their ongoing work for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's (PFBC) Unassessed Waters Initiative.

Of those 88 stream sites, 43 were found to have wild trout in them. Those streams will come before the commissioners of the PFBC for designation as wild trout streams, which indicates exceptional water quality and allows the PFBC to afford those streams additional protection in the permitting process for proposed development in those watersheds.

"Our work with the Unassessed Waters Initiative gives our students a unique opportunity to have a direct impact on government policy through scientific research," said Jonathan Niles, director of Susquehanna's Freshwater Research Initiative (FRI). "It's the perfect example of how scientific research impacts the real world."

There are more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania, more than in any state in the country except Alaska. Prior to the Unassessed Waters Initiative, the PFBC had no data on the small streams and creeks that Niles and his students have been surveying.

Since 2010, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and boosted by additional funding from granting agencies outside of the PFBC and NFWF like the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Susquehanna has surveyed more than 800 of the nearly 6,000 stream segments assessed.

Since 2012, Susquehanna's field work has contributed 202 of the more than 1,800 streams that have been added to the PFBC's Wild Trout Waters list.

Niles and his students are specially trained by the PFBC in the organization's quality controls and data collection and entry protocols.

When out in the field, they test water chemistry, and utilizing the FRI's electrofishing equipment, they collect fish and record the species, along with length and weight of each wild trout. Data is then sent back to the PFBC who reviews the data and begins the process to list streams as wild trout streams.

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