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Klamath Falls Field Station

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Research Snapshot - Monitoring Populations of Endangered Catostomids to Support Recovery Efforts

A KFFS researcher inserting a 12 mm PIT tag into the abdominal musculature of an endangered sucker.

A KFFS researcher inserting a 12 mm PIT tag into the abdominal musculature of an endangered sucker. Photograph by U.S. Geological Survey.

The KFFS was originally established to fortify USGS efforts to monitor the status of adult populations of Lost River and shortnose suckers in the Upper Klamath Basin. The objective of our research and monitoring program is to quantitatively evaluate the status and dynamics of the populations, including assessment of factors that might be inhibiting recovery, such as water quality, toxins, and disease. The primary sucker populations of interest are those in Upper Klamath Lake (Oregon) and Clear Lake Reservoir (California). Results of our research and monitoring are used by managers charged with recovering the populations and managing water resources in the Basin, namely the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. Climate change is expected to exacerbate many of the factors responsible for the imperilment of these species, such that the task of managing water resources to benefit the suckers will only become more difficult.

Our research and monitoring program is based on capture-recapture methods with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags and relies on sampling at key areas during the spring spawning season. Since tagging began over 15 years ago, tens of thousands of each of the endangered sucker species have been tagged and released, and thousands more are newly tagged each year. In addition, thousands of Klamath largescale suckers have been tagged and released, providing valuable information for a species about which little is known. The current monitoring program continues past sampling efforts that targeted suckers with trammel nets, but has also undergone substantial changes to increase the probability of re-encountering PIT-tagged fish. Major changes to the program included (1) the addition of a resistance board weir and traps in the lower Williamson River, the primary spawning tributary, and (2) the large-scale implementation of remote detection systems for PIT tags. In recent years the remote detection systems have accounted for greater than 80% of annual re-encounters and have dramatically improved model-based inferences about population dynamics.

A box containing PIT tag readers and associated equipment mounted on a platform amidst spawning Lost River suckers at Sucker Spring in Upper Klamath Lake. Right: A remote flat plate PIT tag antenna on the substrate.

A box containing PIT tag readers and associated equipment mounted on a platform amidst spawning Lost River suckers at Sucker Spring in Upper Klamath Lake. Right: A remote flat plate PIT tag antenna on the substrate. Photograph by U.S. Geological Survey.

Physical captures of fish in trammel nets and remote detections of tagged fish are used in capture-recapture models to estimate annual survival probabilities and rates of change in population sizes. These estimates provide a comprehensive evaluation of the status of the populations. In addition to providing these essential metrics, the program provides sampling and data analysis platforms upon which multiple other investigations have been built, including:

Key Findings:

A resistance board weir with upstream and downstream traps spanning the lower Williamson River, and a KFFS researcher with an endangered sucker captured in one of the traps.

A resistance board weir with upstream and downstream traps spanning the lower Williamson River, and a KFFS researcher with an endangered sucker captured in one of the traps. Photograph by U.S. Geological Survey.

Recent Publications:

Staff Contact:

Eric Janney


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Page Last Modified: Thursday, 08-Dec-2016 08:27:54 EST