Kaitlyn Dykstra defends her thesis modeling yellow perch occupancy in wetlands
On June 21, 2018, graduate student Kaitlyn Dykstra successfully defended her Master's thesis, titled "Occupancy and detection of yellow perch in Great Lakes coastal wetlands". Her thesis committee members included Dr. Carl Ruetz III, Dr. Matthew Cooper (Northland College), and Dr. Neil MacDonald.
Kaitlyn's thesis research investigated the distribution of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in coastal wetlands across the Great Lakes basin using observations from fish sampling with fyke nets (similar to large lobster traps) as part of the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program. The yellow perch is important ecologically and is targeted by many anglers. Her research goal was to understand what factors affect the presence or absence of the species in particular wetlands. Based on her analysis, yellow perch was one of the most abundant fish species in Great Lakes coastal wetlands. She found that yellow perch tended to be present in coastal wetlands that had greater depth, lower specific conductivity (the ability of water to conduct electrical flow; low specific conductivity usually is associated with “cleaner” water), and a riverine connection to a Great Lake. She also estimated detection probability, which accounts for the possibility that a species is present but not detected by the sampling gear, and found that detection probability was similar among four of the five Great Lakes. This suggests that fyke nets are a reliable sampling gear in coastal wetlands across much of the Great Lakes basin. The statistical models Kaitlyn developed predict which coastal wetland habitats are preferred by yellow perch and emphasize the importance of incorporating detection probability into estimates of whether a species is present in a particular area, which should support management decisions regarding wetland conservation.
Kaitlyn has accepted a job as the Farm Manager at Revolution Farms, a new aquaponics farm in Caledonia, MI.