Nick Vander Stelt defends thesis on Arctic Grayling reintroduction

Nick Vander Stelt defends thesis on Arctic Grayling reintroduction

Interest Area(s)
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Biology, Environmental Studies

On February 27, 2023, graduate student Nicholas Vander Stelt successfully defended his Master’s thesis, titled "Spatial variation of fish assemblages, habitat, and Arctic Grayling management implications in the Boardman-Ottaway River". His thesis committee included Carl Ruetz (GVSU-AWRI), Eric Snyder (GVSU-BIO), and Cameron Goble (South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks).

Arctic Grayling have been locally extinct in Michigan for the last century due to habitat degradation via logging, high angler harvest, and competition with non-native trout. Nick's research focused on prioritizing areas in the Boardman-Ottaway Rivers that were most likely to support Arctic Grayling reintroduction. In collaboration with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Nick assessed eight tributaries (16 sites) of the Boardman-Ottaway River as a part of a larger effort to prioritize Michigan streams for reintroduction. His objectives were to: (1) assess water temperature, (2) identify the best habitat for Arctic Grayling, and (3) identify stream reaches where the fish community was less likely to negatively impact Arctic Grayling. Water temperatures were favorable at 25 of 27 temperature monitoring sites and habitat was suitable at all 16 study sites. Although instream habitat and water temperatures are promising, Brown Trout was prevalent at most study sites, which may limit reintroduction success. Nevertheless, Brook Trout were abundant at many sites, which would likely be favorable for Arctic Grayling. Nick's research suggests there are high priority sites for Arctic Grayling reintroduction in portions of the Boardman-Ottaway River watershed.  

Nick plans on continuing his career in fisheries management, working directly in management or indirectly on the restoration and protection of coldwater systems in Michigan. He hopes to work with a tribe, state or federal agency, or Trout Unlimited.  

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Page last modified March 9, 2023