Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Alexander Cruz

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Andrew Martin

Abstract

Yellowstone National Park is a relatively pristine ecosystem preserved through time. The Yellowstone cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri population, inhabiting shallower waters in Yellowstone Lake and spawning in its tributaries, has been declining primarily due to the introduction of a predatory fish. The lake trout Salvelinus namaycush, which rapidly grow to large sizes, feed on the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, breed and spawn in Yellowstone Lake, and dwell in deeper waters out of predatory reach. The Yellowstone cutthroat trout is relied upon both directly and indirectly by more than 40 species within Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly bear Ursus arctos horribilis, bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus, and osprey Pandion halaetus all feed directly on the spawning fish. This study looks at how the declining Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations affect these predatory populations, and what their populations may look like should current trends continue into the year 2030. Conducting a meta-analysis and collecting primary data allowed for statistical projections predicting and comparing estimated future populations. The ecological change in Yellowstone Lake provides insight into how the concerns of one ecosystem affects multiple.