Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014VT76B

An acoustic telemetry array for Lake Champlain: investigating effects of aquatic habitat fragmentation on lake whitefish

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $40,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $91,423

Principal Investigators: J Marsden, Jason Stockwell

Abstract: The effects of habitat fragmentation on individual movements and population structure have been widely studied in terrestrial habitats and riverine systems, but there are few examples of large-scale fragmentation of lake habitats. Lake Champlain is an unusual system in which separate basins were isolated from the main lake by the construction of several causeways in the 1800s. Openings in these causeways are narrow and shallow, limiting access for coldwater species between basins to the winter months when surface waters are cold. As a result, fish populations may be fragmented, and movement of sub-populations may be largely restricted to basins where food or seasonal habitat are sub-optimal. We propose to study year-round movements of fish between the four major basins of Lake Champlain - the Main Lake, Malletts Bay, Inland Sea, and Missisquoi Bay - using an acoustic telemetry array focused at the causeways separating the basins. Acoustic telemetry allows passive detection of tagged fish that move within the range (1.25 km radius) of receivers; tag life is up to three years so data will be collected from individual fish over multiple seasons and years. Our objectives are to (1) establish an acoustic receiver array in Lake Champlain and provide infrastructure to support multiple studies of fish movements, and (2) determine the range of individual lake whitefish movements in Lake Champlain with particular emphasis on movements in relation to barriers (causeways) that fragment the lake. In total, between this study and the non-federal matching funds, 24 receivers will be deployed and 72 fish will be tagged. In addition to this project, the receiver array will be useful for a wide array of future studies on fish movements.