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K-State Today

June 7, 2013



National Science Foundation awards Troia doctoral dissertation improvement grant

By Communications and Marketing

The National Science Foundation has awarded Matthew Troia, doctoral student in biology, $12,695 for dissertation research, "Forecasting global warming effects on developmental performance of prairie stream fishes along the river continuum."

Troia's faculty mentor is Keith Gido, professor of biology.

This study will provide mechanistically-based environmental niche models for four temperate freshwater fish species, which will inform conservation planners about current distributions and distributional changes in response to anthropogenic climate change. The project will also advance a broadly applicable framework for developing environmental niche models for other temperate freshwater fish species, particularly threatened and endangered species. These models will be disseminated to state natural resource agencies and will be incorporated into planning tools used to inform conservation efforts in the Great Plains. This project will provide an undergraduate student with practical research experience in field and laboratory settings and support the dissertation research of a doctoral student.

Predicting where species occur on a landscape is a fundamental aspect of ecology and an essential step in the conservation of biological diversity. Environmental niche modeling is a common tool for predicting species distributions, but limited understanding of casual relationships between the occurrence or abundance of a species and environmental variables limits the generality of these models. Improved understanding of how individual performance varies along environmental gradients is necessary to develop mechanistically-based environmental niche models.

This research is motivated by the observation that the distribution of many stream fishes varies along a stream size gradient, but little is known about the mechanistic relationship between stream size and species distribution. The project will develop niche models to predict distribution of fish species in streams draining the Flint Hills of the central United States that exhibit a strong temperature gradient from headwaters to large rivers. Given the universal importance of temperature as an environmental factor constraining metabolic, survival and growth rates of individuals and vital rates of populations, it is predicted that temperature-dependent performance varies among species and determines among-species differences in distributional patterns. This study will test that hypothesis by quantifying inter- and intraspecific variation in egg developmental rate as a function of temperature to see if it explains differences in stream size-abundance relationships among four fish species.