Ellsworth Creek Genetic Analysis
Pacific County, Washington - Ellsworth Creek, a left-bank tributary entering the Naselle River in its estuary approximately one mile above the mouth (Highway 101 bridge)
The Ellsworth Creek Preserve is a 5,000 acre watershed owned and managed in its entirety by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) within the Pacific Northwest Coast Ecoregion in Pacific County, Washington. The watershed, a tributary to the Naselle River and Willapa Bay, ranges from 0 to 1,570 ft. in elevation, includes a 349-acre estuarine emergent marsh at its mouth, and is representative of watersheds in Southwest Washington / Lower Columbia coastal cutthroat trout distinct population segment (DPS). Situated adjacent to the USFWS Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, the Preserve presents a unique opportunity for conservation and long-term ecological research.
The Nature Conservancy is implementing an ambitious conservation management research strategy for the watershed to study the effects of a range of ecosystem management and restoration activities that will be monitored over the long-term. As part of the foundation for this research, TNC contracted Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) in summer 2007 to characterize fish species composition, distribution, and abundance throughout the Ellsworth Preserve. Although a legacy of anthropogenic impacts exist in the preserve, the watershed contains one of the healthiest fall chum salmon (Oncorynchus keta) populations in Willapa Bay, in addition to coho salmon (O. kisutch) and multiple life history forms of coastal cutthroat trout (O. clarki clarki), and steelhead/rainbow trout (O. mykiss). In addition to characterizing the fish populations, TNC has completed systematic stream habitat, forest structure, hydrological, and road sedimentation surveys, creating a comprehensive baseline against which future watershed changes can be compared. The protected status of the watershed combined with the long-term monitoring component of TNC’s monitoring / management plan made the Ellsworth Watershed an ideal location for research and conservation activities, particularly the study of coastal cutthroat and steelhead/rainbow trout in the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.
Goals & Objectives:
A genetic and phenotypic analysis of coastal cutthroat trout, rainbow trout/ steelhead, and their hybrids, to characterize the distribution of hybridization in the basin, to develop tools that will help with future efforts to accurately identify these species in the field, and to refine species-specific abundance estimates within the Ellsworth Creek Preserve.
Primary Habitats Impacted By Project:
The top of tidal influence on the mainstem; the project will take place throughout the watershed upstream
Wild Fish Conservancy
Budget or Project Cost:
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- The Nature Conservancy
- USFWS Ecological Services
- The Nature Conservancy
- NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)