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Dr. Kyle Hartman

Dr. Kyle Hartman, a professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources at West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design, is currently doing extensive research on West Virginia’s state fish, the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), and its habitat and population numbers in headwater streams throughout the state.

Dr. Kyle Hartman

Dr. Kyle Hartman, a professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources at West Virginia University’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design, is currently doing extensive research on West Virginia’s state fish, the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), and its habitat and population numbers in headwater streams throughout the state.

Three major goals of his research are to establish science-based goals for brook trout restoration and conservation in the Appalachians, to determine population resistance and resilience following perturbations, and to develop mechanistic models to predict brook trout response to changes in landscape, land use, and climate change.

This project, started in 2003, has sampled annually in 25 headwater streams to monitor brook trout populations, their reproductive success, and their habitat. Hartman saw an opportunity to collect this type of data to create a baseline of information about brook trout in West Virginia streams.

He noticed during graduate student research projects, some streams would rebound quickly from a disturbance such as drought and others would not. The following year, the streams were either still severely impacted or showed no prior disturbances at all.

“What we realized was that we have disturbances and we’re not sure why certain streams come back really fast and others don’t, and the only way to understand it is to study a stream for a long time,” Hartman said. “We’re looking at population resilience and the characteristics of streams that do well and bounce back fast and seeing if we can duplicate that elsewhere.”

Students on the project provide the manpower to maintain the annual surveys while working on allied projects such as their thesis or dissertation research. To date, the project has resulted in over 40 scientific publications, 50 professional presentations, and the training of nine Master’s and six Ph.D. students.

Various projects that have stemmed from this project were about the inputs of woody debris to streams from Superstorm Sandy; the effects of riparian logging on terrestrial invertebrate subsidies in streams; the effects of riparian forest disturbance on stream temperature, sedimentation, and morphology; long-term effects of large woody debris addition on stream habitat and brook trout populations; and density-dependent growth dynamics of central Appalachian brook trout.

Hartman loves his work in West Virginia streams, but he also enjoys travelling to work with different types of trout halfway across the globe. Last fall, Hartman flew to Mongolia to work with three trout in the Salmonidae family, the taimen, the lenok and Baikal grayling. These species are listed as imperiled in Mongolia and despite already dramatic signs of climate change there, little is known about the thermal ecology and how warming may influence these cold-water species.

“A Chinese company is building a hydroelectric dam on a river there to provide power to farmers and herders in the countryside,” said Hartman “I’m helping conduct the base research on these salmonids to predict climate change effects and developing swimming metabolic capability measures that can go into designing effective fish passage for the dam."