Date of Award:

5-2020

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Watershed Sciences

Advisor/Chair:

Charles Hawkins

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Phaedra Budy

Third Advisor:

Joseph Wheaton

Abstract

Subsistence fishing is a vital component of Alaska’s North Slope borough economy and culture that is being threatened by human disturbance. These threats mean the fish must be protected, but the size of the region makes conservation planning difficult. Fortunately, advances in species distribution models (SDMs), environmental DNA (eDNA), and remote sensing technologies provide potential to better understand species’ needs and guide management. The objectives of my study were to: (1) map the current habitat suitability for twelve fish species, occurring in Alaska’s North Slope,(2) determine if SDMs based on eDNA data performed similarly to, or improved, models based on traditional sampling data, and (3) predict how species distributions will shift in the future in response to climate change. I was able to produce robust models for 8 of 12 species that relate environmental characteristics to a species’ presence or absence and identify stream reaches where species are likely to occur. Unfortunately, the use of eDNA data did not produce useful models in Northern Alaskan rivers. However, I was able to generate predictions of species distributions into the future that should help inform management for years to come.

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