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Ecology Major Collaborates with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks

June 13, 2018

Junior Colter Feuerstein came to the University of Montana Western from Shepherd, Mont. on a football scholarship, with a goal of working at a fishery.

Colter Feuerstein

His goal is coming closer to reality every day with the help of Professor Michelle Anderson, Feuerstein’s advisor.

Feuerstein is a part of an ongoing research project with Anderson in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, where they study the stock assessment of hatchery-reared Rainbow Trout in Ruby River Reservoir in Montana.

Experience One, the unique one-course-at-a-time block scheduling system implemented at Montana Western, works well for Feuerstein.

“I’m a visual hands-on learner. Montana Western provides a more personal approach to obtaining information, learning, and doing.  I’ve had many direct experiences that have advanced me with the basic tools I need to excel in research and studies in ecology,” Feuerstein said.

The block schedule gives students three-hours-a-day to focus on one subject.  This opportunity allows ecology majors like Feuerstein to attend many classes out in the field, collect data and conduct research.

During his tenure at the university, he has been able to measure the size and age of fish populations, data that is used to determine their health. He has also collected data on water quality and food supply within fish habitats.  These hands-on experiences are essential when applying to graduate school as a student of fisheries management, and Feuerstein has the experience to take on challenges because of his familiarity with the field.

The final piece of the puzzle will be his senior thesis, an age and growth analysis of rainbow trout in the Ruby Reservoir which he is working on in collaboration with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Feuerstein will be involved in an internship this fall focusing on a study involving the parasite Tetracapuloides bryosalmonae, the causative agent of Proliferative Kidney Disease (PKD) in salmonid fish that also affects Bryozoans in the rivers. Bryozoans are small filter-feeding organisms that live in colonies.

“The goal of the study is to describe the spatial and temporal patterns of T. bryosalmonae and Bryozoan DNA in the Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers while attempting to identify the species of Bryozoans that act as primary hosts,” says Feuerstein.

The study will also research the potential connections of rising water temperatures on the health of fish populations in the rivers.

The future is exciting for Feuerstein who believes “if you love the outdoors, Dillon, Mont. is the place to be.”