Stream Acidification and Fish Species Diversity

In 2012, 4-VA at JMU awarded Dr. Christine May $5,000 and 4-VA at UVA provided $15,000 for a grant called Virginia Trout Streams Research Collaboration to conduct Mountain Stream Symposium II, a one-day seminar held 10 years after UVA hosted the original Mountain Stream Symposium. The conference brought together scientists, agency representatives, policy makers and educators to provide a state-of-the-science update on mountain stream ecosystems in the central Appalachians and to formalize a research partnership focused on Virginia trout streams.

It was at the symposium that Dr. May first met Dr. Todd Scanlon from UVA. Then in 2015, 4-VA awarded Dr. May $4,900 to work with Dr. Scanlon and Ami Riscassi on a grant called Revealing the current relation between stream acidification and fish species richness: What is the trend after almost two decades of recovery?

The project launched a collaboration between UVA’s long-term water quality monitoring program and JMU’s Department of Biology with the initial research effort assessing current status and trends in the biological health of watersheds in Shenandoah National Park. This information will aid decision makers at the local, state and federal level by providing valuable insight into the recovery trends of highly valued aquatic resources that have been impaired by acid rain.

Partnering with the Shenandoah Watershed Study & Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study (SWAS-VTSSS) was an ideal opportunity for JMU to collaborate on a local and high-profile research endeavor with UVA at Shenandoah National Park. In addition to presentations and publishing the research, the team is also in the process of developing a teaching case-study for a quantitative ecology publication.

Dr. Christine May

4-VA funding helped our project by providing initial resources that got our research project started and helped secure another mid-sized grant from the Shenandoah National Park Trust.

Dr. Christine MayAssociate Professor of Biology at JMU

Dr. Christine May
Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Todd Scanlon
Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences

Ami Riscassi
Projects Coordinator, Shenandoah Watershed Study & Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study, Department of Environmental Sciences

Pat Harmon

Apart from getting the opportunity to investigate regional impacts of air pollution on our local streams, the project presented the opportunity to work with some fantastic scientists from James Madison University, the Shenandoah Watersheds Study at the University of Virginia and from the Shenandoah National Park. The opportunity to pool resources and perspectives from these communities allowed us to approach our research from not only a biological perspective, but from the perspective of geology and chemistry.

Pat HarmonGraduate student in biology at JMU
Jon Studio

Following up on a study that was conducted 20 years ago provides insight into the considerable period of time that it takes our environment to recover from detrimental human activities, but more importantly, we observed how the cessation of these harmful activities may increase fish health.

As a result of this project, I was able to spend a great deal of time immersed in the ecosystems that I am interested in, and subsequently develop questions, which led to the development of my master’s thesis.

Jon StudioGraduate student in biology at JMU

Grant Info

  • 2012 – 4-VA at JMU awarded Dr. Christine May $5,000 and 4-VA at UVA provided $15,000 for a grant called Virginia Trout Streams Research Collaboration to conduct Mountain Stream Symposium II, a one-day seminar held 10 years after UVA hosted the original Mountain Stream Symposium.

  • 2015 – JMU and UVA were awarded $4,900 for Revealing the current relation between stream acidification and fish species richness: What is the trend after almost two decades of recovery?

  • 2016 – In May, the Shenandoah National Park Trust awarded Dr. May $12,315 to study changes in the acid neutralizing capacity of streams in the Shenandoah National Park, and assess any correlation with fish species richness.

  • 2017 – In March, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries awarded Dr. May $24,280 to quantify detection probabilities of the James Spiny Mussel and to determine the effects of flow, temperature and substrate on the surface expression of mussels.

Benefits To The Commonwealth

Built collaborations between JMU, UVA and Shenandoah National Park

Research publicized in regional newsletters and newspapers

Demonstrated Virginia’s impact on environmental research

Informed sustainable land management

Student Researchers

  • Jon Studio – Graduate student in biology
  • Pat Harmon – Graduate student in biology
  • Sydni Reinhold – Undergraduate research student in biology
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Student Researchers