As we hoped, the limestone improved the water chemistry of the spring that feeds the raceways at Montebello. The fish response was dramatic with a 10% increase in weight, better health and vitality and zero mortality. Nearly 1,000 water chemistry analyses have been done in the past 10 months to confirm that the observed changes were due to the application of limestone.

Improving Water Quality
A pilot study at a state fish hatchery

In the fall of 2016, 4-VA awarded Dr. Daniel Downey $4,000 to collaborate with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on a projected called Water Quality Improvement Pilot Study for Montebello Fish Culture Station. Dr. Downey worked with Hatchery Manager and former JMU student Thom Teears and student researcher Kolin Kulzer to set up the pilot study at the Montebello Fish Culture Station where they are enhancing the chemistry of spring water by treating it with limestone. The treated water is fed into a tub tank containing rainbow trout, which have shown better growth rates than the control group in an adjacent tank.

Recent studies show that recreational anglers are major powers when it comes to the strength of the economy. Virginia is home to or a destination for more than 800,000 anglers each year. Fishing alone is responsible for more than $1.3 billion in economic impact in the state

Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries

Dr. Daniel Downey
Professor of Chemistry

Thom Teears
Hatchery Manager at the Montebello Fish Culture Station

Grant Info

  • 2016 – 4-VA awarded Dr. Downey $4,000 for Water Quality Improvement Pilot Study for Montebello Fish Culture Station.

  • February 2017 – The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries awarded Dr. Downey $30,000 to conduct a comprehensive lake water chemistry evaluation of several lakes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to better estimate the amount of fertilizer for future applications to achieve fishing management goals.

  • June 2017 – The USDA Forest Service awarded Dr. Downey $8,000 to monitor stream quality.


  • Presented “Water Quality Improvement Plan for Montebello Fish Cultural Station” poster at the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society’s Virginia and Virginia Tech Chapter Joint Meeting 2017 “Applied Fish Health” in Lexington, Virginia

Benefits to the Commonwealth

Demonstrated Virginia’s impact on environmental research

Contributed to long-term health of Virginia’s $1.3 billion inland fisheries industry

Enhanced fish production at a key state facility

Student Impact

Unique opportunity to apply analytical chemistry to a real-world problem

Student Researchers

  • Kolin Kulzer – Chemistry, Class of 2017
  • Kevin Pyszka – Chemistry, Class of 2017
  • Olivia Swahn – Chemistry, Class of 2018
  • Wolf Teears – Chemistry, Class of 2018, Liberty University

Student Researchers




External Grants