Continuing conservation through the John Spencer Research Grant


Continuing conservation through the John Spencer Research Grant

The River Basin Center (RBC) has awarded two outstanding students John Spencer research grants to support their research in aquatic systems.

Above, Christine Fallon gathers data for her research.

Christine Fallon, gathering data for her research on minnow diets.

The two awardees, Christine Fallon, a Master’s student in the Odum School of Ecology, and Ridge Sliger, a Master’s student in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, have one thing in common: pulling on waders and climbing into streams in order to contribute to conservation research.

Fallon will study how diverse landscapes impact the diet of minnows in the Ichawaynochaway creek basin (ICB). By examining the gut content of two species of minnows, the redeye chub (Pteronotropis harperi) and Apalachee shiner (Pteronotropis grandipinnis), she will determine how the minnows’ diets change depending on factors such as stream water levels, floodplain area surrounding streams, and the canopy of overhead trees.

Fallon’s results will aid managers in understanding how terrestrial and aquatic food resources vary with changing conditions. “Our results will inform conservation by elucidating the importance of terrestrial and aquatic food resources that may vary over temporal and spatial scales,” Fallon said.

Sliger’s research focuses on a larger stream dweller: the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). With the use of models, he hopes to determine whether there are differences in how hatchery-raised brook trout select habitats as compared to wild brook trout, and identify what factors make a habitat optimal—such as the speed of the current.

Ridge Sliger, during his fieldwork gathering data on hatchery raised vs. wild brook trout.

With this information, managers will be better able to identify suitable habitat for brook trout and target areas for restoration. “Information concerning the habitat selection of hatchery-reared and wild southern Brook Trout, and any differences between them, will allow for more efficient management and conservation of the species. Managers could use this information to help determine which habitats are suitable for which type of Brook Trout and to help restore habitat to increase its suitability for native populations,” Sliger explained.

The River Basin Center inaugurated the John Spencer research grant program for graduate students in 2017, funded by a contribution from Kathleen Amos in honor of her son, John Spencer, a former master’s student at the RBC. To help fund the next generation of aquatic scientists, visit:

Above, Christine Fallon gathers data for her research.