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August 31, 2023

The USGS WLCI science team lead, Patrick Anderson (USGS Fort Collins Science Center), organized a field tour on August 24 to share and discuss science outcomes with WLCI partners after five years of investigating aquatic processes and change on Muddy Creek and Littlefield Creek (Carbon County, Wyoming).

WLCI tour participants included wildlife and range specialists, habitat biologists and partner specialists, hydrologists, and program managers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) field and state offices, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and a PhD student at the University of Wyoming specializing in process-based restoration.  

photo of creek flowing through mixed grass and shrubland. Small hill and cloudy sky in background.
Vegetation growth is assisting the Muddy Creek channel in becoming deeper and narrower (Carbon County, Wyoming).  Photo by Patrick Anderson (USGS)

Lead researchers Jason Alexander and Cheryl Miller (USGS Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center) selected multiple locations along both creeks to discuss the following science discoveries and long-term research projects:

  • Changing grazing practices and land management restoration efforts on Muddy Creek influenced channel stability across the Muddy Creek Basin between 1938 to 2019. 

  • The use of streamgages in Muddy Creek to analyze long-term water quality trends. 

  • The use of fluvial fine sediment source tracking and video cameras to study fluvial events and sediment distribution in the Littlefield Creek headwaters.  

  • The development of the PRObability of Streamflow PERmanence (PROSPER) model to evaluate how drought and other landscape drivers affect water permanence and temperature, and to identify and predict stream reach permanence at high spatial (30 meters) and annual temporal resolutions. 


Small mounds of mud in grasses lining a creek.
Small rodents disturb surface soil on banks which contribute to fine sediments in the upper reaches of Littlefield Creek (Carbon County, Wyoming). Photo by Patrick Anderson (USGS).
Photo of sagebrush landscape, partly cloudy skies, pond in distance.
Constructed wetland complex associated with Muddy Creek near Dad, Wyoming. USGS science indicates that the development of the wetland complex and changes to livestock grazing management practices have greatly reduced severe bank erosion and stream headcutting over the last few decades. Photo by Patrick Anderson (USGS)
photo of a stream flowing through grass and shrubland. High, muddy banks around the stream.
Muddy Creek reach showing bank erosion and the development of a point sandbar that is being stabilized by vegetation (Carbon County, Wyoming).  Photo by Patrick Anderson.
Photo of hilly sagebrush shrubland with small, fenced area, small stream, partly cloudy sky
Similar nearby headwater streams are being evaluated to determine how shifts in habitat availability and connectivity in drought years affect fish populations (Carbon County, Wyoming). Photo by Patrick Anderson (USGS).



The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) is a long-term science-based effort to assess and enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitats at a landscape scale in southwest Wyoming, while facilitating responsible development through local collaboration and partnerships. The USGS WLCI science team supports WLCI by conducting research to understand cumulative effects of development and other drivers of ecosystem change at landscape scales.

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