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Researcher tapped into the knowledge of local experts to improve estimates of bull trout distribution in Oregon's rivers and streams and predict how future climate change scenarios may impact this declining cold-water species. 

Conservation is often focused on rare or little-known species that are difficult to study with traditional survey methods. As a result, there is interest among resource managers and scientists in finding ways to combine scientific data with other sources of information. A vast amount of information lies within experts such as local fisheries managers who are familiar with a given species and location. Researchers developed a new approach for combining expert knowledge with documented records of spawning and rearing locations to assess the current distribution of bull trout in Oregon and predicted the impact of climate change on bull trout distribution in years 2040 and 2080. Based on current relationships between bull trout occupancy and environmental factors, this new approach predicted that loss of the cold-water patches that bull trout need for spawning and rearing could lead to further declines of the species. This unique method for gathering information on a rare species provides scientists and managers with a greater knowledge base for making predictions, with the added benefit of engaging local experts in science and conservation.   

Chelgren, N.D., Dunham, J.B., Gunckel, S.L., Hockman-Wert, D.P., and Allen, C.S., 2023, Combining expert knowledge of a threatened trout distribution with sparse occupancy data for climate related projection: North American Journal of Fisheries Management, v. 43, no. 3, p. 839-858. 

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