Wednesday February 2, 2022

UC Santa Cruz –

In 2020, a massive lightning storm ignited wildfires across much of Northern California. Among the thousands of acres it charred were multiple coastal watersheds from San Mateo County to Big Sur.

For UC Santa Cruz fish ecologist Eric Palkovacs, the burns offered a chance to study how the runoff after wildfire affects one of the region’s most iconic fish: steelhead trout. Unlike rainbow trout, which technically belong to the same species (Onchorhyncus mykiss), endangered steelhead hatch in in freshwater streams, migrate to the ocean to mature, and finally return to their natal stream to spawn.

Palkovacs worries that chemicals in runoff from burned landscapes are causing the trout’s sense of smell to go haywire. That could mean disaster for an entire generation of the federally threatened fish.

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