Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Pennsylvania
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Pennsylvania Project

Can plasticity protect populations from rapid environmental fluctuation?

August 2014 - May 2018


Participating Agencies

  • USGS
  • RK Mellon Freshwater Research Initiative

Rates of population extirpation from habitat loss have reached unprecedented levels and climate change is predicted to be a leading cause of future species extinctions. Accordingly, conservation of emergent properties that promote resistance and resilience to environmental perturbation will be vital to future population persistence. Though it has been demonstrated that phenotypic plasticity increases resilience to habitat loss, the ability for plasticity to promote population persistence under climate change and habitat degradation has not been explored. If plasticity does increase survival, failure to conserve highly plastic genotypes could accelerate species extinction. This research focuses on an economically and socially important species, brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), to determine how the interactive effects of genetics and behavior influence differential survival of fish populations under a changing climate.