Montana State University

More than $650,000 awarded for whirling disease studies

June 8, 2006 -- From MSU News Service


A University of Montana student inspects Tubifex tubifex worms found in the Rock Creek drainage. That information will be used in a new statewide whirling disease study to be conducted by Billie Kerans and Thomas McMahon of Montana State University. (Photo courtesy of Montana Water Center).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- Whirling disease remains a high-profile issue even a dozen years after it was discovered in Montana's wild trout and streams, say officials at the Montana Water Center housed at Montana State University.

Continuing to advance management solutions, six research teams in the West received more than $650,000 total in the latest round of grants from the Whirling Disease Initiative. Two of those studies are led by Billie Kerans of MSU. The Whirling Disease Initiative is a national whirling disease research program administered by the Montana Water Center.

The research projects will be conducted between May 15, 2006 and the end of 2008.

Kerans and Thomas McMahon of MSU received almost $246,000 to carry out a statewide study in Montana of patterns in whirling disease risk and salmonid population response. In a separate study, Kerans and Todd Koel from the National Park Service received $68,283 to study whirling disease as it relates to Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park and variations in the aquatic worm, Tubifex tubifex.

Whirling disease is caused by the Myxobolus cerebralis parasite. The parasite uses salmonid fish and Tubifex tubifex worms as hosts and has been a major contributor to the loss of rainbow trout in the Intermountain West. Whirling disease was discovered in Montana in 1994.

Other research projects that received funding this year are based in Colorado, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Those grants ranged from more than $20,000 to more than $196,000. Those studies deal with:

-- resolving uncertainties in the introduction of whirling disease and establishment risks.

-- evaluating the effect of substratum on the development and release of a certain stage of the whirling disease parasite in resistant strains of Tubifex tubifex.

-- development of a regional risk assessment for native salmonids in arid and semi-arid lands of the Southwest.

-- testing competition among Tubifex tubifex lineages and the potential for biological control of whirling disease in natural streams.

The Whirling Disease Initiative supports research that looks for practical ways to maintain viable, self-sustaining wild trout populations. To learn more about whirling disease and past research, look at http://whirlingdisease.montana.edu

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu