PULLMAN – In a WSU lab no bigger than a closet, small rainbow trout race each day. Their speeds are tracked by lasers to record differences between wild and hatchery-raised fish.
“The data that we have suggests that hatchery fish are slower and less aware of predators than a wild fish would be,” said Patrick Carter, an associate professor of biological sciences who is working with third-year Ph.D. student Kristy Bellinger to compare swimming speeds.
He said the lasers offer a great improvement. Researchers previously had to record fish on video, then slow down the tape and record distance and speed manually.
With all the hatchery programs that distribute fish, rainbow trout are an important factor in the state’s economy and way of life, Carter said.
“We are looking at genetic differences between domesticated and wild trout and determining how those genetic differences potentially can impact the health and wellbeing of the wild trout,” he said.