Utah Fish Project


An online guide to the freshwater fishes of the state of Utah

As part of this class (General Ecology, BIOL 3700), you will complete an assignment creating content to help us build an identification- and ecology-oriented online guide to the freshwater fishes of Utah.  This project will not only aid students in building information literacy skills and understanding the process of research, but will also generate a research product posted online for public viewing.  Students will develop skills in the following areas:

  • finding appropriate information resources online
  • distinguishing between primary and secondary literature
  • the mechanics of citing
  • using a variety of sources to synthesize information on biological species
  • creating visual content, and
  • presenting information in a concise, readable way.

This project will also give students exposure to creating work for a larger audience and making a contribution to public understanding of biodiversity beyond Utah Valley University.

Assignment ~ due on June 17, 2014

You will each conduct library and internet research on two native Utah freshwater fish species and one non-indigenous fish species that is widely introduced outside of its native range, including areas of Utah.  Students will be able to choose their target species from checklists of fish species occurring in Utah, on a first-come first-serve basis.  From your research, you will prepare a concise species account providing a guide to each of the three species that you choose.

Species accounts will be written in the format of a detailed preferably 1 page, single-spaced Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx file) in 11-12 pt Times New Roman font with 1″ page margins.  The primary goal of the Utah Fish Project is to provide online guides with information focused on the characteristics (identification, morphology) and ecology of Utah freshwater fishes.  Thus, each species account must include a description of (a) characteristics used to identify the species in the wild (e.g. its general morphology and distinguishing traits), (b) a description of its adult size, (c) a description of its geographic distribution (preferably with elevation data), and (d) a description of its ecological attributes (e.g. preferred habitat, feeding ecology, behavior, interactions with other species, etc.).  Each species account should contain referenced photos of the fishes.  Each species account should also contain 5-10 references with hyperlinks to the reference material.  Other than containing hyperlinks, the bibliographic format for references should follow the format of the prestigious journal Ecology, published by the Ecological Society of America.

Sections of the account will thus include a heading containing the common name and scientific name, followed by the following headings (each with a sentence to paragraph of related content):

  1. Characteristics
  2. Adult size (use metric units; and, wherever possible, give body weight in grams, g, or kilograms, kg… as well as body length in mm or cm)
  3. Distribution (preferably provide an elevational range or maximum)
  4. Ecology

Resources for students

Course announcement about UFP. pdf.

Grading rubrics for Utah Fish Project (UFP) species accounts.  This file (link below in green) provides rubrics for each of your species accounts; note their is similar to a rating scale rubric (as used for your course “discussion participation” grade), with some differences.  These rubrics are grading tools that show exactly what the performance expectations are for this assignment and how I will assess your performance.

Utah Fish Project grading rubrics

Example fish species account on Pirate Perch.  This is an example that I have taken and modified from a species account on Alabama Outdoors, a website providing part of the inspiration for the UFP.  (This is largely copyrighted material from Mettee et al.’s 1996 book Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin, which I have re-written slightly with new references and formatting.) Open this example species account (link below) and look at it before you begin writing.  You may use this as a guide for making your accounts.  

Pirate Perch .docx, Pirate Perch pdf

Example plant species account with additional photo references at bottom.  This is an example species account for a tumbleweed, taken from the University of Utah BIOL 5460 course website, another website providing some of the inspiration for the UFP.   This species account is similar to, but not wholly in line with goals of our project (it’s on a plant!); however, it provides a nice example of how to use additional photo references placed at the bottom of the account, with hyperlinks to additional material.  Note, to add a hyperlink in Word, simply select the photo, text, or text box you want to add a link to and press Ctrl+K to open a dialog box allowing you to add a link to a known URL.  Please download this file and look at it before you begin writing.

Tumbleweed species account and additional photo reference example

Important note on examples: Each of the student’s final species accounts should combine elements of the Pirate Perch (e.g. content, design, sections, references, hyperlinks) as well as the tumbleweed (additional reference photos of your fish or their distribution at bottom of account, referenced with hyperlinks) examples.  See the assignment description above and the rubric for further details.

Fish anatomy PowerPoint. I am also providing you with a very, very short PowerPoint file (link below; modified from WFB 232 Ichthyology course content, University of Vermont) with a few terms that you will find useful when writing the “Characteristics” sections of your species accounts.  Please download this ppt file and look at it before you begin writing.

Basic fish anatomy PowerPoint for BIOL 3700 students

Thinking about how people will use this guide

For convenience of the user, I will generate a key for all species, and fishes will be organized in a phylogenetic context as this also provides a means of grouping together morphologically similar and closely related taxa.  Oftentimes, phylogenetically closely related species share general ecological attributes (although there is great ecological diversity within some groups), thus this classification system will also reflect ecological variation.  The dichotomous key developed will attempt to focus on characters that are easily observable for the layperson or the professional.  Students will describe each species characteristics (see this example), whereas I will produce the key to species/families (students need not worry about this).

Native freshwater fishes of Utah

With 25 native species, including 7 endemic species, the Utah freshwater fish assemblage makes a small but important contribution to fish diversity in the American Intermountain West.  “Endemic” means native or restricted to a certain area; thus, a moderate proportion of Utah freshwater fishes (~28%) occur in Utah and nowhere else in the world.  

Native Utah freshwater fishes

OrderFamilySpeciesOriginStatusCommon NameAuthor
CypriniformesCatostomidaeCatostomus ardensNativeUtah suckerZach Burr
CypriniformesCatostomidaeCatostomus clarkiiNativeDesert suckerShawn Mortensen
CypriniformesCatostomidaeCatostomus discobolus discobolusEndemicBluehead suckerJosh Birch
CypriniformesCatostomidaeCatostomus platyrhynchusNativeMountain suckerBrady Carlton
CypriniformesCatostomidaeChasmistes fecundusNative
CypriniformesCatostomidaeChasmistes liorus liorusEndemicJune suckerBrady Carlton
CypriniformesCatostomidaeChasmistes liorus mictusNativeJune suckerBrady Carlton
ScorpaeniformesCottidaeCottus beldingiiEndemicPaiute sculpinBrayden Mollner
ScorpaeniformesCottidaeCottus echinatusNativeExtinctUtah Lake sculpinAli Clyde
ScorpaeniformesCottidaeCottus extensusNativeBear Lake sculpinAli Clyde
CyprinodontiformesFundulidaeFundulus kansaeNativeNorthern plains killifishBo Whalen
CypriniformesCyprinidaeGila atrariaNativeUtah chubBo Whalen
CypriniformesCyprinidaeGila cyphaNativeVulnerableHumpback chubBrayden Mollner
CypriniformesCyprinidaeGila elegansNativeBonytailJosh Birch
CypriniformesCyprinidaeGila robustaNativeRoundtail chubEkta Bedi
CypriniformesCyprinidaeIotichthys phlegethontisNativeLeast chubNeil Loveridge
CypriniformesCyprinidaeLepidomeda mollispinisNativeVirgin spinedaceNeil Loveridge
CypriniformesCyprinidaePlagopterus argentissimusEndemicWoundfinRyan Martinez
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeProsopium abyssicolaEndemicBear Lake whitefishRyan Martinez
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeProsopium gemmiferEndemicBonneville ciscoBrian Boothe
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeProsopium spilonotusEndemicBonneville whitefishEkta Bedi
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeProsopium williamsoniNativeMountain whitefishShawn Mortensen
CypriniformesCyprinidaePtychocheilus luciusNativeColorado pikeminnowZach Burr
CypriniformesCyprinidaeRichardsonius balteatusNativeRedside shinerBrian Boothe
CypriniformesCyprinidaeSnyderichthys copeiNativeLeatherside chub

Non-indigenous freshwater fishes of Utah

In Utah, the number of “non-indigenous” fishes has reached highly problematic proportions, with the >90 non-indigenous species greatly outnumbering native species diversity (above).

OrderFamilySpeciesCommon NameCollection LinkNative HabitatExotic/Native TransplantAuthor
ClupeiformesClupeidaeAlosa sapidissimaAmerican ShadCollection infoFreshwater-MarineNative
CypriniformesCyprinidaeCarassius auratusGoldfishCollection infoFreshwaterExoticAli Clyde
CypriniformesCyprinidaeCtenopharyngodon idellaGrass CarpCollection infoFreshwaterExoticNeil Loveridge
CypriniformesCyprinidaeCyprinella lutrensisRed ShinerCollection infoFreshwaterNativeZach Burr
CypriniformesCyprinidaeCyprinus carpioCommon CarpCollection infoFreshwaterExoticEkta Bedi
CyprinodontiformesPoeciliidaeGambusia affinisWestern MosquitofishCollection infoFreshwaterNative
PerciformesCentrarchidaeLepomis macrochirusBluegillCollection infoFreshwaterNativeJosh Birch
CypriniformesCyprinidaeLuxilus cornutusCommon ShinerCollection infoFreshwaterNative
PerciformesCentrarchidaeMicropterus dolomieuSmallmouth BassCollection infoFreshwaterNative
PerciformesCentrarchidaeMicropterus punctulatusSpotted BassCollection infoFreshwaterNativeBrian Boothe
PerciformesCentrarchidaeMicropterus salmoidesLargemouth BassCollection infoFreshwaterNative
PerciformesCichlidaeParachromis managuensisJaguar GuapoteCollection infoFreshwaterExoticBo Whalen
CypriniformesCyprinidaePimephales notatusBluntnose MinnowCollection infoFreshwaterNative
CypriniformesCyprinidaePimephales promelasFathead MinnowCollection infoFreshwaterNativeRyan Martinez
CypriniformesCyprinidaePimephales vigilaxBullhead MinnowCollection infoFreshwaterNative
CyprinodontiformesPoeciliidaePoecilia reticulataGuppyCollection infoFreshwaterExotic
PerciformesCentrarchidaePomoxis annularisWhite CrappieCollection infoFreshwaterNative
PerciformesCentrarchidaePomoxis nigromaculatusBlack CrappieCollection infoFreshwaterNative
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeSalmo truttaBrown TroutCollection infoFreshwaterExoticBrady Carlton
SalmoniformesSalmonidaeSalmo x Salvelinus trutta x fontinalisTiger TroutCollection infoFreshwaterExotic HybridBraden Mollner
CypriniformesCyprinidaeTinca tincaTenchCollection infoFreshwaterExoticShawn Mortensen