The Elk Lake Preserve represents one of the few remaining areas in New York State that sustains a robust wild Brook Trout population. Brook Trout are not only found in the many tributaries surrounding Elk Lake, but are also abundant in the lake itself. Estimates by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation suggest that wild reproducing Brook Trout populations represent only 15% of the roughly 300 lakes or ponds where Brook Trout are currently found.
My research has focused on the population genetics of the Brook Trout in the area, and we've been able to gain valuable insights as to how these fish interact at the landscape level, as well as the effects that hatchery reared fish have had on the native population. For example, we've been able to show that Brook Trout historically stocked in Elk Lake have had little effect on the native population currently found throughout the preserve. This has led to the designation of the entire watershed as habitat for the Dix Pond 'Heritage' strain, which is one of a handful of native populations left that are believed to be untainted by widespread stocking practices throughout the Adirondacks. In addition, Elk Lake appears to support one of the most genetically diverse and distinct strains of Brook Trout in the State, which may be directly linked to the diversity of habitat found throughout the preserve's watershed.
My relationship with the Elk Lake Preserve has not only led to a better understanding of Brook Trout population dynamics throughout the region, but has acted as the jumping off point for my career in Fisheries Biology. I am greatly indebted to the generosity of John and Margot Ernst for allowing me unprecedented access to the watershed, as well as Mike Sheridan who has gracefully supplied me with additional samples and information related to the history of the fishery. These individuals have played a substantial part in the success of my research on one of our State's most unique and invaluable fish.
Research Fellow; New York State Museum
PhD Candidate; University at Albany
Learn more about nature at Elk Lake here.