Leelanau Historical Society hosts virtual program on Grayling fish

From staff reports

The Leelanau Historical Society will host a virtual program on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. featuring a presentation by Nicole M. Watson on the history of the Grayling fish in Michigan, current Grayling research, and potential management implications of the preliminary findings.

Watson is a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Fisheries Ecology and Management with a dual degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Click here to register for the Sept. 8 program.

Watson’s Ph.D. research examines early-life history of Arctic Grayling, and their interactions with young Brook and Brown trout. The overarching goal of her research is to clarify uncertainties to successful Grayling reintroduction to Michigan streams. It is a multifaceted study including the following: predation of Grayling fry by resident, age-1 Brook and Brown trout; competition between age-0 Grayling, Brook, and Brown trout; Grayling imprinting to home waters at early life stages; water choice; alarm cues; aspects of physiological development; predator avoidance and predator cue recognition by juvenile Grayling. Her research takes her to Alaska each spring to transport Grayling eggs back to the lab at Michigan State University. She spends each summer and fall running trials back in the lab, with the exception of 2020 (and finding time to fly fish and bird hunt in Northern Michigan). 

Watson earned her M.S. at Central Michigan University where she focused on the utilization of otolith microchemistry to determine streams of origin of juvenile Steelhead in tributaries of Lake Michigan. 

When not at MSU or home downstate, Watson can typically be found at her northern Michigan home base, The Hideout. She enjoys fishing for Brook trout in creeks and small rivers and for Arctic Grayling in the interior of Alaska. She is passionate about native wild salmonids and has been known to hike mountains.