Dataset Open Access
Freshwater ecosystems may be the most endangered ecosystems globally, and the prairie biome is arguably the most endangered ecoregion in North America. Until recently there was a deficit in the knowledge of fish distributions in streams in eastern Montana. Beginning in the late 1990’s Dr. Robert G. Bramblett of the Department of Ecology at Montana State University (MSU) together with graduate students, and colleagues from the university and several agencies began studying the fishes of Montana prairie streams. These studies produced a large number of preserved fish voucher specimens which now comprise the Montana Prairie Fish Collection. The value and significance of the Montana Prairie Fish Collection is exceptional because most specimens came from never-before-sampled streams in a very scarcely collected area. In 2018, the MSU Library, the MSU Department of Ecology, the Montana Entomology Collection, and the Montana State Library were funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources “Hidden Collections” grant to produce digital metadata records for the Montana Prairie Fish Collection. The collection and its associated data comprise specimens that were collected during 1999-2018 from over 850 fish sampling events from about 360 streams in eastern Montana. At least 70 individual scientists, students, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks staff collected fish. The collection totals over 17,000 individual fish specimens representing 57 fish taxa and represents a remarkable 900% increase in Montana prairie ecoregion fish collections available online. Digitization of the collection will encourage scientists and others to ask many new research questions such as how species, biological distributions, and ecosystems have changed.