Land & Environment

USU Undergrad Researcher Assesses the State of the State's Waters

Colin Brady, a fisheries and aquatics sciences major in USU's Department of Watershed Sciences, is among about 25 Aggie scholars presenting at the 2015 Undergraduate Research Day on Utah’s Capitol Hill Jan. 29, in Salt Lake City.

During the past three years, Utah State University scholar Colin Brady has studied streams all over Utah — as well as waters throughout the western United States, including Alaska.

He’s discovered field research requires creativity, thinking outside the box and looking at challenges in new and different ways.

“Data is messy,” says Brady, a fisheries and aquatics sciences major in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences. “Classroom lectures and assignments, along with textbooks, give you the knowledge and tools to get started, but putting all of that to work requires a lot of thought and effort.”

The Draper, Utah, native is among about 25 USU students selected to present research to Utah legislators Jan. 29 during the state’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Day on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City. In the Capitol Rotunda, Brady and fellow Aggies will display posters detailing their respective projects.

“I compared predictions of two methods commonly used in Utah for assessing the quality of Utah’s streams and rivers,” says Brady, whose research was funded by the Utah Division of Water Quality and USU Water Quality Extension.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires states to implement restorative measures if a water body is found to be impaired, he says.

“Finding the most effective and accurate way to assess waters should enhance the ability to manage and protect the quality of Utah’s waters,” Brady says.

With guidance from faculty mentors Nancy Mesner and Scott Miller, Brady examined two common assessment methods ? one comparing up to 10 years of water quality data with numeric criteria and the other comparing communities of macroinvertebrates; that is, small aquatic organisms.

“Both of these approaches are based on considerable scientific study, but they’ve rarely been directly compared,” he says.

Since his second year at USU, Brady has been employed with the USU-based National Aquatic Monitoring Center, known as “The Bug Lab,” a cooperative venture between USU and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This past summer, the 2007 Alta High School graduate had the opportunity to conduct research in Alaska through the BLM’s Fairbanks Office.

“It was a great experience,” Brady says. “The BLM flew us by helicopter to remote locations with no cell phone service.”

During long days of collecting biological, physical and chemical data on streams, he viewed moose, caribou and other wildlife.

“I’d long dreamed of visiting Alaska, but didn’t see it being a reality until I started working on this project,” he says.

Following graduation from USU this spring, Brady and his wife, Ashley Little Brady, also a Utah State graduating senior, will make their home in Fairbanks, where Brady will pursue employment with the BLM or U.S. Forest Service and prepare for graduate school.

“To incoming freshmen, I recommend letting professors know your research interests right away,” he says. “They’ll help you make connections in the real world that will open doors for you.”

Related links:

Contact: Colin Brady,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

Brady's research reflects one of many areas of USU expertise in water during the university’s 2015 'Year of Water.’


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