Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Non-Thesis Project

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Committee Chair

Joe Griffin

First Advisor

Raja Nagisetty

Second Advisor

Robert Pal


Butte, Montana has an extensive mining history contributing to the contamination degradation of terrestrial and aquatic systems, amongst Silver Bow Creek (SBC). The contamination of the stream and the floodplain created a toxic environment that could not support aquatic life. Although the remediation of the floodplain was successful in removing metal contamination, the recovery of the ecosystem from both the initial pollution and subsequent remediation is ongoing. SBC has also been impacted by the urbanization of Butte, leading to multidimensional ecological disruption. The stream is currently subject to nutrient loading by nitrate, nitrogen, and phosphorus. A possible effect of nutrient loading in the area is the growth of macrophytes (rooted aquatic plants) in Silver Bow Creek, however, the exact mechanisms that govern the distribution of macrophytes in the area are less well understood. In this study, the relationships between nitrate loading in surface waters and streambed sediments, sediment deposition, and macrophyte and algal communities were investigated in Silver Bow Creek. A variety of macrophyte species were observed and distribution dynamics were correlated with geographic location, season, bed composition, sediment nutrients, and depth of the creek. Furthermore, an inverse relationship was observed between nitrate concentration, as well as macrophyte density, with increased sediment size. The connections between nutrients, macrophyte density, and the stream bed suggested by this study are a possible reflection of nutrient-rich sediments being captured and exploited by macrophytes in Silver Bow Creek.


A non-thesis research paper submitted as partial degree of Masters of Science in Ecological Restoration.