Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Jeffery T. Petty

Committee Co-Chair

Robert C. Burns

Committee Member

Patrick M. Mazik


Limitations in bioassessments of stream condition should be recognized and a need exists to broaden our approach to identify and solve knowledge gaps in scientific data. Combining collection methods based upon biological data and social perceptions may provide an effective way to identify gaps and involve local stakeholders in river conservation strategies. Our research objectives were to: 1- describe recreational users and their perceptions of water quality; 2- quantify relationships between recreational user perceptions and biological condition; 3- examine if perceptions vary spatially across watersheds; and 4- determine if recreational users' values and perceptions can be used to complement bioassessment surveys of West Virginia rivers. A web-based user perception survey was conducted between the months of May and September, 2012. We used a snowball sampling technique that targeted watershed organizations and water recreation outfitters as initial contacts. Fishery data from 2000--2010 was used from eleven HUC8 watersheds as bioindicators of river condition. River segments and perceptions were compared to each other to classify rivers of high and low perceived quality. Due to small sample size a statistically significant relationship could not be determined between user perceptions and biological condition, however interpretable patterns did occur based on mean perception ratings. Half of the surveyed wadeable stream segments were in agreement among ranked perceived swim quality and ranked total intolerant benthic species richness, percent intolerant species and percent invertivore/piscivore. Additionally, only six river segments were in agreement for both boating and fishing quality compared to species richness and conservative game abundance. Water recreationists can be used to incorporate stakeholder support and their perceptions can be used to detect knowledge gaps between perceived and actual river conditions.