Hi! My name is Mahboobeh Hajiesmaeili. I joined the RivEM research group for the second time, as a Visiting Research Project Assistant in December 2020. I worked in this research group in the year 2019, too. I have a PhD in River Engineering from Tarbiat Modares University (TMU), Tehran, Iran. My research interests center around the ecological modeling and river habitat assessment for freshwater fish and benthic invertebrates using individual-based/agent-based modelling (IBM/ABM) and bioenergetics approach, as well as physical habitat simulation models. I’m currently the chair of Ecohydraulics committee of the Iranian Hydraulic Association (https://iha.ir/ecohydraulics/).

During my M.Sc. project my main challenge was to introduce and enhance understanding of the multidisciplinary science of “Ecohydraulics” in Iran, which was completely new in my country. I used PHABSIM (Physical HABitat SIMulation) model for my M.Sc. thesis to investigate the effects of flow hydraulic parameters on rainbow trout. This study was one of the first habitat simulation studies about the interaction between ecology and hydraulics in Iran.

As a result of my interest in ecohydraulics and freshwater aquatic ecosystems, I was interested to focus on more developed habitat selection models for my PhD project and I focused on inSTREAM (individual-based Stream Trout Research and Environmental Assessment Model), which is one of the most important individual-based habitat selection models, and one of the main purposes of my research was to modify inSTREAM in its feeding and growth component to include more about how fish feed and how it depends on spatial variation in invertebrates. Given that the primary food sources of brown trout in my study area (Elarm River in Lar National Park, Iran) were benthic invertebrates and also due to the lack of considering these types of feeding organisms and their associated feeding strategy in other bioenergetics models presented so far, development of a new version of inSTREAM by considering hydraulic parameters affecting biomass of benthic invertebrates was the most important innovation of my PhD research. I was so lucky that one of my PhD supervisors was Steve Railsback, who is the main developer of inSTREAM and helped me a lot to improve my knowledge in individual-based modeling.

Starting in the left top corner, clockwise: Elarm River which is a fabulous trout reproduction habitat with plenty of suitable spawning grounds in Lar National Park (Iran); Identified benthic invertebrates in my study site; Collecting benthic invertebrate samples using a Surber sampler in Elarm River); Identifying benthic invertebrates in the laboratory; Me and my field studies team work in my PhD project
Mahboobehs first book, written from the results of both my M.Sc. and Ph.D. studies with collaboration of my PhD supervisor and my M.Sc. thesis advisor (in Persian)

Immediately after receiving my PhD degree, I was successfully accepted by John Piccolo to work in the KK Eflows project within the RivEM-research group at Karlstad University for a short term employment as a visiting researcher. My work was mostly focused on preparing inSTREAM input data using QGIS for Blankaström (Emån) and also downstream part of Gullspång River (Stora and Lilla Åråsforsen).

Mahboobeh and Kristine Lund Bjørnås  (former RivEM Lic-student) in the Day of the Salmon at Fortum in Gullspång, 2019

As a project assistant in our ongoing project I will focus on ecological and individual-based modelling of Atlantic salmon and brown trout habitat using inSTREAM in the lower part of the Gullspång River (Stora and Lilla Åråsforsen) under hyropeaking conditions. I will collaborate with John Piccolo, Johan Watz, and Louis Addo.

One of my favorite activities during my free time is drawing portraits. Considering that my research work is such that I should spend too much time on my computer, drawing and art help me to relax 🙂 

Some of Mahboobehs drawings

Tired of slugs eating fruit and veggies in your garden? Big holes in your strawberries? Johan Watz and Daniel Nyqvist (Politecnico di Torino, Italy) have a new paper out on the performance of copper and waterglass (sodium silicate) barriers against movements of Spanish slugs (Arion vulgaris).

Copper foil barriers delayed, but did not prevent slug passage. Waterglass, on the other hand, prevented passage completely and reduced crop damage in a semi-field validation. You can read the full paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261219420304580

Under 2020–2021 pågår ett projekt inom Energiforsks miljöforskningsprogram som leds av Niclas Carlsson och Olle Calles (laboratorieingenjör resp. docent i biologi). I projektet tittar vi närmare på tiotalet exempel i Sverige där miljöförbättrande åtgärder – kopplat till vattenkraft – utförts i vattendrag.

Frida Sjöborg (masterstudent, KAU) och Niclas Carlsson utför fältinmätningar i ett omlöp i Billstaån. Foto: Jämtkraft

Vi analyserar bland annat funktionsuppföljning för fiskvägar och biotopvårdade sträckor, alltså hur effektiva är de olika fiskvägarna för fiskpassage samt hur lämpliga är de restaurerade biotoperna för vattendragets fiskar. I tillägg till åtgärdernas påverkan på vattendragets ekologiska status analyserar vi kostnader och tekniska aspekter relaterat till åtgärden samt vilka erfarenheter som erhållits under projektens gång.

Projektet ska mynna ut i en exempelsamling där kunskapsläget för de olika åtgärderna i projektet sammanställs. Förhoppningen är att detta projekt kan vara till nytta de kommande åren då många nya åtgärder kommer anläggas enligt den nationella planen för omprövning av vattenkraft. Slutrapport planeras till hösten 2021. Kontakta Niclas (niclas.carlsson@kau.se) för mer information!

Säkerhetslina är att föredra ibland… här vid inmätning i omlöpet vid Finsjö övre, Emån.
Brown trout (Salmo trutta) eggs with eyed embryos

On Tuesday 8 December Kalle Filipsson, RivEM PhD student, will present his work on how elevated temperatures and predator presence during egg incubation affect development and behaviour of brown trout. The seminar starts at 13:15 and will be streamed live on Zoom. Contact Kalle (karl.filipsson@kau.se) if you are interested in attending the seminar, and he will send you a link.

Jeff Marker and Jeanette Karlsson (research assistant) electrofishing in a small stream.

On Tuesday 1 December Jeffery Marker, RivEM PhD student, will be giving a talk where he presents the plans for his PhD project.

The seminar is held on Zoom and starts at 13:15. Everyone is welcome to attend the seminar. Contact Jeff (jeffery.marker@kau.se) or Olle Calles (olle.calles@kau.se) if you want to attend, and they will send you a link.

Rachel Bowes (RivEM PostDoc) and colleagues have studied the downstream passage of several migrating fish species during spring and fall 2020. Here she writes about their work:

Laxeleratorn at Vattenfall’s Research & Development facility in Älvkarleby

“Dams are like giant road blocks for fish in rivers. It is not always feasible or realistic to remove a dam to restore fish movement throughout rivers, so we need to design detours around them.

When going downstream we call this detour past the dam a bypass. The question we are asking is: How can we design a better bypass for multiple fish species to be able to move downstream past a dam more easily and efficiently? To test this, we are using the Laxeleratorn at Vattenfall’s Research & Development facility in Älvkarleby. We are testing Silver Eels, Salmon, and Roach fish species. Changing the design of the bypass and amount of water flowing through it, we hope to find out what combination creates the optimal bypass for these fish species.”

European eel (Anguilla anguilla)

Lutz Eckstein, professor at Karlstad University, is involved in two recently published papers, studying the effects of invasive Garden Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) on vegetation and seed bank of mountain meadow plant communities.

The first paper together with Wiebke Hansen (first author), Julia Wollny, Annette Otte and Kristin Ludewig, published in the journal Biological Invasions (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-020-02371-w), found that the invasion of Garden Lupine homogenizes vegetation composition. The similarity among plots increased with increasing lupine cover in three different vegetation types. L. polyphyllus affected species diversity in terms of richness and effective species number but in rather complex ways, i.e. plots with low to intermediate lupine cover had higher species diversity than control plots. Probably, the invasion though Garden Lupine is linked to significant species turnover. A very clear effect was found for community-weighted means of species trait. In all three vegetation types studied, the canopy height of the community increased with increasing lupine cover, whereas especially in the low-productive Nardus grasslands, leaf dry matter content decreased and specific leaf area increased. Thus, the Garden Lupine shifted the suite of community traits towards more competitive trait values. This may lead to overall more productive plant communities from which rare, low-growing herbs and grasses will disappear.

Germination experiment from the seed bank study in the paper published in Restoration Ecology. Photo: Kristin Ludewig

The second paper with Kristin Ludewig (first author), Wiebke Hansen, Yves Klinger, and Annette Otte, published in the journal Restoration Ecology (https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13311), analyzed the effects of increasing cover of Garden Lupineon the seed bank of mountain meadows, and the potential of the seed bank of these stands for active restoration of mountain meadows in terms of species composition and number. The authors conducted a seed bank analysis on 84 plots with increasing cover of L. polyphyllus in three mountain-meadow types of the Rhön Biosphere Reserve, Germany. Seedlings from 119 species germinated from the seed bank samples, including 17 Red List species but only a few seedlings of L. polyphyllus. While the influence of L. polyphyllus on the current vegetation was visible, no effects on the seed bank were apparent. L. polyphyllus had no influence on total seed density, seed density of typical mountain-meadow species, or species numbers in the seed bank. Only the seeds of the Red List species were significantly related to the cover of L. polyphyllus. The authors conclude that the seed bank offers potential for active restoration of species-rich mountain meadows, but species absent from the seed bank have to be added by other measures.

Kristin Ludewig, Wiebke Hansen and Yves Klinger will presents these and other results from a large restoration project in the UNESCO Rhön Biosphere Reserve at the RivEM week.

Coming up: RivEM week

Posted by Jacqueline Hoppenreijs | RivEM week

RivEM (NRRV) invites you to the first annual RivEM week, where KAU researchers and international guests will present and discuss some of the exciting projects we have been working on! From 17 to 20 November, you are welcome to attend presentations and participate in discussions and workshops. Every session covers a different ecological research theme during the week.

Find more info on http://www.nrrv.se/rivem-week-2020/ and sign up for one or more sessions via rivem@kau.se!

Biologi på Karlstads universitet anordnar en karriärdag för biologistudenter onsdagen 25 november, fylld med presentationer och diskussioner med potentiella arbetsgivare, helt online. Läs mer nedan, välkommen och glöm inte att anmäla dig!

Henry recently started his PhD at Karlstad University. Here, he writes about his previous work and what he intends to do as a PhD student at Karlstad University:

Hi! I’m one of the new additions to the RivEM group at Karlstad University. I’ll be working with the RIBES project, where the bulk of my position focuses on habitat alterations of rivers and fish community responses. Academically, I had excellent experiences studying at the University of Wisconsin-Stout for my undergraduate and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for my masters. Outside of the academic environment I had many incredible experiences, often dealing with natural resources or geographic information systems. Up until now, I have performed research in seven states, four countries among two continents, and worked for three U.S. government agencies (e.g., NPS, USFWS, USGS), a state government, and a local government as well as a handful of universities. 

Research-wise, my work has primarily dealt with freshwater ecology and fisheries, more often from a field perspective. Still, there were undoubtedly plenty of lab experiences too (but I do find the field more fun!). I would say my view of my research goals has changed drastically over the last ten years. I originally got started doing micro-satellite work with brook trout trying to optimize PCR reactions, ultimately answering population genetics questions. During my undergrad, the summers were a full immersion in the diversity of applied research in freshwater systems. These include dealing with invasive and non-native species throughout the Rocky Mountains (e.g., lake trout and zebra mussels in Yellowstone National Park, bullfrogs in the Yellowstone River, rainbow trout in the Crazy Mountains). On the other end of this spectrum, I have assisted with recovery efforts and management of endemic and endangered species (e.g., Higgins’ eye pearlymussel in the Mississippi River, pallid sturgeon in the Platte River, lake trout, and native lamprey recovery in the Great Lakes Basin, Bonneville cutthroat trout in Idaho). These projects were eye-opening because they tended to be outside of the academic setting. I observed how people outside of academia used research to help fix problems in socio-ecological systems.

Holding a pallid sturgeon caught during Platte River monitoring project.

My master’s degree focused on channel catfish long-distance movements in an internationally managed ecosystem (Lake Winnipeg Acoustic Telemetry Project) compounded with the difficulties of managing a mixed-use fishery. The foundation of this problem was ecological, while the problem’s tradeoffs were socially and economically dependent. I addressed this problem with a Bayesian modeling framework to quantify movement and an ecosystem services approach to investigate alternative management options (in preparation for publication). These broader system-wide issues helped inspire my Aquatic Sciences publication, highlighting the importance of a proactive management paradigm concerning fragmented rivers and aging reservoir ecosystems.

I think now I have gone off the deep end into the quantitative realm. Exposure to Bayesian statistics has me wanting more out of the models the everyday ecologist is trying to wrestle in R. I think finding a balance between well-designed field sampling campaigns and well crafted statistical techniques will be my new focus for the next few years.