Louis Addo (Ph.D. Student at Karlstad University)

Louis Addo (Doctoral Student), Mahboobeh Hajiesmaeli (Post-doctoral Researcher), John Piccolo (Professor) and John Watz (Associate Professor in Biology) all from the River Ecology and Management Research Group RivEM, Department of Environmental and Life Sciences at Karlstad University have recently published a paper entitled “Growth and mortality of sympatric Atlantic salmon and brown trout fry in fluctuating and stable flows” with the journal Ecology of Freshwater Fish.

In their paper, they explore the potential effects of hydropeaking or short-term regulated rivers on the growth and mortality of sympatric Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) at the fry life stage.

This paper is open-access and can be found at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/eff.12685

Hej, my name is Hanna Paikert and I completed a three-month-long internship at NRRV. My main motivation for this internship was to gain insight into a different research environment and to expand my knowledge regarding different scientific methods. Additionally, I aimed to figure out if I want to pursue a Ph.D. (A question I can answer now: it’s a big yes!)

During my time in Karlstad, I was involved in different projects but mainly worked with Elin Blomqvist and Lutz Eckstein on the project “Evidence-based control and monitoring of Garden Lupine for the conservation of species-rich road verges”. (But see: “Fish, poop and plants: crap research isn’t as bad as it might sound.”) The Garden Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) is an invasive plant species originally from North America which has spread massively along road verges in Sweden. Due to its large height, its ability to fix nitrogen and the high numbers of seeds each plant can produce, it has become a threat to native biodiversity. Thus, the control of this species is of high relevance along species-rich road verges. At the beginning of my stay, I focused on the effects of heat treatment on seeds and roots of the Garden Lupine to investigate whether high temperatures could decrease the germination rate of seeds and the survival of treated root parts. This is particularly important when large soil masses, which contain seeds or roots from the Lupine are transferred from one site to another. Here we used Triphenyl tetrazolium chloride to visualize the viability of the roots and seeds after the treatment. The red color indicates viability, no staining shows a dead plant part (see figure 1).

With the beginning of summer, field season started. I joined Elin while setting up the plots for a mowing experiment which comprises eight sites all over Värmland and will go on for the next three years. The goal is to investigate the effects of different mowing heights and frequencies on the spread of the Garden Lupine, as well as the native species richness. After the experiment was set up, we started with species inventories in which I got to expand my knowledge of species identification and gained a lot of botanical vocabulary in Swedish [😊]. During my last weeks, I assisted Elin with the first round of mowing and was lucky enough to see some drone flights to visualize the spread of Lupine from the air. Due to the fact, that the sites for this experiment are located all over Värmland, I was very lucky to see a lot of beautiful places as well as some wildlife (see figure 2)!

Last but not least I want to thank my supervisor Lutz Eckstein who coordinated my stay and gave me a lot of tips for my future career, Elin Blomqvist for great times in the field and her patience in teaching me “botanical Swedish”, Jaqueline Hoppenreijs and Sebastian Rock for taking me along to the field. A big thank you goes out to the whole department who welcomed me very warmly and made me feel included from day one! It was great getting to know you and getting a sneak peek into your research!

Lutz Eckstein, professor at Karlstad University, is involved in a recently published paper, studying techniques for control of the invasive Garden Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) and the introduction of target species in mountain meadow plant communities.

This paper with Wiebke Hansen as the lead author, published in the journal Restoration Ecology (https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13682), tested the restoration techniques “seed bank activation” and “green hay transfer” in combination with “manual removal of the invasive L. polyphyllus” on three types of grassland (Nardus grassland, mesic and wet mountain hay meadows) in the Rhön UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Central Germany.

The main implications for restoration practice are the following:

  • Green hay application might not be a suitable tool for restoring Nardus grassland since small species might not be able to grow through the plant material layer.
  • Lupinus polyphyllus cover on restoration sites can be reduced by manual removal of all parts of the plants, but a lasting reduction requires at least repeated applications
  • Reinvasion of Lupinus polyphyllus into restoration sites must be prevented with an appropriate management, e.g. early and/or repeated mowing.
  • Active restoration through seed bank activation failed to promote mountain meadow target species and reduced the cover of wet mountain hay meadow target species.

Velizara Stoilova (RivEM and Norconsult’s industry Ph.D. student) from the biology department of Karlstad University will be giving a seminar about her ongoing doctoral research entitled Existing approaches to facilitate downstream migrating fish. Velizara mainly works on solutions for fish migration and connectivity of rivers impacted by dams. As the title suggests, Velizara will be giving a talk on existing approaches to facilitate downstream migrating fish in rivers with limited connectivity and outlining her planned research.

This seminar will be streamed live on zoom on the 18th of January at 13.15 (CET). To join the seminar live on zoom, use the link https://kau-se.zoom.us/my/kaubiology. You are all welcome.

Dr. Mahboobeh Hajiesmaeli, a PostDoc Researcher from Karlstad University’s biology department and a member of the River Ecology and Management (RivEM) group will be giving a talk on how individual-based models (IBMs) of salmonid populations can be used as an effective tool for understanding and managing fish population responses to hydropeaking (hydropower short-term regulation) practices. The main focus is on the first application of an individual-based model, inSTREAM 7.2-SD, to assess the effects of peaking flows on growth, survival and distribution of Atlantic salmon (Salmo Salar) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) in the lower Gullspång River, Sweden. Lilla Åråsforsen (see picture below) was used as the study site for the IBM modeling.

This seminar will be streamed live on zoom on the 21st December at 13.15 (CET) at the link https://kau-se.zoom.us/my/kaubiology

Associate Professor Johan Watz from Karlstad University’s River Ecology Management Research Group (RivEm) and others have recently published a review article entitled Atlantic salmon in regulated rivers: Understanding river management through the ecosystem services lens. The authors synthesized peer-reviewed literature (related to the effects of hydropower on ecosystem services of Atlantic salmon in regulated rivers throughout its native range) to understand how Atlantic salmon conservation has been addressed within the ecosystem services framework. The paper is published open access and can be found at:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/faf.12628

Garden Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) native to North America has been classified as an invasive species in Sweden. In Sweden, they are mainly distributed in road verges. A group of researchers at Karlstad University led by Prof. Lutz Eckstein has been tasked with finding efficient management strategies to control their spread. The research aims at finding out when the garden lupine can be controlled most effectively. Watch Prof. Lutz Eckstein and doctoral student Elin Blomqvist talk about this research in a video interview as they collect and examine lupines at different stages of development.

Watch the full video here : https://tinyurl.com/mbnjhmh

RivEM is looking for a PhD candidate to work on evidence-based control and monitoring of Garden Lupine for the conservation of species-rich road verges. The project is part of a larger commitment of the Swedish EPA, the Swedish Transport Administration and Formas on management and control of invasive organisms. The work will take place in southern Sweden and you will be supervised by Lutz Eckstein, Lovisa Lind Eirell (Biology) as well as Jan Haas and Jan-Olov Andersson (Geomatics).

A species-rich roadside in Sweden (photo taken by Lutz Eckstein).

The main tasks of the successful candidate involve to plan, conduct and analyze field experiments directed at controlling the cover and spread of the invasive Garden Lupine. This will include (i) identifying the optimal timing of management, (ii) evaluating the use of different mowing techniques (timing and the regime) as a controlling agent for the Garden Lupine, and (iii) exploring unconventional control measures on the Garden Lupine and their effects on the native vegetation. Additionally, using data derived from geographic information systems (GIS) and un-crewed aerial vehicles (UAV), the candidate will (iv) develop a method for cost efficient monitoring of lupine populations and for evaluating the success of control measures at the landscape scale. Read more about the position and apply at https://kau.varbi.com/en/what:job/jobID:379605/

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.