On 15-6-2021 Sebastian Rock will be giving a talk introducing his work on the host-parasite interactions of unionid mussels. Within the broader LifeConnects projects, this work will improve mussel conservation and reintroduction efforts of this little studied order of bivalves in Sweden and around the world.

River Vramsån, a spot for future mussel reintroduction (photo by Sebastian Rock).

The seminar starts at 13.15 and will be streamed live over Zoom. Contact Olle Calles (olle.calles@kau.se) to receive the zoom link to this seminar.

Professor Lutz Eckstein is involved in a new article led by Eva Svensson (Dept. of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies, KaU) and co-authored by Jan Haas (Geomatics, KaU) in the journal Landscapes (Taylor & Francis). They tested the potential of a low-budget method for integrating information on human impact and natural responses in the vegetation of boreal forested Scandinavia. The information from two national databases in Sweden – the National Inventory of Landscapes in Sweden (NILS) covering surveyed vegetation, and the Register of Ancient Monuments (Fornsök) – were combined and visualized using Geographical Information Systems (see Figure).

Rännberget, Northern Värmland, close to the study area described in the paper. Photo taken by Lutz Eckstein.

No relationships between human impact and vegetation were found at any of the five investigated sites. The authors discuss potential reasons for this, among others mismatches in time and scale between databases but also sectorized survey methods not paying attention to biocultural heritage, landscape perspectives or long-term processes. The paper concludes that further development of survey methods and registers targeting contexts and processes are called for. “This is a good example of `negative´ results, i.e. a study that does not demonstrate any significant patterns being published in an international scientific journal”, says Lutz Eckstein. Read more about the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1080/14662035.2020.1905202.

A group of international researchers, among which Martin Österling, have a new paper out! The authors, led by Ronaldo Sousa from the University of Minho in Portugal, investigated the role of anthropogenic habitats as refuges for freshwater mussels. The dataset of 709 sites comprised 228 mussel species, of which 34 are threatened, in a broad variety of anthropogenic habitat types. The authors assessed the conservation importance of these anthropogenic habitats, which included both refuges and ecological traps, and provide guidance for the conservation of freshwater mussels. Read the full paper here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15549

Irrigation canal in Morocco (river Bouhlou) colonized by Margaritifera marocana, one of the rarest species on the planet. Photo by Ronaldo Sousa.

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/

Andrew Harbicht, Martin Österling, and Olle Calles from Karlstad University and Anders Nilsson of Lund University have a new paper out. By radio tagging Atlantic salmon smolt and following them along their downstream migration to the Baltic, they quantified the effect of both a dam and a reservoir on migratory rates while accounting for environmental covariates. The good news for salmon, if reservoirs are kept thin (river-like), and mitigative measures are taken at a dam (i.e., spilling water during the smolt migration), the effects of anthropogenic barriers can be dramatically reduced. Read more about the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.3760

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

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.

Louis 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:

Hei! My name is Louis Addo. I recently joined the RivEM research group as a new PhD student. My background and skills cut across agricultural engineering (from University of Ghana, Legon-Ghana), hydropower development (from Norwegian University of Science and Technology), water engineering and fish habitat modeling (from University of Oulu). My experience with fish habitat modeling was with Finland’s Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Ely-Center) in Oulu. With Ely-Center as a master’s thesis worker and later a 1 month contract as an environmental designer, I researched on the effects of short-term regulation on habitat conditions of brown trout, Salmo trutta in the lowermost part of the Kalajoki River (a river located in the Northern Ostrobothnia region of Finland) and possibilities for mitigation. This project was an eye-opener to the use 2D hydrodynamic modelling and fish habitat modelling as a river management tool to protect the river ecosystems of trout under hydropeaking conditions.

As a new PhD student with the RivEM research group, my contribution will mainly be directed towards ecological and individual-based modelling of river ecosystems. This will directly involve modelling of Atlantic salmon and brown trout habitat in the lower part of the Gullspång River (a tributary to the lake Vänern in Sweden) under hydropeaking conditions. It is my future desire that the outcome of this research will contribute to solving real-world conservation problems related to river ecosystems. My supervisors will be John Piccolo (professor), Johan Watz (docent), and Steve Railsback (adjunct professor). As hobbies, my passion for flying and general aviation drives me to fly drones although not a pro yet 🙂 I love to watch and play soccer as well.