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.

Veli recently started her PhD at Karlstad University. Here, she writes about her previous work and what she intends to do as a PhD student at Karlstad University:

Hello, hello! My name is Veli and I am one of the many new PhD students joining the RivEM band. My project is part of the MSCA-RIBES (River flow regulation, fish behaviour and status) and will aim to develop new guidance devices for downstream migrating fish. I will be hosted officially by Norconsult, but I will be actually based at Karlstad University. My main supervisor is Larry Greenberg, and I will be also under the co-supervision of Ann Erlandsson and John Piccolo at Karlstad, while Axel Emanuelsson is the Norconsult supervisor.

 I was born in Bulgaria during communism when the typical pastime was to wait at very long lines in front of the shops from early in the morning to try and buy some milk (one of my earliest memories). My parents are windsurfers and while my sister followed in their footsteps and became a professional windsurfer, I was always more interested in what was going on beneath the surface and would often get away from the coast, abandon the surfboard and dive to spot some fish and check how deep it was. Since the love for the sea was deeply drilled into my heart, when the time came to start thinking about a career path, the idea of becoming marine biologist felt the most natural.

Veli at age 8, heading into the sea with oversized windsurf equipment.

I started my bachelor degree in marine biology at Queen’s University, Belfast and in my final year I chose a project on fish aggressive behaviour, since I have been interested in the topic since I was a child. Me and my dad were always figuring out ways to minimise the aggression between our tropical aquarium’s fish, using see-through partitions when passions escalated and when introducing newcomers. The bachelor project examined if fish use a preferred lateral position when displaying to an opponent. After analysing hundreds of videos of convict cichlids duels, it became clear that they appeared to escalate only after ‘head to tail’ position and never from ‘head to head’, which had serious implications for previous fish aggression studies done with mirrors.

I was keen to investigate the mirror situation further and so I obtained a grant from the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI) and set up an experiment comparing one focal fish’s displays when presented with a real opponent and with a mirror. The experiment was further continued by a bachelor student and the results were eventually published in Animal Behaviour.

After the bachelor degree I wanted to gain some field experience and so I left for Istanbul to help a PhD student with gathering behavioural data on cetaceans to study how they are affected by marine traffic in the Bosphorus strait. The internship made me even more interested in animal behaviour so I decided to go back to university and start a masters in animal behaviour and welfare.

During my masters I became more interested in exploring different visual behaviour questions and so I chose a research project investigating if bats can see polarized light. The experiment was carried out in a Y- maze but also had fieldwork component, taking place at Max Plank’s Siemers Bat Research Station in Bulgaria. Even though my laboratory experiments were not conclusive due to the limited time period for research on the animals, the field experiments carried out by my colleagues at the research station seemed to conclude that the bats do indeed see polarization and use it to navigate, making them the first mammal to do so (making the findings Nature material).

After the masters degree I comleted an ERASMUS + placement program in Spain studying the effects of whale watching vessels on cetacean behaviour in the Gibraltar strait, where I helped with the collection and analyses of data and photo ID material.

Shortly after the end of the placement I left for the Hondurian cloud forest of Cusuco National Park as part of ongoing conservation expedition Operation Wallacea, where I worked as camp manager and I was more on the logistical side, however I got to dip my toe in all the different ongoing  terrestrial surveys, such as collecting Chytrid fungus samples from the endemic amphibians, bird and bat surveys in the park, etc. I went back to Cusuco for another expedition again a couple of years later in 2016.

After 9 years abroad, in 2015 after learning that a young family member is ill, I decided to go back to Bulgaria, so that I can be close to my family. In couple of weeks I organised a campaign to raise funds for the treatment and decided to do a solo cycle from Lisbon to my home city Sofia as a crowdfunding challenge. I made it home after 65 days, raised enough funds towards my cousin’s treatment and today she is in remission.

Collage from the 5000 km cycle challenge that raised over 6000 euro.

Once back to my home country I tried to be as involved as possible by being active citizen and organising and participating in science related and environmental protests. After becoming clear that no one else was going to do it, I organised The March for Science in Sofia, the only Bulgarian protest associated with the international demonstrations.

March for Science, Sofia, 2017

In 2018 I was part of the team of the Wind2Win challenge, where my sister and her partner did a historic crossing of the 300 km Bulgarian coast with windsurfs in 3 days to raise awareness of the plastic pollution problem in the Black Sea. I was part of the science team on the safety vessel and we were taking water ecological samples with a sonde and making cetacean and floating debris observations during the crossing. A documentary was made about the challenge, in order to help raise awareness among the public (teaser) with an upcoming online premiere. Under the initiative more than 6 clean ups have been carried out lifting around 3 tonnes of plastic from various beaches.

In my free time you can catch me in nature with my family, or trying out something new.

I am currently working at an eel experiment at the Älvkarleby flume and when free I go to Germany, where my family lives, but I look forward to moving to Karlstad and getting to know everyone soon.

Sam Shry 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:

Hej! My name is Sam Shry and I am another new PhD student just starting in the RivEM research group. Like Sebastian, I will also be working under the EU project LIFE Connects, but my primary research focus will be Atlantic Salmon and their migratory response to river restoration and re-connectivity. My main supervisor is Olle Calles, with assistant supervisors Martin Österling, Gustav Hellström (SLU), and Anders Nilsson (Lund University).

I am originally from Arkansas in the US, but have lived in Sweden for the last four years. I became interested in fisheries when I was working on my bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Inspiring teachers and amazing internship experiences motivated me to pursue a career in fisheries. After graduation, I worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a field technician, working primarily with salmonid management and monitoring in the mid-Columbia River.

Typical day working as a field technician in the winter time. Had to snowshoe out to the PIT tag antenna station on a tributary of the Columbia River to download data and change the battery on the receiver, but first I had to shovel out the receiver box.

During my time as an undergraduate, I also met a wonderful Swedish woman who eventually became my wife. I decided to move to Sweden to live with her and, at the same time, started my master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Umeå. I had an amazing experience in the master’s program and had the opportunity to work on many great projects. My master’s thesis investigated the effect of condition on smoltification and migration in anadromous Brown Trout.

After finishing my masters, I started working for the County Administrative Board of Gävleborg as a project leader in fish migration and restoration. I worked with implementing river restoration measures, fish reintroduction efforts, and conducted fish migration studies throughout Gävleborg.

Reintroduction of Atlantic Salmon and anadromous Brown Trout to upstream reaches of Dalälven. We planted egg boxes into artificial redds during the winter months to reintroduce these species to extirpated areas where hopefully they will be able to return and spawn in the future.

As a PhD student at Karlstad University, my research will focus on migration of Atlantic Salmon at three critical life stages (smolt, spawner, and post-spawner/kelt). Within the LIFE Connects project, thirteen dams are to be removed, ten fish passage solutions are to be built, and over 530 km of river habitat in seven river systems will be positively impacted. We want to evaluate the impact of these measures on Atlantic Salmon populations in these rivers and their response to restoration and re-connectivity. We will evaluate their migratory response over these three critical life stages using acoustic telemetry as our primary tool. With the use of high-resolution telemetry, we hope to gain greater insight into the timing, duration, hindrances, and mortality of these vital, large-scale migrations.

Tagging an adult Atlantic Salmon with a hydro-acoustic tag. We then release the fish and track its movements throughout the river. Collecting valuable data for the management of this important species.

In my free time you can usually catch me by or in the water. In general, I enjoy being out in nature and usually try to fill my weekends with outdoor adventures. If you have any questions feel free to contact me by email or come by my office.

Look forward to meeting you!