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!

Next week on Tuesday 29 September kl. 13.15 RivEM professor John Piccolo will hold a seminar entitled “Nature’s contribution to people and peoples’ moral obligations to nature”. He says: “In the seminar, I will discuss the concept of “ecocentrism”, the worldview that attributes “inherent” or “intrinsic” value to nonhuman (as well as human) life. The seminar is part of a project I have been working on for some time, with colleagues from several countries, to highlight the importance of ecocentrism for biodiversity conservation and sustainability, as in this recent article in the leading biodiversity journal Conservation Biology.” You’re very welcome to join John’s Zoom room (https://kau-se.zoom.us/my/jpconbio) on Tuesday 29 September, 13:15 Stockholm time!

In the seminar next week John will focus on the new concept of “Nature’s contributions to people” (NCP) that is currently being popularized by the International Panel of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The concept of NCP is built upon a deeper understanding of the well-known Ecosystem Services paradigm. NCP attempts to capture many of the intangible values of nature that are difficult to measure, especially economically. Thus, NCP encompasses a broader range of worldviews than do previous, largely economic valuations of ecosystem services. Although the IPBES explicitly recognizes intrinsic nature value, they have done a poor job accounting for intrinsic value in their recent publications and reports. He will argue that the IPBES and biodiversity conservation in general requires a much deeper assessment of the philosophical concept of intrinsic natural value. Recognition of intrinsic value is, in fact, the foundation upon which both human rights and nature’s rights are built. Thus, intrinsic value is of primary importance in conservation of biodiversity and the broader concept of sustainability.

You can read more of their recent publications on ecocentrism at the following links:

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13526

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-018-9711-1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718305020?via%3Dihub

https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cobi.13067

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1617138117300742?via%3Dihub

You can even read a statement of commitment to ecocentrism, and join a list of notable signatories at the following link: https://www.ecologicalcitizen.net/statement-of-ecocentrism.php?submit=Sign+the+Ecocentrism+Statement

Sebastian Rock 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:

Well hi there! I’m Sebastian Rock, a new PhD student at NRRV research group at Karlstad University. Originally from the US Virgin Islands, I’ve lived across the US and later, all around Italy as well, as such, I’m hoping to bring a little extra warmth to this cold part of Sweden. Working as a part of the Life Connects project under the supervision of Martin Österling, Olle Calles, Johan Watz and Anders Nilsson (from Lund University), I’ll be working on conservation and reintroduction of highly threatened parasitic freshwater river mussels. I’ll predominantly be focused on the Freshwater Pear Mussel (Margaritifera margfaritifera) and the Thick Shelled Riven Mussel (Unio crassus) in the Skåne region in south Sweden. Where possible I hope to do scientific outreach and education to help raise both the general public interest in the less well-known aquatic fauna as well as the importance of ecologic conservation.

Sebastian with a massive 30+ kg of Laetiporus spp. (aka: Chicken Fungus, Sulfur Shelf) in Maastricht.

I started my academic life like many others as a bachelor student, myself at Maastricht University’s Maastricht Science Program in the Netherlands. Only founded in 2010, it was designed as an open end Liberal Arts and Science program, where students there are encouraged to develop their own interdisciplinary curriculum to better adapt to the modern vastly interconnected research environment. As the son of two Biologists, and as someone intensely interested in anything to do with animals, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as I focused almost all my attention towards the biological sciences ranging from ecology to psychopharmacology. As part of the program, once a semester, students take part in a month long research project, designed with the intention of not only exposing students to a wide range of academic fields and topics, but also to provide substantial research experience to build future degrees with. Here, I got along with the zoology professor Dr John Sloggett and together organized a series of research projects on the behavioral toxicology of an invasive planarians flatworm species from North America, Girardia tigrina; these projects ultimately evolved in to my BSc thesis.

Petridish full of flatworms with BSc student Nicholas Versé in the background.

From Maastricht, I moved on to a Research Masters degree at Leiden University, also in the Netherlands, where I worked with Drs. Christian Tudorache and Marcel Schaaf at the Institute of Biology Leiden where I was able to apply my interdisciplinary background to the study of stress coping in larval zebrafish. Using Multidimensional reduction techniques, I worked on modeling coping style, the inter-individual differences in behavior (or the animal equivalent of personality) with a more straightforward and concrete measure of gestation time. Over the course of my Masters I continued to design smaller research projects for BSc students as well as working with a local international school to give short seminars and demonstrations of simple scientific projects with wide reaching implications to give them a better idea of, and hopefully inspire them to peruse an education in science.

As a researcher at KAU – NRRV I hope to apply my interdisciplinary education to the study of the effects the parasitic mussels have on their host fishes. In the case of the Pearl Mussel, salmonids, and in that of the Thick Shelled Mussel, predominantly minnows and bullheads. As much of my work will be relating to the reintroduction of these, mostly stationary, endangered parasites, they will need to be reintroduced through their more mobile host fish. As knowledge on the behavioral effects of the parasite on the fish is very limited, I hope to expand it be looking at competition behavior between infested and non-infested fish, as well as other changes in behavior, which may reduce overall fitness. After all, if we kill off all the hosts, that won’t help the parasite any more than doing nothing at all. I hope to include genomic, immunologic and abiotic factors in the conservation efforts with a little help from some multidimensional modeling to stitch it all together.

Away from the office, you can find me either outside, fishing and hunting for mushrooms, or inside building an eclectic collection of reptiles and amphibians in unique enclosures as I experiment with culinary sciences to the sound of a bizarre musical library. Feel free to stop by my office to talk about research, or any of those last three things. If you care to follow any of my sometimes semi-science related stuff you find me on Instagram @srock456.

Cheers and see you around!

För ungefär en månad sedan uppmärksammade vi en forskningsartikel som handlade om hur grågåsen genom sin spillning är viktig för växters spridning på skärgårdsöar i Östersjön (läs inlägget här). Lutz Eckstein, Professor i NRRV, är medförfattare på artikeln.

Nu har forskningen fått stort mediegenomslag, och uppmärksammats av bland annat Sveriges Radio (lyssna på ett inslag där Lutz berättar om studien), Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, Ny Teknik samt en mängd lokaltidningar (Smålandsposten, Kristianstadsbladet, Bohuslänningen, Enköpingsposten, Borås tidning, Uppsala nya tidning, Katrineholms-Kuriren m.fl.).

The book, “Brown Trout: Biology, Ecology and Management”, edit by Javier Lobón-Cerviá and Nuria Sanz was recently published. The book is described as “a comprehensive guide to the most current research, history, genetics and ecology of the brown trout including challenging environmental problems”. John Piccolo and Johan Watz, both researchers at Karlstad University, have written the chapter Foraging Behaviour of Brown Trout: A Model Species For Linking Individual Ecology to Population Dynamics? They summarize their chapter as follows:

“Within the discipline of stream fish ecology, population-, community-, and even ecosystem-level patterns and processes have assumed an increasingly larger role in recent decades. It might be argued, however, that research on the behaviour of individual organisms ought still to play a major role in ecology; it is upon the individual, after all, that natural selection acts. Thus, one might reasonably expect that observing an individual fish’s behaviour should lead to robust conclusions about the fitness costs and benefits that animals must trade-off in order to achieve reproductive success. And ultimately, it is those individuals that achieve the greatest direct fitness that ought to, on average, drive the population-level processes that have attracted so much of stream fish ecologists’ attention in recent years. In linking behavioral- to population-level ecology, we are in luck when it comes to the brown trout – there is no stream fish species whose population ecology is better quantified, nor are there many species that have received more attention from behavioural ecologists. Thus we might consider the brown trout as a model species for developing the ecological understanding of how natural selection (e.g. individual, fitness-based decisions) acts to regulate stream fish populations. To forward this concept, a further development of a quantitative approach to foraging behaviour is warranted. In this chapter we review and synthesize the literature on brown trout foraging experiments with an eye towards identifying the knowledge gaps that remain to be filled in order for ecologists to quantify the fitness costs and benefits of foraging behaviour.”

The book is available (but expensive) here. For access to the specific book chapter, email John Piccolo or Johan Watz.

Welcome to NRRV: Richard Durtsche

Posted by Daniel Nyqvist | Nyheter

Richard Durtsche recently joined the NRRV-research group as a visiting professor from Northern Kentucky University, USA. Here he presents his background and some of his planned work at Karlstad University:

Richard Durtsche, visiting professor at Karlstad University.

My name is Richard Durtsche, and I am a visiting professor joining the Kau River Ecology and Management Research Group from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) where I am a Professor of Biological Sciences, the Director of the NKU Research and Education Field Station, and Curator of Vertebrate Collections. I am a physiological ecologist and herpetologist with research interests in the feeding ecology, nutrition, and physiology of amphibians, reptiles, and fish along with related impacts of invasive species; niche occupancy; and bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems. I am currently on a one-year sabbatical, and my goals include professional development and exploring new research focused on modeling of fish drift-feeding and the ecophysiology of stream fishes related to my previous work on the foraging ecology and metabolism in reptiles and amphibians. This program will also strengthen the collaboration of our recently established exchange program that now exists between NKU and Kau.

My research goals are to investigate new methodologies in foraging ecology and ecological modeling as a collaborator in studies of the eco-physiology of drift feeding and energetics in Salmonid fish (trout, salmon, etc.), and potential changes in their metabolism related to thermal changes (potential effects of climate change) during development. The first part of these investigations will focus on the increased accuracy in measurements of the mass for three different macroinvertebrate (mayfly, caddisfly, and stonefly) prey types of these fish determined from digital images. These image measurements will then be combined with caloric content measures of these prey to provide an energetic basis of these food sources. The results will then be used to 1) improve theoretical models of the energetics and drift feeding by these fish for the group’s on-going studies on stream fish ecology and management, and 2) provide a basis for using digital images, potentially from a smart device, for enhanced methods and more rapid measures to understanding how different foods can influence fish distributions, their growth and abundance. The second part of this investigation will focus on the effects elevated environmental temperature (i.e., climate change) has on the metabolism of developing fish. By evaluating fish raised at different temperatures from the same cohort of eggs, we will be able to determine the plasticity (epigenetic capacity) of these northern climate fish to altered thermal environments. Measuring metabolic capacities is one of the best ways to determine the fitness of these fish and if they have the capacity to deal with climate change.”

Tomorrow, 24 October, Richard Durtsche will give a seminar titled “Amphibians, Wetland Aquatic Ecosystems, and the Impact of Invasive Plants”. The seminar will be given at 13:15 in room 5F416 at Karlstad University.

NRRV i media

Posted by Daniel Nyqvist | Nyheter

Under sommarmånaderna har NRRV-forskares arbete eller expertis uppmärksammats i olika media. Hallandsposten skrev om passagestudier med ålyngelstudier i Laholm och intervjuade Jonas Elghagen, Lutz Eckstein intervjuades angående den invasiva lupinen i Värmlands Folkblad,och en av Anders Nilssons senaste artiklar – om hur mört-braxen-hybrider är känsligare för predation än braxen och mört –  uppmärksammades av The Economist.