On Tuesday 11 February, Andrew Harbicht, RivEM postdoc, will give a seminar titled “NbNc ratios – a tool for fisheries biologists and conservationists; what can it tell us about dam removal”. The seminar starts at 13: 15 in room 5F416 at Karlstad University. Everyone who wants to are welcome to attend the seminar.

Andrew Harbicht at a river in Värmland, Sweden.

Although most fieldwork is carried out in warmer seasons, members of the NRRV research group also go out in winter to collect information and samples for their research. Here, Richard Durtsche, visiting professor from Northern Kentucky University, writes about a field excursion that took place last week:

Andrew Harbicht, Post-Doc at Karlstad University (front) and Richard Durtsche, visiting professor from Northern Kentucky University, (back) at the field site.

“As part of a study on the energetics in natural food sources available to Salmonid fishes (trout, salmon, grayling, etc.), we have been sampling the macroinvertebrates in streams that connect to the Klarälven (Clear River) this past fall and now this winter. These investigations will focus on an increase in the accuracy of macroinvertebrate body size measurements taken with digital imaging and an increase in the accuracy of dry mass measures using an ultramicrobalance, newly acquired by Kau Biology. Energetic (caloric) content will also be determined for the different macroinvertebrate taxa. The three target macroinvertebrates groups for this study include mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and stoneflies (Plecoptera). These are major prey items for all life history stages of Salmonid fishes, and are often used as indicators of stream health in aquatic environmental assessment due to their sensitivity to pollutants and anthropogenic impacts. Results of this study will be useful in developing energetic models of fish foraging for management of fish population and river/stream conditions.

The team that braved the cold winter conditions and moderate snow levels on January 29th included: Richard Durtsche (NRRV visiting professor from Northern Kentucky University), Rachel Bowes (NRRV Post-Doc), Andrew Harbicht (NRRV Post-Doc), and Rachel Prokopius (exchange student from Northern Kentucky University). The stream that we were investigating was located just south of Ransäter. The water was flowing rapidly, and we initially decided to check out the stream conditions on the downhill (east) side of highway 62 to look for sampling sites. There was knee deep (or more) snow to ford before coming to forest cover where moving was easier despite many treefalls. As the streamflow was fast and the water level high, there were no safe locations to sample. So we headed west of highway 62, just off the access road. There we found good sampling habitat just downstream of a large pool that ran under a bridge on that road.

Rachel Prokopius, exchange student from Northern Kentucky University, and Richard Durtsche, measuring the stream width and flow rates.

One of the first things we did at waterside, was to collect physicochemical measures of the water conditions. These included: temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. We also measured the flow volume of water by measuring the width of the stream, and then taking the depth and flow rates every 50 cm across the stream. Water temps of 1.4°C and the tingle of cold penetrating our waders told us that today was not a good day to fall in the water. After we crossed the fast-flowing stream, we found several relatively shallow areas where we could sample invertebrates. We made a series of kick seine samples from different parts of the stream shallows to dislodge and collect invertebrates from the stones and substrate. 

It was definitely a group effort to kick stones and stream bottom, brush rocks to knock off invertebrates to be carried with stream flow into the seine, and then wash the samples into a collecting bucket. While we thought we might have limited luck, we in fact did extremely well with collecting a range of macroinvertebrates and large quantities of many of those taxa. There will be a good share of macroinvertebrate sorting and measuring upon return to the laboratory.”

Rachel Prokopius, Rachel Bowes, Post-Doc at Karlstad University, and Andrew Harbicht sampling invertebrates using a kick seine.


The team at work in the stream.


Richard Durtsche at the field site.


Close-up photo of a stonefly (Plecoptera) larva.


Andrew Harbicht recently started a postdoc within the NRRV-research group at Karlstad University. Here he briefly presents his background and what he plans to do during his postdoc:

“Hello, my name is Andrew Harbicht and I’m one of the new Post-Docs to have joined the NRRV. My research experience has primarily been focused on salmonids (rainbow trout, brook charr, and Atlantic salmon) and extends from fisheries modeling to population genetics and radio telemetry. I moved to Karlstad from Montreal, Canada, where I conducted my Ph.D. at Concordia University, working together with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Atlantic salmon restoration in Lake Champlain. During that time we investigated the impacts of hatchery rearing and release techniques on the lifetime survival and dispersal rates of landlocked salmon and investigated the impact of a thiamine deficiency on the migratory capabilities of returning spawners.

My work with this group will focus on the implications of migratory barriers for longitudinal connectivity among Atlantic salmon populations in the Baltic Sea. With the ever-increasing efficiency of new hydroelectric turbines and the costs associated with maintaining outdated installations, more and more energy producers are opting to remove older facilities to focus their efforts on newer structures. The removal of such aging dams and other barriers to migration within rivers is undoubtedly a positive step for river connectivity, though exactly what changes will occur as a result of such actions is simply unknown in many situations. In fact, over the short term, the removal of barriers can cause as many changes as initial installation. In other situations, maintaining instream infrastructure may be the best option available to energy producer. In which case, including structures that permit fish passage is important, but which type of structure is best suited to the job isn’t always clear. Where several options exist, managers need access to accurate information to assist in their decision-making process.

With my project, I’ll be looking at the impact of removing a partial barrier to migration on the movement patterns of Atlantic salmon, as well as the river ecosystem itself in the Mörrumsån river in southern Sweden. Our holistic approach will monitor all levels of the ecosystem, from the mechanisms that shape river terrain (sedimentation) to the smallest bacteria (decomposition) and the largest predators (fish), as well as all things in between (food-webs). I will also be investigating the genetic consequences of changes in movement patterns that result from the removal of a hydroelectric plant. In another river, the river Emån, we’ll be assessing the performance of a new type of fish lift, and Archimedes screw, which permits upstream and downstream passage, all the while producing its own energy. If found to be effective, such devices could greatly improve connectivity in fragmented river landscapes.”

Andrew Harbicht (left) and William Ardren (right) releasing tagged fish in the Boquet River, a  tributary to Lake Champlain.

Andrew Harbicht tracking radio tagged Atlantic salmon.