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

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.

Johan Watz, David Aldvén, Antonis Apostolos Brouziotis, Niclas Carlsson, Eirini Karathanou, Kristine Lund‐Bjørnås, Gustav Lundqvist, Martin Österling, John J. Piccolo and Olle Calles recently published the paper “Social behaviour of European grayling before and after flow peaks in restored and unrestored habitats” in the journal River Research and Applications.

In the abstract of the paper the authors write:

“Cost‐effective implementation of fish‐friendly hydropower flow operation and habitat restoration measures require an understanding of their effects on fitness‐related behaviours of stream fish. Here, we investigated how changes in flow and bottom structure influence the social behaviour of European grayling, using large experimental flumes (700 L s−1), with and without added boulders (i.e., restored and unrestored habitat). Grayling increased their distance to nearest neighbour at the start of flow ramping up and after a flow peak compared to stable base flow. At the start of ramping up the flow, grayling made less position changes (movements >1 m) than at stable base flow and after a flow peak. In the unrestored habitat, the proportion of time grayling spent actively swimming was lower before a flow peak than it was both at the start of ramping up the flow and after the peak, an effect not found in the restored habitat. In addition, we compared two static flows, and habitat restoration mediated their effect on distance to nearest neighbour. Grayling in the restored habitat were positioned closer to each other in the low (~10 cm s−1) than in the intermediate static flow (~40 cm s−1), whereas in the unrestored habitat, grayling showed the opposite pattern. Moreover, grayling reduced their number of position changes in the intermediate static flow, which was reflected by a reduction in active swimming. Stomach analysis after the trials revealed that foraging success was higher in variable than in the stable flow treatment. These results show that flow magnitude, flow changes and instream structure play important roles in the behaviour of stream fishes.”

The paper is available open access on the journal website.

Johan Watz (left), together with Eirini Renata Karathanou and Antonis Apostolos Brouziotis.