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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The third position is on ecological and individual-based modelling and aims to:
i) Develop high-resolution spatially explicit maps of physical habitats in rivers, (ii) assess river hydraulic conditions using 2- or 3-D hydraulic models, (iii) develop and apply individual based models of fish population in rivers to assess the effects of river regulation.
The doctoral program consists of 240 higher education credits (4 years), including the doctoral thesis. Doctoral students may also be assigned department duties (up to 20 % of full time), such as teaching, which will extend the PhD position accordingly.
In early fall 2019, Finja Löher from Germany did an internship with the River Ecology and Management Research Group at Karlstad University. Here she writes about her visit:
“In 2018, I studied at Karlstads Universitet for two terms as part of my bachelor program “Environmental and Sustainability Studies” (Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany). These studies included two of the courses from the master program “Ecology and Conservation Biology” offered here at the biology department. Ever since I left Sweden, I’ve been hoping to return to Karlstad. On the one hand, I simply fell in love with the country with all its lakes and forests and fikas. On the other hand, I also gained a very appealing impression of the research being carried out in this department. Although I mostly focus on environmental chemistry in my studies in Germany, I nevertheless have a strong interest in ecological research, not least because of the courses I took here at KAU. Therefore, I was more than happy to return to Karlstad for three weeks for a practical training this fall.
During my stay here, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work together with several of the researchers here and to be involved in their work. This enabled me to get to know a variety of ongoing research projects and to better understand how much work and thought it takes to develop any such project. Among others, I assisted RNA analyses working with photo spectroscopy and in vitro PCR (polymerase chain reactions) in order to assess how the bacterium C. agnes influences the occurrence of the transmembrane protein PD-L1 in macrophages. I also had the chance to wander around in the woods collecting birch tree leaves and catching some wolf spiders in order to assist PhD projects aiming at assessing the influence of clams on biodegradation of organic material and at decoding the remaining prey DNA in spider gut contents, respectively. Additionally, I was happy to take part in two amazing excursions focusing on regional socio-ecological systems and their resilience. After spending a beautiful birthday on Hammarö and digging into some of the local history, the second excursion took us up the Klarälven River where we had a look at the former steel industry in Munkfors as well as at the hydropower plant and the sportfishing association in Forshaga. I furthermore gained some new insights by listening to several student presentations assessing the characteristics and the resilience of specific socio-ecological systems as well as by attending a seminar offered on the LIFE CONNECTS project which aims to restore several rivers and streams in Southern Sweden. Towards the end of my practical training, I was involved in the student courses some more by leading a discussion seminar.
Furthermore, I set up a small research project together with fellow interns. We aimed at assessing the quantity and diversity of the macroinvertebrate drift in a small forested stream situated in close proximity to the university. In order to work towards this goal, we installed a net in the stream that would trap all the invertebrates drifting with the flow during a specific time frame. We spent quite some time going through these samples and identifying the invertebrates down to the lowest reliable taxon. Being rather inexperienced with drift theory and invertebrate taxonomy previous to this internship, I was able to dig into these topics and extend my knowledge.
Last but not least, this practical training was a great chance for me to enjoy some of Swedish nature and culture, to have some great discussions and way too many cups of coffee, to meet old friends and to make new ones, to attend a climate strike in the country where it all began, and to work on my Swedish language skills a bit. Many thanks go out to John Piccolo for being a great contact person and for all the support before and during my stay here. Also, I want to thank everyone at the department for the warm welcome and for introducing me to their work. Keep it up!”
Jacqueline Hoppenreijs recently joined the NRRV research group. Here she writes about her previous work and what she intends to do as a PhD student at Karlstad University:
Hej! I’m Jacqueline Hoppenreijs and I recently started my PhD in the NRRV group at Karlstad University. During my MSc, which I did at the Department of Environmental Science at Radboud University in Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and the Department of Ecology at SLU Uppsala, I worked on different species groups: plants, birds and insects and wrote two theses. The first one, with fellow student Bas van Lith, explored possibilities for bird population restoration on the Indonesian island of Java, using historical sources on bird population development and land use change over the course of a century. During the second one, I studied the importance of different man-made habitat types for pollinators in Sweden, over the course of a season.
Bas and I birdwatching in Rancaekek, by Fachmi Azhar Aji
Despite studying quite different time frames and taxa, biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and conservation have been recurring themes. Coming from the overpopulated Netherlands, I find myself very interested in the interface of human society and nature, and more specifically nature restoration, conservation efforts and their ethical aspects.
As a junior researcher at the Department of Animal Ecology & Physiology at Radboud University, I dove a bit deeper in the influence that human actions can have on the natural world. I worked in Rob Leuven’s group to identify the potential risks of invasive (alien) species in horticulture, biological control and food forestry.
As from April 2019, I’m working with Lutz Eckstein and Lovisa Lind. We’re focusing on both fundamental and applied aspects of plant ecology and I’m looking forward to unravel the mechanisms that drive plant dispersal and community composition in boreal riparian zones. Next to that, I’m excited to be part of an active education environment and the passionate group of researchers that forms the NRRV, and can’t wait to meet the rest of Karlstad’s community!
Vegetation sampling on Omey Island, by Joop Schaminée
European eel, Anguilla anguilla. Photo: Jörgen Wiklund
Karlstad University has an opening for a PhD position in aquatic conservation biology. The project will focus on “Resolving production bottlenecks for the European eel”. Conserving biodiversity is one of the major challenges in applied aquatic ecology. The European eel functions as a flagship species in marine and freshwater conservation, and its population collapse is of major concern for ecologists, fishers and managers.
The aim of the PhD project is to identify:
(i) relationships between yellow eel habitat use, growth, behavior and survival.
(ii) effects of habitat characteristics and the surrounding landscape on eel large-scale movements within freshwater systems.
(iii) functioning downstream passage solutions at hydropower plants for a wide range of silver eel phenotypes.
The position is full-time for four years. Doctoral students may also be assigned departmental duties, such as teaching, which will extend the period of employment accordingly.