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

On Thursday 26 March, Kristine Lund Bjørnås, NRRV PhD-student, will defend her licentiate thesis “Modeling Atlantic salmon and brown trout responses to river habitat alteration”. The defense starts at 10:00. Asbjørn Vøllestad, Professor at the University of Oslo, is the opponent for Kristine’s defense.

Kristine’s defense will be held as an online meeting on Zoom (a video communication system commonly used by universities). You should be able to follow Kristine’s defense using this link:


The defense will also be streamed live on a bigscreen in lecture hall 1B309 (Sjöströmsalen) at Karlstad University, and everyone is welcome to watch the defense from the lecture hall. Please note that Kristine and the opponent will not be in the lecture hall.

On Tuesday 10 March, Kristine Lund Bjørnås, PhD student at Karlstad University, will give a seminar entitled “Modeling Atlantic salmon and brown trout responses to river habitat alteration”. The seminar starts at 13.15 in room 5F416, everyone who wants to is welcome to attend the seminar.

This seminar is a practice seminar in preparation for Kristine’s licentiate defense, which will be held Thursday 26 March at 10:00. More information about the licentiate seminar will be provided closer to the defense.

Kristine Lund Bjørnås and Niclas Carlsson taking point measurements of the physical habitat in Gullspångsforsen.

As part of the Gullspång salmon and -trout monitoring program, a group of people from the management group, Gammelkroppa Lax and Jyväskylä University/Fortum perform redd surveys in the river every year in early December. The salmon and trout in the Gullspång River spawn fairly late in the season, first trout in October-early November and then salmon in November until around the beginning of December.

This year I was invited to assist in the redd surveys, which I of course said yes to! Any chance to learn more about the Gullspång salmon and -trout is valuable for the model I’m making. Plus, it’s nice to get out of the office, even when the temperature is close to zero. And it’s also very inspiring to meet other people who are studying the Gullspång salmonids.


Lilla Åråsforsen. With sunrise at around 8:30 and sundown at 15:30, we had to be efficient to cover the three areas (about 6.4 hectares) in the precious daylight hours the four days.


So, we started by the Årås bay (Åråsviken) on Tuesday, and slowly worked our way upstream. With layers upon layers (upon layers…etc.) under our waders, and thick, wadded rubber gloves we walked gracefully around in the three spawning areas – Lilla & Stora Åråsforsen and Gullspångsforsen- to look for anything that could be a fish-made structure in the gravel beds. Sometimes we had redds that looked like textbook examples of redds, other times they didn’t look like anything. To confirm or disprove that it was an active redd, we did some careful digging in the pit itself to see if it contained at least two live eggs. The females often do some test diggings before the “real deal”.

We marked confirmed redds with conspicuously colored stones so that they can be found again in the spring; their location was also mapped with a GPS. Initially, we started with Finnish marking stones, but to our slight surprise they ran out (see why further down). We therefore had to settle with slightly lighter Swedish stones the last few days. Sadly, Norway was not represented with any stones (but we’ll see next year).

We also took measurements of the dimensions of the redds, as well as the depth and velocities along the gradient between start of pit and end of tail. I quickly took the role of propeller lady, taking the flow velocity measurements with NRRV’s OTT meters. It was interesting to see how much higher the velocity generally was in the tail compared to in the pit.


Horseshoe-formed tail of a large redd in Lilla Åråsforsen rapids marked with a white-painted and numbered stone. The marking stones were bought from a local stone dealer in Finland and brought to Gullspång.


I’ve saved the best for the end: the reason why we kept running out of marking stones was that we counted a record number of redds this year! We found redds also where they usually are not found, in total around 190 of them! It’s a careful victory, because we don’t yet know how many of them are salmon respective trout redds. But it was a nice early Christmas present, and I’m glad I joined!

/Kristine Lund Björnås


Learn more:

Management report on the monitoring results on Gullspång salmon and –trout in 2017:



Salmon females design their redds in a sophisticated way to increase velocities and dissolved oxygen to the egg pockets as shown with a 3D fluid dynamic model:

Tonina, D. & Buffington, J.M. (2009). Doi:10.1139/F09-146

John Piccolo writes about the ongoing Masters course Ecological Resource Management at Karlstad University:

“Our Masters course on Ecological Resource Management is now underway for fall 2015.  Students can read the course on campus or by distance, and we have a field and lab study week in the beginning of November. This year we discussed watershed management and invasive species in the historic Alsterdalen, home of reknowned poet Gustaf Fröding. Professor Lutz Eckstein led the discussion on invasive plants (such as late-blooming Lupine, see group foto). Then we drove over the divide to Klarälvsdalen and downriver to the Almar Forest (Almar skogen). There we discussed forest management with Ove Nystrand, forester for Svenska Kyrkan. 

On the second day we traveled down the River Gullspångsäven, home of the world-reknowned landlocked salmon, Gullspångslaxen. We met Robert Skogh, Mariestads kommun, and got a great overview of his efforts over the past 20 years to protect Gullspångslaxen. Then it was back up to the River Klarälven, where Johnny Norrgård and Olle Calles led the discussion on migration and conservation of Klarälvslaxen (Klarälven salmon).  In the course we use Lake Vänern salmon and trout as a case study for resource management. The students follow up with their own case studies, which will include diverse topics such as Lynx, Lupine, woodpeckers and windpower/bat interactions. It is an exciting course and educational for the teachers and well as the students. “


John Piccolo (far left) and students at the Masters course “Ecological Resource Management”.


Invasive Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) by the River Klarälven.


Small stream in the Almar forest.

I veckan har vi studenter på kursen Ekologisk miljövård på Karlstads Universitet gjort fyra studiebesök. Vi gjorde ett besök i Almarskogen där Ove Nystrand från Karlstad Stift informerade om skogsbruk och skogsvård i Sverige, samt Svenska kyrkans förvaltning av sin skog. Samma dag åkte vi vidare till Gullspångsälven där bland annat Länsstyrelsen och kommunen inventerade lekgropar. Vi fick också möjlighet att studera lekgropar och få en insyn i förvaltningen av lax och öring i Gullspångsälven.

Andra dagen bjöd på minusgrader och solsken då vi åkte till Öjenäsbäcken utanför Arvika. Först träffade vi Bo-Erland Johansson som informerade om de biotopåtgärder som gjorts för att restaurera bäcken då man tidigare använde ån för flottning av virke. Bäcken har i samband med flottningen rätats och rensats ur och nu försöker man återställa dess naturliga tillstånd eftersom det finns skyddsvärda arter så som flodpärlmussla (Margaritifera margaritifera) och mossan timmerskapania (Scapania apiculata).

Efter lunch fick vi möjlighet att testa på biotopkartering tillsammans med Richard Gow från Länsstyrelsen Värmland. Vi fokuserade på strömhastighet, öringbiotop samt bottensubstrat.

Sista dagen bjöd på ett besök vid Forshaga kraftverk där vi fick se Fortums avelsfiske. Vi missade tyvärr kramningen av lax och öring som ägde rum dagen innan, men fick studera deras anläggning och laxtrappa samt videoinspelning från laxtrappan.


Till vänster: Johnny Norrgård visar en stor lekgrop i Gullspångsälven

Mitten: Vi letar förgäves efter lekande lax och öring uppströms laxtrappan i Gullspång. Istället för lax fick vi dock se en strömstare!

Höger: Laxtrappan vid kraftverket i Gullspång


Till vänster: En kramad Klarälvslax i Forshagas avelsfiske

Mitten: Kläckningsboxarna med befruktad rom från avelsfiskarna

Höger: Laxtrappan vid kraftverket i Forshaga


Vi har haft roliga, givande dagar och fått se samt uppleva många nya saker!

/Biologistudenterna på KaU

Studiebesök vid Gullspångsälven

Posted by Daniel Nyqvist | Events

Sista dagen av vår finsk-svenska workshop med forskare från Vilt och fiskeriforskningsinstitutet i Oulo ägnades åt ett studiebesök till Gullspångsälvens nedre delar. Robert Skogh, miljöinspektör på Mariestads Kommun guidade oss runt kraftverket, laxtrappan, restaureringsåtgärderna och lekplatserna. Historiskt fångades 40-50 ton lekvandrande laxfisk i Gullspångsälven men ända sedan älven blockerades 6km från Vänern i början av 1900-talet (som en av Sveriges första helt dämda älvar) har lax- och öringbestånden inte haft det lätt. Antalet lekande laxfiskar (både lax och öring) uppskattas idag till runt 200, utspridda över tre lekområden. Ett mellan dammen och laxtrappan, i den gamla älvfåran, och två nedströms – de så kallade Åråsforsarna. Åtgärder såsom utsättning av lekgrus, byggande av en laxtrappa i den gamla torrfåran (alltså inte förbi utan fram till dammen) och minskad korttidsreglering har genomförts för att förbättra situationen för den vandrande laxfisken.

Vi tackar våra finska gäster för en mycket trevlig och givande workshop. Och Robert Skogh för en intressant guidning.

Läs mer om Gullspångslaxen på gullspangslaxen.se.

Gullspångsälven - info

Robert Skogh vid informationstavlan nära laxtrappan.


Fisktrappan som leder upp till torrfåran vid dammen. Mellan trappan och dammen (som är ett definitivt vandringshinder) finns en del lek- och uppväxtplatser för lax och öring.

Nedan dammen

Delar av lekområdet mellan fisktrappan och dammen.


Skogh guidar oss framför dammen.

Nedre Årosforsen

Nedre Åråsforsen. En av tre lämpliga lekplatser tillgängliga för den Vänervandrande laxen och öringen.


För att följa upp blogg-inlägget om laxkramningen, så var vi i somras på studiebesök vid Fortums kompensationsodling i Gammelkroppa. Här odlar Fortum lax och öring från Klarälvens och Gullspångsälvens stammar. Fiskens föräldrar fångas i fällan i Forshaga och kramas på rom respektive mjölke. Äggen befruktas med mjölken och utvecklas i rombackar på odlingen. Därefter lever de små juvenilerna i kar – ungefär en kvadratmeter – stora medan de växer till sig. Ungefär 20 000 yngel lever tillsammans i de här karen:

När fisken växt tills sig lite mer överförs de till större tankar (ungefär 50 kvadratmeter). När fiskarna slutligen smoltar – ofta efter 2år – släpps de ut i Klarälven (där även den odlade Gullspångsfisken sätts ut). En del fisk sätts också ut på utvalda platser i Vänern. Utsättningarna sker för att kompensera fisket för minskad fiskproduktion på grund av vattenkraftverk i de båda älvarna.

2012-07-31 10.54.46

Även om odlingen främst är inriktad på lax och öring från Klarälven och Gullspångsälven, så odlar man även andra varianter av öring. Dessa odlas också till större storlekar. På bilden ovan ser vi, om jag inte missminner mig, just en sådan fisk – den snabbväxande Konnevesi-öringen – som sätts ut i vissa sjöar för att gynna det lokala sportfisket.

Mängden utsatt fisk varierar något mellan olika år. Men ett riktvärde från vattendomarna är att ca 75 % som sätts ut skall vara lax och 25 % öring. Klarälven ska kompenseras med 150 000 smolt/år och Gullspångsälven med 25 000 smolt/år.