We study freshwater ecosystems as coupled natural-human systems. We tend to work at large spatial scales, using approaches at the interface of conservation biology and data science. Some of our recent projects include:
Conservation biology is a “crisis discipline:” there is never enough time or money to do all of the projects we’d like. How do we decide which projects are worthwhile? We work closely with NGO and government groups to determine which conservation strategies give the biggest bang for the buck. In the Great Lakes, we focus on decision models for evaluating dam removals and road culvert upgrades to restore fish migrations; and on methods for prioritizing remediation efforts in ecosystems that are impacted by many different stressors. In the Great Plains, we focus on evaluating the costs and benefits of water conservation projects. In both settings, we collaborate on the development of the large-scale spatial data sets of populations, habitats, threats and project costs that underlie our conservation models. We also collaborate with computer scientists and web developers to build web tools that bring powerful optimization models to decision-makers.
Infrastructure & Biodiversity
We all rely on roads, power grids, telecommunications networks and other infrastructure in our daily lives, but societies around the world are increasingly interested in limiting the environmental impacts of these projects. In many parts of North America, we also have a growing maintenance backlog of aging infrastructure. How can we continue to meet societal needs for infrastructure while minimizing environmental impacts? In our lab, we study infrastructure and ecosystems as coupled natural-human systems and look for strategies that are mutually beneficial to both infrastructure organizations and conservation groups. We focus on road networks and stream ecosystems in the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.
Ecology of freshwater fishes
We have broad interests in the ecology and conservation of freshwater stream fishes. In Oklahoma, we focus on small rivers and streams in the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains, where we conduct biodiversity surveys and investigate drivers of declining biodiversity. In other work, we focus on native and invasive fishes in tributaries of the North American Great Lakes. Our work there includes landscape-scale analysis and mapping of fish distributions to guide conservation investments, and work on the population ecology and spatial dynamics of invasive sea lampreys. We have a particular interest in migratory fishes, which support key ecosystem services and fisheries world-wide. We couple agent-based models and field data sets to ask: how do individual fish decide when and where to migrate, and what are the population-level consequences?