Research Projects

Bird Songs of the Olympic Peninsula (current)

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Old growth forest in the OESF

How does habitat quality, diversity, and function change in response to forest management? In collaboration with researchers at Washington State Department of Natural Resources, we are using passive acoustic monitoring to determine occupancy and detection of indicator bird species to advance understanding of ecological outcomes associated with different management practices. This project is being implemented with the help of citizen scientists in partnership with EarthWatch, and is scheduled to run from 2020-2023. Data collection initiated in 2020!

Olympic Peninsula soundscapes (current)

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Old growth forest near the Hoh River Trail

The Olympic Peninsula is internationally famous for wild, natural vistas, and endemic species. Military flights are set to increase in late 2020 with more electronic warfare training, creating new disturbance in these much-loved areas. From 2017-2018, I monitored the soundscape in five areas to understand the implications of the proposed changes for the region. The results of this study were published in the journal Northwest Science (and a related article in JMSE related to Growler jets around Whidbey Island). This work was also featured in a December 2020 Seattle Times article.

Conservation assessment for Olympic mudminnow and wetland dependent species (current)

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Olympic mudminnow (by M. Durham)

An ongoing FEC Lab project to update the conservation status of Olympic mudminnow, Washington State’s only endemic fish. Due to low dispersal ability, mudminnow are emblematic of other wetland species that depend on access to good habitat and freshwater connectivity for survival. This project also evaluates the importance of longitudinal and lateral connectivity to occupancy of Olympic mudminnow and other focal wetland species. Stay tuned for public workshops about Olympic mudminow and other freshwater fauna out of this project!

Detection and monitoring of aquatic invasive plants using eDNA (2017-2019)

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Eurasian milfoil, an invasive plant

Early detection is critical to containment or eradication of invasive plant populations, but extensive monitoring efforts are expensive and resource-intensive. An FEC Lab Project in collaboration with USGS’ Western Fisheries Research Center, using lab and field approaches we assessed use of environmental DNA as an early detection and monitoring tool. Our comprehensive research focused on E. densa and M. spicatum, two species of concern in the Pacific Northwest. Results of this research were published in Freshwater Science, with a lay article in WALPA’s Waterline.

Assessment of non-native parrotfeather (2015-2020)

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Parrotfeather in a Chehalis River slough

Non-native aquatic plants can have far reaching impacts, but environmental constraints on spread and abundance are poorly understood. This FEC Lab project examined parrotfeather (M. aquaticum) in the Chehalis River relative to local and landscape scale drivers. Field work was done from 2015-2019 with partners at WDFW, DNR, and Thurston Co. Herbicide test results were published in 2018, and a description of herbivory by a native beetle came out in 2020. A final paper comparing historical and contemporary distributions is expected in early 2021!

Distribution and detection of north coast Olympic mudminnow (2016)

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Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi)

Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi) are Washington State’s only endemic fish. A state-wide genetics study identified populations along the north Olympic coast as historically isolated. In this FEC Lab Project we developed a range-wide habitat suitability model for Olympic mudminnow and tested it by sampling high, medium, and low suitability areas of the Olympic Coast. Our work led to identification of a new north coast location with mudminnow, and supported use of the habitat model to detect populations. We also investigated relationships with native and non-native fish, which were published in the journal Northwest Science

Ecological integrity in freshwaters (2014 – 2016)

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Drylands ecosystem

Ecological integrity is a primary component of freshwater conservation, but methods vary widely in scale, efficiency, and sustainability. The range of approaches in use by the national network of LCCs offered an opportunity to summarize assessment trends, identify critical data gaps, and evaluate the how assessments are integrated into conservation planning. Check out our publication in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and a related review of large river assessments. A final paper using network analysis to identify trends in expertise in this field was published in BioScience in early 2020. 

Implications of aquatic weed management for fish populations (2013-2015)

Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi)

An FEC Lab project to examine effects of aquatic weed removal on habitat quality and availability for fish populations. With a focus on Washington State’s only endemic species, Olympic mudminnow, this project evaluated ecosystem conditions across a gradient of abundance of non-native parrotfeather. Two publications from this work in 2016 documented environmental drivers of occupancy and detection for mudminnow (Transactions of the American Fisheries Society), and the multi-trophic impacts of parrofeather (Freshwater Biology)

Soundscape Ecology (2012)

Spectrogram

An FEC Lab project which uses the soundscape (total sounds in an environment) to examine differences in species diversity and abundance in response to urbanization. We crowdfunded some of the research dollars on RocketHub, and owe it’s completion to generous contributors! The results describing the soundscapes of lakes across an urbanization gradient were published in the journal PloS One. We found that anthropogenic noise was strongly predicted by a landcover metric of urbanization, and areas with high urbanization exceeded thresholds of outdoor disturbance 67% of the time.

Climate change and invasive species: impacts on juvenile Chinook salmon (2009 – 2012)

Smallmouth bass & juvenile Chinook

I put my previous general salmon knowledge to use as a Master’s student with Julian Olden at the University of Washington. I focused on how juvenile salmon cope with novel predators (see 2012 article in Freshwater Biology) and effects of climate change.  I was also very interested in the relative importance of lethal and sublethal effects of these multiple stressors, and examined how predation risk (by non-native predators) and temperature interact to impact behavior and growth. This  work was  published in Canadian Journal of Fishery and Aquatic Sciences.

Effects of environmental conditions on survival of Puget Sound salmon (2007-2009)

Townetting in Puget Sound

As a research biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, I worked on multiple projects related to Puget Sound salmon ecology.  Favorites were temperature and flow experiments in an artificial stream channel at Manchester, Washington, and spatial analysis of environmental conditions affecting populations of Puget Sound salmon. I was also part of a project to compare current and historical forage fish status and abundance in Puget Sound, which was published in MEPS

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