General research interests: Research in the Fish Ecology Lab focuses on the conservation of aquatic systems in the western and central U.S. Current and past projects can be classified into three general areas: 1) effects of global change on diversity-ecosystem function relationships in streams, 2) evaluation of patterns and processes regulating species diversity and habitat associations of fishes in streams and reservoirs, and 3) dynamics of non-coevolved fish assemblages.
Graduate Students and Research Technicians
Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) is a federally threatened species that historically was wide-spread in Kansas. Although some populations exist in the Flint Hills region of the state, their current status is uncertain. Moreover, recent severe drought and water development projects have potentially further reduced the range of this speciees. The objective of this project is to evaluate the status of Topeka shiner as well has its habitat in the upper Cottonwood drainage.
River-reservoir interfaces potentially provide complementary habitats for different life stages of freshwater fishes. My dissertation will use a combination of field surveys, telemetry studies and field experiments to evaluate the relative importance of reservoirs, rivers and reservoir-river transition zones to the survival, recruitment and growth of the endangered razorback sucker.
Temperature is likely a major factor structuring the distribution and abundance of prairie stream fishes. Not only does temperature vary from headwaters to mainstem rivers, but seasonal and annual variability in temperature can exert stress on stream fishes. The focus of my research will be to identify intra and interspecific varition in thermal tolerance of prairie stream fishes and use those data to predict patterns of distribution and abundance.
My research is associated with a project examining how different and potentially interacting consumer aggregations influence resource distribution and fluxes across a gradient of biotic and abiotic conditions. Using fish and mussel consumer assemblages in streams as a model system, the project addresses two questions: (1) Where and when do fish and mussel hotspots overlap? and (2) How does overlap between consumer aggregations influence nutrient recycling and the distribution of resources throughout a stream network? These questions will be addressed with an integrative approach that incorporates species distribution mapping, correlative field studies and a mechanistic mesocosm experiment.
The objective of my research is to investigate the interacting effects of abiotic factors, at both local and regional scales, and predators as drivers of fish community structure. I will use a combination of taxonomic and trait descriptors of stream fish community structure to investigate associations between predators and stream fish assemblages to test the following hypotheses: (1) predator associations with prey community are mediated by abiotic characteristics at multiple spatial scales, (2) sites with higher abundance and diversity of piscivorous fish will have lower taxonomic and functional trait richness, and (3) relationships between predators and assemblage structure will be driven by trait characteristics of prey species (size, dispersal capability, habitat use). I will use a comparative field study during the summers of 2017 and 2018 to address these hypotheses. Results of this field study will help inform the development of mechanistic experiments to further explore the role of predators in stream fish communities.
A recent survey of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism district fisheries biologists revealed that overabundant gizzard shad may create problems in small impoundments. Specific concerns included decreased growth of littoral sport fishes (e.g., bluegill) and exacerbated water quality issues. Additionally, gizzard shad can comprise a large proportion of fish biomass when introduced in small impoundments and replace desirable sport fish. Managers were generally interested in exploring use of rotenone at low doses to selectively kill gizzard shad but were uncertain how the technique would affect the biotic community. One specific concern was that reduction of gizzard shad might be deleterious to populations of largemouth bass and crappies. These concerns prompted desire to more thoroughly understand energy budgets and flow in small Kansas impoundments and quantify the influence of gizzard shad on system-level food webs.
Multi-scale habitat assessments of loach minnow (Tiaroga cobitis) and spikedace (Meda fulgida) will help inform management decisions regarding the habitat requirements of these species and potential opportunities to repatriate extirpated populations. I will conduct field surveys to quantify associated fish communities and habitats of these species at spatial scales from microhabitats to watersheds. In addition, I will quantify the temporal dynamics of abundance and habitat use at our sample sites across two years of sampling. Sample sites will include locations where these species have been extirpated and repatriated to test the role of habitat and fish community structure in the sustainability of populations in those areas. Finally, quantitative estimates of population abundances will be coordinated with a range-wide genetic analysis through the University of New Mexico to identify associations between habitat, population size and metrics of population genetic structure.
C. Nathan Cathcart, MS 2015. Use of tributary systems by native and nonnative fishes in the San Juan River, New Mexico and Utah. Current position: Research Technician, Alaska Department of Game and Fish
Erika Martin, PhD 2014. Ecological and ecosystem consequences of fish movement in a dynamic riverscape. Current position: Biologist and Instructor, Emporia State University
Janine Rueegg, Post doc 2012 - 2014. Scale, Consumers And Lotic Ecosystem Rates (SCALER). Current position: in limbo.
James Whitney, MS 2010, PhD 2014. Spatiotemporal response of aquatic native and nonnative taxa to wildfire disturbance in a desert stream network. Current position: Assistant Professor, Pittsburg State University.
Matthew Troia, PhD 2014. A mechanistic framework for understanding prairie stream fish distributions. Current position: Assistant Professor, Kennesaw State University.
Joshuah Perkin, PhD 2012. Fragmentation in stream networks quantification, consequences, and implications to decline of native fish fauna, Current position: Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University.
David Hoeinghaus, Post doc 2007 – 2009. Life-history traits predict conservation status of fishes in Great Plains. Current position: Associate Professor, University of North Texas
Tyler Pilger, MS 2009 (Trophic relations in the upper Gila River, New Mexico). Current Positio: Research Biologist, FISHBIO
Michelle Evans-White, Post doc 2006-2007. Forecasting ecological change in aquatic systems in the Great Plains. Current position: Professor, University of Arkansas
Katie Bertrand, PhD 2007. Interactive effects of disturbance regime and species composition on ecosystem function of prairie streams. Current position:
Darren Thornbrugh, MS 2008. Fish assemblage structure in adventitious streams. Current position: Research Biologist, National Parks Service.
Nate Franssen, MS 2007. Trophic relations of the Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) in the San Juan River, New Mexico and Utah. Current position: Endangered Species Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, NM.
Tim Strakosh, PhD 2006. The effects of water willow establishment on littoral community composition: with focus on age-0 centrarchids in Kansas reservoirs. Current position: Unknown.
Layne Knight, MS 2004. Effects of largemouth bass predation on native stream minnows: implications for conservation of the endangered Topeka shiner. Current position: Biologist, Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Jeff Falke, MS 2004. Upstream effects of large reservoirs on native stream fishes. Current position: Assistant Leader - Fisheries, U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
The experimental stream facility on Konza Prairie Biological Station provide a venue to manipulate stream biodiversity, nutrients, substrates, and many other aspects of streams. These manipulations can be used to test mechanistic hypotheses of main drivers of stream community structure and ecosystem function.
Spotted Sucker (Minytrema melanops) Fox Creek, KS