Development of fine-scale temperature models in the Delaware River: Application to predictive temperature modeling, decision support tools, and ecosystem services

Science Center Objects

Temperature is a primary driver of biological and ecological processes, and in rivers and streams influences distribution, reproduction, and behavior of aquatic species.  USGS Northern Appalachian Laboratory (NARL) researchers are working with resource managers in the Delaware River Basin and collaborators at USGS Fort Collins Science Center to predict and model riverine temperature, particularly focusing on how temperature is influenced by flow management and impacts on key aquatic species.  

The goals of this project are to 1) test and compare available and cutting edge technology for collecting site-specific high-resolution temperature data within the basin; 2) develop predictive high-resolution temperature models; 3) determine thermal tolerances for key aquatic species (e.g. American eel, American shad, freshwater mussels); 4) determine relationships between temperature and the ecosystem services these organisms provide; and 5) incorporate these findings into a decision support tool for resource managers.


American shad thermal tolerance

Ecologist Carrie Blakeslee conducting studies to determine the upper temperature tolerance of juvenile American shad.  Shad are more active at night and sensitive to human handling so studies are conducted in the field after dark.

(Credit: Jeffrey Cole, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Thermal habitat mapping

Ecologist, Jeffrey Cole, mapping thermal habitat and river bottom topography in the Delaware River.

(Credit: Carrie Blakeslee, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Measuring fish and mussel physiology

Intermittent flow respirometry system set up in NARL’s physiology room.  This equipment allows researchers to measure how an organism’s metabolic rate (oxygen consumption) changes in response to temperature.  The system can be modified to accommodate a variety of organisms including fish and freshwater mussels (shown here).  

(Credit: Carrie Blakeslee, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Underwater temperature logger

Photograph of an underwater temperature logger anchored to the bottom of the Delaware River, one of several technologies deployed to develop in-stream temperature models.

(Credit: Jeffrey Cole, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)