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S62. Monitoring and managing endangered fish populations in a large river system

We are seeking a Mendenhall Fellow to develop a body of research related to the monitoring and management of endangered fish species in large river systems. CLOSED.

Description of the Research Opportunity

Monitoring and managing endangered and invasive species in large rivers is a contemporary challenge. Many large river fish species like sturgeons are threatened or endangered due to anthropogenic modifications like dams that fragment river networks (Jager et al. 2001, Huang and Wang 2018, Jager and DeAngelis 2018). Modifying dam operations to influence downstream hydrographs and create suitable river conditions for sturgeon to spawn and for age-0 fish to recruit to the population is one potential management action and a large-scale experiment (Konrad et al. 2011). Additional management actions are available to managers, like habitat restoration and population augmentation to increase sturgeon populations. Evaluating potential management actions to benefit sturgeon in a large river is challenging, and population models are needed to project the likely outcome of alternative management actions. Similarly, monitoring the potential response of a sturgeon population in a large river is challenging due to the rarity of the species and the difficulties of capturing individuals at any life stage in a large river (Steffensen et al. 2015, Braaten et al. 2022). Monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of implemented management actions and to inform future modeling efforts are required to adaptively manage species recovery actions and allocation of monitoring resources (Runge 2011, Peterson and Freeman 2016, Reynolds et al. 2016).  

The River Studies Branch, Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC), has an ongoing, interdisciplinary research program to inform the adaptive management and restoration of large rivers. This program is funded through partnerships with the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners. We have a new opportunity to develop a body of research related to two projects: 1) developing large-scale monitoring programs for endangered fish in large river systems and 2) developing models to project the potential outcomes of management actions hypothesized to increase endangered fish species abundance and inform monitoring of population responses to management actions. We seek a postdoctoral fellow with a strong background and interest in population ecology, population modeling, decision analysis, statistical modeling, and aquatic ecology; substantial flexibility exists for determining the scope and approach of each project.

Developing large-scale monitoring programs for endangered fish in a large river. Monitoring of endangered pallid sturgeon population status recently underwent a significant redesign to inform Missouri River Recovery Objectives. This project builds on the ongoing modifications of pallid sturgeon population assessment monitoring to evaluate opportunities and the potential to leverage status monitoring efforts to evaluate population-level responses to management actions. Additional opportunities exist to evaluate tradeoffs in cost and monitoring program benefits. Lastly, an existing long-term dataset can be mined to inform further monitoring efforts and basic species ecology.

Developing models to project the potential outcomes of management actions hypothesized to increase endangered fish species abundance and inform monitoring of population responses to management actions. This project is expected to complement the previous project as a tool to integrate information from monitoring efforts, evaluate potential management actions, and further inform monitoring efforts, especially as they contribute to evaluating population-level responses to management actions. Potential exists to use demographic rates and information from tagged individuals to develop further pallid sturgeon population models (population and individual based) to evaluate questions of interest related to recovery planning, evaluating management actions, and informing the allocation of future monitoring efforts.

At CERC, the Fellow will have broad opportunities for collaboration with existing interdisciplinary teams of ecologists, biologists, chemists, and physical scientists with extensive experience in studying riverine ecological processes. Extramural collaborations exist with The University of Missouri, Missouri State University, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Fellow can support their research using the River Studies Branch's robust cadre of technicians and scientists to support project development, analyses, and computational modeling (including access to virtual machines and high-performance computing applications). To support potential biological aspects of the research, CERC has captive pallid sturgeon, invasive carp, and native mussels for breeding and propagation of experimental subjects. The postdoctoral fellowship allows for many collaborative interactions related to large-river ecological processes, sediment transport, hydroacoustics, and habitat assessments, in field and laboratory contexts.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Possible Duty Station(s)

Columbia, Missouri


Areas of PhD

Ecology, population ecology, fisheries biology, fish ecology, wildlife ecology, aquatic ecology, conservation biology, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).



Applicants must meet the qualifications for:  Research Ecologist.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)