Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Brewer Projects

FACTORS RELATED TO THE DISTRIBUTION OF FRESHWATER MUSSELS ON MUDDY AND CLEAR BOGGY RIVERS

Freshwater mussels are an important component of many aquatic ecosystems, as they make up a large portion of biomass and provide important ecosystem functions. Globally, freshwater mussels are one of the most threatened faunal groups, with nearly 70% of species listed of conservation concern. Efforts devoted toward implementing effective conservation and management strategies are generally lacking due to the paucity of information on mussel distributions and the factors structuring those distributions. The objective of this study is to determine the abiotic and biotic factors that determine the distribution and abundance of freshwater mussel species in two major river systems, the Muddy Boggy and Clear Boggy rivers, using traditional and innovated sampling techniques.

INVESTIGATOR: Jarrod Powers, M.S. Student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

SYNTHESIZING ECOHYDROLOGY MODELS AS A MANAGEMENT TOOL FOR LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION UNDER CLIMATE CHANGE

Our objective was to synthesize and evaluate the prevailing hydrological and ecological (instream) models. We identified the data requirements and suitability of each model to simulate the flow regime while addressing associated changes in the ecology of stream systems. We focused on models that have relevant application to the southern Great Plains region. This synthesis will directly address existing needs of the region by providing information on existing modeling approaches that could be readily used to help understand the effect of climate change and land management on hydrology and associated fish assemblages.

INVESTIGATORS: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D. and Tom Worthington, Ph.D., Post-doctoral researcher

COMPETITIVE INTERACTIONS OF THE INVASIVE NOTROPIS BAIRDI, AND THE FEDERALLY THREATENED NOTROPIS GIRARDI IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER DRAINAGE, OKLAHOMA

Prairie streams host a variety of endemic species, as well as control downstream water quality. Historically, the Arkansas River Shiner Notropis girardi has been a characteristic species in both the Cimarron and South Canadian rivers. However, this fish species is currently listed as threatened by the USFWS due to major anthropogenic alterations to the stream landscape. It has been speculated that the establishment of Red River Shiner Notropis bairdi in the Cimarron River reduces the chance of recovery of the Arkansas River Shiner. This study will examine the habitat occupancy of both Notropis species in the Arkansas River basin to determine if the invasive species uses the same ecological niche as the native species.

INVESTIGATOR: Daniel Logue, M.S. Student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

STANDARDIZED FISH-SAMPLING METHODS FOR OKLAHOMA STREAMS

The combination of climate change and increased anthropogenic disturbance creates daunting challenges for stream managers. A lack of standardized approaches to regional stream-fish surveys severely limits the ability to make sound management decisions. Additionally, the failure to adjust catch data for differences in capture efficiency across species can lead to erroneous conclusions regarding the structure of stream-fish assemblages. This study links capture-efficiency estimates to morphological and behavioral fish traits. Stream-fish assemblages of the Ozarks of Oklahoma are being sampled with a variety of methods across a wide range of environmental conditions.  These data will be used to both standardize stream-fish sampling and to develop ecoregion-level capture-efficiency models. The models will allow fish surveys to be adjusted for differences in capture efficiency across species and under variable sampling conditions.

INVESTIGATOR: Robert Mollenhauer, Ph.D. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

EFFECTIVENESS OF GEARS USED TO SAMPLE FISH POPULATIONS

Accurate population surveys are influenced by using gears demonstrating the greatest capture-efficiency. A multitude of options exist, therefore offering a comparison of gear types and fish species will help reduce uncertainty in gear selection. The objective of the study is to document our current understanding of the effectiveness of different gear types for sampling fishes in various ecosystems. Results will provide an extensive review of studies assessing the effectiveness of gear types on capture-efficiency and synthesize the current state of our understanding in this area.

INVESTIGATOR: Jahna Hill, M.S. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

ASSESSING FLOW-ECOLOGY HYPOTHESES WITH AN EMPHASIS ON FISHES OF THE ARBUCKLE MOUNTAINS AND OZARK HIGHLANDS ECOREGIONS

Anthropogenic alteration has led to changes in the natural flow and thermal regime of streams. Environmental flow standards developed based on the relationship between stream temperature and flow alteration would help to maintain the natural thermal regime and native fish assemblage. Changes to the fish assemblage from 15 streams of the Arbuckle Mountains and Ozark Highlands will be determined in order to understand the influence of flow alteration on the native fish assemblage. Also, a temperature model will be developed for Arbuckle Mountain streams and the temperature tolerance of 15 fish species that occupy Arbuckle streams will be determined to predict how the fish assemblage will be influenced by increases in temperature. This study will provide a foundation to better understand the interaction between flow alteration and temperature changes, allowing improved predictions of likely fish-community changes associated with environmental alteration.

INVESTIGATOR: Nicole Farless, M.S. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.   

HABITAT USE AND MOVEMENTS OF SHOVELNOSE STURGEON IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER OF OKLAHOMA

Shovelnose sturgeon, a potamodromous species, is native to the Arkansas, Little, and Red rivers and major tributaries of Oklahoma.  Habitat fragmentation by dams is thought to limit the distribution and overall success of this species in Oklahoma; however, targeted sampling efforts for this species have been limited. Drought conditions and additional dam proposals have highlighted the necessity of increasing our understanding of Oklahoma‚Äôs shovelnose sturgeon populations.  The goal of this project is to better understand the ecology of populations residing at the southwest edge of the range in a highly fragmented system.  Our objectives are to 1) determine the home range of shovelnose sturgeon in a large segment of the Arkansas River by use of ultrasonic telemetry, and 2) evaluate habitat use by these fragmented populations at multiple spatial scales. This will be the first assessment of this kind for populations at the southwest edge of the species range.

INVESTIGATOR: Josh Johnston, M.S. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

ASSESSING SEASONAL MIGRATION PATTERNS AND SPANWING HABITAT OF BLUE SUCKER

Blue sucker (Cycleptus elongatus) occupy the Mississippi River and Rio Grande watersheds.  Blue sucker population appears to be doing well in the center of their distribution; however, populations on the edges of the distribution are perceived to be in decline.  Blue sucker is a big river species that requires seasonal migration to complete life-history events and is generally only observed during the spring when they move into tributaries to spawn making the ecology of Blue Sucker somewhat elusive. The objectives of this study are to 1) determine seasonal habitat requirements, 2) identify environmental parameters related to successful spawning, and 3) assess the influence of anthropogenic modifications on habitat availability and environmental cues. 

INVESTIGATOR: Joey Dyer, Ph.D. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D. and Dan Shoup, Ph.D.

UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS OF SURFACE-GROUNDWATER INTERACTIONS ON STREAM FISHES UNDER ALTERED BASE-FLOW CONDITIONS

We have a limited understanding of the temperature tolerances of stream fishes and how groundwater-surface water interactions via hyporheic flow mediate stream temperatures at multiple spatial scales. This is particularly significant to populations that reside below dams and are subject to both flow and temperature modifications, coupled with a significant loss of stream habitat.  This study aims to determine the effects of human-induced changes on stream-habitat complexity and on the fitness of stream-fish populations.  The specific objectives are to determine 1) how changes in baseflow levels in the Kiamichi River influence hyporheic exchange, which correspondingly influences temperature at the reach scale, and 2) temperature tolerances of stream fishes as a means to predicting how habitat complexity influences the fitness of stream-fish populations.

INVESTIGATOR: Yan Zhou, Ph.D. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D. and Garey Fox, Ph.D.

ECOSYSTEM STRESS RESPONSE FUNCTION OF CLIMATE CHANGE FOR THE ARKANSAS-RED RIVER BASIN

Currently, maintaining appropriate flows to support biological integrity is difficult for larger riverine ecosystems. Understanding the interaction between climate, streamflow, water quality, and stream ecology for watersheds in the Arkansas-Red River Basin can be achieved using currently existing science and technology. A physics-based hydrologic model which simulates streamflow using high-resolution radar data will be used to more accurately capture spatial and temporal patterns in precipitation variability. Existing fish-community data will be collected and compiled into a database and biotic responses will be assessed to evaluate the influence of modeled streamflows. The outcome of this proposed work can be used to develop adaptive-management strategies for the conservation and sustainability of fish and wildlife.

INVESTIGATORS: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D. and Thomas Worthington, Ph.D., Post-doctoral researcher

ASSESSING THE SPAWNING MOVEMENT AND HABITAT NEEDS OF RIVERINE NEOSHO SMALLMOUTH BASS

Unfortunately, studies on smallmouth bass nesting have focused primarily on very local habitat conditions and this applies to not only the Neosho subspecies, but also to the nominal species. The objectives of this study are to 1) assess the movements of riverine Neosho smallmouth bass before and following the spawning period and 2) determine the habitat factors at multiple spatial scales that relate to suitable spawning habitat, particularly in regions influenced by reservoirs. The proposed study will allow the first multi-year and multi-stream examination of Neosho smallmouth bass spawning and will provide important information for the development of appropriate conservation and management strategies. We will identify smallmouth bass movements which are useful to declaring the spatial extent of regulations and identifying appropriate protective measures. We will also identify important habitat features, including several factors that have never been examined for either subspecies (e.g., groundwater influxes) and could be significant for future water-management decisions.

INVESTIGATORS: Andy Miller, Ph.D. student
FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D.

USING ENVIRONMENTAL DNA TO ASSESS THE PRESENCE OF CAVE-FISH AND CRAYFISH POPULATIONS IN CAVES OF THE OZARK HIGHLANDS

Due to their limited distributions, small population numbers, occurrence in cave streams, and general lack of knowledge, documenting species occurrence and abundance with traditional field survey methods is difficult, time consuming, costly, and can be harmful to other organisms in the cave environment. It is situations such as described above for freshwater cave species that environmental DNA (eDNA) is rapidly becoming an ideal approach for determining aquatic species presence. The goal of the project is to use eDNA to verify presence of cave organisms while developing the foundation for monitoring methods that may be used in the future to documenting abundance. The proposed project will support recovery and monitoring efforts of the FWS and various conservation partners and help inform conservation decisions.

FACULTY SUPPORT: Shannon Brewer, Ph.D. and Ronald A. Van Den Bussche, Ph.D.

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