Summer in the meadow

Summer in the meadow
Beaver Creek, Idaho, USA

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April update

After being sequestered for a couple months with work travel, NEPA courses, leisure travel, an SWS-Rocky Mountain meeting, travel to a spatial statistics workshop, the workshop itself, and a few deadlines in between, I haven't had much time to share science-related things on the ol' blog.

I've been wondering myself, "what do I actually been do with my time?" Well, apparently it's splitting efforts on four or five newish writing efforts, all of which are collaborations with folks from Utah State, the University of Washington, the University of Montana, and a few federal agencies. These efforts include:

1. An analysis of how climate change will shape wadeable streams' climate and hydrology on public lands in the Columbia Basin.

2. How beaver can be used as a restoration tool across landscapes with varying disturbance intensities.

3. An opinion piece on how ecosystem classification is a powerful tool for communicating ecosystem conditions, processes, and likely trajectories of change.

4. A spatial statistical model of how instream large wood is distributed in two watersheds in Washington State and Oregon.

5. An analysis of western U.S. riparian vegetation guilds' distributions in relation to hydrology and climate. 

Oh, and I'm working up some grants and fellowships. We have big potential for some transformative river science and plant ecology fun in the future.

And, in non-work things, I'm trying to get it together for the Quad Rock 50, take advantage of the resurgent ski conditions, and generally keep a routine for another 100-miler. This year's 100 will be Run Rabbit Run, and I'm hoping to raise some money for a cancer charity, TBA.

In short, life is good and life is busy.

Here's proof.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 SWS-Rocky Mountain annual meeting wrap-up @SWS_Org #wetlands #Colorado

Yesterday was another successful Society of Wetland Scientists' Rocky Mountain Chapter meeting.

Big thanks to Andy Herb of Alpine Eco, outgoing president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter for putting on another great show at the American Alpine Club's American Mountaineering Museum.

  • A few highlights included:
  • There was a call from Colorado State's Jeremy Sueltenfuess for the sharing of wetland hydrologic data. So, if you have any, send Jeremy your data and check out his ongoing work assessing hydrologic development in restored wetlands. Jeremy will use any data he receives to identify hydrologic performance standards across the American West.
  • Colorado Natural Heritage Program's Joanna Lemly presented their work on mapping and classifying wetlands of Colorado's eastern plains. Like many agricultural regions, there are lots of unique riparian and wetland ecotones in the Platte and Arkansas basins.

It's always a pleasure to see old friends and meet new wetland folks, so thanks to everyone who came out, especially the numerous presenters and sponsors who made the event possible.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Two weeks out from SWS-Rocky Mountain (13 April)

We're two weeks out from the SWS-Rocky Mountain meeting, which means it's time to work up a talk. I'm pleased to be presenting in the morning climate change session alongside some great folks

Here are some pictures of the snowpack that makes my talk possible. These were taken entirely when I could have been making my talk or otherwise doing science.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Press on the recent @PLoSONE stream classification paper

Utah Public Radio's Andrew Durso picked up the beat on our recent paper in PLoS ONE. Thanks to Andrew for the nice piece. In addition to his science reporting, Andrew is a talented PhD studying the biology of snakes at USU. Be sure to check out Andrew's website and blog for more great science and science stories.

In related press, "Jetsetting" Joe Wheaton got on the blog train as well. 

Here -and- Here

The paper is available at PLoS and Researchgate.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

#ArticleAlert: A Comparison of Stream Channel Classification Frameworks @PLOSONE

While Alan Kasprak and I have blogged about this project before as a preprint, our long awaited manuscript, "The Blurred Line between Form and Process: A Comparison of Stream Channel Classification Frameworks," has finally gone into press over at PLOS ONE.

It's a long story, but we began this project as a side project from Joe Wheaton, Gary Brierley, and Kirstie Fryirs' River Styles course in the fall of 2013. That's right, two-plus years, eleven reviews, numerous revisions, and roughly a year on the PeerJ pre-print server, and our comparison of four major approaches to classifying streams has been published in PLOS ONE. We undertook this paper to compare the Rosgen Classification System, Natural Channel Classes, stage one of River Styles, and statistical classification using CHaMP monitoring data. We compared reaches that are actively monitored within the Middle Fork John Day Watershed for their status as salmonid habitat.

But why?

First, everyone likes a nice, elegant naming convention for their stream channels. I know I do. You probably do too. Dave Montgomery and John Buffington certainly did, and there have been all sorts of attempts to classify, simplify, or otherwise discretize how much water and sediment move through stream networks over a given timeframe, and the ensuing patterns in channel form that follow.

Streams are complex systems, conduits of water and sediment that have all sorts of hydraulic feedbacks from landscape and valley setting that change sediment size, quantity, and frequency of mobilization to instream wood and riparian vegetation. There are also a lot of streams in the world. To simplify these complex systems, many people have undertaken classification with one goal: to communicate what channels look like.

The unspoken part of this is that classifications, while rudimentary, may give really neat, concise ideas of the processes that underlie channel form. Rates and quantities of water and sediment are expensive to measure, and with millions of miles of stream and river in this world, really, really hard to measure from a logistical perspective. In the modern era, we often model these things across stream networks, to estimate how much water and sediment move through a system. However, in many day-to-day settings like local, state, federal, and tribal agencies that manage rivers, the mission is to make a management decision based limited resources to collect data and often limited information on streams. This is where classification, widely criticized in academic settings, is a powerful tool for communicating what sets of stream channel forms exist within a given watershed, and perhaps even why these forms exist.

Classification reduces complex systems to their component pieces. Will a stream channel classification win you a Nobel Prize? Hell, as we found out, it won't even get you published in WRR! But what classifications do well is tell you something about the form of a channel. Aaannnnd in many cases, this form is linked to processes that are tied to landscape setting, watershed land use, flow regimes, and floodplain management.

So, Alan, myself and a football team of coauthors from around the world decided that it was time to compare two historically popular classification frameworks, a recently created classification of Pacific Northwest streams' historic condition, and a statistical clustering based on monitoring data. If management decisions are going to be made on form, we should at least document how consistent and comparable each framework is, right?

Distinct groups of stream reaches with perfect agreement (0.0) between classifications were more common than anticipated.
What we found is that 80% of the time, the stream channels, by any name and from any classification, grouped into similar sets of reaches. This means that, regardless of what you call a reach, it's going to look like it does because of where it is, what flows through it, and what happens in the surrounding watershed. These classifications can be thought of as different levels of evidence for which to inventory streams, identify potential areas of management concern, and then undertake more thorough analyses of river behavior, condition assessment, and restoration need and potential.

Grab a look at the whole article at PLOS ONE or over on Researchgate.


Alan has written a post over on his website as well.

Utah Public Radio's Andrew Durso has kindly contributed a new piece over at

Utah State Today's Mary-Ann Muffoletto kindly covered this for the USU research newsletter. also picked up the beat

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Society of #Wetland Scientists Rocky #Mountain Program Announced @SWS_org

2016 Annual Meeting, April 13 - Golden, CO

Registration Open!

The Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) Rocky Mountain Chapter Annual Meeting will be on April 13, 2016 in Golden, Colorado at the American Mountaineering Center (same place as last year). The meeting is expected to bring together over 150 research­ers, students, government scientists, private sector consultants, and other wetland practitioners.  It will cultivate scientific exchanges between diverse groups of professionals involved in wetland stewardship around the region. The draft agenda is provided below and other details of the meeting are on our website:

2016 Chapter Meeting Agenda

800a to 845a: ARRIVAL/CHECK-IN

815a to 845a: MEMBERS MEETING
Conference call-in number will be available. Meeting topics: election results, chapter financials, goals, upcoming events, and more.

Andy Herb, SWS Rocky Mountain Chapter President

900a to 940a: Gillian Davies, BSC Group and SWS President; SWS News:SWS In Taiwan! and Current Science on Wetlands and Climate Change Impacts, Carbon Mitigation, and Adaptation

940a to 1000a: Brandon Marette, Louis Berger Group; Delineating Wetlands in an Age of Climate Change

1000a to 1030a: Nate Hough-Snee, Utah State University; How Will Climate Change Alter Riparian Ecosystems? Cases from the Upper Missouri and Interior Columbia River Basins

1030a to 1100a: BREAK

1100a to 1120a: Andrew Breibart, Bureau of Land Management; Wetland Meadow and Riparian Restoration for Climate Change Resiliency in the Gunnison Basin

1120a to 1150a: Kiel Downing and Aaron Eilers, US Army Corps of Engineers Denver Regulatory Office; Entering the 404 Permitting Process, A Re-Introduction (with question and answer session)

1150p to 100p: LUNCH
Catered on-site; vegetarian option will be available

100p to 120p: Michael Blazewicz, Round River Design; Fluvial Hazard Mapping and Protecting Floodplain Wetlands

120p to 140p: William MacFarlane, Utah State University; Application of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool in Utah

140p to 200p: Randy Mandel, Golder Associates; Developing a Bioengineering Guide for Colorado

200p to 230p: Jessica Doran, EcoMetrics; What To Do When the Bottom Drops Out: Floodplain Restoration in Crested Butte

230p to 300p: BREAK

300p to 320p: Denise Culver, Colorado Natural Heritage Program; Colorado’s Wetland Tools—Let’s Do This!

320p to 350p: Kate Dwire, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station; Peat Accumulation in Mountain Fens of the Western USA

350p to 430p: Joanna Lemly, Colorado Natural Heritage Program; Wetlands of Colorado’s Eastern Plains

430p to 500p: Julia McCarthy, US EPA Region 8; Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: Using Science to Inform Case by Case Jurisdictional Determinations

500p to 700p: SOCIAL
Live music, beer, and other beverages

Please go to our Chapter website for more information and to register for the meeting:

Hotel Discount Code for 2016 Chapter Meeting

Table Mountain Inn is extending their Group 2016 discounted rate for meeting attendees. The Group 2016 discount gives you 10% per room-night off of the prevailing rate at the time of booking. The Group 2016 rate can be booked by calling the front hotel desk directly at 303.277.9898 x1 and asking for the Group 2016 rate. The rate may also be booked online at When booking online the access code for the discount is GROUP2016 (case sensitive). – 1310 Washington Ave – Golden, CO – 80401

Sponsorship Opportunities for 2016 Chapter Meeting
We would like to invite companies, agencies, organizations, and individuals to sponsor the meeting. Sponsorship will get visibility for your organization, while helping us make it a great event! It offers an effective way to demonstrate your interest in and commitment to wetland science and its implications for wetland policy and management. Sponsorship enables us to offer a high quality meeting at a reasonable cost. We will recognize and acknowledge the generosity of all of our sponsors in the meeting program and other meeting materials. Sponsorship levels include Silver ($250) and Gold ($500+), and is key to ensuring the success of the meeting. Please go to our website to become a sponsor:

Level Meeting
Acknowledgement Additional
Recognized in meeting program (list of sponsors)
Recognized with organization’s logo in all meeting materials
Verbal recognition at All Members Meeting, luncheon, and social
1 complimentary registration
1 complimentary 6-foot table in vendor/sponsor area

Recognized in meeting program (list of sponsors)

1 complimentary registration

Interested in sponsoring the meeting at a dollar amount less than $250? You can do that by visiting our online merchandise store when registering. In our store, add the merchandise item, “RM 2016 Annual Meeting Sponsorship less than $250”, to your cart and then update your cart with the dollar amount you want. Sponsorship opportunities less than $250 do not include registration.
Vendor Opportunities for 2016 Chapter Meeting
We invite you to be a vendor at this year's Chapter Meeting. Being a vendor will give visibility to your organization, while helping us have a great event! Vendors get one 6-foot table near the entrance to the event, one complimentary registration, and recognition in the meeting program. The cost is $350. Please go to our website to become a vendor:

Travel Grants Available for 2016 Chapter Meeting
The Chapter is making travel grants available for this year's Chapter meeting. There is $1,000 available to support or supplement travel costs, which we would like to allocate to one or more SWS members based upon need. If you are interested in being considered for these funds, please submit a brief essay (no more than 500 words) describing your interest in attending the meeting. Also include your estimated costs for airfare, hotel, etc., and indicate what portion of those costs could be covered by you or your employer.  Please provide this information to our Treasurer Karin McShea at by March 9 and she will notify you by March 16. You must be a member to be considered.

Become a Rocky Mountain Chapter Board Member!
We are looking for a new President and Secretary for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. Although the current Vice-President (Julie Alcon) is automatically nominated for President, other nominations are accepted. President is a 1-year term and Secretary is a 3-year term. Being on the Board doesn't require a huge time commitment but allows you to get more involved with regional wetland events, help direct the activities of the chapter, and establish key relationships with other wetland professionals. Please volunteer or nominate others for these positions by emailing me at no later than March 15. Once all the candidates have been confirmed, the Chapter members will vote via email in the weeks leading up to our annual meeting in Golden, Colorado on April 13, 2016. The winner of the election will be announced during the meeting. Below is a summary of the key responsibilities for all of the Board positions (adapted from the Chapter Standing Rules):

President: Responsible for the business of the Chapter, including making appointments authorized in the Standing Rules, establishing committees required for the business of the Chapter, and exercising such other responsibilities determined from time to time by action of the Chapter or the Board. The President also chairs all meetings of the Chapter and the Board. 1-year term.

Vice-President: Assist the President and perform the duties of the President when he/she is absent or unable to act. The VP also serves as chairperson of the Program Committee for the annual Chapter meeting and is responsible for Chapter publicity (as directed by the Board). 1-year term and automatically nominated for President.

Secretary: Annually obtain a list of Chapter members from SWS National, serve as the chairperson for the Membership Committee, prepare any correspondence with the Chapter at the direction of the Board, prepare and disburse information pertinent to increasing membership, maintain chapter files, record and read minutes of all meetings, and oversee development and distribution of Chapter information. 3-year term.
Treasurer: Administer the financial resources of the Chapter. Work with SWS National to authorize and pay all Chapter bills. Serve as chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee if such a committee is formed. Prepare an annual budget and present it at the annual Chapter meeting. 3-year term.

Immediate Past-President: Chair the Nominating Committee and Bylaws Committee, and perform duties of President if both the President and VP are unable to act.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Transitions != time to update academic blogs.

So, a busy summer gave way to a busy fall, which gave way to a busy winter. This means that my scientific blogging has ground to a halt.

While I usually like a paper submitting, skintrack blazing kind of winter, this one has been more of a snowy highway driving, box unpacking, administrative catch-up playing, cat-herding season. But hey, at least I get to revise some papers and work on a proposal this week between dissecting trees and playing "lord of the rings."

Anyhow - there are several planned blog posts revisiting 2015 and looking ahead to 2016 for the Society of Wetland Scientists' Pacific Northwest Chapter, presenting research briefs for each paper I've written, and hopefully, bearing some good news.

For now, here's a picture and a promise that, as the dust settles, I'll work more toward communicating my and other researchers' ecology again in 2016.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Society of Wetland Scientists 2016 Rocky Mountain Meeting

The Society of Wetland Scientists Rocky Mountain Chapter is holding their annual meeting at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO, this April 13th. They're currently accepting abstracts, sponsors, travel grants, and more. Click below for more information:
Full announcement at:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Article Alert: #Beaver #Restoration Assessment Toolkit in press at #Geomorphology

In the spring of 2013 I sat down with Wally Macfarlane, Martha Jensen, Joe Wheaton, and a handful of others and we walked through an early workflow for what is now the Beaver Restoration Assessment Toolkit (BRAT). The idea for BRAT was simple: using basic hydrologic and riparian vegetation metrics, scientists and planners can estimate where along a stream network beaver dams will be able to persist. What if there was a tool that used widely available, free data to estimate dam capacity across entire watersheds? What might it tell land managers, many of whom are considering beaver management as a part of their watershed management and restoration plans?

One major benefit to knowing where beaver dams can be built and persist is for planning beaver relocation and stream restoration. By building hypotheses about where beaver will successfully be able to build dams, land managers can more successfully move beaver from problem areas like urban and irrigation infrastructure to conservation areas. Across Utah and the North American West, many of these conservation areas include streams where beaver and their dams have been removed. This beaver loss has altered water and sediment movement that historically created and maintained step-pool complexes or alluvial valley bottom meadows, and increased streamflow duration. Beaver removal, which caused dam loss, often occurred as Europeans settled the West. In some cases, human land-use also led to direct dam removal that changed channel slope and allowed channels to incise, lowering the stream bed until floodplain disconnection was inevitable.

A little incision following long-term grazing, UT, USA
The EPA's wadeable stream assessment estimated that 41% of the West's streams are in poor shape, many of which have been modified for human land use that led to beaver and beaver dam loss. 

In short, many U.S. streams are in sub-optimal shape. Source, EPA Wadeable Streams Assessment
Now, given the condition of most of the West's streams (see below), we know that there is a need for a flexible restoration planning tool that anyone can use - tribes, state and federal agencies, and local watershed planners. Wally and Joe dreamed up a framework that uses LANDFIRE data and NHD stream segments to estimate beaver dam capacity based stream power and vegetation types. If a stream is perennial and not so large and powerful that it blows out dams at an average flood discharge, then it might support dams. If the riparian vegetation within a reasonable distance of the stream is of a preferred type (i.e. a type that beaver can readily eat and use in constructing dams), then beaver can probably build more dams than if the vegetation is sparse or a low quality material for dam building. Areas with gallery cottonwood forests and/or willow thickets are probably better for building dams than sagebrush or cheatgrass. So, if beaver have enough water, but not too much, and a good vegetation source, they can build dams, dams that have a variety of ecological benefits.

Using these relatively obvious concepts, Wally and Joe labored for years alongside an army of technicians and other hydrologists, ecologists and geomorphologists, including Nic "big body" Bouwes, Martha "Superwoman" Jensen, Jordan "GIS" Gilbert, John "I don't know him well enough for a clever nickname" Shivik, and I. From 2013 to 2015, we all either applied this framework to small watersheds, fine-tuning our methods and interpretations, or used model outputs to implement and assess stream restoration projects. We all wrote and interpreted results, and Martha and Wally made some absolutely gorgeous figures. Much of this work came out in large, unwieldy technical reports or was assimilated into the tutorial website at brat,

The resulting manuscript came out earlier this month and explains the rationale for the model and its applications, synthesizing the condition of many Utah streams relative to their potential to retain beaver dams that might restore those suffering from historic floodplain disconnection. Many streams where beaver have been removed currently have far fewer beaver dams than the landscape can support. Utah has serious upside potential to restore stream-floodplain connectivity, riparian vegetation, and aquatic habitat diversity through beaver and their dams. This manuscript synthesizes those model results and provides examples in physiographically diverse watersheds where beaver relocation is being considered for stream and riparian habitat restoration. I encourage you to check  it out at Geomorphology.

Macfarlane, W.W., J.M. Wheaton, N. Bouwes, M.L. Jensen, J.T. Gilbert, N. Hough-Snee, J.A. Shivik. In Press. Modeling the capacity of riverscapes to support beaver dams. Geomorphology. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.11.019

Free, publicly-available PDF at Researchgate

See additional BRAT reports, instructional videos and applications at

Friday, December 4, 2015

Soundtrack to #FridayNightScience: dissertation prep version

Arizona may have more storage capacity than water right now.
When you're at the office alone, editing a powerpoint, and talking to yourself before you defense...sometimes you just need some tunes.