Department of Biology
Appalachian State University 

I am broadly interested in tailwater ecology, aquatic insect life histories, diets, and development, aquatic insect taxonomy, the resolution of species lineages using DNA barcoding via the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I (COI), and the effects of invasive species on aquatic insect populations. Of these interests, I am most interested in tailwater ecology and the management of aquatic insect populations by manipulating environmental variables to establish more robust and healthy tailwater trout fisheries. Tailwater rivers are rivers created by the damming of a natural, free-flowing rivers to form reservoirs. Many of these tailwaters, especially those within the TVA reservoir system, are products of water released from hydroelectric dams. Hence, manipulating environmental variables like flow, temperature, and dissolved oxygen by altering hydroelectric power generation releases can be beneficial to trout and their prey if science is used to justify water release schedules.

Tailwater Ecology

Tailwater ecology is similar to the aquatic ecology birth equivalent of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) where one incorporates the biology and ecology of the predator's prey into the management plan of the predator. In tailwaters where natural reproduction of trout is common, it is imperative that we manage for their continued survivorship by answering the following questions. 

  • What prey species are most important to the diets of the trout you are managing? How do you know this?
  • How then do you manage for the habitats of these prey species?
  • What changes in management are needed to improve prey habitat?
  • Does the prey species that you are trying to manage respond to abiotic variable(s) that management can (or needs) to address?
  • Do these abiotic variables have a negative effect on the fitness of the predator’s prey? If so, what are these variables and how can you reverse these effects?

Ultimately, after addressing these questions, we can construct a management plan to benefit trout by identifying environmental factors that limit prey production. Upon further review of our findings, we can then assess the effectiveness of our prey based management approach to predator populations by answering these questions.

  • Did your management of prey habitat positively affect the overall fitness of the predator? 
  • Did your management of the abiotic variables affecting the ecophysiology of the prey positively affect the fitness of the predator?

Our understanding of tailwater fisheries and their ecology greatly improves with our deduction of their biological deficiencies through research. Tailwaters are, in effect, experiments, which can be managed efficiently with sufficient understanding and experimentation. Therefore, in order to manage the experiment adequately, research must be preformed to insure that the tailwater is operating at maximum biological production. This is the fundamental underlying premise justifying tailwater management and research—manage for the highest biological production possible to create the most productive fishery possible.

Tailwater Ecology