To analyze fish habitat, center scientist studies the land around it

With fish habitat sustainability as the goal, Dana Infante focuses a chunk of her research on dry land.

“I want to understand how things work,” she said. “I want to know how landscape factors like agriculture and urban land use influence the physical characteristics of rivers and streams. If you know how things work, it’s easier to fix problems.”

Infante, assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife, directs the aquatic landscape ecology lab in the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. She and colleagues recently completed a massive undertaking: a national map of the status of fish habitats in the United States. The four-year project analyzed human effects on fish habitat in rivers and estuaries across the country, identifying some of the major sources of habitat degradation: urban corridors, high-intensity agriculture and heavy industrial use.

“With that project done, I’m now overlaying projected changes in climate and land use on that map to determine which rivers are going to be in trouble in the future and develop solutions for the problems.”

Researchers in Infante’s lab are studying how changes in land use affect streams and rivers across the United States, from forest management strategies in Alaska, to stream temperatures in Michigan, to habitat change for freshwater shrimp in Hawaii.

“What we’re doing is creating tools for fisheries managers,” Infante said. “So when water temperatures go up or stream flows change, they’ll be ready to act to keep the habitat sustainable for fish.”

CSIS members of the Dana Infante group:

Janet Hsiao

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