Field Samples: Restoring the Flow for Great Lakes’ Migratory Fishes

Field Samples is a weekly Q&A asking researchers what they’ve been up to and what they’ve learned. Today, post doctoral researcher, Allison Moody, talks dams, road culverts and getting migratory fish moving again.

Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get here?
Before turning her focus to fish, Allison Moody worked on birds.
Before turning her focus to fish, Allison Moody worked on birds. Seen here holding a scrub jay.

My name is Allison Moody and I’m a landscape ecologist who specializes in conservation biology. I’m a Maritimer (technically a Blue Noser from Nova Scotia) and got to Wisconsin via a lot of moving. I did my BSc and MSc in Canada in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, first came to the US for a job in California, then a PhD project in Alabama, a post doc in Maine and here.
Academically I came here via birds and herps (reptiles and amphibians) – this is my first time working on fish.

Pretend we just boarded an elevator and you only have a one-minute ride to tell me about your research – can you capture it a few sentences?

I’m working on figuring out where we can take out dams and road crossings to increase the amount of habitat for fish in the Great Lakes.
My project is pretty technical behind the scenes but it’s a really useful to other researchers and even the general public. We’re developing an online tool people can use on their own areas of interest (state, even specific watersheds) to figure out which barriers are worst for fish, so stand by for that to be released this spring.
Dams and road culverts (like this one in Ozaukee County, WI) are a big barrier to many species of migratory fishes. Photo: Matt Aho
Dams and road culverts (like this one in Ozaukee County, WI) are a big barrier to many species of migratory fishes. Photo: Matt Aho

 

Not to sound harsh, but why should someone NOT in the field of freshwater sciences care about your work? What’s a bigger picture implication?
Generally I work on conservation and trying to use limited resources to get the most conservation possible. There are a lot of decisions about where to put parks or which road crossing to repair, and if we can get in there with some science about what species could be benefited with just a little more money or even just a little more thoughtfulness, we can make a big difference in conservation.  
What do you love about your work? What do you love, well, not-so-much?
I love being the first person to see a result. I love working with people who are excited about things I’m not – that excitement really transfers. I love getting to travel and working in new places with new animals.
I still dislike getting criticism, even though it has improved my work dramatically. You get a lot of feedback from profs while you’re in school, and then from colleagues and reviewers. I’ve gotten better at getting it but, ugh, still don’t enjoy it.
Tell me about one funny, memorable, exciting or awesome moment from the lab or the field.
I had some great moments in the Arctic while doing my MSc research and I’d love to get back up there (murres, polar bears, narwhals, Ivory Gull, 24 hour daylight, Twin Otters). Unfortunately, most of my work these days is in front of the computer which doesn’t lend itself to great stories. 
Where do you hope to go from here? New research questions? Continuing with this work?
I just started at the CFL last fall so there is lots to come! I’m working on a paper that will introduce our online decision support tool. Once we get the next version of the optimization run, I’ll be putting together a spatial analysis of the barriers that are suggested for removal. We’re hoping to come up with some ‘rules of thumb’ that can be used in areas where you can’t run optimization models because the data isn’t available. 
Moody's hoping that her efforts can help resource managers target Photo: Matt Aho
Moody’s hoping that her efforts can help resource managers get the biggest “bang for their buck” and target dam removal and connectivty efforts accordingly.  Photo: Matt Aho

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