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Program Committee Special Sessions

Special Sessions

S01. Applied odonatology: linking freshwater science and conservation via charismatic microfauna

Organizer: Jason Bried (bried@okstate.edu)

Applied odonatology is devoted to the intrinsic conservation of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and to the use of Odonata as tools to help conserve other taxa and systems. Applied odonatology also encompasses the Odonata as model organisms for broad issues and questions in applied ecology and conservation. The session will bring together some of the leading research in this emerging field, with talks on land use and climate change indicators, conservation planning and ecological management, conservation genetics, rare species ecology, and more. The content will link with the conference theme and may lead to a special series on applied odonatology for the Freshwater Science journal.

S02. More than just P in a bag: using consumer-driven nutrient dynamics to understand community interactions and ecosystem processes

Organizers: Krista Capps (krista.capps@maine.edu), Carla Atkinson (carlalatkinson@gmail.com), Amanda Rugenski (rugenski@siu.edu)

In both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, organisms directly affect nutrient storage and cycling by sequestering nutrients through growth and remineralizing nutrients via excretion and egestion. Although many studies have employed “organism in a bag” methods to obtain estimates of consumer-driven nutrient recycling, there has not been a synthesis of the applications for which these measurements have been applied. The goal of this session is to bring together scientists examining consumer-driven nutrient dynamics to highlight what has been learned and what are the new and exciting developments in this field. Most importantly, the session will highlight what gaps remain in our understanding of the role of consumers in nutrient dynamics. Talks will explore both theoretical and applied work on organisms and ecosystems in order to explore current methodologies and applications of consumer-driven nutrient dynamics. Understanding the role of organisms in nutrient cycling is imperative to estimate the effects of biodiversity loss and species invasion on ecosystems.

S03. Advancing basic and applied river science through research at restored sites

Organizers: Laura Craig (lcraig@americanrivers.org), Dan Auerbach (auerbach.dan@gmail.com)

Stream restoration has become increasingly common as we seek ways to alleviate our impacts on rivers. Restoration approaches are varied and include channel reconfiguration and bed manipulation, floodplain reconnection, removal of aging or obsolete infrastructure (e.g., dams, culverts, pipes), bank stabilization, and riparian planting, among others. Despite the diversity of approaches, all provide unique research opportunities. Scientists are able to address the efficacy of particular methods and evaluate the potential for additional ecological benefits that fall outside of the goals of the restoration itself. Furthermore, ecosystem-scale manipulations presented by restoration projects enable researchers to ask questions that will improve our understanding of basic ecological principles. The goal of this special session is to bring together scientists that have capitalized on the opportunities presented by river restoration to explore both basic and applied research, to improve the connection between science and the practice of river restoration, and to gain a better understanding of what motivates researchers to study restoration projects in hopes of enticing scientists to future projects.

S04. Current and needed research on the impacts of unconventional oil and gas extraction on freshwater ecosystems

Organizers: Sally Entrekin (sentreki@gmail.com), David Stagliano (dstagliano@mt.gov), Dave Penrose (penrose.watershed.science@gmail.com)

Extraction of natural gas from shale basins has rapidly increased in the U.S. due to continuing demands for energy coupled with technological advances in natural gas extraction practices. With 29 shale basins in the U.S. alone, shale-derived natural gas will be an important energy source into the future, but the environmental impacts to freshwater ecosystems remain uncertain. Potential impacts to freshwaters include sediment runoff during site preparation, surface and groundwater contamination as wells are drilled, fractured, and gas is being produced, and excessive water withdrawals. Infrastructure such as roads, well pads, and pipelines are required and can contribute sediment to nearby streams and rivers. Drilling and fracturing of shale with high-pressure water injections mixed with hydraulic fluids results in waste that can contaminate groundwater and surface waters. Taking of millions of gallons of water from local streams for hydraulic fracturing of wells, ponds, and groundwater can compromise waters supplies and exceed critical flows for aquatic biota, particularly during drought. Environmental threats of natural gas extraction on freshwaters are widely recognized by professionals, resource managers, and researchers, yet there continues to be a lack of data to guide extraction practices. This special session will assemble researchers studying the effects of natural gas development on freshwaters in shale basins from the U.S. and around the world.

S05. Progress and challenges in scaling pattern and process in aquatic ecosystems

Organizers: Kait Farrell (kfarrell@uga.edu), Erica Garcia (Erica.Garcia@cdu.edu.au)

Ecological patterns and processes are known to vary across temporal and spatial scales, and addressing this variability is one of the most persistent problems in aquatic ecology. The ability to apply results from manipulative experiments and surveys at small spatial scales to larger scales, for example, is essential if we are to understand whole-ecosystem functioning and be able to make comparisons across ecosystems. This ability to scale is particularly important for informing and guiding decisions on water management and aquatic restoration efforts. Recent and ongoing experiments are beginning to address this information gap. This session will focus on progress that has been made to address scaling issues, recent findings that pertain to spatial and temporal scaling, and the challenges that remain. Contributions will address scaling physical and/or biological processes in a variety of aquatic ecosystems and may include examples from a wide geographic range. The goal of the session is to summarize current knowledge and discuss the way forward in order to better understand both whole-system dynamics as well as how to manage human impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

S06. Long-term trends in aquatic ecosystems: toward improved methods and understanding

Organizers: Marty Gurtz (mgurtz@comcast.net), Jonathan G. Kennen

An understanding of temporal patterns in biological communities, and in natural and human-caused factors that affect biodiversity, is needed to assess effects of threats to aquatic biodiversity, and to evaluate alternative management strategies. Long-term ecological data sets for streams and rivers throughout the world are uncommon, especially those that have used consistent methods over broad spatial areas. Nevertheless, there has been increasing attention in recent years to developing new methods for analyzing long-term ecological data sets and interpreting factors that contribute to both natural and human-caused variability. This session will address this topic from multiple viewpoints, ranging from basic research to applied studies at local, state, national, and international levels.

S07. Enhancing freshwater conservation efforts at broad spatial scales

Organizers: Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley (stephierenee@gmail.com), J. David Allan (dallan@umich.edu), Peter McIntyre (pmcintyre@wisc.edu)

This session addresses the generation of broad-scale datasets and tools (mapping, decision-support, etc.) that evaluate multiple stressors and the application of spatial prioritization methods to managing and conserving freshwater ecosystems and their biota. The first session will emphasize projects aimed at generating broad-scale datasets from regional to global scales, and the second session highlights their application to systematic conservation planning and spatial prioritization methods.

S08. Ecohydrology for sustainability: existing research and opportunity

Organizer: Lauren Koenig (lauren.koenig@unh.edu)

While the study of hydrology and its interaction with the aquatic ecosystem has a well-developed history of research, the integration of hydrology, ecology and society remains relatively unexplored. The link between hydro-ecological processes and human societies is bidirectional, yet many socio-ecosystems are increasingly dependent on ecosystem services that are spatially removed from societal behavior and decision-making. This session highlights the importance of assimilating new eco-hydrological paradigms that include people in scientific systems thinking, and thus may lead to a clearer vision for the sustainable water ecosystem in the face of global change. We invite contributions that consider the trade-offs that exist among competing freshwater ecosystem services (water for humans vs. for sustaining ecological integrity), notably research efforts or case studies that seek to understand the maintenance and balance of aquatic ecosystem services in the context of water management, stakeholder participation, and societal/ecosystem vulnerability and resilience. The goal of this session is to better understand successful approaches and limitations affecting adoption of sustainable water use and management across a range of biophysical environments, and to explore how regional policy is developed in response to watershed change.

S09. Understanding catchment and landscape-scale patterns in ecosystem metabolism

Organizers: John Kominoski (jkominoski@gmail.com), Timothy Hoellein (thoellein@luc.edu), Denise Bruesewitz (dabruese@colby.edu)

The metrics of ecosystem metabolism, including gross primary production, community respiration, and net ecosystem production, are fundamental descriptors of ecosystem function. Metabolism metrics integrate the activity of all organisms carrying out photosynthesis and aerobic respiration and can therefore be used to compare how carbon cycling in different ecosystems responds to environmental changes, over both short and long time scales. High-resolution data of dissolved oxygen and water temperature coupled with meteorological records are readily available at many locations and ecosystem types worldwide. In addition, models used to calculate metabolism, especially de-coupling the interdependency of GPP and R in traditional models, have been refined. We anticipate increasing demand for scientists and managers to calculate, interpret, and forecast patterns of ecosystem metabolism and associated carbon dynamics among different aquatic ecosystems and across diverse environmental conditions. This session invites presentations of research that quantifies environmental factors that control spatial and temporal variation in ecosystem metabolism across different aquatic ecosystems (lentic, lotic, freshwater, coastal, detritus- and primary producer-based). By synthesizing results of trends among diverse, inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems, SFS is well-positioned to advance this rapidly growing field of understanding continental-scale carbon cycling.

S10. Coastal plain streams of the southeastern US: advances in biological reference modeling and monitoring

Organizer: Ely Kosnicki (ezk0004@auburn.edu)

The coastal plain of the southeastern US is a low gradient region generally outlined between the Piedmont, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. Once dominated by longleaf pine forests, the coastal plain has undergone many anthropogenic modifications, primarily brought on by historic and present day agricultural activities. More recently, however, this region has seen moderate amounts of succession, restoration, and improved management practices. Streams within the coastal plain typically are characterized as acidic, low gradient systems with poor nutrients and sandy substrate, representing important ecosystems that maintain high biological diversity and are home for a number of endangered species. Human population expansion, increased water demands, and encroaching invasive species represent some of the contemporary challenges facing the integrity of coastal plain streams. Biological reference modeling and monitoring techniques have undergone new developments, and this session is dedicated to showcasing these advances as a forum for benthic scientists conducting studies in lotic, coastal plain ecosystems.

S11. Modelling approaches in freshwater ecosystem science and management

Organizers: Mathias Kuemmerlen, (mkuemmerlen@senckenberg.de), Sami Domisch (sdomisch@senckenberg.de), Sonja Jähnig (Sonja.Jaehnig@senckenberg.de), Christian Feld (christian.feld@uni-due.de)

The intense dynamics in freshwater ecosystems are driven by constant changes in the natural environment such as climatic events and changes in the landscape. Contemporary anthropogenic factors like structural modifications, water abstraction, and land-use and climate change, represent additional challenges to the adaptive capacity of these systems. In this context, models provide insight to the consequences of natural and anthropogenic events at different spatial and temporal scales at various hierarchical levels. This session will bring together current modelling applications, ranging from species distribution and dispersal to hydrological regimes and catchment processes, to aid management and conservation efforts in freshwater ecosystems.

S12. Advances in groundwater and surface-groundwater interactions research

Organizers: Scott Larned (scott.larned@niwa.co.nz), Kathleen Rugel (krugel@uga.edu)

The hydrology, chemistry and ecology of groundwater and surface-groundwater interactions have been studied for over a century. In the last 20 years, research in these fields has evolved from descriptive studies to hypothesis testing, experimentation, and river and aquifer restoration. Working in environments with minimal accessibility also has driven the development of new approaches for characterizing subsurface zones, conducting experiments, and simulating water flow and other processes. This special session will present the latest research in surface-groundwater interactions and deeper (phreatic) groundwater systems. Contributions are welcome from all fields, including biogeochemistry, community ecology, hydrology, restoration ecology, microbiology and technology development. While we aim to be inclusive, contributors from both physical and biological sciences should discuss the implications of their findings on aquatic ecosystems.

S13. Estuaries, rivermouths, and coastal wetlands

Organizers: James Larson (jhlarson@usgs.gov), W.B. Richardson (wrichardson@usgs.gov)

Linkages between landscape processes and the productive coastal areas of large lakes, seas, and oceans are mediated by processes occurring in the estuaries, rivermouths, and coastal wetlands where river waters mix with lake and ocean water. Although estuaries and marine rivermouths have been well-studied, analogous ecosystems in freshwater settings have only recently become the focus of intense research. However, freshwater rivermouths and coastal wetlands are often a focal point of the socio-economic networks that surround large lake ecosystems. Due to their importance both economically and ecologically, freshwater rivermouths are often areas where intense restoration efforts are on-going. This session will build on the SFS community's interest in cross-ecosystem linkages (Lamberti et al. 2010) by inviting researchers who work on different aspects of the transition zones between river and ocean or large lake waters to give technical talks on their research.

S14. The Future of Freshwater Science: an educational session for undergraduates

Organizers: Judy Li (judyli@comcast.net), Krista Capps (krista.capps@maine.edu)

The purpose of this session is to inspire undergraduates to pursue studies in freshwater sciences. At previous SFS meetings, undergraduates expressed broad interests in science based on academic backgrounds (e.g., chemistry, engineering, mathematics, microbiology, and conservation), and were not very familiar with freshwater science in particular. In this educational session, well-established freshwater scientists will highlight their respective areas of focus, reviewing intriguing approaches and questions for the future. Topics will include the ecologies of macroinvertebrates and fish, lotic ecology in various ecosystems, conservation biology, biogeochemistry, and environmental policy. At the end of the session, speakers will participate in a panel addressing the future of freshwater science and how educational training can contribute to future research.

S15. Evaluating the management of wetland structure and function

Organizers: Melissa Martin (melissa_martin@fws.gov), Todd Osborne (osbornet@ufl.edu)

This session will highlight the complex multi-disciplinary challenges that are involved in management and restoration of wetlands. By value of the unique characteristics of the landscape’s hydrology, vegetation, and soils, wetlands provide vital ecosystem services to the watersheds in which they occur, including water storage and filtration, wildlife habitat, and nutrient storage and cycling. Human activities within the watershed can degrade wetland ecosystems, reducing or eliminating the sustainable delivery of these desired functions. Management activities often seek to maintain or restore wetland plant communities to ensure the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services with variable results. This session will address the conference theme of understanding the threats to aquatic/wetland biodiversity and planning for ecosystem management. Presentations by state, federal, and academic scientists will focus on current research investigating the biotic and abiotic influences on the management and restoration of wetland plant communities. Invited speakers will provide technical information on plant community structure, exotic plant invasions, hydrologic management, and ecosystem nutrient dynamics. Presentations will frame research findings to illustrate the challenges faced by land managers in restoring wetland ecosystems. The session will inform attendees interested in both the theoretical and applied aspects of freshwater science and will have a broad appeal to the conference audience.

S16. Extreme climatic events in riverine systems: winners and losers

Organizers: Alexander Milner (a.m.milner@bham.ac.uk), Mark Ledger (m.e.ledger@bham.ac.uk)

Increased extreme climatic events have led to a greater global frequency and magnitude of floods, droughts and wildfires in riverine systems, as well as more indirect effects arising from wind-throw from hurricanes and more rapid ice break-up at high latitudes and altitudes. River networks are sentinel systems that support high biotic diversity and are vulnerable to change, yet our knowledge of how these stressors drive biotic responses across different organizational levels is limited. At the species level, we can expect divergent responses to extreme events: the winners will be species that are already well-adapted to disturbance, possessing life histories and traits that either provide either initial resistance or sufficient resilience to recover rapidly. However, over time, extreme events could alter systems in ways that make them more vulnerable in the future, due to legacy effects. This session will showcase studies that have studied the response of riverine communities to these extreme climatic events both at the community and ecosystem level.

S17. Opportunities and challenges in biomonitoring as a tool to assess impacts of energy production activities: DNA barcoding and data accessibility

Organizers: Heather Powell (hpowell@neoninc.org), Erik Pilgrim (pilgrim.erik@epa.gov))

Biomonitoring includes a suite of effective tools to assess the impacts of energy production activities on freshwater systems. Current and upcoming efforts to acquire fossil fuels from previously untapped or unavailable resources will present new challenges for monitoring ecological impacts from these activities. Recent advances in DNA sequencing, molecular taxonomy (e.g., DNA barcoding), and computing resources offer unique opportunities to advance this tool set, thereby making biomonitoring more readily available to resource managers and researchers in light of potential increased ecological impacts from energy production. This session will engage participants in a discussion on the challenges of building DNA barcode and other metagenomic libraries, developing and enabling data compatibility and access, and creating new methods of assessing environmental health. DNA barcoding initially requires effort to identify and sequence specimens, yet once this work is complete, reference sequence databases would be available to the community, which would drastically reduce the effort required to obtain traditional taxonomic identification of organisms. Our ability to effectively utilize biomonitoring information currently is hampered by incompatible organization across geographic boundaries, structure of disparate datasets, and lack of availability. This session highlights emerging initiatives to align datasets from different researchers and management units and to make these data more readily available and useful.

S18. A global perspective on freshwater sciences: contributions and challenges faced by the international community

Organizers: Alonso Ramirez (aramirez@ramirezlab.net), Isabel Pardo (ipardo@uvigo.es)

The international membership of SFS has increased significantly in recent years and now represents a diversity of countries in developed and developing regions of the planet. This session, organized by the International Coordination Committee will highlight this diversity and the state of knowledge and challenges facing freshwater scientists in different parts of the world. Speakers will either cover the general state of knowledge of a particular region or country or, in the case of large and well-known areas, might focus on a specific topic (e.g., ecosystem restoration) within their region. Presentations will inform about how well-known the region is (or the topic within that region) and what are major challenges and limitations facing freshwater scientists in that region (e.g., fragmentation of information, capacity to train new researchers, funding limitations). The session will help us explore the role that a professional society, such as SFS, could play in ameliorating common issues. Presentations will be given by a panel of speakers from different countries or regions and the session will close with an open discussion.

S19. Trajectories of biological change in Florida's Springs

Organizers: Organizers(s): Alicia Schultheis (aschulth@stetson.edu), Matthew Cohen (mjc@ufl.edu)

With over 700 named freshwater springs, Florida has one of the densest concentrations of springs on Earth, making Jacksonville the ideal setting for a session focusing on these unique and beautiful ecosystems. Uniform temperatures, discharge, and chemical composition characterize springs, creating island-like systems that are ideal natural laboratories for evolutionary genetic or ecological modeling studies, as evidenced by HT Odum’s seminal studies of energy flow in Silver Springs, Florida. Springs also are intricately connected to the groundwater and cave systems that feed them and are thus heavily impacted by activities in the surrounding springshed. In Florida, threats to springs include invasive species, nutrient enrichment, aquifer depletion, and physical damage from high recreational use. These overlapping stressors create a complex challenge that can involve management uncertainty and conflict among stakeholders. Uncertainty about the causes of biological change in spring ecosystems will make spring restoration a crucial test of ecological theory. We welcome contributions involving experimental and observational studies on spring ecosystems (including caves), their biodiversity, ecological and evolutionary processes, and on threats to springs and potential solutions and issues related to their implementation. We particularly encourage presentations that focus on testing general ecological theory using spring-fed ecosystems.

S20. Mechanisms of urban impacts on stream ecosystems: a global perspective

Organizers: Robert Smith (rsmith729@gmail.com), Allison Roy (aroy@eco.umass.edu)

As the area of the Earth’s surface devoted to urban and suburban land uses steadily expands, an increasing number of lotic aquatic ecosystems are urbanized. Urban and suburban streams tend to have reduced native species richness and altered ecosystem functions compared to similar streams in more natural landscapes. Nevertheless, they often provide ecosystem services highly valued by humans, such as nutrient processing, stormwater drainage, drinking water, and power generation. Degradation of streams by urban landâ€�use development and direct alterations of streams for human needs therefore have both ecological and societal costs. Thus, urban stream ecologists must continue to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which alteration occurs so that undesirable changes can be minimized. Mechanistic understanding of urban streams is hampered by the diverse nature of aquatic ecosystems, the types of development in different parts of the globe, and the multiple potential pathways that impacts can occur. Global differences in climate and native fauna further complicate the responses of streams to urbanization. Characterizing regional differences in the mechanisms of urban impairment remains an important scientific and societal need. This special session will emphasize (1) improving the mechanistic understanding of urban stream impairment, and (2) identifying the differences in mechanisms and responses based on global variation in municipal infrastructure, climate, native species, and policies.

S21. Evaluating and mitigating the effects of coal extraction on headwater ecosystems

Organizers: Eric Somerville (somerville.eric@epa.gov), Carmen Agouridis (carmen.agouridis@uky.edu)

Coal extraction commonly occurs within the uppermost portions of a watershed, and as such, exerts a disproportionate influence on headwater streams. These streams serve as critical connectors between the up-gradient portions of watersheds and down-gradient stream reaches. Research has shown that mining activities influence the biota of these freshwater ecosystems, whether it is through alterations to topography, hydrology, water quality, and/or vegetation. Electrical conductivity, as a surrogate for total dissolved solids, has been proposed as a readily measured indicator of water quality and aquatic health in mine-influenced waters. However, the exact ionic composition affecting aquatic life in mine-influence waters is neither definitively known, nor has it been shown to be consistent across all coal mining regions where impairment of aquatic life in streams affected by mine-influenced waters has been demonstrated. There also are concerns that some individual water quality parameters, such as selenium, may be adversely affecting resident aquatic biota in the coal fields. This session will focus on research, applied science, and case studies related to the quality of mine discharged waters as well as new mining and reclamation methods to minimize impacts to freshwater ecosystems. The goal of this session is to bring together researchers, regulators, and mine operators to share management and mitigation techniques.

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  • Longtime SFS member and Oregon State University professor Dr. Norman Anderson passed away January 13, 2018.

  • 4th International Symposium of the Benthological Society of Asia and 2nd Youth Freshwater Ecology School August 19-25, 2018

  • 2018 Benthic Ecology Meeting (BEM) in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA: 28-30 March 2018.


  • The deadline to submit proposals for AQUATROP Special Sessions or Symposiums is now November 17, 2017

  • SFS joins CASS in condemning silencing of EPA scientists


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