Daniel Walker: Graduating Researcher of the Hydro Research Foundation

Daniel Walker

Editor's Note: This is the latest in a series of profiles provided by the Hydro Research Foundation that highlight potential future members of the hydroelectric power industry and their accomplishments.

The Hydro Research Foundation is actively supporting graduate students to conduct research related to conventional and pumped storage hydropower.  These students are funded through the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program and industry partners through a two-year grant.

Biography

Daniel Walker attended Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., where he received a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology in May 2012. He worked for several years as an honors undergraduate research assistant in the Aquatic Conservation Research Laboratory. He received his M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee in May 2014. His master’s thesis research investigated habitat partitioning among darters in two tributaries of the Clinch River. He is now a doctoral research assistant of Fishery Conservation and Management under Dr. Brian Alford. His doctoral research focuses on Lake Sturgeon reproduction and early life history in the Upper Tennessee River System as part of the Southeastern Lake Sturgeon Working Group.

Daniel has been working with advisors Dr. Brian Alford at the university, Dr. Paul Jacobson with EPRI and Steve Amaral with Alden Labs to research work called, "Lake Sturgeon Reproduction in the Upper Tennessee River: Investigating Potential Spawning Below TVA Hydroelectric Dams". Due to overharvest and habitat loss, the lake sturgeon was extirpated across most of its southern range. Only one population of lake sturgeon in the Lake Winnebago system -- Wisconsin -- remained viable during most of the twentieth century, thanks to agreements between state regulators and tribal groups that relied on lake sturgeon for subsistence harvest.

It is imperative that possible spawning migrations of lake sturgeon in the Tennessee River be scientifically documented. If they do not reproduce naturally due to inadequate tailwater habitat, then perpetual stocking, which is financially insecure for state and federal agencies, will be required to maintain a viable population size. Furthermore, previous studies have shown that hydroelectric dam managers can improve the conditions of the tailwaters below dams to encourage successful lake sturgeon spawning.

This research will investigate the possibility of lake sturgeon spawning runs ending below TVA hydroelectric dams in the Upper Tennessee River system, and will seek to characterize the favorability of tailwater conditions towards successful lake sturgeon spawning. The research will then focus on working with dam managers to create a recommendation plan on ways future lake sturgeon spawning may be encouraged through new or altered management plans during peak lake sturgeon spawning seasons. This research will pave the way for future collaborations between aquatic biological conservation entities and hydroelectric dam managers to find balance among the needs of all parties invested in water resources.

Daniel will be finishing his research with the Foundation in May. To connect with Daniel or learn more about the Research Awards Program please email info@hydrofoundation.org or visit the website www.hydrofoundation.org.

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