Biophysical Ecology Research on California Salmon and Green Sturgeon

Our team merges biophysics, ecology, and physiology to study anadromous fish populations in California's Central Valley.

A program of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Fisheries Ecology Division.

The Biophysical Ecology Team conducts ecological research on anadromous fish (Pacific salmon and sturgeon) in California. Our work focuses on the interface between physics and biology, with the goal of developing a mechanistic understanding of the processes that determine how individuals respond to their environments.

We merge biophysics, ecology, and physiology by combining laboratory and field studies with mathematical models to gain a better understanding of the flow of energy and matter through systems and organisms. Our approach often takes the form of linked biological and physical models, the results of which we apply to life cycle models for Pacific salmon.

The Biophysical Ecology Team focuses on science that supports the management of anadromous fish, with an emphasis on the interplay between climate, freshwater management, and fish population dynamics in California’s Central Valley.

Our work includes the inter-related areas of:

  • Animal movement
  • Bioenergetics
  • Energy exchange/transfer
  • Population dynamics
  • Meteorology

Our Research

Sacramento River Winter-Run Chinook Life Cycle Model

The Winter-run Chinook salmon Lifecycle Model (WRLCM) is a framework that can be used to analyze water management scenarios on fish survival in the Central Valley. It is a spatially and temporally explicit model that estimates the number of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon at each habitat and timestep for all stages of their lifecycle. The WRLCM was developed to evaluate how changes in abiotic and biotic drivers from water operations and habitat restoration affects long-term population dynamics.

Acoustic Tracking of Juvenile Salmon

We acoustically tag and track different populations of juvenile salmon during their outmigration to the ocean so we can better understand the dynamics in survival, movement, and migration during this life stage in California’s Central Valley. As part of this effort, the detections of acoustically tagged fish within an array of real-time JSATS (Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System) receivers can give scientists and resource managers immediate information on survival and movement. Another component of the effort involves using acoustic tagged fish along with hatchery releases of coded wire tagged fish to estimate capture efficiencies of trawl sampling at Sacramento and Chipps Island. The coordinated use of these different methodologies along with genetic assignments of run-type will allow more accurate estimates of population abundance of fish entering and existing in the Delta.

This project is a collaboration between the Biophysical Ecology Team and several agencies and institutions:

  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • University of California, Davis

Central Valley Temperature Mapping and Prediction (CVTEMP)

The CVTEMP website is the public interface for modeled and observed water temperature and flow data for the Sacramento River associated with Shasta Reservoir, Shasta Dam operations, and meteorological conditions.

Our Team

Team Leader: Eric Danner