College of Science

Environmental Science MS

Graduate Student Defends Thesis on Bioassessment Tools for Non-perennial Rivers and Streams

June 13, 2019

Matthew Robinson, current Applied Marine and Watershed Science student, recently defended his Master’s thesis.

Matt has spent the past three years as a Graduate Research Assistant under the supervision of Dr. John Olson, developing dry-phase biological assessment tools for non-perennial rivers and streams (NPRS). NPRS are estimated to make up greater than 50% of all river systems worldwide and are expected to increase both spatially and temporally throughout river networks in the future. NPRS play key ecological roles in watershed functioning but can be impacted by many of the same disturbances affecting perennial rivers. However, researchers lack tools to assess the ecological health of NPRS like the well-developed bioassessment tools used for perennial systems.

Matt’s thesis work in Dr. Olson’s Watershed Environments and Ecology (WEE) Lab focused on developing biological assessment tools that will be applicable to NPRS and allow for the ecological health of these important parts of the watershed to be monitored even in the absence of flowing water. This project has demonstrated the feasibility of using terrestrial arthropods and bryophytes (mosses) as biological indicators of dry stream health in the San Diego region. These findings support the eventual integration of dry-phase bioassement into river monitoring programs. Throughout his time as a graduate student, Matt also mentored numerous undergraduate researchers through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC).

The WEE lab, with support from the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), is currently continuing the development of dry-phase bioassessment tools by determining if these methods can be used to assess the effects of oil and gas development in the central valley and human activities throughout California and Arizona. This research was funded and supported by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, SCCWRP, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.