Integrating long term datasets with next generation ecological models to quantify ecological response in aquatic systems

Engineer Research and Development Center

17 July 2023
Research, Development and Innovation Natural Sciences

This research project focuses on integrating long term datasets with next generation ecological models to quantify ecological response in aquatic systems. The ERDC seeks applications for integrating long-term environmental datasets into the next generation of integrated ecological models.

Currently, the next generation of integrated ecological models have been parameterized with short-term (<3 years) field or literature data, and their predictive capacity over a longer term is limited, which severely constrains the practical applicability of these models. In particular, aquatic ecosystems are tightly coupled systems driven by complex, system-level interactions among physical, ecological, and social factors. In order to develop comprehensive management plans for aquatic ecosystems, ecological models must be able to accurately forecast how these integrated systems will respond to the changes in the physical and environmental system drivers. Without coupling long-term datasets to next generation models, there is a limited ability to make accurate forecasts. Parameterizing next generation process-based ecological models with long-term datasets that explicitly link physical and ecological processes to changes in species dynamics will dramatically increase the predictive accuracy. Resource managers will be able to use these models to create sustainable long-term strategies for public-benefitting activities including forecasting how ecological response will change in uncertain futures, maintaining and improving infrastructure, managing flood risk and coastal storm damage, among others. The university partner will identify knowledge gaps in existing long-term datasets, will develop and execute experimental designs for addressing those knowledge gaps, and will assist with development and parameterization of these next generation integrated ecological models. These studies will provide critical data and parameters for next generation integrated ecological models that can be used to predict ecological response to various natural and anthropological events.

This research will focus on the following objectives

  1. Develop a robust, multidisciplinary, field-based experimental design that can quantify the physical and environmental drivers at multiple scales within aquatic systems (e.g., surface and hyporheic).

  2. Quantification of small-scale patterns in ecological response for invasive and native benthic communities to quantify how changes in in-stream flow affect spatial distributions.

  3. Develop streamflow studies to quantify how differences in climatic disturbance (e.g., flood and drought) impact ecological response for invasive and native benthic communities across temporal scales.

  4. Develop system-scale experiments to quantify connectivity, movement, community dynamics, intra- and inter-specific interactions, and methods for using these data to conceptualize and parameterize ecological models.

  5. Determine positive and negative associations among species with respect to their distribution and abundance and examine if these associations are a consequence of interactions through biological or abiotic pathways.

  6. Quantify relationships between the hydrogeomorphology of a watershed and species distributions within the watershed.

  7. Develop parameter estimates for next generation integrated ecological models developed for quantifying ecological response.


This opportunity is restricted to non-federal partners of the Desert Southwest Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (CESU). Disclosures of current and pending support made in this application may render an applicant ineligible for funding. Prior to award and throughout the period of performance, ERDC may continue to request updated continuing and pending support information, which will be reviewed and may result in discontinuation of funding. Religious organizations are entitled to compete on equal footing with secular organizations for Federal financial assistance as described in E.O. 13798, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”

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19 May 2023