Evaluation of diversity, distribution, and heavy metal loads in Flint River fishes prior to Hamilton Dam Removal

Project Description

Barrier structures such as the Hamilton Dam in the Flint River prevent the free movement of fishes. Fish passage around the Hamilton Dam has not occured for decades. Thus, the diversity and distribution of fishes will be different downstream and upstream of this barrier. Additionally, Great Lakes-influenced fishes such as steelhead, which are known to occur in the Flint River, carry heavy metals that were bioaccumulated during feeding on fish exposed to these metals in the Great Lakes. Fish such as steelhead will often swim upstream until they encounter a barrier and spawn, and often ultimately die in the river. Thus, the occurence of heavy metals downstream of the Hamilton Dam, a terminal barrier, should be higher in all sampled organisms and substrate than that occurring upstream of the dam. This project's goal in this first phase is determine the species diversity, distributions, and heavy metal loads of fishes on both sides of the dam prior to fish passage being restored via the removal of the Hamitlon Dam. Next steps will evaluate the species diversity, distributions, and heavy metal loads of fishes once fish passage has been restored after the removal of the Hamilton Dam.    

Work Schedule

Throughout the academic year, approximately 10 hours a week will be required of the GSRA. During the spring/summer more hours will be requried. The GSRA, in concert with the primary advisor, will design a study to evaluate species diversity, distribution, and heavy metal loads of fish upstream and downstream of the Hamilton Dam in the Fint River. The GSRA will produce a thesis research proposal and present it to a graduate committee. The GSRA will apply for permits from the MDNR and others as necessary, as well as obtain an approved animal use and care protocol from UM IACUC prior to conducting the work. The study will require sampling the Flint River for fish with help from partners such as MDNR. Additonal data will be collected such as temperature, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, etc. The study will require testing of the heavy metal loads of fish that were sampled with help from equipment in the UM-Flint Chemistry Department or an outside laboratory. This will require many days in the field and laboratory. Meetings will occur with the faculty advisor every two weeks where duties will be communicated. Adequate progress on duties must be made by each meeting date with the faculty advisor. The GSRA will also conduct appropriate statistical analyses to determine differences between the aforementioned variables from upstream to downstream of the Hamilton Dam. The GSRA will also prepare presentations for professional meetings, manuscripts for peer-reviewed publication, and provide information gained to fishery managers.


Additional Notes

GSRA must be able to:

  1. Pay attention to detail and follow established protocols.
  2. Extract and manage large databases of information.
  3. Conduct physically exhausting work in the field and laboratory for multiple days.
  4. Design and adjust experimental setup in consultation with the faculty advisor. 
  5. Use software to perform calculations using large amounts of data.
  6. Meet with the faculty advisor every two weeks to discuss research progress.
  7. Use various computer programs, including video software, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access.
  8. Work effectively and appropriately with others.
  9. Communicate effectively with the faculty advisor and any research assistants.

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Job ID: 185808
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Job Detail
Job Opening ID
Winter 2021 Only
Work could be done by someone not coming to campus (e.g., online or non-local student)
What majors can apply?
  • Biology (MS)
Faculty Sponsor
Faculty Name
Heather Dawson
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