My research explores three emphasis areas: The role of variability--How variability in complex ecological signals, such as water temperature, drive ecological relationships. I am currently completing the analyses from an experiment on altered thermal regimes and egg-to-fry development of Chinook salmon. Landscape drivers of river systems--I am also completing an investigation of how landscape-scale human impacts, such as harvest or urbanization, control flow and temperature variability at different times of the year. Role of human development history in our perceptions of landscape-scale variates--I'm working to understand how selective human settlement of parts of the landscape, such as river basins or hilltops, might be better understood by statistical innovations.
Quantifying complexity in water temperature regimes and determining the best measurement metrics; exploring landscape impacts to river systems, linking land-use and landform to in-river conditions; using Monte Carlo methods; incorporating uncertainty in natural resource decisionmaking; and teaching the scientific method at the K-12 level and to educators.
My past research has examined the use of wavelet analysis to quantify complex thermal regimes and establish the effects of dams on water temperature; the use of model sensitivity analysis on a complex salmon habitat model used in salmon recovery planning; the Lewis River Case Study, a scenario-based decision- support tool that outputs tradeoffs across river restoration strategies; and the linkage of landscapes to salmon distribution across multiple species and in multiple watersheds.
Why This Research is Important
Variability is often thought of as simply a complication; however, it is an essential element of ecological systems. Understanding how human actions, such as harvest or development, might reduce or increase variability in, for example, river temperatures, is essential for making informed management decisions. Likewise, uncertainty is often thought of as a negative aspect of model output. However, by quantifying uncertainty in model output, scientists and managers can get a better understanding of the range of potential outcomes and the likelihood of particular desired or undesired results.
- University of Washington, Ph.D. Quantitative Ecology, 1999
- University of Washington, M.S. Statistics, 1996
- University of Washington, M.S. River Ecology, 1993
- Duke University, B.S. Sociology, 1988
Publications & Products
- Hummel, Susan; Kennedy, Maureen; Steel, E. Ashley. 2012. Assessing forest vegetation and fire simulation model performance after the Cold Springs wildfire, Washington USA.
- O’Callaghan, Joan; Steel, Ashley E.; Burnett, Kelly M. 2012. Thinking big: linking rivers to landscapes.
- Anlauf, K.J.; Jensen, D.W.; Burnett, K.M.; Steel, E.A.; Christiansen, K.; Firman, J.C.; Feist, B.E.; Larsen, D.P. 2011. Explaining spatial variability in stream habitats using both natural and management-influenced landscape predictors.
- Fullerton, Aimee H.; Lindley, Steven T.; Pess, George R.; Feist, Blake E.; Steel, E. Ashley; McElhany, Paul. 2011. Human influence on the spatial structure of threatened Pacific salmon metapopulations.
- Firman, Julie C.; Steel, E. Ashley; Jensen, David W.; Burnett, Kelly M.; Christiansen, Kelly; Feist, Blake E.; Larsen, David P.; Anlauf, Kara. 2011. Landscape models of adult coho salmon density examined at four spatial extents.
- Lucero, Yasmin; Steel, E. Ashley; Burnett, Kelly M.; Christiansen, Kelly. 2011. Untangling human development and natural gradients: implications of underlying correlation structure for linking landscapes and riverine ecosystems.
- Fullerton, A.H.; Burnett, Kelly; Steel, Ashley; Flitcroft, Rebecca; Pess, G.R.; Feist, B.E.; Torgersen, C.E.; Miller, D.J.; Sanderson, B.L. 2010. Hydrological connectivity for riverine fish: measurement challenges and research opportunities.