US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
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Russ Thurow - Research Fisheries Scientist

Russ F. Thurow

Research Fisheries Scientist
322 East Front Street, Suite 401
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208-373-4377
Fax: 208-373-4391
Contact Russ F. Thurow

Current Research

I am responsible for a comprehensive research program focused on the conservation and restoration of native aquatic species and the ecosystems they depend on. Specific research topics include:

Patterns of species and life stages

  • There is a need to Integrate Disciplines and broaden the scales at which we investigate the physical and biological processes that influence aquatic habitat and the distribution, diversity, and persistence of fish.
  • New knowledge is required to describe Temporal and Spatial Habitat Requirements for poorly understood life stages of native salmonids.
  • As landscape analysis assumes a more central role in ecosystem management, it is critical to understand the Influence of Landscape Features on the Distribution of Critical Fish Habitats.
  • Analytical frameworks and guidelines are essential for interpretations of Status and Occurrence of Species at large scales.

Structure of populations

  • Patterns in the distribution and spatial structure of populations may be important to their persistence in stochastic environments. There is a need to examine the Role of Habitat Geometry and Spatial Structuring to fish population dynamics and persistence.
  • Metapopulation Theory suggests that dispersal and recolonization will influence the dynamics and persistence of populations. Empirical evidence is limited, however, and additional understanding of salmonid dispersal and recolonization mechanisms is needed.

Sampling protocols

  • Biologists and managers need reliable methods to assess the Status of fish populations, to monitor Population Responses to Management Activities, and to measure Fish Responses to Temporal and Spatial Changes in habitat.

Climate affects

  • There is a critical need to understand the Affects of a Warming Climate on the phenology, distribution, abundance, and persistence of native western fishes.

Research Interests

My personal research interests include: a) identification of important linkages between landscape characteristics and the processes that structure aquatic biological diversity; and b) development of effective conservation and restoration strategies. Consequently, I apply traditional fisheries sciences to emerging theory in population biology, conservation biology, and landscape ecology at multiple temporal and spatial scales.

Past Research

Recent and past publications have advanced current understanding of:

  • the biology, habitat utilization, and critical habitat requirements for sensitive native fishes
  • landscape level models of species distributions and status
  • the effects of sediment on spawning and incubation
  • the effects of watershed disturbance on species occurrence
  • the influence of landscape features on critical habitats
  • the relevance of spatial structure to the persistence of aquatic species
  • the importance of metapopulation processes to population persistence
  • the bias and precision of sampling methods and approaches for improving sampling protocols

As one of three scientists with the Aquatic Science Team and the Science Integration Team for the Interior Columbia River Basin Ecosystem Management Project, I helped developed an assessment of the distribution, status, and ecology of native fishes in the Interior Columbia River basin and portions of the Klamath River and Great basins, an area encompassing 58.3 million ha and portions of six western states. The aquatic resource report for the ICBEMP represents a contribution to fisheries science and management of regional and national significance. The aquatic assessment of native fishes represents the most comprehensive and spatially explicit evaluation ever attempted in the Intermountain and Pacific Northwest.

Specific research has included:

  • Fluvial bull trout movements, spawning, and habitat use.
  • Modeling distributions of salmonid spawning substrates based on fundamental hydrologic processes.
  • Assessing spatial and temporal variation in Chinook salmon populations.
  • Description of fine-scale genetic patterns in Chinook salmon from central Idaho streams.
  • Analysis of otolith microchemisty to describe life history types and dispersal of Chinook salmon.
  • Development of protocols for sampling stream dwelling salmonids.
  • Bias and precision of Chinook salmon redd counts. 


Why This Research is Important

The status of aquatic and terrestrial resources in the large and dynamic landscapes of the interior west offer unique challenges. Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in this region share a management history that has extensively altered both. For example, 45 of 88 native fish taxa within the Interior Columbia River basin are considered sensitive or of special concern, 14 are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, and more are proposed for listing. A growing human population and economy are expanding demands on limited resources and increasing challenges for biologists and land managers. Simplification of habitat, initiatives for the restoration of forest health, concerns about wildfire, and a changing climate have precipitated debate about conservation and restoration approaches. By advancing understanding of ecological processes and functions, my research will play a central role in helping guide the complex and challenging management of sensitive native species and in realizing opportunities to conserve and restore functional aquatic and terrestrial systems.


  • University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, BS Fisheries, 1973
  • University of Idaho, MS Fisheries Management, 1976

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Last updated on : 07/29/2014