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Idaho Trout Unlimited Scholarship

Richie Carmichael has been awarded a scholarship from the Idaho State Council Trout Unlimited Graduate Scholarship fund.  The scholarship is awarded to graduate level students (master’s etc.) attending a higher education institution in the state of Idaho. Below is Richie’s essay that accompanied his application for the scholarship.  And he also provided us a few photographs!  

By Richie Carmichael

My career in freshwater fisheries management and research has continued on a steady and upward trajectory, from technician positions with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to a management role in the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program as basin supervisor for the South Fork Salmon watershed. I envision graduate school as an opportunity to continue that upward trajectory. My ultimate goal is to build the skills and knowledge to make critical and impactful decisions on how we manage our freshwater ecosystems and fisheries resources, with the hope that one day future generations will be afforded the same opportunities that I have been privileged to enjoy. I hope to improve the way we manage our fisheries resources for the betterment of not only Idahoans, but humanity as a whole.

My upbringing was unique in the sense that my Father was a very well-known and respected fisheries scientist and my mother was a career biology and earth science teacher. You could say that biology and fisheries are in my blood. My undergraduate education was focused on Geography and Geographical Information Sciences. The GIS studies set a solid background that provided me with a unique skillset to move forward in the work place. My field work experience combined with my undergraduate studies has given me a very unique perspective coming into my graduate program and has allowed me to communicate and effectively work with a vast array of organizations involved in my project including the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Bureau of Reclamation, Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as well as private consultants, landowners, and project stakeholders. The majority of my work experience has been fisheries and fisheries habitat related, including eight years of stream surveys and 100’s of kilometers of river sampling.

By improving habitat sampling techniques with green waveform bathymetric Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), the need for on the ground survey crews will begin to diminish. If I am able to show bathymetric LiDAR can support the same types of modeling and predictions that current ground crew surveys can produce, I believe I will make a lasting and impactful mark on fisheries, stream ecology, and watershed science. LiDAR will provide us with insights into the stream environment that with current techniques is simply unfeasible. Continuous high resolution digital elevation models are the framework of current numerical flow simulations, habitat suitability predictions for freshwater species, sediment transport calculations, identification of key limiting factors and so much more. By continuously mapping the bathymetry of the stream we are removing any of the associated errors that come with trying to extrapolate sub-sampling from the ground crew micro habitat surveys into a watershed model that can be used by managers and local experts. Instead of using representative reaches of 200-600 meters within a watershed to make decisions, I propose we sample the entire river of 100’s of kilometers to gain the necessary knowledge to make informed and improved management decisions.

If awarded this scholarship it would be of tremendous financial help to me. This scholarship would provide necessary funding towards tuition, site visits, food, travel expenses, etc. I believe that if I am awarded this scholarship I may be able to reduce my work hours during my final term and strictly focus on my studies and graduate research to complete my thesis within two years. Once completed, I believe that my graduate studies and research will provide basin managers, steam ecologists, biologists, engineers, and all interested parties the necessary tools and procedures that lay the ground work to truly change how we sample freshwater habitat and what we understand about the environmental processes that control the life experience of fish.   Demonstrating that remote sensing techniques such a green waveform bathymetric LiDAR can work effectively in a cost efficient manner in the most challenging of environments such as a small mountainous stream like the Lemhi River, will have extremely broad application. These same techniques can be deployed across the world to tackle some of the most challenging water related issues facing our society today.