Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Empowering water quality decisions: reducing uncertainty and


July 2007 - June 2009


Impaired waters and the Total Maximum Daily Load approach are central drivers to water quality management mandated by the Clean Water Act. Water quality and ecological integrity vary across a gradient of human disturbance, but assessing how ecological integrity is affected by human disturbance is complex and requires robust indicators of ecological health. Indicators are used to quantify stream ecosystem integrity; however, uncertainty and variability of those indicators are poorly understood. We will conduct research that will aid Minnesota regulatory agencies in reducing the uncertainty and variability of indicators of stream ecosystem integrity to allow managers to make decisions based on scientific knowledge and be more defensible than current decisions. We have three objectives: (1) quantify the uncertainty surrounding stream health indicators, (2) evaluate the variability of indicators of stream health at different spatial scales, and (3) deconstruct stream health indices to understand which index metrics contribute most to uncertainty and variability at different spatial scales. Our project will advance management of stream ecological resources by aiding accurate identification of impaired streams, using existing data to understand the history of stream ecosystem integrity, and increasing efficiency with which stream ecosystem integrity is assessed and monitored.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Dolph C. L., A. Sheshukov, C. J. Chizinski, B. Vondracek, and B. Wilson. 2010. The Index of Biological Integrity and the bootstrap revisited: an example from Minnesota streams. Ecological Indicators 10 (2010) 527–537.
  • Dolph, C. L., D. D. Huff, C. J. Chizinski, and B. Vondracek. 2011. Implications of community concordance for assessing stream health at three nested spatial scales in Minnesota, USA. Freshwater Biology 56(8):1652-1699. Abstract | 


  • Huff, D. D. 2010. Examining genetic diversity, outbreeding depression, and local adaptation in a native fish reintroduction program. PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 2

Masters Students: 2

Phd Students: 2

Post Docs: 1

University Staff: 1

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 16

Scientific Publications: 52

Presentations: 98



  • Bruce VondracekPrincipal Investigator
  • Christine DolphStudent

Funding Agencies

  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  3. U.S. Geological Survey
  4. University of Minnesota
  5. Wildlife Management Institute