Keynote speakers

Steven J. Cooke, Professor in biology and conservation physiology, Carleton University

Dr. Cooke leads a team focused on understanding and solving complex conservation problems with a focus on freshwater fishes. He has also been deeply involved with defining the new discipline of “conservation physiology” – a field dedicated to understanding the mechanisms underlying conservation problems. He has much experience working with practitioners, policy makers and stakeholders to co-create usable knowledge.

He also founded the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation and as the Director, he is engaged in evidence synthesis activities including on topics related to fish habitat and connectivity.

Check out his work at

Plenary 1

Can ecohydraulics help to address the freshwater biodiversity crisis?

Freshwater ecosystems have been dramatically altered as a result of human activity.  The consequence has been substantial declines in freshwater biodiversity and associated knock-on impacts on the ecosystem services provided by freshwater life.   Recognizing the dire state of freshwater biodiversity (i.e., it is in crisis), an emergency recovery plan was established (see Tickner et al. 2020. BioScience) to protect and restore freshwater biodiversity.  Here I provide an overview of the crisis and identify the threats but devote the majority of the time to focus on solutions.  I will consider the role of ecohydraulics (as a discipline as well as its practitioners) in managing the extraction of river aggregates, restoring habitat, reducing entrainment/impingement, and getting fish and other aquatic life past dams.  However, more science alone will be insufficient to address the freshwater biodiversity crisis; we need to rethink how we do science and on-the-ground projects by engaging in co-production, respecting Indigenous knowledge systems and other ways of knowing, and ensuring that practitioners and decision-makers are provided with robust evidence to guide them in their efforts as front-line workers.  Addressing the freshwater biodiversity crisis will take many minds and hands; I submit that ecohydraulics has the potential to provide the necessary evidence to address several of the key threats needed to protect and restore freshwater biodiversity.

Marianne Bachand, Ecohydraulic Modeling Project Coordinator, National Hydrologic Services, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Dr. Bachand has obtained her Ph.D. in plant biology from Université Laval in 2013 where she studied the resilience of the boreal forest facing deer overabundance. She moved to ecohydraulic modelling for her postdoc in 2013. She then developed several habitat models for different species and a wetland model that were used in the evaluation of the 2000 Rule Curves of the Rainy Lake and Namakan Reservoir System.

She has been in her current role since 2016 and has developed several other habitat and wetland models for water bodies spanning the Canada-U.S. border including the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Basin, the St Marys River, Saint-Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Those models are used in water-level management and the evaluation of flood mitigation measures.

Since 2019, she has had the privilege of coordinating a very competent multidisciplinary team in the development of the Coastal Wetland Response Model for the Canadian Great Lakes.

Plenary 2

Dealing with a flood of data by modeling the ecosystem response to water regulation in Canada’s large water bodies.

For more than 25 years, the Hydrodynamics and Ecohydraulic section from National Hydrological Services (ECCC) has developed the Integrated Social, Economic and Environmental (ISEE) system, an integrated modelling framework for large water bodies. This approach integrates models from different disciplines to support a comprehensive assessment of complex natural resource management, using a consistent methodology across the social, economic, and environmental components. The ISEE system, used in more than a dozen of water bodies, links physical and biological data with mathematical models (DEM, hydrodynamic, wetland succession models and more) to simulate the impact of various water management decisions. The simulations of all models are integrated in a geo-referenced database and combined with geospatial information (land use, building footprints, etc.). Then, via a collection of open-source Python scripts, ISEE system provides performance indicators, that help to evaluate natural resource management scenarios over long time series, which account for the long-term hydrological variability.  Although it offers a valuable tool for the sustainable management of large water bodies, integrated modelling presents a number of challenges, including the physical complexity of large water bodies, the difficulty of collecting data and developing accurate and robust models, and the creation of harmonious partnerships between experts from different backgrounds and jurisdictions. Integrated approaches such as the ISEE modelling system can however help to better manage water resources, protect natural habitats and species at risk, and even reduce flood risks by improving floodplain management.

Carole-Anne Gillis, Research Director, Gespe’gewa’gi Institute of Natural Understanding (GINU)

Dr. Gillis is a fisheries research biologist and freshwater ecologist with 18 years of experience in freshwater and coastal ecosystems, mainly in the Restigouche River watershed. She is also the Restigouche River Science Advisory Committee Chair and the Atlantic Salmon Research Joint Venture Science Committee Co-Chair.

In 2018, she took on the role of Research Director at the GINU where she leads and manages various community-driven research projects and fish habitat restoration efforts in Gespe’gewa’gi with her multidisciplinary team.

She will present best practices, research tenets, challenges, and benefits regarding true collaborative research. By building relationships with community, adapted management is rooted in participatory research that leads to relevancy, rapid action, and implementation.

Plenary 3

A Western Scientist in Gespe’gewa’gi – An unlearning journey

As a Western scientist working in the aquatic sciences in the district of Gespe’gewa’gi, I unknowingly embarked on a transformative journey of unlearning and relearning through Two-Eyed Seeing. This approach, which braids Indigenous knowledge with western science, is critical in addressing my unconscious biases rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery and Epistemic racism, two pillars that continue to marginalize Indigenous perspectives within the scientific community. Over the last decade, working at the Gespe’gewa’gi Institute of Natural Understanding (GINU), I have strived to embrace a true collaborative spirit, acknowledging the rich, yet often undervalued, contributions of Indigenous knowledge to environmental science. Our work is driven by community concerns, such as the pressing issues of climate change, habitat fragmentation, and siltation, with solutions co-created through community engagement and mutual learning. This approach not only enhances the effectiveness of our initiatives but also empowers local decision-making, fostering community resilience. A significant aspect of our restoration work focuses on the ecological importance of aquatic ecosystems. This ongoing journey has not only been about scientific inquiry but also about personal growth and the realization that effective science involves humility, respect, and openness to diverse ways of knowing. By embracing Two-Eyed Seeing, a more inclusive and sustainable scientific practice that truly serves both the ecological and cultural health of Gespe’gewa’gi can be attained. This experience underscores the importance of co-creating knowledge that is not only scientifically robust but also culturally congruent and directly beneficial to the communities involved. Best practices, recommendations and calls to action will hopefully inspire the audience to embark on their own unlearning journey.

Theodore R. Castro-Santos, Research Ecologist, S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Castro-Santos leads the Fish Passage Design and Analysis Team focusing on issues of fish passage and aquatic connectivity. He has pioneered the use of telemetry in the study of animal movement, including both technological development and developing methods for quantifying movement and behavior, particularly in the context of barrier passage. His team also studies fundamentals of locomotion such as swimming performance and kinematics. His work is integrative, combining physiology, hydraulics, and behavior, seeking to identify and address knowledge gaps in ways that will lead to improved design of fishways and the control of invasive species.

He is also one of the founders of the Fish Passage conference, and has been working with the American Fisheries Society Bioengineering Section and the Fish Passage conference steering committee over the last ten years, bringing together the fisheries biologists and bioengineers.

Plenary 4

Shadowboxing the Anthropocene: the emergent, divergent, and evolving challenges of fish passage

Habitat connectivity is fundamental to the ecology of freshwater ecosystems, and these systems themselves have deep connections with the evolution of human civilizations.  Barriers have been built for thousands of years in support of power, irrigation, and other infrastructure, and concerns over their effects on migratory fishes are equally ancient.  Engineers have sought to design technical solutions to fish passage for at least three centuries, with increasingly sophisticated integration of biology and hydraulic techniques being brought to bear since 1900.  Despite these efforts, passage performance at fishways remains stubbornly poor at most locations.  Specific reasons for this are largely a matter of speculation, a fact that points to persistent flaws in our approach, as well as to potential solutions.  Quantitative methods have lagged behind technological developments that allow unprecedented detail on movements and behaviors as well as hydraulic conditions; but recent developments that allow for objective measures of motivation, endurance, and other properties show promise for disentangling the various causes that limit passage success.  While encouraging, these advances are occurring in the context of increasing threats from invasive species, and the need to develop solutions must now contend with the need to exclude invasives from pristine habitats.  Fortunately, the solutions to both can be predicted from movement theory, and reducing this theory to practice is a challenge we will have to contend with for the foreseeable future.