Research

I am a PhD candidate in Dr. Julian Olden's Freshwater Ecology and Conservation Lab at the University of Washington. For a full list of publications, please see my publication page.

PhD Research

Implications of environmental change for population connectivity and the persistence of dryland amphibians

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

I work with a team of researchers from UW, Oregon State University, and the Department of Defense to better understand how changing climate and human water use will affect aquatic organisms in Arizona. For my PhD, I study how amphibians in the Sky Island mountain ranges of Arizona may be impacted by alterations in the timing, predictability, and distribution of aquatic habitat. I have focused on three target species: Mexican spadefoot (Spea multiplicata), red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus), and the canyon treefrog (Hyla arenicolor). These species span a gradient of water requirements from needing water for longer periods (months - canyon treefrogs) to only a few weeks (Mexican spadefoots).

In collaboration with my team, I took a landscape genetics approach to understanding how the environment and landscape affect population structure of these three species. We found that as water requirements increase from ephemeral to nearly perennial across species, the population structure - or differentiation - increases. We also found that that when considered with topography, aquatic habitat is important for all species but increases in importance for those with higher water requirements. I am currently using simulation approaches to examine how changes in hydroperiod (duration of water availability) will affect amphibians with different water requirements and behaviors.

Read more about our work in our 2012 story in the Sonoran Herpetologist here. And stay tuned for our article out soon in Ecology!


Master's Research

Examining the link between fish life histories and freshwater flows

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Humans have altered freshwater rivers and streams through extensive dam construction across the world, but the specific impacts of dams and flow alteration on freshwater fishes remains unclear. For my Master's research I studied the effects of flow variability on the life history strategies of freshwater fishes by examining how certain life history traits vary relative to natural and altered flow regimes. By considering traits rather than taxonomy of freshwater fishes, we are able to predict which species or communities are put most at risk by flow alteration across geographic regions with few species in common. This research will help us understand how flow alteration impacts the freshwater ecosystems upon which we rely and may help guide management decisions as the human demand for fresh water grows in the coming decades. 

You can listen to my interview on this work in Episode 6 of Making Wavesthe Society of Freshwater Science's Podcast. You can also read more about it in my January 2013 article for the Olden Lab Blog. Finally, go straight to the source and check out our three publications on this work (Mims & Olden 2013, Mims & Olden 2012, and Mims et al. 2010).

During my Master's research, I also participated in a working group through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Our group examined the state of science from experimental water releases from dams worldwide and proposed principles for effective flow experiments.


Undergraduate Research

Molecular ecology of Lake Malawi cichlids

Streelman Lab, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA

My experience with research began as an undergraduate in the Biology Department at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. I worked primarily with Dr. Todd Streelman and Dr. Darrin Hulsey examining multiple aspects of the evolution and ecology of Lake Malawi cichlids. These experiences included studying jaw biomechanical complexity of hundreds of cichlid species. I also helped clear and stain over 400 individual cichlids from museum collections throughout the world. For my senior honors thesis, I examined genetic variation among a wide range of species and populations of two potentially hybridizing species from Lake Malawi in order to examine the relative roles of hybridization and ancestral polymorphisms in the mosaic genomes of Lake Malawi cichlids.

Check out my research page for many publications resulting from this work, including our 2010 paper in Molecular Ecology.


Side-Projects

Invasive aquatic species in the Pacific Northwest

Olden Lab, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

During the summer of 2008, I worked with Dr. Julian Olden and Dr. Eric Larson conducting crayfish surveys for native signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) and invasive crayfish Procambarus clarkii and Orconectes virilis for over 50 lakes in the Puget Sound region of Washington. Also surveyed lakes for the invasive Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis).

Check out the papers from my collaborative efforts related to invasive aquatic species in Washington State, including the impact of Chinese mystery snails on microbial communities and competition between native and invasive crayfish for an introduce prey item.


Other field adventures

Ground-truthing salmon habitat models

EcoTrust, Copper River, Alaska

In 2009 I served as a fish biologist on a crew assembled by EcoTrust to validate an intrinsic potential (IP) model for spawning salmon in the Copper River Basin, Alaska. I helped with fish identification and assisted in collection of geomorphic data on channel confinement, flow velocity, channel gradient, and channel width. We focused on the Klutina and Tonsina Rivers, both tributaries to the Copper River.

Snowshoe hare habitat and abundance

University of Montana, Glacier National Park, MT

I worked as a field technician for one season (2007) of a three-year study funded by the United States National Park Service to examine density of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), the dominant prey for the threatened Canadia lynx (Lynx Canadensis), in Glacier National Park. 

Mars Desert Research Station

Mars Society, Hanksville, UT

I served as the crew biologist and Health and Safety Officer for the Georgia Tech field research team at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. I organized crew’s wilderness outdoor training as well as conducted research on greywater purification, greenhouse systems analysis, and resource management for two-week stay at the research station. 

Monsoon thunderstorm over Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
Monsoon thunderstorm over Fort Huachuca, August 2010.


Two Mexican spadefoots (Spea multiplicata) in an ephemeral pool on Fort Huachuca.


Volunteers for the canyon treefrog survey on Fort Huachuca, May 2012.


Checking a flow sensor in Garden Canyon, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.


Streamflow in Boulder Creek, Washington.
Boulder River, Washington.


Chattahoochee River upstream of Lake Lanier, near Cornelia, Georgia.


Lake Malawi cichlids, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia.


Klutina Lake, Copper River Basin, Alaska.


Floating the Klutina River, Copper River Basin, Alaska.


Trapping signal crayfish on Lake Samish, Washington.


Mike and Matt at work in Glacier National Park, north of Polebridge, Montana.



Mars Desert Research Station in the Utah desert.