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08-09-2012

Clarkson University Researcher's Award-winning Paper Studies River Ice & Winter Fish Habitats

Clarkson University research associate Ian M. Knack traveled to Dalian, China, this summer, where he was awarded the Best Student Paper Award at the 21st International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) International Symposium on Ice.

Ian Knack and his adviser, Civil & Environmental Engineering Prof. Hung Tao Shen.His paper, “River Ice Modeling for Fish Habitat Analysis,” was part of his Ph.D. thesis. Knack was accompanied by his adviser, Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Hung Tao Shen. Knack graduated from Clarkson this year and is continuing as a research associate in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

“My work at Clarkson lately has been on improving the way we analyze stream channel dynamics and fish habitat during the winter," says Knack. "This is important because there is a lot of attention being paid to what effects humans have on aquatic life when we build structures in rivers, or change the natural flow conditions with dams. Despite all of this attention, the focus has been on the warmer months, even though the winter can be a very important period for fish survival.”

His professor also underscores that point. “Few people are looking at this problem, but we realize more and more that we need to look into it," says Shen. "There is a lot of ecological activity during winter. Clarkson has a very strong group on ice research, and hosted two international conferences on ice here. We have been active on river ice research mainly because of interest on the impacts of ice on rivers in the northern United States, from the Ohio River northward, including the Great Lakes Connecting Channels. We collaborate with many international researchers.”

This research is especially informative because it uses a computer model that can determine water, ice, sediment, and bed conditions in a river. Knack’s paper in the IAHR symposium was about the model that shows how fish habitats change due to the seasons or due to physical changes to the river. His paper was one of 33 student papers presented at the symposium.

“My hope is that the model will be used to help inform decisions regarding man-made changes to rivers and how they might affect the aquatic life that depend on it,” says Knack.

With last winter’s warm temperatures and low snowfall, the study of river ice may seem to be irrelevant, but it is not.

“The threat of changing climate means that we look at more extreme winters, warmer and colder, as well as wetter and drier, than historical winters,” says Knack. “Depending on the river and the species of fish, winters that are different than a ‘typical’ winter can have a large impact on their chances of survival and the area available to them to live during the winter. These factors will likely be more important to designers and planners in the future.”

“We’re not saying change is bad or good, just that in winter the river behaves differently than in summer," says Shen. "We need to understand that better. Every river has its own characteristics, but we are looking at the fundamentals with our computer models.”

This ice symposia series is held every other year with participants from countries around the world including Russia, Norway, Finland, Germany, Canada, the United States, Japan, China, and New Zealand. Singapore is scheduled to be the next host in 2014.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/iknack-hshen.jpg .]

Photo caption: Clarkson University research associate Ian M. Knack was awarded the Best Student Paper Award at the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) International Symposium on Ice. Left to right: Knack and his adviser, Civil & Environmental Engineering Prof. Hung Tao Shen.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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