Tag: Casey Huckins

Casey Huckins Rises as the Chair of Biological Sciences

Dr. Casey Huckins is the new chair of the Biological Sciences Department. He served as interim chair since July 1, taking over from long-time chair and now professor emeritus Chandrashekhar Joshi.

Casey Huckins
Casey Huckins

“I am excited to continue leading such an outstanding department with its excellence in research, teaching, and service,” said Huckins. “Four of our faculty have been Distinguished Teaching Award winners in recent years and others have been nominated. Our faculty and staff are recognized and awarded for their service, and our students are inspiring. The department is at the forefront of basic and applied research, with over $2.27 million of research expenditures last year. This funding covers the broad array of faculty expertise in biology including biochemistry and molecular biology, ecology and evolution, environmental science, and health sciences. This research seeks better ways to treat cancer and improve health, understand, and restore populations and ecosystems, decipher genetic influences, and reduce plastic waste, among others.”

As a professor of biological sciences, Huckins’s main research interests include ecology and restoration of aquatic populations and ecosystems including lakes, streams, and the riparian ecosystems that connect them. He tends to focus on ecological patterns and processes in systems influenced by human actions and he applies the learned scientific understanding to inform their restoration and conservation. Projects examine the ecology and restoration of migratory coaster brook trout, and the reciprocal interplay and exchange between restoration and the advancement of scientific understanding. The goal is to increase understanding of the biology, ecology, and natural history of the organisms and systems of interest for their continued sustainability.

Congratulations Dr. Huckins! We are pleased to have you leading the Biological Sciences Department.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Saving the Brook Trout by Restoring their Spawning Habitat

Professor Casey Huckins has been studying the ecology of coaster brook trout for nearly 20 years. He started out investigating these migratory fish’s population ecology and life history. His research now focuses on analyzing the movement patterns of coaster brook trout due to human impact on the watershed. He is also focusing on ways to restore them and the habitat they need to spawn. Recently, with funding from the Michigan Departments of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the Department of Natural Resources, his lab has been actively restoring its critical habitat. “Human actions have turned these iconic heritage species of Lake Superior into a conservation concern by overharvesting them and disturbing their habitat,” Huckins explains.

Casey using a tool in a stream
Casey Huckins working in the field

His team is actively studying the two coaster brook trout populations still known to exist along the south-central shore of Lake Superior.

These migratory coaster brook trout live in Lake Superior. However, they return to their rivers of origin to breed in the same spots where they were spawned. Due to disturbances in the watersheds, like logging and road use, the spawning habitat of these creatures has been buried. This has altered the critical dynamic of erosion and sedimentation, leading to a buildup of fine sand. The sand present here is responsible for covering larger sediment particles like cobbles and pebbles. Cobbles are small rocks that have been rounded by water flow. These pebbles serve as the spawning habitat and also as the home for the brook trout’s food and aquatic insects.

With his recent state funding, Huckins says his goal is to restore the critical spawning habitat. He will do this by removing excess sand and studying the impacts on the habitat and the brook trout population. His team has installed in-stream sand collectors that passively collect sand as it flows over them. The researchers then routinely operate pumps to move the sand out of the floodplain.

Huckins’ team is now investigating whether the community of stream insects that are key food items for the brook trout also increases in abundance, diversity, and community structure. He hopes to see a site with natural, free-flowing cobble-based cold-water habitat. Huckins found this at the site when he started studying it with his graduate students nearly two decades ago.

Brook trout
Brook Trout

His next goal is to acquire additional funding to automate the sand collectors to operate independently. Huckins’ goal is to eliminate the need for researchers to manually pump sand at the site, saving them time and fuel expenses. The team is currently expanding their efforts to implement this system in various streams and rivers. Their equipment is being utilized to rehabilitate other waterways that have suffered from erosion due to flooding, land use, or other factors that cause sand to flow downstream. As our climate changes, we expect to see more extreme events that will have outcomes we need to address to restore and maintain these critical aquatic ecosystems.

This blog post initially appeared in the Fall 2022 Biological Sciences Newsletter. Read this article and others like it today.