Land & Environment

USU: A Top School of Fish

An emerging standard for measuring graduate school faculty members’ productivity in United States universities ranks Utah State University’s doctoral program in fisheries science and management among the top in the nation.

USU tied with the University of Montana at Missoula for the third place position behind number one University of Washington and number two-ranked University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in the recently released Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index.
“Our faculty members have been extremely productive at competing for research funding,” says Chris Luecke, head of USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences or “WATS,” which administers the doctoral program. “This funding allows us to attract outstanding graduate students and enables us to work collaboratively with some of the best aquatic research groups in the world. Our faculty and students publish results of their research in top academic journals.”
WATS’ doctoral program, in the College of Natural Resources, offers integrative study in hydrologic sciences, aquatic ecology and remote sensing. Collaborating extensively with entities on and off campus, the department is an integral part of the USU Water Initiative, a university-wide consortium that fosters interdisciplinary research. The initiative offers a Water Fellows program to encourage students to take advantage of diverse study and research opportunities throughout the university.
“I chose USU because of its reputation, the caliber of the faculty and the research opportunities it offered in my areas of interest,” says WATS doctoral student Susannah Erwin. “I’ve really enjoyed the diverse community and the collaboration that goes on here.”
Three federal research groups, the Utah Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit, the National Aquatic Monitoring Center and the Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, are all housed within WATS. USU faculty and student researchers’ collaboration with federal groups propels them to the front line of conservation efforts throughout the American West. Their work impacts critical and imperiled ecosystems, including the Great Salt Lake, the Colorado River and the Bear River Watershed.
WATS’ Water Quality Extension Team works closely with regional public agencies to help communities comply with environmental regulations. Among its activities is recruitment and training of Utah Lake Watch volunteers. The team also shapes K-12 educational systems through teacher training and curriculum development. Team members received special commendation from former Utah Governor Olene Walker in 2004 for their development of “Streamside Science,” a watershed science curriculum adopted for all 9th grade students in the state.
In its research efforts, the water quality team has implemented a series of water quality monitoring stations in the Bear River Watershed, which covers some 7,500 square miles of mountain and valley lands straddling the states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Real-time information from these stations is displayed on the research program’s Web site – – that is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In addition, WATS is home to the Western Center for Assessment and Monitoring of Freshwater Ecosystems, which develops and implements scientific methods for monitoring and assessing the condition of the nation’s aquatic resources. Techniques developed by the center were adopted by the EPA in its quest to enforce the nation’s Clean Water Act.
WATS also houses the Intermountain Center for River Rehabilitation and Restoration, which focuses on education, research and public outreach to restore and ensure the health of western rivers. ICRRR researchers partner with federal managers in projects involving major river systems, including the Colorado River, the Snake River and other western riverine systems.
Developed by Academic Analytics, the FSP Index ranks 7,294 individual doctoral programs in 104 disciplines at 354 institutions. The institutions are categorized as large research universities – those with 15 or more doctoral programs – and small research universities. USU falls in the large research university category.
Contact: Chris Luecke, 435-797-2463,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,
April 2008

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From left, students Eriek Hansen, Zack Evertsen and Sara Seidel

Utah State University's fisheries science and management program ranks among the top in the nation. From left, students Eriek Hansen, Zack Evertsen and Sara Seidel use electrofishing to collect samples from Spawn Creek in Utah’s Logan Canyon.


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