Palmetto Green Fellow
Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department
Office: Lehotsky 118A
Ph.D. Wildlife and Fisheries Resources
West Virginia University 2016
Western Carolina University 2003
Presbyterian College 1999
As a postdoctoral fellow, my research interests are in the area of spatial planning for conservation at various scales. Since completing my doctoral work I have engaged with stakeholders at various spatial scales (e.g., Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Palmetto Green, and Tennessee River Basin) to develop products that inform on the ground conservation efforts. I look forward to continuing to work on projects with these groups and others to aid conservation practitioners in their efforts to spend their valuable resources efficiently. Prior to my postdoctoral fellowship and much of my research interests remain focused on the influence anthropogenic disturbances have on aquatic populations and communities at multiple spatial scales. At the local scale, I have investigated dam and land use influences on downstream fish and aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community structure and crayfish populations. While this local scale project allowed for intensive field sampling of aquatic biota, and in stream and riparian habitat characteristics, large scale regional analyses require data to be â€œcollectedâ€ from a variety of data sources. Biological and habitat/land use data are typically garnered from various state and federal agencies (e.g., EPA, National Land Cover Database). At the regional scale I developed and used various aquatic community metrics to evaluate large scale land use stressors impact on the biological condition of watersheds across the central and southern Appalachians. I am also interested in the spatiotemporal gradient associated with disturbance and what distance/time is required for a population and/or community to reach some reference condition. I believe this spatially nested, diverse taxonomic, and varied quantitative research background provides me a foundation that is well suited for the development of a research program at colleges and universities of various sizes.
Natural and anthropogenic disturbances have and will continue to exist on the landscape. Natural disturbances create opportunities for understanding how ecosystems respond in a spatiotemporal fashion to disturbance and may act as comparison points for anthropogenic disturbances, thereby giving appropriate expectations for mitigation and restoration efforts. As the Serial Discontinuity Concept states, dams are an obvious anthropogenic disturbance on the riverine landscape (i.e., riverscape) and I intend to continue to pursue research opportunities related to this anthropogenic stressor. Presently, many dams are in the relicensing process and some are being removed. This presents another interesting platform for studying the spatiotemporal response of ecosystems as they are returned to their â€œnaturalâ€ state. Understanding how dams affect aquatic resources, how dam influences are similar and dissimilar to natural disturbances, and the spatiotemporal recovery gradients associated with both anthropogenic and natural disturbances will aid in developing sound policy and land use decisions that promote the sustainability of our future aquatic resources. Addressing these issues in a quantitative framework and using the knowledge gained to further develop spatial conservation plans through engagement with practitioners will allow for science based products and decision making.
While dams are a common disturbance of aquatic systems they are not the only disturbance impacting aquatic ecosystems. The terrestrial landscape is in contact with aquatic systems through various hydrological process and therefore human endeavors such as extractive industries, farming and industrial practices, and urbanization also create research opportunities to understand how landscape disturbances are impacting aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. For example, while many invertebrates have aquatic larval stages they may also disperse over land as adults, thereby requiring some level of connectivity across the terrestrial landscape. Disturbance on this landscape can potentially create ecological traps for some species, hinder the dispersal of some, and potentially enhance dispersal of others. I believe this connection between the terrestrial and aquatic landscapes can be rich research grounds for an array of students with different backgrounds and interests.
Fortunately, my research interests can be extended to any location as land use gradients across can be found with relative ease (short drives may be required) on nearly any landscape. It excites me to consider furthering my research interests across both terrestrial and aquatic realms and to potentially new (to me) territories. Additionally, landscape conservation design is continuing to become a trusted and utilized tool to prioritize limited conservation resources and I look forward to developing these types of products, educating stakeholders and students about them, and informing on the ground decisions that are impactful for conservation. I truly look forward to extending my own passion for conservation and environmental sciences to students through research opportunities.
Hanks, R. D. and K. J. Hartman. 2018. Evaluation of the influences of dam release types, land use, and habitat affecting abundance, richness, diversity, and community structure of larval and juvenile fish. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2017-107.
Hanks, R. D., Y. Kanno, and J. M. Rash. 2018. Can single-pass electrofishing replace three-pass depletion for state-wide population trend detection? Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 147:729-739. doi:10.1002/tafs.10061.
Leonard, P. B., R. F. Baldwin, and R. D. Hanks. 2017. Landscape-scale conservation design across biotic realms: sequential integration of aquatic and terrestrial landscapes. Scientific Reports 7 (article 14556). doi:10.103/s41598-017-15304-w
Hanks, D., R. Andrew, and A. Anderson. 2015. West Virginia University graduate students lead citizen science program. Fisheries Magazine 40 (7):302.
Hanks, R. D., P. B. Leonard, and R. F. Baldwin. 2018. Understanding landscape influences on aquatic fauna across the central and southern Appalachians. Preprints. Doi: 10.20944/preprints201809.0499v1.
Hanks, R. D., Baldwin, R. F., Leonard, P. B., G. Bee, and P. Claflin. NatureScape viewer: an online landscape conservation tool for practitioners. Journal of Extension. (Resubmitted for 2nd review)
Hanks, R. D., Y. Kanno, J. M. Rash, and D. W. Goodfred. Development and evaluation of standard weight (Ws) equations for Brook Trout in southern Appalachian streams. North American Journal of Fisheries Management. (In review)
Pregler, K. C., R. D. Hanks, E. Childress, N. P. Hitt, D. J. Hocking, B. H. Letcher, T. Wagner, and Y. Kanno. Hierarchical analysis of power to detect regional brook trout population trends at the southern range. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. (In review)