Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station
The Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station (ORWFS) was established on January 2, 1991, the last field station added to the Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) element. It is the only field station located on the unimpounded (open) reach of the Upper Mississippi River. Operations began with a permanent staff of three, but by June 1991 six permanent personnel were on board to monitor fish, terrestrial vegetation, and water quality.
Water quality monitoring began in March, fisheries monitoring in June, and vegetation research in September 1991. Terrestrial vegetation research begun in the open river reach developed into the terrestrial vegetation monitoring component for the LTRM. In January 1994, our botanist (Dr. Yao Yin) accepted a position at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) and the terrestrial vegetation component was transferred to Onalaska, Wisconsin. Terrestrial vegetation monitoring and research is still conducted in the open river reach and is coordinated by ORWFS staff.
In 1991, field station staff was assigned to the Fisheries Division under the Management Section and was supervised by a regional supervisor. In 1992, field station supervision was transferred to the Central Office in Jefferson City. Because activities and work conducted by field station staff could be classified as both research and management, much discussion took place over the years as to the appropriate placement of the field station within the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). In 1997, the Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station was assigned to Fisheries Division's Research Section and supervised from Columbia.
The MDC reorganized in 2003 and a new division was created by collapsing the research sections of the management divisions and the Natural History Division into Resource Science Division (RSD). During this time, RSD recognized the importance and value of the field station concept and created several systems field stations (based on ecological systems, e.g. forests, grasslands, big rivers, etc.) within the state of Missouri and modeled after the ORWFS. The ORWFS thus has become a member of two families of field stations, the LTRM for the Upper Mississippi River and the MDC systems field stations. During this time, two new permanent staff was added to the program: a bottomland forest ecologist and a wetlands ecologist (these positions are classified as “scientists” and are funded by the MDC). In addition to these two positions, the field station is staffed by a floodplain and systems ecologist, a large river ecologist, a staff scientist, and two science assistants, the latter two positions are funded by the LTRM.
Current staff includes the Field Station Supervisor, David Herzog who began his career as the field station’s LTRM Fisheries Component specialist and then crew leader. He also administers Missouri’s commercial fishing program. Mr. Herzog has a Master’s of Natural Science degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Dr. Quinton E. Phelps joined the Missouri Department of Conservation as Systems Ecologist in 2010. He received a B.S. and M.S. in wildlife and fisheries sciences from South Dakota State University in 2003 and 2006, respectively. Quinton earned his Ph.D. degree in Zoology with a specialization in fisheries science from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2011. Quinton’s research focuses on basic and applied research to answer important management questions. Specifically, his research has focused on natural resource ecology with primary interests in population dynamics, animal movement patterns, life history attributes, trophic ecology, and stable isotope technology. Ultimately, Quinton’s research will focus on merging ecological theory across disciplines (e.g., forestry, fisheries, wildlife) to thoroughly understand large river ecosystem dynamics on broad spatiotemporal scales.
Dr. Dawn Henderson, Missouri Department of Conservation Bottomland Forest Ecologist received her Ph.D. in Forest Resources and Conservation from University of Florida (SFRC), Gainesville, Florida. She received both her M.Sc. and B.S. from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Her research experiences include: bottomland forest seedling responses to flooding and varying light levels; tree ring analysis to detect flood patterns; photosynthesis, productivity, growth-, light-, and nutrient-use efficiencies of bottomland forest species; developing floodplain indicators for bottomland forests for the purpose of identifying metrics with general applicability; bottomland forest responses to silvicultural treatments; inter-planting hardwood species within bottomland early successional forests, forest regeneration following major flood events; underplanting hardwood species in cottonwood plantations, determining light level requirements for natural bottomland hardwood regeneration using herbicide application for mid-canopy thinning, and the relationship between groundwater levels and quality to bottomland forest community restoration. Collaborative efforts include: MDC, USGS-UMESC, University of Missouri-Columbia, NRCS, SIU-C, and The Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research and North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service.
Frank Nelson is a Wetland Ecologist and has a Masters of Fish and Wildlife Sciences degree from University of Missouri-Columbia and a Bachelor’s degree from William Jewell College. Frank works closely with wetland and waterfowl biologists across the state. His focus is utilizing research and technology to enhance wetland management and wetland restoration.
The Staff Scientist is Dave Ostendorf, who has worked in various capacities for the LTRM at the field station and works statewide on many large river issues. Mr. Ostendorf, who curates a large image collection for the field station (especially Missouri fishes), has a Bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University.
LTRM Fisheries and Water Quality component leaders are Mr. Joe Ridings and Mr. Jason Crites, respectively. Mr. Ridings and Mr. Crites both have Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and they supervise 3-5 temporary (hourly) employees during principal sampling times. In addition to long-term fish community monitoring, Mr. Ridings’ research interests include the biology of large river fishes, especially the sturgeons and paddlefish. Mr. Crites’ research emphasis includes both long-term water quality and fish community monitoring.
Open Rivers and Wetlands staff is currently supervised by Dr. Rochelle Renken from the Resource Science Division in Jefferson City.
The Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station is located just off Interstate 55 between Cape Girardeau and Jackson on U.S. Highway 61. The facility is conveniently located with easy access to the Interstate. Boat access within the LTRM study reach can usually be attained in less than one hour.
The facility in Jackson consists of office space and a storage building. Both structures are leased. The main building is an older but well-maintained brick home. It has five offices, a conference room, large storage areas, laboratory, and kitchen. One area of the house is dedicated to the computer network, communications, and common use computers. Each office and the laboratory have a computer workstation. The storage building is a pole and frame structure with metal siding and two bay doors. It consists of a heated chemical storage room, a mouse-proof net room, workshop, and boat and field equipment bays. The floor is concrete and all drives are graveled. Although this location has served the field station well, the program has grown considerably and there is a need for an updated and larger facility. To that end, the ORWFS is partnering with Southeast Missouri State University of build a new facility and develop a technological park focusing on ecosystem services of large rivers and floodplains.
Field Station staff is involved in a variety of activities encompassing research, management, planning, and education programs. The primary responsibility of ORWFS staff is to carry out the conservation mission of the Missouri Department of Conservation relative to the state’s large rivers, including the contractual obligation with the LTRM. Under this contract, field station staff collects fish, invertebrate, vegetation, water quality, and wildlife data along a 50-mile stretch of the Middle Mississippi River, approximately 25 miles north and south of Cape Girardeau. Since 2003, the responsibilities of the ORWFS have become statewide, thus field station staff conduct monitoring and research projects on all of Missouri’s large rivers and in all regions of the state.
The ORWFS program has maintained strong ties to area universities. To date, eight persons have earned Master's degrees through research conducted at the field station. Open Rivers and Wetlands staff are encouraged to report and disseminate information. As a result, field station staff has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles, and have published reports in the LTRM and MDC report series, and in several publications and reports by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The location of the field station at the lower end of the Upper Mississippi River and the upper end of the Lower Mississippi River is important because data collected and information provided by field station staff are useful to both upper and lower river biologists. As a result of this networking, the Open Rivers and Wetlands Field Station continues to garner strong support by Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, university, and Corps of Engineers personnel in several disciplines.
David Herzog, Field Station Team Leader
Missouri Department of Conservation