Fish Passage and Ecohydraulics Research Group
Montana State University
Matt Blank, PhD, PE
Assistant Research Professor, Civil Engineering Department
Research Scientist, Western Transportation Institute
Dr. Blank holds a B.S. (University of Wisconsin, ’94) in geological engineering, and a M.S. (MSU ’02) and Ph.D. (MSU ’08) in civil engineering. He has over 20 years of experience conducting both academic studies and consulting activities on water resource issues. He is currently a research scientist and assistant research professor at the Western Transportation Institute and the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University, and does water resource consulting with Restoration Engineering, LLC, a private consulting firm. He is co-principal investigator of a fish passage and swimming research facility formed through a partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and has been investigating fish passage and aquatic connectivity issues for over a decade. He teaches applied fluid mechanics and engineering hydraulics at MSU. Through both research and consulting activities, Dr. Blank has been involved with the assessment, design, or review of hundreds of hydraulic structures in rivers and streams across the country and in Canada. This work spans the range of structures from small culverts on gravel roads, to irrigation diversions, to large hydropower dams on major rivers such as Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River in Idaho, and Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland.
Joel Cahoon, PhD, PE
Professor, Civil Engineering Department
Dr. Cahoon holds B.S. (NMSU ‘85), M.S. (MSU ’87), and Ph.D. (Arkansas ’89) degrees in agricultural engineering. He began his academic career at the University of Nebraska as a tenure-track professor in 1990 with a research and cooperative extension appointment. Dr. Cahoon joined the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University in 1995, tasked with teaching and studying all facets of water resources engineering. He teaches fluid mechanics, hydraulics, open channel hydraulics, closed conduit hydraulics, and graduate courses dealing with hydraulics. Professor Cahoon has found research applications of his studies in broad ranging settings, including on-farm water management, river restoration, and the interactions between hydraulics and fish habitat and mobility. In 20 years at MSU, Dr. Cahoon has mentored more than 50 graduate students and has served as academic advisor to over 200 undergraduates. Dr. Cahoon has had various administrative appointments at MSU including Interim Department Head of Civil Engineering, Associate Director of University Honors, and Program Coordinator of Civil Engineering.
Tom McMahon, PhD
Dr. McMahon has been a professor of fisheries at MSU since 1990. Previously he was an assistant professor conducting research and extension in fish-forestry interactions with the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, as a visiting postdoctoral salmon habitat researcher with the Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans in British Columbia, and as a fisheries biologist with the USFWS habitat evaluation program in Colorado. At MSU, he teaches courses in fish ecology and management from the freshman to graduate level, and has been the major professor on 31 graduate student projects, including 4 fish passage projects. Dr. Cahoon, Dr. Blank, and he have been working jointly on fish passage research projects for the past 15 years.
Katey Plymesser, PhD, PE
Dr. Plymesser hold a B.S. (Case Western Reserve University ’01) and Ph.D. (MSU ’14) degrees in Civil Engineering. She began her academic career at Montana State University – Billings with a teaching and research tenure-track appointment. Dr. Plymesser joined the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University in 2016. Her research is focused in ecohydraulics and fish passage with a particular fondness for the application of hydraulic and fluid dynamic models to answer research questions in natural settings. She has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) both in Bozeman and at the Region 5 Headquarters in Amherst, MA on fish passage research projects and practical applications and assessments that culminated in the creation of a passage model for American shad in Steeppass (modified Denil) fishways. Her work has been financially supported by the DOE through the Hydro Research Foundation and the USFWS. Dr. Plymesser currently teaches Engineering Mechanics, Statics and Fluid Dynamics. She has been engaging both undergraduate and graduate students in research since she began her own graduate work in 2008. Through her work with the Montana State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders she has been active in promoting student engagement and involvement.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Research Fishery Biologist, Bozeman Fish Technology Center
Kevin Kappenman is a Research Biologist for the USFWS and will serve as co- investigator and the primary point of contact for the USFWS. He will be responsible for coordinating the use of BFTC physical resources and staff involved in the project, the BFTC budget, and will assist with design of the flume, infrastructure retrofitting process of Denil ladders, review of fish collection permits, health testing requirements, transportation, holding methods, and fish swimming experiments. He is a fishery professional with nearly 30 years of research experience and has published numerous peer reviewed articles and reports. In his position with the USFWS (11 years) his focus is on restoration efforts for sensitive, threatened, and endangered species. He has been involved in a variety of projects promoting native fish passage on small streams and rivers in Montana and as a Research Biologist for the USGS and Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission where he addressed passage concerns on mainstem dams in the Columbia River Basin including work with salmonids, lamprey, and sturgeon.
Bill Rice, PE
Fish Passage Coordinator, Regional Office, Lakewood, CO
Bill Rice is a Fish Passage Engineer for the USFWS and also the regional coordinator for the National Fish Passage Program. He has over 20 years of experience on water resources issues and specializes in assessing, designing and installing fish passage and stream restoration projects. Mr. Rice has designed or been involved as the expert reviewer on hundreds of structures across the country from Alaska, across the West to the East Coast. He has a B.S. (Colorado School of Mines, ’91) in geological engineering and M.S. (Colorado State University, ’98) in watershed science. His work has spanned a range of structures from culverts and bridges to irrigation diversions, rocky ramps and dams.
Tyler is from Boise, Idaho and recently completed his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering at Montana State University. Tyler will be working on a study to assess the efficacy of flow restriction devices for Denil fishways for Arctic Grayling passge. He is also the Teaching Assistant for the Undergraduate Hydraulics Lab.
Research Committee: Katey Plymesser, Matt Blank, Joel Cahoon, Kevin Kappenman
Tom is from Strafford, New Hampshire and graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. He decided to go back to school after working at a private civil engineering consulting firm in New Hampshire for three years. He is also a Teaching Assistant in the Engineering Mechanics Help Lab.
Research Committee: Katey Plymesser, Matt Blank, Joel Cahoon
Brad is from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and recently completed his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at Montana State University. Brad will be working on developing CFD models of a Denil fishway to aid in the analysis of the Arctic grayling passage work being undertaken at the BFTC and in the Big Hole watershed. He is also the Teaching Assistant for Undergraduate Fluid Mechanics class.
Research Committee: Katey Plymesser, Lindsey Albertson, Joel Cahoon, Erick Johnson
Heather is from Littleton, Colorado and recently completed her Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering at Montana State University. Heather is currently working on a study to assess the efficacy of flow restriction devices for Denil fishway for Arctic Grayling Passage. She is also a Teaching Assistant in the Engineering Mechanics Help Lab.
Research Committee: Katey Plymesser, Ryan Anderson, Ellen Lauchnor
Nolan is from Boulder, Colorado and recently completed his Bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering from Colorado State University. Nolan is working on a study is to evaluate the use and effectiveness of Denil structures installed in existing irrigation diversions throughout the Big Hole watershed. Nolan and Ben Triano will form the multi-disciplinary student team working on this project.
Research Committee: Katey Plymesser, Matt Blank, Joel Cahoon, Kevin Kappenman
Ben grew up fishing and exploring the coast and local estuaries of New Jersey. He has an undergraduate degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara. His main research interest is working toward better conservation and management of native fish species in the face of increasing anthropogenic impacts, climate change, and ecological interactions. Other general research interests include salmonid ecology and life history, fish passage, and habitat connectivity. Ben is pursuing a master’s degree in Ecology, and will be working with Arctic Grayling on the Big Hole River along with engineering graduate student Nolan Platt.
Research Committee: Tom McMahon, Matt Blank, Kevin Kappenman, Al Zale
Haley is from Auburn, California and graduated from Oregon State University in 2016 with a degree in Ecological Engineering. After working at varying government and public water agencies the past few years, she decided to head back to school to further explore her passion for river restoration and design. Haley will be working as a Research Assistant to Dr. Katey Plymesser.
Research Committee: TBD
Meagan is a freshman from Helena, MT studying Civil Engineering Bio-Resources option. Meagan is part of the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) which provides her a stipend to participate in research activities. She is currently assisting Heather Nold with the flow control plate designs for application and use in the Big Hole river watershed.
Shannon is an undergraduate student from Evergreen Colorado studying Civil Engineering, Bio-Resources option. She is working on a USP funded project with Nolan Platt investigating the validity of the midsection method when measuring discharge through a Denil fishway. She is hoping to work on additional hydraulic based projects in the future.