Montana State University 

photo of Matt Blank

Matt Blank, PhD, PE

Assistant Research Professor, Civil Engineering Department

Research Scientist, Western Transportation Institute

mblank@montana.edu

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.  

Photo of Joel Cahoon

Joel Cahoon, PhD, PE

Professor, Civil Engineering Department

joelc@montana.edu

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.

photo of tom mcmahon

Tom McMahon, PhD

Professor, Department of Ecology

tmcmahon@montana.edu

Faculty Website

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.

photo of katey plymesser

Katey Plymesser, PhD, PE

Assistant Professor, Civil Engineering Department

kathryn.plymesser@montana.edu

Faculty Website

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

Photo  of Kevin Kappenman

Kevin Kappenman

Research Fishery Biologist, Bozeman Fish Technology Center

kevin_kappenman@fws.gov

Bozeman Fish Technology Center Website

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.

Photo of Bill Rice

Bill Rice, PE

Fish Passage Coordinator, Regional Office, Lakewood, CO

william_rice@fws.gov

National Fish Passage Program, Mountain-Prairie Region Website

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.

Photo of Erin Ryan

Erin Ryan

Engineering Technician, Bozeman Fish Technology Center

erin_ryan@fws.gov

Erin Ryan holds a B.S. (Montana State University, ‘13) and M.S. (Colorado State University, ‘15) in Civil Engineering, emphasizing in ecohydraulics and stream restoration. During her undergraduate career, Ms. Ryan was involved in pilot studies for volitional swimming performance trials in an open-channel flume to inform fish passage design. Her graduate work was focused on using computational fluid dynamics in a novel approach to assess the effects of instream structures on upstream fish movement. She is currently an engineering technician with the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center. In her current position, she conducts research focused on habitat connectivity for aquatic species by evaluating the swimming performance of various fishes and the efficacy of passage structures. Ms. Ryan is also involved in the assessment of existing fishways or fishway concepts and the design/retrofit of hydraulic structures to meet both flow conveyance and fish passage needs throughout the western United States.

Graduate Students

Photo of Tyler Blue

Tyler Blue

Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

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.

Graduate Advisor: Dr. Katey Plymesser

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Brad Hoefer

Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

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. 

Graduate Advisor: Dr. Joel Cahoon

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Heather Nold

Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

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.

Graduate Advisor: Dr. Katey Plymesser

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Nolan Platt

Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

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.

Graduate Advisor: Dr. Katey Plymesser

Photo of Ben Triano

Ben Triano

Graduate Student, Department of Ecology

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. 

Graduate Advisor: Dr. Tom McMahon

Undergraduate Students

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Audrey Jones

Undergraduate, Civil Engineering (BREN Option)

Audrey spent her early years in Sonoma County, California before escaping to Whitefish, Montana.  She started her engineering studies in the 2+2 program at Flathead Valley CC in Kalispell and will finish the Bio-Resources option of Civil Engineering at MSU in May 2018.  While at Flathead, Audrey worked with David Long and Jim Boger on research projects dealing with water quality.  She has since worked with Erin Ryan and Kevin Kappenman at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center on a project to measure the swimming capabilities of Arctic grayling.  Upon graduation, Audrey hopes to work on the rehabilitation of natural systems as a consulting engineer, with her sights set on the Flathead area or maybe the Pacific Northwest. 

Research Advisor: Dr. Joel Cahoon

Photo of Meaghan Key

Meagan Key

Undergraduate, Civil Engineering (BREN Option)

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.  

Research Advisor: Dr. Katey Plymesser