With more than 27,000 species, fishes are the dominant group of vertebrates on the planet. They have almost every type of life history and adaptation that you could imagine, making them extremely interesting to study. My research focuses on how people impact fish population dynamics through habitat alteration, harvest, and introductions. Typically, my studies have some applied aspect and use classic fisheries stock assessment methods.

Most of my lab’s current research is investigating fish populations and communities in flowing water (lotic) systems. We are currently investigating several questions regarding how fish respond to anthropogenic impacts. The current funded projects that we have are:

  • Demographics, habitat use, and movement of commercially important species in the Wabash River. In this project we are assessing the demographics and sustainability of flathead and blue catfish as well as the shovelnose sturgeon using classic fisheries techniques. Additionally, we are using ultrasonic telemetry to assess the habitat use, range, and movement of flathead catfish. These data will be used to help fisheries biologists develop effective management recommendations for these large river species.
  • Impact of Restoration on Fishes, Macroinvertebrates, and Physical Habitat in Kickapoo Creek near Charleston, IL. Although millions of dollars are spent annually on the restoration of stream habitats, relatively few (< 10%) of these projects have a biotic assessment associated with them. We are conducting a long-term assessment of how fish and macroinvertebrate assemblages change due to restoration.
  • Impact of Dam Removal on the Fish and Macroinvertebrate Community Assemblage in the Vermillion River. Many of the low head dams in the US are proving dangerous to recreational users, such that more and more of these dams are being removed every year. Although the amount of dams removed annually is increasing less than 5% have a biotic assessment associated with them. We have just begun a project assessing the fish assemblages above and below two dams slated for removal. This project will continue to sample these communities both during and after dam removal.
  • Reproductive ability of Silver Carp in Tributaries of the Illinois River. The invasive silver carp is one of the most abundant species of fish in the Illinois River and they are threatening to invade the Great Lakes. Silver carp need flowing water to successfully hatch from egg; however, little research has assessed how large the system needs to be for recruitment. We are beginning a study assessing spawning and recruitment in several tributaries of the Illinois to assess size of tributary needed for carp to complete their life history. These data will allow biologists to determine possible locations of silver carp recruitment should they make it to Lake Michigan.
  • Larval and Small Bodied Fish Communities of the Wabash River. The early life history of fishes is one of the least understood aspects of fish biology; however, most of the mortality occurs and recruitment is set during this stage. We are beginning a study to assess the early life stages of fishes in the Wabash River. We are using a multi-gear approach to track fishes during their first year of life to hopefully develop an index of recruitment for lotic species.
  • Effect of Wastewater Effluent on the Fishes, Macroinvertebrates, Mussels, and Water Quality. Wastewater from sewage treatment plants is inevitable; however, how the biota respond is not. We have been assessing the change in community assemblages above and below a sewage effluent to determine how different respond to this type of point source pollution.

When not at EIU you can find me making Italian food with my wife, playing with my beagles (Lucy and Jerry Garcia), Listening to the Grateful Dead or Widespread Panic, Brewing Beer, Playing my Guitar, or stalking trout with my fly rod. If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in fisheries or aquatic ecology I am always looking for good students, so go ahead and drop me a line.  

That's me!!!


Dr. Robert E. Colombo
Eastern Illinois University
Department of Biological Sciences
600 Lincoln Ave
Charleston IL, 61920-3099

Office: 217.581.3011
Email: recolombo@eiu.edu

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