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The role of environmental processes in structuring the distribution of Chinook salmon spawning and rearing habitats across a large Alaska river basin

Brock Huntsman measures physical habitat on the Chena River, Alaska


June 2013 - June 2018


Chinook salmon are an important commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishery resource in Alaska. Substantial declines in escapement from many Alaskan watersheds in recent years have resulted in closures of Chinook salmon fishing in more imperiled drainages, such as the Chena River, Alaska. Physical processes such as hydrology and stream temperature are important mechanisms that influence fish populations, yet their dynamics are poorly understood in boreal stream ecosystems. This project was a collaboration between the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. We developed spatially continuous metrics that describe historic, current, and future physical habitat, hydrologic and temperature regimes within the Chena River basin, a predictive model of stream thermal regimes used to investigate riverscape-scale patterns in juvenile salmon bioenergetic performance, and an assessment of environmental and density-dependent factors influencing juvenile and adult Chinook salmon population dynamics and distributions. Our results will assist with conservation and management planning through identification and prioritization of critical spawning and rearing areas, and ultimately help identify mechanisms limiting Chinook salmon productivity within the Chena watershed.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Huntsman, B.M., Falke, J.A., Savereide, J.W., and K.E. Bennett. 2017. The role of density-dependent and –independent processes in spawning habitat selection by salmon in an Arctic boreal stream network. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177467.
  • Huntsman, B.M., and J.A. Falke. In press. Main stem and off-channel habitat use by juvenile Chinook salmon in a sub-Arctic riverscape. Freshwater Biology. 64: 433-446. DOI: 10.1111/fwb.13232.


  • Falke, J.A., Benda, L., and F. J. Adams. 2013. Chena River basin landscape-scale freshwater physical habitat studies. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Fairbanks, AK, 7-11 October 2013.
  • Falke, J.A., Martin, A. N., and B. M. Huntsman. 2014. Chena River basin juvenile Chinook salmon and physical habitat studies (2013-2016). Yukon Basin Interagency Fisheries Meeting. April 18, 2014. Fairbanks, AK.
  • Huntsman, B.M., Falke, J.A., Saveride, J., and K. Bennett. 2015. Density-dependent and -independent mechanisms influencing spawning habitat selection by Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Chena River basin, Alaska. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Homer, Alaska, 4-6 November 2015
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 239

Phd Students: 144

Post Docs: 55

University Staff: 239

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 670

Scientific Publications: 1897

Presentations: 4193



Funding Agencies

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • State of Alaska/Alaska Department of Fish and Game


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey