The Day the River Turned Red: evaluating the performance of a restoration project in the Missouri River

Presentation by Research Engineer Brandon Sansom, USGS

Join USGS Research Engineer Brandon Sansom as he discusses how USGS uses dye experiments to better understand complex flow patterns in the Missouri River.

Published: May 17, 2022

Presentation by Brandon Sansom, USGS Research Engineer

Click here to view the presentation on YouTube.

Hosted by Missouri River Relief 

On May 5th, 2021, researchers from the USGS – Columbia Environmental Research Center released approximately 23 gallons of Rhodamine WT dye into the Missouri River about 2 miles downstream of the I-70 bridge in Boone County. Rhodamine WT is a non-toxic but very visible dye that is frequently used to study time of travel in river systems. Scientists monitored the dispersal of the dye downstream for five miles using a series of fluorometers installed throughout the river as well as a series of videos and photographs that were captured using multiple aircraft.

USGS Research Engineer Brandon Sansom shared with BMSS attendees the goal of this dye experiment and how it has helped us to better understand complex flow patterns in the Missouri River. In particular, how these flow patterns influence the dispersal of passively drifting age-0 pallid sturgeon. The data was used to help refine computer simulations to evaluate how well the computer models predict transport of larvae into restoration projects — called interception-rearing complexes, or IRCs — designed to increase growth and survival of pallid sturgeon. Results from both the dye experiment and computer simulations show that IRCs intercept and slow down the transport of dye, a potentially important feature to the development of age-0 sturgeon.

Brandon Sansom is a research engineer in the River Studies Branch at the U.S. Geological Survey – Columbia Environmental Research Center working on transport phenomena in riverine ecosystems. His research focuses on organism-flow interactions, how these interactions contribute to the structure and function of river ecosystems, and how improved understanding of organism-flow interactions can aid aquatic ecosystem conservation and management efforts. Current research projects include: 1) characterizing and quantifying pallid sturgeon age-0 dispersal, 2) predicting freshwater mussel eDNA transport and fate, and 3) quantifying optimal mussel habitat in Ozark streams. He has received a B.A. from Washington and Jefferson College, a M.S. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo.

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The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.


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